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Go

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,251 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
The novel that launched the beat generation's literary legacy describes the world of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neil Cassady. Published two months before Kerouac began On the Road, Go is the first and most accurate chronicle of the private lives the Beats lived before they became public figures. In lucid fictional prose designed to capture the events, emptions and ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 30th 2006 by Penguin Modern Classics (first published 1952)
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Terry Travers I must not have gotten to that part yet. Holmes is pretty up front and I don't think sulked over how things turned out. They read each others work and…moreI must not have gotten to that part yet. Holmes is pretty up front and I don't think sulked over how things turned out. They read each others work and anyway it was their business and not ours. (less)
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17th out of 165 books — 146 voters
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Community Reviews

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Stephen Hayes
Dec 12, 2011 Stephen Hayes rated it it was amazing
Go is generally regarded as the first novel of the Beat Generation, written between 1949 and 1951, and first published in 1952, nearly sixty years ago. I first read it when I was 20, fifty years ago, and rereading it after all that time is a rather strange experience.

It is set in the late 1940s, and that was another generation, a generation that I don't connect with. They are the people who came home from the war, whom I used to meet in bars around Durban, those boozy old men. In 1972 I used to
...more
Reid
Excellent! This is virtually all true and the portraits here of the big three (Ginsberg, Kerouac and Cassady) are great to see. Ginsberg, especially, gets a starring role in this, as compared to On the Road, where he plays second fiddle. We get to see his real caring nature, his eclectic personality, and his devilish playfulness, including instigating multiple conflicts based on his psychological insightful challenges toward his friends. Amazingly, Cassady comes off nearly the same person as ...more
Zack
Mar 01, 2009 Zack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kathryne
Really awesome, like a postmodern "On The Road" you'd think was written last year deliberately to subvert the mythic image, when in fact the reverse is true: this book was the first one to use the phrase "beat generation" and was actually published before "On The Road", though it's not as well known. John Clellon Holmes was one of the Beats' inner circle before Jack Kerouac's fame started the beatnik craze. "Go" gives a more balanced portrayal of how that scene felt from the inside than ...more
Andy
Apr 30, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: beatniks; night time soap fans
Shelves: jazznbeats
“Go” is The Melrose Place of Beat Generation books, no boy’s club writing here. The same cast of characters are on board: Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Neal Casady and the gang, but John Clellon Holmes gives equal space to their women and their tempestuous relationships. That’s why this book is so cool; it’s got a real nighttime soap opera vibe about it that’s more exciting and sexy than the sausage fest style the other Beat boys write with. “Go” read “Go”.
Christine No
Aug 08, 2013 Christine No rated it really liked it
chock full of beautiful language about love, drugs, sex, drugs, ennui that exists on the cusp of the Beat Generation's explosive, literary reaction. But this is a sad book, too - about young men and women looking to "Go and love without the help of any thing on earth." (p.246). The Beats weren't just Madmen, On the Road, and free - they were drug addicts, petty thieves, and the drifters of the unforgiving underbelly of 1950s NYC. They were young people looking for Home - and this Roman a Clef ...more
Mel
Jan 02, 2013 Mel rated it it was amazing
I really really loved this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, being about the Beats but not by Kerouac, but it was phenomenally good. Holmes doesn't have Kerouac's beautiful prose but he has an intensity that I found really appealing. He gave so much insight into his characters and their inner battles. The dialogue was great, their were so many memorable scenes even though so much of it was a whirlwind of parties and bar hoping. Despite being published in the 50s it was full of sex and drugs ...more
Jim
Nov 19, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, beatniks
If you think that the whole notion of the Beat Generation sprang from the head of Jack Kerouac when he wrote On the Road, you're wrong. Before Kerouac, there was John Clellon Holmes with Go, which -- partly fiction and partly autobiography -- tells of the frenetic search for liberation through drugs, alcohol, and even friendship that marked that strange group of young men who formed the core of the movement.

Holmes does, however, change their names: Holmes becomes Paul Hobbes; Kerouac, Gene Paste
...more
Scott A. Nicholson
May 22, 2009 Scott A. Nicholson rated it really liked it
With many of the same "characters" (different names, but based off of the same real life people) in John Clellon Holmes, Go as in On the Road by Jack Kerouac, it's hard not to comapre the two. The general feels are different enough, Holme's contribution to the beat generation being entirely situated in New York and following the events of a battered marriage and the wild party lives of a core group as opposed to the cross country jumble of Kerouac's experiences with one Neal Cassidy; while the l ...more
Greg
Sep 08, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat
Having read most of Jack Kerouac's books about this period in time, it was interesting to read about it from a different perspective. Holmes definitely takes a more sober view of everything than Kerouac did. Kerouac was all about the kicks, and Holmes is all about the consequences.

If you are reading the same edition as me, don't read the forward first. It reprints the entire last two paragraphs of the book.
R.d. Mumma
Oct 06, 2015 R.d. Mumma rated it it was amazing
Go by John Clellon Holmes is a book I’ve had sitting on my bookshelf since picking up a copy of the 1977 hardcover reprint edition at the Strand Bookstore in ’78 or ’79. I didn’t read it right away because I guess I thought is was just “lesser” Kerouac rather than a novel that provided a totally new viewpoint of the Beat Generation immortals. Kerouac (Gene Pasternak) and Neal Cassady (Hart Kennedy) disappear for sections on their road trips; we don’t see them on the road and on the west coast, b ...more
Ned
Apr 16, 2010 Ned rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i just can't understand how this isn't a more recognized work of the beat catalogue. it's a surprisingly intimate look at the life of a few of the key beaters (capturing ginsberg much more intimately than kerouac, cassady and huncke). it brings to dramatic life (perhaps too dramatic at times) these iconic persons and some of the essential life events i've only caught vague wind of in my beat inquiry. from ginsberg's arrest and his blakean visions to kerouac's initial publishing windfall and ...more
Mark
Nov 14, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: american
3.5

I did like this book but something was missing for me to think it was great. I really can't pin point what that thing is but isn't to say it's not a fine addition to the beat canon. Perhaps it's the parts of the book where I didn't particularly care what was going on or how the characters were feeling. Kathryn was annoying most of the time but I like how Holmes portrayed Hobbes' relationship with her and her 'encounters' with Pasternak (Kerouac).
There were some fantastic pieces of writing in
...more
Jeff Doty
Apr 17, 2014 Jeff Doty rated it liked it
I enjoyed it, and it's a must-read for any beat aficionado. But it's a bit verbose and tedious, overloaded with contrived analysis and description. It's as if Holmes as a young writer thought the added adornment was necessary to get published, which may have been true at the time.

It's also contains none of the passion and verve of Kerouac and other beat works, but this was Holmes' admitted role with the beats, a somewhat detached observer on the fringe, rather than an ardent principal of the bea
...more
Brian
Jun 06, 2008 Brian rated it liked it
This is the book Kerouac would have written, had he stayed sober, stayed put in NYC and stayed in his "Town and City" Thomas Wolfe mode. Happily, he got drunk, hit the road and discovered spontaneous prose, which is really what made the beats "beat."
If you want reportage and a sober account of the late 40s/early 50s in NYC, then this is your book. It tells what happened, a bit about the why, but fails to capture the feel of that whole scene. Not bad, though, for a different perspective.
Cherie
Nov 06, 2008 Cherie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Venessa
Shelves: fiction, beats
A- The first novel of the Beat Generation. (Take that, On the Road!) Fantastic, really engaging…while his style isn't as spontaneous as Kerouac, some really interesting characters, and the style is engaging. Really enjoyed this. I can't believe I haven't read this until now! Highly recommended for all Beat afficionados.
Patrick Santana
Nov 22, 2015 Patrick Santana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt moved at the end. As terrible and beautiful as The Great Gatsby. Holmes had a tender insight into 'what matters' in life, even at age 23 or 26 or whenever he wrote this. I came to Go assuming it would be a timepiece, dated but interesting. I closed the book feeling very alive to the moment that I myself live in. Not a timepiece. Go is timeless.
Elliott
Mar 31, 2010 Elliott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Where's the beef, Beat-style? Where's the jazz? The kicks? The lunge and the plunge? Where's that high-rider sass, man?" Seymour Krim, in the afterword, on his posse's reaction to "Go." Which was exactly the same as my reaction to "Go."

David
Jan 27, 2014 David rated it really liked it
This novel exists primarily as a roman-à-clef, depicting the early years of the Beat writers that have now become household names.
The book focuses on the usual cast of "characters", masked behind thinly veiled literary doubles, Jack Kerouac becomes Gene Pasternak, Neal Cassady - Hart Kennedy and Allen Ginsberg - David Stofsky.

While Kerouac documented every aspect of the movement - the jazz, drinking, drugs, crime, infidelity - as a living part of it, Holmes, although heavily involved, seems to h
...more
Josh
Aug 14, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it
Notable as being the first "beat" novel, Holmes' debut novel presents a surprising perspective on the bohemian lifestyle of that famous core group of the beats. Where Kerouac would immortalize the all-night drinking / drug parties and non-monogamous sexual relationships in a positive light, Holmes describes these situations as someone that is maybe a bit "square", and although fascinated by these people and how casually they would get involved in crime (grand theft auto, burglary, etc.), he was ...more
Greg
Oct 21, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it
Shelves: beat-poets
A pretty great window into the inner workings of the Beats right before they started to publish and become famous. Holmes is much more of a realist than Kerouac (and certainly Neal Cassady) and doesn't hesitate to show the dark side of the Beat lifestyle--in a darkly funny scene, several characters get bored at a wild bop show that Cassady (here Hart Kennedy) and Jack Kerouac (here Gene Pasternak) are enjoying. There's also lots of tooth-gnashing over the group's use and abuse of alcohol and ...more
J.C.
Jun 18, 2014 J.C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this novel, for me it was fascinating to have such a different outlook into the beats. Holmes can get a bit too verbose at times, but for me this was part of the young writer trying to capture everything as honestly as he can with whatever tools of the trade he knew at the time.

There's a lot of dialogue in this book, mostly converse-driven plot-wise. Which is fine, it's a social scene that is being documented here, not a tale. It took me a short while to figure out who was who,
...more
Jay B.  Larson
Nov 23, 2012 Jay B. Larson rated it liked it
John Clellon Holmes' "Go" is usually spoken of as "the beat novel that was written before "On the Road." This is about as far as any comparison's need to go, as "Go" is a much grittier work than Kerouac's, and in my opinion, much more engaging. This is a chronicle of beat life, not a celebration of it. The novel has an intimate feeling, taking place entirely in the New York homes, bars, and coffee houses houses frequented by characters based on himself, Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and other beat ...more
Meeg
Oct 18, 2015 Meeg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A more conventional novel than On the Road. Holmes tells us what was happening back in New York while Kerouac and Cassidy were off on their wild road trips. As an historical artifact, we get a good view of the Beats and what life was like for their circle in New York in the Forties, like searching the sketchy bars of Times Square for a possible weed connection.
At times the novel is plodding: Hobbes, Holmes alter ego, can be a dull character; interspersed with the action is too much of philosoph
...more
Maureen
Jan 06, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're going through a "quarter life crisis," this is the book for you. If you're turning into an aging hipster, please do read "Go" If you want to read a better version of "On the Road," pick "Go" up at your local book shop. It involves the same group of bohemians Kerouac hung with in their early stages. Being from the Philly area (can't speak for other urban entities), I could imagine these people living in West Philly in 2007 having the same set of aspirations and problems. It's basically ...more
Carina Mcdonagh
May 10, 2015 Carina Mcdonagh rated it liked it
As a precursor to 'On the Road' I expected 'Go'to perhaps be a bit more radical or exciting than it turned out to be. As a thinly veiled autobiography of Ginsberg and Kerouac it painted their lives as one big dreary and depressing party. I suppose I should have realised that it wouldn't be particularly uplifting but there was also a lack storyline for much of the book. I think the ending and odd chapters of interest saved it from being a completely unnecessary read. The book is well written in ...more
Clive Bonelle
Jul 12, 2015 Clive Bonelle rated it it was amazing
After trawling through many a Kerouac novel as a youth I finally found "Go". This is a great book.

However positive progression and the avant-garde within literature are, the advancement or stunting of the species...freedom and autonomy versus circumspect action. In "Go" Clellon Holmes approached classic literature as opposed to the forging, freshness and gimmicks of bebop prose.

The rancid filth of a post war bohemian struggle as the 60s approach. The perpetual imbalance and lack of security of
...more
Jonathan
May 05, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it
An early Beat Generation novel, but one that I only came across recently, it features characters based on Kerouac, Ginsberg etc. and takes place about 5 years or so before On The Road was published. As such it has a mostly straightforward style to the narrative, but covers a lot of familiar ground that fans of this genre will be familiar with. It is really well written, but maybe doesn't have that wild, almost frenetic feel that the more well known writers from this group achieved later on. It ...more
Tim Boroughs
May 05, 2012 Tim Boroughs rated it really liked it

DRAFT
I liked this book a lot. Partly because it concerns the lives of beat generation writers in New York in the late 1940's who, like many readersd hold a fascination for me, with their full frontal assault on straight society but also because its well written and accessible. There are many anecdotes taken from actual events such as Stofsky's (aka Allen Ginsberg) revelations whilst reading Blake's poetry. Go is intelligent and observant without a trace of the heavy handed stylistic treatments o
...more
georgia
Honestly, Go is nothing particularly spectacular or special. It's the awkward, clumsy first novel of an author who never made it to legendary status - unlike his pals: the mad famous Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg et al.

However, Go does succeed in its intentions: to be a good novel (an obsession illustrated by Hobbes, the character in which Holmes lent his soul to). Albeit the prose does not burst with beauty as Kerouac's, it's intimate, personal and honest. The portraits Holmes paints of his frie
...more
David
Aug 18, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Though not as lyrical or experimental as many of the other beat writers I've read, this book finds its own impressive voice in its commentary on the times. I've seen few other beats be able to express what I feel to be the central core of the beats in such a clear fashion, seeming to capture the identity of the participants so well. Admittedly, there is a great deal of awkwardness here, particularly when getting into analyzing what is going on or trying to talk about high ideas. Still, the ...more
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  • The First Third
  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
  • Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir
  • I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg
  • Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution
  • Memoirs of a Beatnik
  • Kerouac: A Biography
  • The Town and the City
  • The Happy Birthday of Death
  • The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso in Paris, 1957-1963
  • Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac
  • Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster
  • Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac
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John Clellon Holmes, born in Holyoke Massachusetts, was an author, poet and professor, best known for his 1952 novel Go. Go is considered the first "Beat" novel, and depicted events in his life with friends Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. He was often referred to as the "quiet Beat," and was one of Kerouac's closest friends. He also wrote what is considered the definitive jazz novel ...more
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“While leaning over the toilet getting up his nerve, he thought that the moment before making yourself throw up must be very like the instant before suicide. You are almost content to bear the sickening headache and the torment in your stomach rather than go through that moment. But the prospect of relief made you foolhardy and you jammed your finger down your throat.” 7 likes
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