Tag: Neal Cassady

Jack Kerouac – On the Road | Review

Title: On the Road

Author: Jack Kerouac

Type: Fiction/Non-Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 286

Rating: 8/10

 

Jack Kerouac - On the Road

Jack Kerouac – On the Road

 

Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy? Kerouac’s most famous book, and one that many people call a masterpiece, is a weird mix of both – many of the characters are thinly-disguised caricatures of some of the people that he really knew, like Old Bull Lee instead of William Burroughs and, of course, Dean Moriarty instead of Neal Cassady.

In fact, the coolest thing about this book is the way in which it portrays some of the notorious beat generation writers that I love so much – you get a real glimpse at what life was like for them as they freewheeled their way across America in the 1950s.

And the writing is tight, too – in fact, it was with this book that Kerouac established his trademark style, in which he writes a stream of consciousness ramble with few corrections along the way. Legend has it that he wrote this entire book in the space of three weeks, while drugged up on benzedrine; it’s also a long, continuous manuscript – Kerouac taped the paper together so that he wouldn’t have to stop for something as trivial as adding a new sheet of paper to the typewriter.

On the Road is one of those rare books which everyone on the planet should read – it’s an important book, a milestone in the world of literature, a book that came along and changed everything and turned Kerouac and his talented friends in to stardom, almost overnight. If that’s not a good enough reason to read it then I don’t know what is – just go grab a copy, now.

 

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

 

Click here to buy On the Road.

 


Allen Ginsberg – The Letters of Allen Ginsberg | Review

Title: The Letters of Allen Ginsberg

Author: Allen Ginsberg

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 468

Rating: 6/10

 

Allen Ginsberg - The Letters of Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg – The Letters of Allen Ginsberg

 

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Allen Ginsberg and beat writers in general, but this book was a little heavy even for me – as with most collections of letters, it’s better suited to scholars and researchers, who can dip in and out to source references for their essays. Reading it from cover to cover took a lot of time, and I’ll confess that I had to do it over the course of a year, reading only one or two letters at a time.

Ginsberg and his pals often wrote in a sort of code, a bizarre dialect which was populated with obscure references and in-jokes that only the recipients of the letters could really understand – even with hefty annotations, it’s often a struggle to understand what’s being talked about, which was probably precisely what the great poet intended. You really feel like an interloper, as if you’ve dug the letters out of someone’s drawer when they weren’t looking – you feel like you don’t belong, and it’s a weird feeling to have when you’re trying to read a book.

That said, there are some fascinating insights here that you won’t find anywhere else, and Ginsberg writes to such notable beat figures as William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Lucien Carr, as well as his long-term lover Peter Orlovsky. In a way, it’s sad to think that his generation was one of the last to use letters to their fullest – will the equivalent become a book of e-mails in the future, or even worse, instant messaging logs?

 

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg

 

I wouldn’t bother picking this up if you’re only a casual reader of Ginsberg – it’s far too much, and you won’t enjoy it. If you’ve read literally all of his other books, though, then I guess you have no choice – you’ve read enough to have graduated to his letters, and you’ll understand them much more when they’re placed in the context of his wider body of work.

Credit is due, however, to Bill Morgan, the book’s editor – he’s done all of the research so you don’t have to, and without his footnotes and observations, you’d really struggle to understand what’s happening. Morgan was Ginsberg’s literary archivist for many years and has even written a biography called I Celebrate Myself, so he knows what he’s doing – this isn’t his first work on a collection of letters, either. He also worked on the Selected Letters of Gregory Corso, and so editing together the thoughts of crazy writers isn’t new to him.

There’s not much left to say, but I’d be interested to know what you think if you read it – tweet me and let me know.

 

Allen Ginsberg Quote

Allen Ginsberg Quote

 

Click here to buy The Letters of Allen Ginsberg.

 


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