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Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg founded the Beat Movement and were major forces in ushering Buddhism and a free nonduality into the West. A new book -- Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters, Edited by Bill Morgan and David Stanford -- has received an excellent review in the Los Angeles Times and is reprinted below. I've ordered the book and will either write a review or post excerpts in the Highlights.
Jack and Allen, in their own words
An assemblage of about 200 letters between Beat men Ginsberg and Kerouac offers insight into their friendship, their souls and their writing.
By Robert Faggen,
Special to the
Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg
Edited by Bill Morgan and David Stanford
Viking: 528 pp., $35
(1956) and "On the Road" (1957), two works that helped
define a time, sprang from two wildly fired, independent
imaginations. Few would have put Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac
together when they met at
Ginsberg and Kerouac divulge here what really seems to matter most their souls and their writing. There is literary gossip about their compatriots, including, of course, Cassady, Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke and others. The letters, though, are more often about what each thinks about something vital. It's fascinating, for example, to hear Kerouac talk about what Cassady had to say after attending a lecture given by Thomas Mann. And if there is a widely held view that Kerouac became a curmudgeon only later in his life, readers might be surprised to find him writing in 1949: "I want to read books, I want to write books, I'll write books in the woods. Thoreau was right; Jesus was right. It's all wrong and I denounce it and it can all go to hell. I don't believe in this society but I believe in man, like Mann. So roll your own bones, I say."
Kerouac was responding, in part, to Ginsberg's struggle with being committed to a psychiatric institute. Kerouac tends to maintain a laconic, sad assurance in his letters. Ginsberg's missives on his shapeshifting self tend to meander and seem a bit more self-consciously literary. As Ginsberg comes to reject the notion that he's crazy, Kerouac encourages him as a great young poet. We see Ginsberg entranced by Blake's visions and by the purity of Bach. And Ginsberg inspires and confirms Kerouac's yearning for a mythic West meeting a dharmic East. In reading these letters, you feel both writers moving each other toward greater energies of transcendence.
Faggen is writing a
biography of Ken Kesey and is the Barton Evans and H. Andrea
Neves Professor of Literature at
Copyright © 2010, The
Order Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters at Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670021946?ie=UTF8&tag=nondualitysal-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0670021946
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