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The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats (Freeman's Book 3)

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In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opp In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opportunity to present the history of Beat Literature in his own inimitable way. Compiled and edited by renowned Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and with an introduction by Anne Waldman, The Best Minds of My Generation presents the lectures in edited form, complete with notes, and paints a portrait of the Beats as Ginsberg knew them: friends, confidantes, literary mentors, and fellow revolutionaries. Ginsberg was seminal to the creation of a public perception of Beat writers and knew all of the major figures personally, making him uniquely qualified to be the historian of the movement. In The Best Minds of My Generation, Ginsberg shares anecdotes of meeting Kerouac, Burroughs, and other writers for the first time, explains his own poetics, elucidates the importance of music to Beat writing, discusses visual influences and the cut-up method, and paints a portrait of a group who were leading a literary revolution. For Beat aficionados and neophytes alike, The Best Minds of My Generation is a personal yet critical look at one of the most important literary movements of the twentieth century.


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In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opp In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opportunity to present the history of Beat Literature in his own inimitable way. Compiled and edited by renowned Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and with an introduction by Anne Waldman, The Best Minds of My Generation presents the lectures in edited form, complete with notes, and paints a portrait of the Beats as Ginsberg knew them: friends, confidantes, literary mentors, and fellow revolutionaries. Ginsberg was seminal to the creation of a public perception of Beat writers and knew all of the major figures personally, making him uniquely qualified to be the historian of the movement. In The Best Minds of My Generation, Ginsberg shares anecdotes of meeting Kerouac, Burroughs, and other writers for the first time, explains his own poetics, elucidates the importance of music to Beat writing, discusses visual influences and the cut-up method, and paints a portrait of a group who were leading a literary revolution. For Beat aficionados and neophytes alike, The Best Minds of My Generation is a personal yet critical look at one of the most important literary movements of the twentieth century.

30 review for The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats (Freeman's Book 3)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    This is a remarkable document, put together from hours of transcripts of the course Allen Ginsberg taught, over many years and at several different institutions, on beat literature. It's rare that you have the chance to listen to someone speak at length about literary history from the perspective of a complete insider, and many of the most thrilling moments in here come from the unique asides that he's able to make – oh, Jack incorporated this character because he was reading Dostoevsky at the t This is a remarkable document, put together from hours of transcripts of the course Allen Ginsberg taught, over many years and at several different institutions, on beat literature. It's rare that you have the chance to listen to someone speak at length about literary history from the perspective of a complete insider, and many of the most thrilling moments in here come from the unique asides that he's able to make – oh, Jack incorporated this character because he was reading Dostoevsky at the time; oh, Corso used that metaphor because he'd just sprained his ankle; Bill read this out to us as he was writing it to make us all laugh – so a lot of the time, the overriding feeling is one of gratitude that this commentary exists at all. I feel like the beats have fallen out of favour somewhat over the last decade or two. Kerouac in particular gets a really hard ride in my Goodreads feed, partly because contemporary attitudes are not a good fit with the outlook of a teenage boy in the 1940s. I missed all that when I read him in my own late teens or early twenties. I hardly noticed his attitudes because I was so blown away by the prose style, which seemed like jazz transcribed on to the page. (Ginsberg recalls, thrillingly, the music that they were all listening to in New York in the 40s as they first started to write – Dizzy Gillespie's ‘Salt Peanuts’ and ‘Oop Bop Sh'Bam’, Billie Holiday's ‘I Cover the Waterfront’.) And there was, too, a real sense of melancholy to the writing which I think sits uneasily with how Kerouac is often characterised as simply a loafer or countercultural rebel. To me the beats were very specifically inhabiting a world that came after the Second World War, in a similar way to how Hemingway and Fitzgerald felt relative to the First World War. Famously, it was when Kerouac was asked if they constituted a new Lost Generation that he replied, ‘We're not a lost generation, we're a beat generation’ – beat meaning exhausted, washed-up, weary and broke. That sense of wide-eyed exhaustion is quite a good guide to their work, coupled with a very postwar sense of atomic mortality. Ginsberg talks about the entry of emptiness into our skulls, awareness of death as the original beatnik perception, and so a deepening of heart rather than a shallowness of heart. A lot of the early work about the craziness of Times Square, the hustlers and dealers and down-and-outs, is linked to this sensibility, this idea of the transience of human life. Ginsberg talks about the notion of ‘New York City standing in eternity and then gone’, a very iconic and lovely phrase. For him, ‘The Beat Generation is primarily a spiritual movement’, and he seems somewhat baffled by subsequent reaction from people ‘who thought that “beatnik” meant angry at the world rather than weeping at the world’. Well, it was certainly spiritual for Ginsberg and Kerouac – not sure how much this applies to the others though. Ginsberg's arguments are built around long extracts from the texts, which makes this book work brilliantly as a kind of Beat Reader. I mean, no one has time to read Visions of Cody, so it's great to see long passages pulled out here and reeled off with Ginsberg's rhapsodic commentary. But, as you'd expect, it's not any kind of revisionist interpretation of the movement. It is very male-centric; actually, it focuses almost exclusively on Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg himself (though hesitantly), and some Gregory Corso. And for those wanting to downplay Kerouac, this is perhaps not the best choice since he takes up over half the book. You've got to realize that he is the conceiver. I was very much aware of that and the reader should be aware of that. All this wouldn't exist if it weren't for Kerouac. We would be just a bunch of amphetamine-head, faggot, jailbird professors. [Our] phrasing comes from his mind. Kerouac was the energy source. For all of these reasons, this should be supplemented with more expansive, inclusive stuff like Ann Charters's interesting The Penguin Book Of The Beats or some sharp criticism. Nevertheless it's an exhilarating ride. Huge kudos to Bill Morgan, the editor, for pulling this together into one coherent entity. To me, following the progress of these kids as they experimented with new writing styles, new ways of thinking and feeling, was totally compelling and – like any good book of this sort – it sent me back to the texts with ravenous enthusiasm.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Editor and Beat expert Bill Morgan created this book from lectures Ginsberg gave and taped at Brooklyn College and, of course, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. It's almost a miracle that one of the main figures of a literary movement spent so much time and effort to compile and interpret the work and influence of his contemporaries, giving insight in the lives and aims of people like Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso, Huncke et al. The book is just intriguing, giving us glimpses Editor and Beat expert Bill Morgan created this book from lectures Ginsberg gave and taped at Brooklyn College and, of course, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. It's almost a miracle that one of the main figures of a literary movement spent so much time and effort to compile and interpret the work and influence of his contemporaries, giving insight in the lives and aims of people like Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso, Huncke et al. The book is just intriguing, giving us glimpses into the world of the Beat circle and its spiritual goals. At the same time, Ginsberg works with the texts the movement produced, pointing at little details, interpreting single sentences and commenting on motifs and routines. Great, great stuff of literary, scientific and historical value.

  3. 5 out of 5

    R.

    The Continued Tupac Shakurization of Allen Ginsberg Hot on the heels of last year's Wait Till I'm Dead: Uncollected Poems come these edited transcripts of lectures that Allen Ginsberg gave at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (Naropa Institute). Not really a must if you're a longtime fan of the Beats. Ginsberg is obviously stoned in some of the lectures, sadly. You can imagine him throwing off these lazy lines in between munching, stoned, on a chicken salad sandwich. A lot of the obs The Continued Tupac Shakurization of Allen Ginsberg Hot on the heels of last year's Wait Till I'm Dead: Uncollected Poems come these edited transcripts of lectures that Allen Ginsberg gave at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (Naropa Institute). Not really a must if you're a longtime fan of the Beats. Ginsberg is obviously stoned in some of the lectures, sadly. You can imagine him throwing off these lazy lines in between munching, stoned, on a chicken salad sandwich. A lot of the observations and opinions on Kerouac, Burroughs, etcetera, will be familiar to those who've read the letters and essays by, for and of the Beats. Nothing new. And, sadly, all that this repetition does is show that what started out as a strong, idealistic, literary movement stumbled, tea-kettled, fell up its own ass as it decided that pop-prophet obfuscation and first-thought-best-thought bleak and bright sanitarium dawn angel nonsense heaven tiddly tik tok talk was the jazz be-bop apocalypse wave of the Whitman Melville meat jukebox future. But that's what happens (i.e. stumbling, fumbling) to a literary movement when your main muse was the blown fuse street-talkin' son of a hobo (talking about the Neal Cassady blues again). Until the lost "Joan" letter shows up, we should all be cautious about the trap of silently agreeing with the idolization of the supposed tricks, traits and talents of Cassady. (Burroughs always saw through the circus sideshow appeal of Cassady, btw, same as he confided in his longtime secretary that Cobain was a walking deadman). But, yes, it, this book, would be a great introduction for somebody who is just now discovering the Beats. Not for you, dear reader. Not for you. Somebody starting out just now. Somebody... now.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Ginsy, I love you. It's kinda annoying that I was trying to access these lectures when writing my dissertation and couldn't get them anywhere then this book was released the day my research was due but oh well. I love this book. It reminds me of De Quincey's observation on the Romantic poets but instead we are looking at the Beat Generation and Ginsberg's lectures analyse writing style as well as giving us all the gossip. My favourite thing was Ginsberg highlighting what writing and music I inspire Ginsy, I love you. It's kinda annoying that I was trying to access these lectures when writing my dissertation and couldn't get them anywhere then this book was released the day my research was due but oh well. I love this book. It reminds me of De Quincey's observation on the Romantic poets but instead we are looking at the Beat Generation and Ginsberg's lectures analyse writing style as well as giving us all the gossip. My favourite thing was Ginsberg highlighting what writing and music I inspired the Beats' works. As I writer I love seeing the thought process behind a piece of work. Seeing Russian literature and French poetry amongst other familiar titles on my bookshelf was quite heartwarming knowing Ginsberg was inspired by the same books. The structure of these lectures is quite loose and a bit repetitive - but Bill Morgan has done a wonderful job at editing Ginsberg's lectures yet still keeping his chatty personality. I applaud Bill Morgan for his editing skills because I understand how difficult it would've been. If you love the Beat Generation, this is essential reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maria Di Biase

    Di quando sono andata alla libreria City Lights di San Francisco... ...e ho preso un libro dalla sezione beat che si trova al piano superiore. Dopo averne sfogliati un bel po’, ho scelto The Best Minds of my Generation. A Literary History of the Beats pubblicato dalla Grove Press nel 2017: è una raccolta di lezioni che Ginsberg tenne nel 1977 quando insegnava al Naropa Institute. È il libro perfetto per chi vuole addentrarsi nella cultura beat: ci sono dei capitoli su Kerouac, su Burroughs, su Gr Di quando sono andata alla libreria City Lights di San Francisco... ...e ho preso un libro dalla sezione beat che si trova al piano superiore. Dopo averne sfogliati un bel po’, ho scelto The Best Minds of my Generation. A Literary History of the Beats pubblicato dalla Grove Press nel 2017: è una raccolta di lezioni che Ginsberg tenne nel 1977 quando insegnava al Naropa Institute. È il libro perfetto per chi vuole addentrarsi nella cultura beat: ci sono dei capitoli su Kerouac, su Burroughs, su Gregory Corso e Peter Orlovsky, su Ginsberg stesso; resoconti, ricordi, citazioni, riflessioni sullo stile e sul linguaggio di ognuno. Soprattutto, c’è la mente di Ginsberg. Ero certa, ancor prima di approfondire, che sarebbe stato il narratore ideale, lo sguardo giusto su un fenomeno risolto e quasi accantonato, ma che invece resta ancora pieno di spunti interessanti. Come scrisse il Publishers Weekly “Ginsberg legge e pensa come un poeta”, e anche il suo racconto è un ossimoro di lucidità appassionata. Lo racconto meglio qua: Beat come Beat Generation

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roberto

    Really fascinating idiosyncratic take on the Beat writers - focusing on Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso - with lots of passages from their books. I especially enjoyed the insights into their approaches to writing, 'sketching' and the evolution of free-floating thought-association type language. Ginsberg places these writers in a spiritual context, which I appreciated, because that was at the heart of their mission I think... Would've liked a little more on the female Beat figures, the West Coasters, a Really fascinating idiosyncratic take on the Beat writers - focusing on Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso - with lots of passages from their books. I especially enjoyed the insights into their approaches to writing, 'sketching' and the evolution of free-floating thought-association type language. Ginsberg places these writers in a spiritual context, which I appreciated, because that was at the heart of their mission I think... Would've liked a little more on the female Beat figures, the West Coasters, and a bit less dated hipster speak.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Donatelli

    I really appreciate that Allen Ginsberg compiled this series of lectures, because he certainly helped me better understand some aspects of the Beat literary movement that had always bothered me. Which is to say there are still aspects of the literary part of the Beat movement that bother me, but now I at least understand why they happened, or at least what was being aimed at. And by that I mean what I used to regard as seemingly arbitrary forays into verbal nonsense turn out to have been intenti I really appreciate that Allen Ginsberg compiled this series of lectures, because he certainly helped me better understand some aspects of the Beat literary movement that had always bothered me. Which is to say there are still aspects of the literary part of the Beat movement that bother me, but now I at least understand why they happened, or at least what was being aimed at. And by that I mean what I used to regard as seemingly arbitrary forays into verbal nonsense turn out to have been intentionally contradictory verbiage for the mental pop it takes for our brains to make associations between such...seemingly imprecise...word choices. In general, I found this book fascinating, but as Ginsberg himself admits within, it's not quite all that in-depth; rather, Ginsberg seemingly skips the pebble of his memory over the lake of this movement, and each skip produces an illuminating kick of water, but the full depths remain a mystery as the pebble ultimately sinks in its surface. And that's fine -- that's his right -- but I can't give 5 stars to a skipping pebble. My favorite lines: -"Would you like to go to the Bronx Zoo?" "Nah, man, I'm too BEAT, I was up all night." So the original street usage meant exhausted, at the bottom of the world, looking up or out, sleepless, wide-eyed, perceptive, rejected by society, on your own, streetwise. -"Everything belongs to me because I am poor." --Kerouac -"Who knows, my God, but that the universe is not one vast sea of compassion actually, the veritable holy honey, beneath all this show of personality and cruelty." --Kerouac -"Why should I attack what I love out of life. This is Beat. Live your lives out? Naw, LOVE your lives out. When they come and stone you at least you won't have a glass house, just your glassy flesh." --D.T. Suzuki -You couldn't read Lady Chatterly's Lover and you couldn't read Henry Miller in those days. Things like that were banned, illegal. You couldn't smoke any grass without being thought a dope fiend, literally, that was the language, fiend. A variety of citizen called fiends had been invented by one of the bureaucracies of the government and Billie Holiday was one of the people that were officially classified as fiends. A producer of all this intelligence and beauty and music and melancholy and sprightliness of language, and she was officially classified as a fiend. There was a revolutionary insight into the hallucinatory nature of official government classifications and terminology. It came from the experience of junkies, sick in love with their own fidelities, nostalgias, comradeships, and arts, under circumstances that by hindsight seem as cruel as Jean Valjean being pursued by his demonic policeman, Inspector Javert, in Les Miserables. I mean that's an old classic of a hurt right and wrong. In the 1940s and 1950s that hurt was not recognizable except by those who were down under the heel of the law. -There's a generation of people who thought "beatnik" meant angry at the world rather than weeping at the world. -"That's how writers begin, by imitating the masters (without suffering like said masters), till they learn their own style, and by the time they learn their own style there's no more fun in it, because you can't imitate any other master's suffering but your own." --Kerouac -"O death old Captain, raise the anchors it's time let's go, plunge to the bottom of the gulf, heaven or hell, what does it matter? At the bottom of the unknown to find the new." --Baudelaire -He's developed his practice of writing like piano playing, where he can play anything he hears, where he can write anything he can think. -Whitman thought it was the salvation of the nation and that unless the nation were made up of comrades democracy couldn't work. A bunch of macho competitors all hating each other, or indifferent to each other, or scared of each other emotionally, would leave no possibility of a cooperative, democratic, functioning political system. -Hello It is disastrous to be a wounded deer. I'm the most wounded, wolves stalk, and I have my failures, too. My flesh is caught on the Inevitable Hook! As a child I saw many things I did not want to be. Am I the person I did not want to be? The talks-to-himself person? That neighbors-make-fun-of person? Am I he who, on museum steps, sleeps on his side? Do I wear the cloth of a man who has failed? Am I the looney man? In the great serenade of things, am I the most cancelled passage? --Gregory Corso -Italian Extravaganza Mrs. Lombardi's month-old son is dead. I saw it in Rizzo's funeral parlor, A small purplish wrinkled head. They've just finished having high mass for it; They're coming out now ...wow, such a small coffin! And ten black cadillacs to haul it in. --Gregory Corso -Metaphysics This is the one and only firmament; therefore it is the absolute world. There is no other world. The circle is complete. I am living in Eternity. The ways of this world are the ways of Heaven. -Gregory Corso -Carl's decision after being institutionalized for amnesia was, "I have a small mind and I mean to use it." The point there was for him to take some job which was absolutely Zen-like ordinary. So selling ice cream or being a messenger was the most average ordinary basic-reality, physical job you could find and that became his career. This review was written by a career server-bartender.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Violet Clouds

    Disclaimer: I read this book as an advance copy from Netgalley. My thanks go to them, Grove Press, to the author, and the editor Bill Morgan, for this opportunity. The opinions stated in the review are my own. When I was in University I had a fantastic teacher who lit a fire under our class (or at least me) and set us off to read as much of it we could. It spoke to me as a teenager, particularly as one who yearned to do some travelling. I still love reading so much of the work that came from thes Disclaimer: I read this book as an advance copy from Netgalley. My thanks go to them, Grove Press, to the author, and the editor Bill Morgan, for this opportunity. The opinions stated in the review are my own. When I was in University I had a fantastic teacher who lit a fire under our class (or at least me) and set us off to read as much of it we could. It spoke to me as a teenager, particularly as one who yearned to do some travelling. I still love reading so much of the work that came from these writers, particularly Ginsberg, Corso and Snyder. What has come to my interest more recently is the work that came after the wild phase that lives more in legend, after the time that was kicked off during the Columbia University days. This book is a fascinating look at back taken from Ginsberg's lectures at the Naropa Institute and at Brooklyn College. He speaks about the works, not particularly focusing on them in terms of adventures, but also recalls situations and experiences. The translation of the lectures to text works well. It doesn't require a constant recollection of his voice but the rhythm of his speech and the energy comes through very clearly. I found the pace with which I read raced and slowed as if I were there hearing it spoken aloud. Given the dialogue based nature of the text it's one I enjoyed picking up for a section or two and then returning at a later date. Ginsberg relates his experiences, knowledge and passion for his friends' writing in this book with a palpable excitement but not an overblown one; there is criticality and introspection here. For me the most valuable and enjoyable part of reading this book was the warmth and passion that has been invested in it. Such a passion that it is passed on to the reader.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    In the 1970s Allen Ginsburg taught a course about the Beats at the Naropa Institute and at Brooklyn College, and this book comprises edited versions of his lectures. I’m afraid I lost interest in ploughing through it quite early on – perhaps you had to be there? The lectures are rambling and discursive and although admittedly there’s some interesting stuff in them about the Beats, perhaps I’m just not the intended readership, not being a paid-up acolyte of this group of writers. Perhaps the book In the 1970s Allen Ginsburg taught a course about the Beats at the Naropa Institute and at Brooklyn College, and this book comprises edited versions of his lectures. I’m afraid I lost interest in ploughing through it quite early on – perhaps you had to be there? The lectures are rambling and discursive and although admittedly there’s some interesting stuff in them about the Beats, perhaps I’m just not the intended readership, not being a paid-up acolyte of this group of writers. Perhaps the book is more for literary historians or dedicated fans than the general reader. It certainly wasn’t for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    A book of transcribed (with some editing) lectures of Allen Ginsberg classes about the literary history of the Beats. What's not to like? Provides immeasurable first hand insight into the writings of Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Burroughs, Corso, John Clellon Holmes, Neal Cassady, Peter Orlovsky and Ginsberg himself. A book of transcribed (with some editing) lectures of Allen Ginsberg classes about the literary history of the Beats. What's not to like? Provides immeasurable first hand insight into the writings of Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Burroughs, Corso, John Clellon Holmes, Neal Cassady, Peter Orlovsky and Ginsberg himself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats This was not exactly what I was expecting but I enjoyed it. I love reading anything and everything about Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs. They were the very best writers of their time!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Santana

    Proof, I suppose, that college lectures don’t always make for a good book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    A masterpiece. Full review: http://www.beatdom.com/review-best-mi... A masterpiece. Full review: http://www.beatdom.com/review-best-mi...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Re: Allen Ginsberg, The Best Minds of My Generation:A Literary History of the Beats, edited by Bill Morgan Dear Rob and Lindsey, I’m grateful to you both for sharing your writing with me and through me, to others—may these poems and pieces continue to animate “Mayahana bodhisattvic compassionate empathy” (A. Ginsberg) in the years to come, ever reverberating through world wide web. I recently finished Allen’s personal history of his generation of writing comrades put together from his lectures at N Re: Allen Ginsberg, The Best Minds of My Generation:A Literary History of the Beats, edited by Bill Morgan Dear Rob and Lindsey, I’m grateful to you both for sharing your writing with me and through me, to others—may these poems and pieces continue to animate “Mayahana bodhisattvic compassionate empathy” (A. Ginsberg) in the years to come, ever reverberating through world wide web. I recently finished Allen’s personal history of his generation of writing comrades put together from his lectures at Naropa and Brooklyn College. I particularly enjoyed the many chapters on Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso, and want to share with you some passages that may offer you stimulation/encouragement/anamnesis for your own writing practice. As prof, his method was “to read from the texts, read my favorite fragments or things that were important to us as a group at the time. Big sentences that knocked everybody out, that turned everybody on…. [the] gists [that were] historical epiphanies for us.” [11] Lindsey, as actor, think of the tens of thousands of lines you learned for your roles—you could regale us with so many that would knock us out. In commenting on Kerouac’s first novel, Ginsberg observed, “I think Kerouac was reading The Brothers Karamazov at the time, and so divided himself up somewhat similarly into Dostoevsky’s characters.” I’m currently editing 400+ pages of manuscript material and find myself doing something similar. [93] Maybe you both have your versions of Kerouac’s scribbling away in notebooks: “These little notebooks provided raw materials of two kinds: diaristic details, like a reporter’s notes, about events at hand and an endless retracing in memory of all the events in his life, reaching back to his earliest childhood memories in Lowell.” [266] I never tire of mentioning the exuberant text along these lines, Joe Brainard’s I Remember. I admit, I could let the free writing rip a whole lot faster; here, on Kerouac’s dexterity and celerity: “… the neural rapidity between his brain and his fingers was amazing. Whatever arrived in his larynx or his mind subvocally, could be immediately translated into typewritten finger pecks fast enough to complete long, long sentences including all his parenthetical subdivisions of thought form.” [224] Remembering how Ginsberg wrote Kaddish over a long weekend, we can experiment with heroic generating endurance: “just sit down and stay there at the typewriter, exhausting his mind completely, everything in his mind, everything he could think of relating to the subject. Not at random, it would’ve to be a subject he was obsessed with, that he’d thought about and maybe at some point and realized, ‘Ahh could write a whole novel about this.’ He sat down and did it like an athlete, like an athletic event.” [258] You both have allowed me this privileged access to your minds: “You present what you perceive through your senses and other will be able to compare their own sense experience with yours, and thus you present your mind.” [367] Evocative of Kerouac’s maxim, “No time for poetry but exactly what is,” Ginsberg admits about his breakthrough works, “Basically what I was doing was just making up stuff for my own amusement. As this went along, and the idea that it couldn’t be published anyway, so I might as well be totally free and say anything I wanted, because it wasn’t really in poetry form. … What would you write if you were upon the moon and you knew nobody would ever see it? The writing would be sublime because there would be no reason not to say everything. So that’s the method here.” [393] Several years back, Eliot Weinberger wrote, “As far as I can tell, the Cheney-Bush II era has not produced a single poem, song, novel, or artwork that has caught the popular imagination as a condemnation or an epitome of the times. The only enduring image is a product of journalism: the hooded figure in the Abu Ghraib photographs. By and large, the artists and writers have been what used to be called ‘good Germans,’ making their little sausages while the world around them went insane. There are only a few who have used their skills –or their magazines!—to even attempt to change the way people think.” Thank you for helping keep me sane and for expanding my sense of the possible. Mark Rob Trousdale studied with me in Social Justice at SLU, spring 2006, as did Lindsey Trout Hughes in fall 2008.

  15. 4 out of 5

    nadia | notabookshelf

    3.5/5 Out the frame of reference with the frame of reference <...> Conception eliminates conceptualization. The mind erases itself. someday i'll go into the long and interesting personal history of me and the beat generation, but that day is not today, and the place is not here. for now it's enough to say that i picked up this book a long time ago, added to my ever-growing collection of beat writing and kind of just let it sit. it simmered for a while, and now is the time to tell you about it. i fi 3.5/5 Out the frame of reference with the frame of reference <...> Conception eliminates conceptualization. The mind erases itself. someday i'll go into the long and interesting personal history of me and the beat generation, but that day is not today, and the place is not here. for now it's enough to say that i picked up this book a long time ago, added to my ever-growing collection of beat writing and kind of just let it sit. it simmered for a while, and now is the time to tell you about it. i find the poetry of these weed-mad writers captivating, nonsensical – perfect for complete dissociation and defamiliarization. it is the biographical aspects that are suitable for, let's say, everyday consumption: i read nonfiction written by Ginsberg about Kerouac because i am madly interested in the world of the beatniks, the world that wasn't accessible to most of the people in the 40-50-60-70's, much less now. so that's one thing. another is the indescribable irony found in every such piece of writing done by the beats about the beats. okay, maybe not all of them: maybe Holmes was the mercantile and misunderstanding catalyst that was different (emphasis on "misunderstanding", though), maybe Carr was smarter than the entire lot of the rest of them, but Ginsberg was, for fucking sure, the archivist madly in love with the archive. this book in particular reveals the obvious biases – not to say that it makes it in any way bad; on the contrary, it delivers a unique perspective and it's utterly captivating in its authenticity. but i think my favourite is the difference in his adoration for Burroughs – and older mentor, and Kerouac – a peer and what seems like a lifelong crush. for Burroughs, in the early writing and Ginsberg's own testimonials of the time the adoration is obvious, but then here, in a book compiled in later years, in hindsight, Ginsberg takes friendly jabs at Burroughs, bravely talks about the genius of his writing by comparing him to T.S. Eliot. with Kerouac it's a completely different story: no one was doing the stream of consciousness prose like Kerouac (when i personally think Woolf does it perfectly well), and Kerouac was the greatest american writer precisely because he was unique. i would say that in a way it's a case of semantics: Burroughs never considered himself a writer. what's interesting to me is Ginsberg's own distinction in his mind, the way he chooses to tell this story. i should add here that everything in Gregory Corso was written with a father-like reverence and appreciation, to which i relate and thus it was probably my favourite part of the book. Ginsberg explaining the Corso methods of writing was exquisite and much appreciated, i must say. Aalso, the entire last section on Kerouac's writing rules of sorts is an interesting manual for an aspiring american writer. here i agree with Ginsberg: Kerouac sure knew how to get to the very centre of things and he encapsulated the essence of all-american writing in the thirty short positions on the list. i myself will not be using it, because, well. it is so tooth-achingly american. i shall refer to Dostoyevsky for my own thing instead. i was really hyped for the Howl segment, but i didn't really learn anything new: i believe there exists a copy of Ginsberg's drafts somewhere online where the annotations are more detailed. overall i couldn't quite get into this book fully because it was presented as transcription of university lectures, but lots of it was anecdotes and letters – which makes sense, given the identity of the lecturer himself, but it was certainly jarring to jump from extremely interesting and enlightening discussions of techniques to the gossip about Kerouac's or Carr's life. bottom line: super interesting regardless, but jarring nevertheless. i wouldn't recommend it as the introduction to the beat generation, but i think it's definitely worth checking out if you're an avid beat reader like myself.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is a college course on the beat generation. Ginsberg needs little introduction, but as an author of nonfiction, some introduction is in order. Ginsberg is perhaps best known as one of the original Beat writers and most notably for “The Howl” and the obscenity trials. His collection The Fall shared the 1974 National Book Award and a Pulitzer Finalist for his work Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992. This book se The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is a college course on the beat generation. Ginsberg needs little introduction, but as an author of nonfiction, some introduction is in order. Ginsberg is perhaps best known as one of the original Beat writers and most notably for “The Howl” and the obscenity trials. His collection The Fall shared the 1974 National Book Award and a Pulitzer Finalist for his work Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986–1992. This book serves as the basis for the classes Ginsburg taught at Naropa Institute and at Brooklyn College. Like many liberal arts courses getting to the end of the information that needs to be presented in the time allowed for the class... one rarely finishes. The overwhelming amount of information is a limiting factor of the detail of the presentation. Also, different areas tend to be given more attention than others. By putting the course into book format, the information is preserved in detail and the reader is free to take in the information in any order. Although not hearing the instructor/author speak, the reader is also not relying on their hurried notes. If there was a leader of the Beats, Ginsberg insists it was Kerouac. Kerouac is given the biggest section of the book. Ginsberg analyzes several books and the history of the publication. He also gives first-hand information on Kerouac’s life and writing experience. Most of Kerouac’s books are at least semi-autobiographical and Ginsberg gives the behind scene look. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks ties Kerouac to Burroughs. William S. Burroughs is covered next. Part of this section concerns Burroughs letters to Ginsberg while he was in South America. Readers who have read Junkie remember Burroughs (writing as William Lee) signing off with his plan to head to South America and search for the hallucinogen yage. The letters pick up there (much like Kerouac’s books run back to back). Needless to say, Burroughs does find the yage and writes about it. Ginsberg goes on to explain Burroughs cut-up style. The explanation includes the theory behind the cut-up method which seems to make more sense than the method itself. The idea is that we are presented with information in such a way to hide the real message. The cut-up reveals the true method. The idea was that you could take a Nixon speech, cut it up, rearrange the pieces, and find out the true meaning of the speech. William Carlos Williams had a great influence on Ginsberg and is praised throughout the book, Gregory Corso, Hubert Huncke, John Clellon Holmes, Carl Solomon, Peter Orlovsky, and of course Neal Cassady all have a small section of the book. Ginsberg does include himself and it is informative and yet very humble. As the central figure and historian of Beats, Ginsberg plays the role of the narrator rather than a major player. The introduction is by Anne Waldman poet and a member of the Outrider experimental poetry community and she provides and excellent introduction. The Best Minds of My Generation provides a detailed examination of the beat movement and its members. Small chapters with descriptive titles will also allow the read to pick and choose their interests if they do not want to read the book cover to cover. An excellent history. Available 4/4/17

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jay "Jakie"

    The writings of Kerouac and Ginsberg speak to me like no other authors. There is something primal in their books, non-pedantic, with great insight without being intellectual. When I read Joyce or Proust, I'm thinking: oh my god, I need to go back to school, I am not smart enough for this! With the Beats, I feel I am one of them, a shared experience in my shambling, stumbling life. Despite the depth of their reading, they seem to readily admit their literary, social and personal faults. I dunno, The writings of Kerouac and Ginsberg speak to me like no other authors. There is something primal in their books, non-pedantic, with great insight without being intellectual. When I read Joyce or Proust, I'm thinking: oh my god, I need to go back to school, I am not smart enough for this! With the Beats, I feel I am one of them, a shared experience in my shambling, stumbling life. Despite the depth of their reading, they seem to readily admit their literary, social and personal faults. I dunno, I cannot articulate what their novels, their poetry and letters bring to me other than a cry from within: Yes! Yes! Yes! I understand that! I understand the confusion, the mental chaos, the nightmare of social situations and the conformity of the masses; the bliss, the agony and ecstasy of overindulgence in conscious altering substances, I feel what you are trying to say and do and we are so limited by this corporeal existence, this meat body, so beautiful and transient. This work is a compilation of Ginsberg's lectures and talks at Naropa. It is not quite as in depth as I thought it would be compared to his journals or letters, which are very revealing. There are some points made that are illuminating, but not many that are not covered in other works by or about the Beats. Still a great addition to the ouvre of Beat writing edited by Bill Morgan.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Bentley

    I was really eager to read The Best Minds of My Generation but had been put off by an experience of reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This will probably shock a lot of people but I just didn’t rate it. I read it because I felt like I was supposed to have read it. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t that impressed. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and just immerse myself in the world of the Beat Writers. I kind of wish I had chosen another book to read. That probably sou I was really eager to read The Best Minds of My Generation but had been put off by an experience of reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This will probably shock a lot of people but I just didn’t rate it. I read it because I felt like I was supposed to have read it. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t that impressed. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and just immerse myself in the world of the Beat Writers. I kind of wish I had chosen another book to read. That probably sounds really harsh but it is because this book, The Best Minds of My Generation, is clearly for hardcore Beat enthusiasts. It is not for someone who is tentatively dipping their toes into this genre. My recommendation would be that anyone wanting to learn about the history of this period then look elsewhere. If you already love this genre of writing then knock yourself out. The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is available now. For more information regarding Grove Atlantic (@groveatlantic) please visit www.groveatlantic.com.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Rullo

    A series of lectures Allen Ginsberg gave at the Naropa Institute and Brooklyn College. While I have no doubt that these were fascinating lectures to hear Ginsberg give, on paper they lose something in the translation. I believe part of the allure of being taught by Ginsberg was sitting in the same room as the greatest poet of the second-half of the twentieth century. Certainly the chapters dedicated to his writing style are intriguing reads, giving a rare look into how he crafted his poems, othe A series of lectures Allen Ginsberg gave at the Naropa Institute and Brooklyn College. While I have no doubt that these were fascinating lectures to hear Ginsberg give, on paper they lose something in the translation. I believe part of the allure of being taught by Ginsberg was sitting in the same room as the greatest poet of the second-half of the twentieth century. Certainly the chapters dedicated to his writing style are intriguing reads, giving a rare look into how he crafted his poems, other subjects though, are not as interesting. The problem is that Ginsberg always leads with heart - he loved Kerouac and Corso, Burroughs, and Orlovsky, so there writing can do no wrong in his opinion and are beacons to how we should all aspire to write. Holmes doesn't fare so well. I would definitely recommend the book for the Ginsberg section alone, just don't plan on reading an unbiased look at the working habits and styles of the major figures from the Beat Generation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jackson

    What strikes me most about this collection of talks Ginsberg gave to his students at Naropa is how deeply he cared about his contemporaries/friends and their literary legacies. For the most part, what he says is lucid and insightful and could only be gleaned from his mind. This collection is very, very long though, and much of it goes on for TOO long. To be honest, I skimmed a lot of this book. I found some of what he says to be a bit eyebrow-raising (his assessment of John Clellon Holmes' "Go"; What strikes me most about this collection of talks Ginsberg gave to his students at Naropa is how deeply he cared about his contemporaries/friends and their literary legacies. For the most part, what he says is lucid and insightful and could only be gleaned from his mind. This collection is very, very long though, and much of it goes on for TOO long. To be honest, I skimmed a lot of this book. I found some of what he says to be a bit eyebrow-raising (his assessment of John Clellon Holmes' "Go"; the genius he sees in some of the work of Burroughs and Corso that doesn't merit such adulation) but regardless, his takes are thoughtful and first-hand -- he was there, after all. Worth picking up, though probably not worth reading through entirely. Pick and choose; there are 49 chapters here.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I thought I'd love this book but it's all so pretentious and self-obsessed. I was alienated from the start when Anne Waldman in the Foreword says "The women are missing here unless as mothers, lovers, wives, sometimes victims". I wonder what it was like for Ginsberg's female students to listen to him waxing lyrical about Burroughs and then to be told 'I think Burroughs hates women'. And 'at one point Burroughs thought maybe you ought to exterminate all the women, just get rid of them all, let th I thought I'd love this book but it's all so pretentious and self-obsessed. I was alienated from the start when Anne Waldman in the Foreword says "The women are missing here unless as mothers, lovers, wives, sometimes victims". I wonder what it was like for Ginsberg's female students to listen to him waxing lyrical about Burroughs and then to be told 'I think Burroughs hates women'. And 'at one point Burroughs thought maybe you ought to exterminate all the women, just get rid of them all, let them drop off like an unwanted appendage'. The casual sexism and racism in the lectures turned me off completely.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    This one was a challenge for me to get through. I think it's because I'm not used to reading books like this. This book is essentially a compilation of Ginsberg's lectures. I did feel as if I were in a classroom which was pretty neat. He explained the writing process and how each person was different in their own way. He also said that everyone was in love with Kerouac. I would have probably liked this book better if there was a mini bio before each shift to the next person because some of them This one was a challenge for me to get through. I think it's because I'm not used to reading books like this. This book is essentially a compilation of Ginsberg's lectures. I did feel as if I were in a classroom which was pretty neat. He explained the writing process and how each person was different in their own way. He also said that everyone was in love with Kerouac. I would have probably liked this book better if there was a mini bio before each shift to the next person because some of them I wasn't sure what their contribution to literature was. It did make me want to read Dostoevsky and William Carlos Williams!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Connor McFarlane

    Finally finished despite having a reading hiatus for a few weeks. I’m a big fan of the writing and literature surrounding the Beat Generation and Ginsberg’s collections of essays/lectures is essential in understanding the writing, individuals and influences of the period. It focus on a broad range from artistic and cultural influences, poetics and the development of the socio-cultural movements of the 40-60’s.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lara Jerengan

    So I really haven’t read any of the Beat Generation writer’s work, but I have always wanted to. This was a wild and fun place to jump in with both feet. I learned so much and even listened to the music they listened to. It really put me in the room with these eccentric men who just wanted to write and be themselves. Very cool!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ernest Hogan

    Ginsberg examines the Beats (including himself) as writers rather than the characters in what will someday be in an epic soap opera/miniseries on Netflix or Amazon Prime because he "can't remember who fucked who, when, or who wrote what anymore . . ." . The poetics get disembodied. Whither goest thou, America? Ginsberg examines the Beats (including himself) as writers rather than the characters in what will someday be in an epic soap opera/miniseries on Netflix or Amazon Prime because he "can't remember who fucked who, when, or who wrote what anymore . . ." . The poetics get disembodied. Whither goest thou, America?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julien L

    Extremely informative read and gave a lot of insight into the beats, and essentially how they're more brilliant than people realize. There are points where Ginsberg's lectures start to get rambly and dumb but overall this is solid. Extremely informative read and gave a lot of insight into the beats, and essentially how they're more brilliant than people realize. There are points where Ginsberg's lectures start to get rambly and dumb but overall this is solid.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Leo

    Ginsberg talking about himself, so unexpected. But actually, this book gives a perfect context for the generation and his writings (especially Howl). In my opinion, I would only read it for investigating purposes because it is kind of complex and unneeded if you don't really care about Ginsberg's life. Ginsberg talking about himself, so unexpected. But actually, this book gives a perfect context for the generation and his writings (especially Howl). In my opinion, I would only read it for investigating purposes because it is kind of complex and unneeded if you don't really care about Ginsberg's life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rickey Ramseur

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dec Lloyd

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ed Gaudet

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