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"The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats": The Beat Generation And American Culture, Edited By Holly George Warren.

4000 words - 16 pages

The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats is aN in-depth and complete collection of several essays about the Beat generation and its intense influence on literature and American culture. The list of contributors to the book is amazing. Writers, musicians, actors, and even some of the Beats themselves contributed essays, photographs, and drawings to the book.The book is organized very well, and serves as not only a good book for research, but also remains a "coffee table book". It straddles that line quite nicely, something few books can do. It is organized into five chapters, with several essays within each chapter. In "Part One: The Birth of Beat", critics, artists, and academics discuss the origins of what came to be known as Beat culture. Within the next three chapters, the major icons of the Beat movement - Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs are discussed. The final chapter looks at those who have continued to carry on the legacy of the Beats.Given the possible problems of a long anthology, and the impulsive nature of the Beat culture, the writing here is incredibly refined as it is innovative. Most importantly, the book serves as a true celebration of beat culture as well as a historical narrative on the movement itself.Part 1: The Birth of Beat"The City Where the Beats were Moved to Howl" by Ann Douglas.Ann Douglas provides an excellent introduction to the birth of the Beat generation. She first provides her narrative of how she was first affected by the Beats. She explains that she dyed her hair black, ran away from home, and was found in a YMCA armed with On the Road and "Howl", making a plan to be a "beat outcast". I believe that most people who have been tremendously affected by the Beats have had a similar introduction into the lifestyle and culture of the Beat generation.For me, the most interesting part of her essay is the section where she explains how the origin of the term "beat generation". The founders of the beat movement - Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs had picked up the term "beat" in Times Square in the mid 1940's from Herbert Huncke, a junkie and Beat writer."They interpreted the word differently - Ginsberg and Kerouac said it meant exhausted, poor, beatific, while Burroughs, a master ironist, used it as a verb, meaning to steal or con. For all of them, however, it spelled a revolution in manners, one that made hitchhiking, jazz, gender-bending, left-wing attitude and high-style low life de rigueur for anyone aspiring to a hipster status" (Douglas 6).The founding members of the Beat movement were inhabitants of New York City - the city Douglas refers to as the movement's birthplace. The men all met in 1944, with Ginsberg at Columbia, Kerouac as a Columbia drop-out, and Burroughs as the eccentric visionary nearly twice the age of the other two. The men dwelled in the neighborhoods that were on a downward slide in New York City - specifically Times Square. Times Square, once the stylish...

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