The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats

The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats

by Allen Ginsberg


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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802127983
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/17/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 736,402
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was a poet, activist, and one of the Beat Generation's most renowned writers. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute. He won the National Book Award for Poetry and his groundbreaking poem Howl is one of the most widely read and translated poems of the century.

Bill Morgan has written and edited thirty-nine books, including I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg.

Anne Waldman is an internationally acclaimed poet, scholar, and activist. She is the author of more than 40 books, including Fast Speaking Woman , Vow to Poetry , and Helping the Dreamer. She is a recipient of the American Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement and the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. She divides her time between New York City and Boulder, Colorado.

Table of Contents

Foreword Anne Waldman ix

Editor's Preface xix

A Definition of the Beat Generation Allen Ginsberg 1

1 Course Overview 7

2 Kerouac's "Origins of the Beat Generation" 12

3 Reading List 23

4 Visions 25

5 Jazz, Bebop, and Music 31

6 Music, Kerouac, Wyse, and Newman 33

7 Times Square and the 1940s 43

8 Carr, Ginsberg, and Kerouac at Columbia 53

9 Kerouac, Columbia, and Vanity of Duluoz 60

10 Lucien Carr's Influence on Kerouac 77

11 Kerouac and Vanity of Duluoz, Part 2 80

12 Meeting Burroughs and Ginsberg's Suspension from Columbia 85

13 Kerouac and The Town and the City 91

14 Kerouac and Visions of Cody, Part 1 105

15 Kerouac, Cassady, and Visions of Cody, Part 2 118

16 Kerouac in Old Age 134

17 Burroughs's First Writings and "Twilights Last Gleamings" 139

18 Burroughs, Kerouac, and And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks 151

19 Burroughs, Joan Burroughs, and Junkie 158

20 Burroughs and Korzybski 177

21 Burroughs and the Visual 179

22 Burroughs and The Yage Letters 181

23 Burroughs and Queer 189

24 Burroughs and Naked Lunch 193

25 Burroughs and the Cut-Up Method 196

26 Burroughs and The Ticket That Exploded 202

27 Neal Cassady and As Ever 206

28 Kerouac and the "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose" 219

29 Kerouac and On the Road 223

30 Kerouac and The Subterraneans 257

31 Jack Kerouac and Fame 260

32 Kerouac, Sketching, and Method 264

33 Corso and The Vestal Lady on Brattle 273

34 Corso and Gasoline and Other Poems 293

35 Corso and The Happy Birthday of Death 305

36 Corso and "Bomb" 311

37 Corso and "Power" 321

38 Corso and Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit 339

39 Ginsberg's Early Writings 343

40 Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams 359

41 Ginsberg and "The Green Automobile" 371

42 Ginsberg and "Howl" 390

43 Ginsberg, "Howl," and Christopher Smart 399

44 Ginsberg and Cézanne 408

45 Ginsberg and the San Francisco Renaissance 410

46 John Clellon Holmes 413

47 Peter Orlovsky 422

48 Carl Solomon 425

49 Kerouac's "Belief and Technique for Modern Prose" 429

Works Cited Within the Text 437

Allen Ginsberg's Reading List for "A Literary History of the Beat Generation" 441

Acknowledgments 445

Notes 447

Credits 457

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