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This Is the Beat Generation

Beginning in New York in 1944, James Campbell finds the leading members of what was to become the Beat Generation in the shadows of madness and criminality. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs had each seen the insides of a mental hospital and a prison by the age of thirty. A few months after they met, another member of their circle committed a murder that involved Kerouac and Burroughs as material witnesses. This book charts the transformation of these experiences into literature, and a literary movement that spread across the globe. From "The First Cut-Up"--the murder in New York in 1944--we end up in Paris in 1960 with William Burroughs at the Beat Hotel, experimenting with the technique that made him notorious, what Campbell calls "The Final Cut-Up." In between, we move to San Francisco, where Ginsberg gave the first public reading of "Howl." We discover Burroughs in Mexico City and Tangiers; the French background to the Beats; the Buddhist influence on Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and others; the "Muses" Herbert Huncke and Neal Cassady; the tortuous history of "On the Road; " and the black ancestry of the white hipster.
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Table of Contents

Foreword PART I: I CAN FEEL MYSELF DRIFTING... 1. Crazy wisdom 2. The first cut-ups Behind the beat: Hipikats 3. The muses: Huncke-junkies and Neo-Cassady Behind the beat: Naked Neal 4. The little auto Behind the beat: Neurotica 5. The place of dead roads Behind the beat: The scroll 6. Beat, in black and white Behind the beat: Broyard PART II: ...FURTHER AND FURTHER OUT 7. Sutra on the subway Behind the beat: City Lights 8. You're a Genius all the time Behind the beat: As food as Proust 9. Death to Van Gogh's Ear 10. The birth of the beatnik Behind the beat: as he leaps Updike swing 11. Terminal cut-up Notes index Illustrations

About the Author

James Campbell is the author of Exiled in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Others on the Left Bank(1995), Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin (1991), and Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland (1984). He works for the Times Literary Supplement.


"Literary biography serves the delightful function of providing its reader with a little lurid gossip, if not a critical history. Thankfully, James Campbell dishes out plenty of both in "This Is the Beat Generation, wherein he chronicles one of the most (in)famous literary movements of the twentieth century. This book nicely illustrates, in a tone neither worshipful nor deploring, how resolutely the Beat movement was borne out of friendship, and is often less tiresome than reading actual beat writing."--"Flaunt magazine

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