Title: Deliberate Prose
Author: Allen Ginsberg
Page Count: 536
It’s tough to give this book a rating because it’s one of those where I had to read it a little bit at a time before bed. Partly, that’s because this is literally a collection of Ginsberg’s essays from 1952 to 1995, and so it all starts to get a bit samey after a while. Ginsberg also has an idiosyncratic writing style that stops his stuff from being as approachable as it could be, although you do get used to it after a while.
Another problem with reading someone’s essays is that they don’t always age well. For example, when Ginsberg was writing about current affairs in the 1960s, I’m sure he was relevant, excellent and incisive. But reading it now, without any of the context that his contemporary readers would have had, it was pretty surreal. Half the time, I had literally no idea what he was talking about.
But the other half of the time was pretty good, especially because Ginsberg was a key member of the beat generation who was friends with a whole bunch of cool people like Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs. The foreword was written by Ed Sanders too, and he’s also pretty cool.
I can’t see why you’d want to pick this up unless you’re studying Ginsberg or you’re a super fan of his. For my part, I’ve been working on slowly reading everything that Ginsberg has ever written, and so it was inevitable that I’d get to it eventually. Eventually being the key word here – I actually picked it up for a readathon where the prompt was to read the unread book that you’ve owned for the longest. I’ve had this one for close to ten years.
But I doubt I’ll be reading it again. Sure, there were some moments of genius where Ginsberg really came into his own, but there were also some dull treatises on stuff that I knew nothing about and cared even less about. Even some of the literary stuff was dull, because while Ginsberg was in his element when analysing Walt Whitman’s poetry, I was never much of a Whitman fan.
So the big question it all comes down to is whether I’m glad that I read this, and unfortunately, I don’t have a proper answer. I guess it was pretty good for what it was, but I can also see how it’s definitely not going to be for everyone, and I wouldn’t blame you for giving it a miss, even if you’re a Ginsberg fan. It’s definitely not one to go into lightly.
All in all, it took me the best part of two months to read this bad boy, tackling it a little bit at a time. I’m a pretty fast reader, although I’ll also admit that I don’t read in bed every night, just on most of them. Still, this was a tricky one to take down and I’ve got to be honest, I’m glad that I’ve finally finished so that I can move on to something else. But that’s pretty much what I was expecting from it, so yeah.