Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs had all seen the inside of mental hospitals and prisons by the age of 30. This book charts the transformation of these experiences into a literary movement that spread across the globe in the decade and a half that followed World War II.
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As the leading members of the Beat Generation are increasingly incorporated into the mainstream of the literary canon, the time is clearly ripe for a carefully researched cultural history of the movement, and this is precisely what James Campbell has provided in his excellent book This is the Beat Generation. In a tour-de-force first section, Campbell reveals the immersion in madness and murder which first united Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in the mid 1940s. Campbell offers a fascinating account of the literary development of all three writers, tracing the complex relations of all three to sex, drugs and crime. The book charts the domestic, artistic and geographical changes of all three writers, focusing on Kerouac's emotional paralysis, Ginsberg's struggle with his sexuality, and Burroughs' general weirdness. The most illuminating sections of the book are those which draw in the peripheral friends, lovers and muses which came to define the Beat Generation, as well as the sections on the development of On the Road, Howl and Other Poems and Naked Lunch. The book is painstakingly researched, and will be invaluable to anyone seriously interested in the Beats, as well as those who want to dip in for some great stories, but does lack a sense of the emotional relationships between its three central characters. Ending as it does in 1960, the book also cries out for a sequel which deals with the 60s and 70s. -- Jerry Brotton
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Book Description Vintage, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 99282690