The Beats: A Graphic History, by Paul Buhle

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Four stars, read in August 2015.

I read On the Road five years ago, my first foray into the collective oeuvre of the Beat Generation. It wasn’t a huge success. But I’ve always had it in my head that I want to explore their work more, and I’m really into graphic biographies right now, so I was pretty excited about this.

I liked it a lot, and I think the format was good, but the amount of focus given to the big three (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs) was a little much. Everyone knows those names already, and there were so many other artists involved in that movement who just got short little blurbs at the end. I especially wish there had been more about the women of the movement, because as it is, they were really sidelined and lumped together as a subset. By which I mean there is a section called “Beat Chicks,” toward the very end of the book, where they are completely sidelined and lumped together as a subset. They weren’t valued at that time, so of course it’s normal for history to ignore them too—but if you’re making a point to include them, how about really including them?

My general impression after having read this: I want to read Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, Hettie Jones, Joyce Johnson, Joanne Kyger, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Whalen, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’ll probably give some more of Kerouac’s work a try. And I would really like to not read anything by that asshole William Burroughs, though I might still try Naked Lunch someday if I feel obligated to.

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2 thoughts on “The Beats: A Graphic History, by Paul Buhle

  1. I read On The Road years back. I didn’t like it. I wanted him to grow up and take some responsibility. I don’t think I have a Beat personality, ha! I think of the Beat Generation as being a boys’ club, for men who didn’t want to be their straight laced fathers. I didn’t even think of it in terms of women being in the club too. I was interested by your observation about the ‘Beat Chicks” section of the book, so googled and found this article http://www.beatdom.com/women-of-the-beat-generation/. It was interesting, but I still don’t want to read any more Beat literature!

    Liked by 1 person

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