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Memoirs of a Beatnik
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Memoirs of a Beatnik

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,731 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Long regarded as an underground classic for its gritty and unabashedly erotic portrayal of the Beat years, Memoirs of a Beatnik is a moving account of a powerful woman artist coming of age sensually and intellectually in a movement dominated by a small confederacy of men, many of whom she lived with and loved. Filled with anecdotes about her adventures in New York City, Di ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1969)
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Books Every Woman Should Read in Their Lifetime
35th out of 82 books — 77 voters
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Beat Lit
52nd out of 148 books — 114 voters

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Community Reviews

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M.F. Soriano
A schizophrenic book, with two distinct personalities: hardcore smut and bohemian memoir. It starts out on the smutty side--the first three chapters are basically quick set-ups for sex scenes--and the sex is written about in classic porno style (lots of lines like "I took his huge, throbbing cock into my hungry, wet pussy."). Fun to read, though I didn't find it erotic enough to actually get my blood moving. What kept me reading was the other side of the story, those glimpses of bohemian life, o ...more
What I wanted was to know what it was like for a woman to be part of such an amazing scene and time, what I got was a lot of unsavory descriptions of casual sex with multiple partners. I had no idea I'd become such a prude.
Sometimes evocative, mostly just depressingly bad. There's an unpleasant whiff of internalized misogyny in di Prima's digressions about birth control, sex, and unconventional domestic arrangements. Her work as a poet and writer are left totally vague during the years she spent in Manhattan. Kerouac and Ginsberg are trotted out like caricatures.

This fictionalized autobiography could have been so interesting. A female poet's perspective on the proto-beatnik scene of 1950's New York is a rarity; I
What I learned from this book: What “beatnik” referred to; and what all the cool, upper-middle-class white kids were doing with each other in the late 1940's and 50's after they were kicked out their private liberal art college. I read this novel when I was 16 (and I was not a naive 16 year-old either!) yet thanks to Diane di Prima I learned about the creative possibilities when it came to sex. This is a very graphic novel-- the better your imagination the better it will be. So switch off that T ...more
This book is 80% hyped up erotica (which becomes fairly predictable after the first couple chapters, boring even) and 20% reality. It is worth reading for that 20%, the glimpse through the keyhole of how the Beat artists, poets, writers and actors lived in 1950s New York City, in all its splendid grittiness. There are intriguing paragraphs about foraging for wood to burn in dumpy West-side apartments, subsisting on vats of oatmeal, stale bread and endless cups of sweet, milky coffee, sleeping fo ...more
The title caught my eye in the secondhand bookstore. I've never really understood what a beatnik was, beyond vaguaries like counter culture, poetry and erm wearing black turtlenecks. I turned to the forward of the book in which the author recalls being asked by a student after she gave a poetry reading in the late 60s 'whatever happened to all the beatniks?' She replied something along the lines of, well sweety some of us sold out and became hippies. This confused me. Wasn't the hippy movement, ...more
Michael Alexander
Aug 12, 2007 Michael Alexander rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who went through a beat phase, pseudobohemians, horny degenerates, anthropologists
Kind of awesome. Absolutely LOADED with high-detail explicit polyeverything sex, but in a way that irks me a whole lot less than Henry Miller (because it's not ragingly sexist, funny that) or even Anais Nin (because it's not as oooh and aahhh about the whole thing). It's also (mostly, except for a couple of really awful incidents) really quite hot, and an interesting look at the whole having-sex-with-your-friends-in-the-bushes impulse that artsy types tend to get sometimes.

Note that Di Prima wro
Suad Shamma
I am going to make this short and sweet. I absolutely hated this book. I am far from being a prude, but the content of this book was neither worth my time nor money and I was majorly disappointed that it could even be called a memoir - of a beatnik no less. How interesting, I thought. The feminist in me thought how interesting it would be to read about beatniks from a woman's perspective. Diane Di Prima is not someone I ever want to read or know anything about.

Here's how one reviewer put it best
I was really happy to read a book by a FEMALE beatnik, and although I liked it, I was disappointed in that I hoping she would turn out to be a genius. I was amused by the way in which she freely and frequently talked about sex every chance she got and then some, because I always appreciate sex-positiveness wherever it seems relevant. I was also kind of disappointed that she wasn't as literary (is that the right word for "writes a lot of books"?) as most of her male contemporaries.
I had high hopes for this book, but I am sadly disappointed with it. Apparently being a female Beatnik meant having as much sex with as many different people in as many different ways as you possibly can. This book is basically porn that's been gussied up a little and called 'Beat'.
Mérita Selimi
I really expected her to show us what is was like to be part of such an inspirational movement, time, city... It's a shame she only writes a few words about it in the last third of the book.
this book is very bohemian and smutty, and i am loving it very much. If you're into beat literature, erotic literature, feminist literature, then read this. It's amazing.
Kelli Heidelberger
I laugh at all the negative reviews of the book because all they saw was a pornographic novel, which is true, because that is what is was written as. But there is stuff hidden beneath the surface that you really don't notice until the last chapter. This was a woman who was beat outside of the beats for a long time. She was someone outside of Kerouac and Ginsberg's circle, so she wasn't even aware the was a thing called Beat until she read Howl. But most of the sex was written just to satisfy her ...more
I have to say that although my initial opinion of this book was not high; I ended up enjoying this book a great deal. The sex scenes end up being almost a joke and later I found out it was because the publisher made her put in more and more and more sex. (Read the notes at the end) She desperately needed the money so she did what the publisher wanted. Minus the gratuitous sex, this book is actually a pretty interesting account of what was happening in 1950's and 60's New York. It seems to mostly ...more
If you want to read a novel that is pretty much purely pornographic, then you will love this book. It is incredibly well-written and di Prima has a serious knack for descriptive imagery. I went into this novel thinking I would be reading about the overall life experiences of a female beatnik, not just the sexual life experiences. Thus, I was vastly disappointed with Memoirs of a Beatnik. However, what saved this book from a 1 star rating, were the few passages that were amazing descriptions of t ...more
Samantha Emily Evans
Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima was not what I expected it to be, it was far better. For some reason – classic hipster – I thought it would be reminiscent of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg.

It was not.

It was it’s own completely unique, beautiful voice, it was a thunderous epiphany of a female and passion, it was cacophonous melancholy and life, it was Diane di Prima.

And she lived. SHE LIVED! She truly dangled her female figure over New York City and absorbed its creative, innovative vision
Debbie Hoskins
This is such a pornographic book, but wonderfully written. I read it aloud to my current husband when we were in that first or second year of lust over the phone. I actually got to see Diane Di Prima at ALA in San Francisco, 2001. She was really cool. She did a very nice reading. At this same time I was reading _Recollections of My Life as a Woman_. I told her, I really enjoyed the book. I'll do a review on that one, also. It's very wise and brilliant. Anyway she wanted to sign that one, but it ...more
I’d like to start this review by mentioning that I haven’t reviewed a book in a very long time, and hardly ever of my own accord in such a fashion. But I have this year dedicated myself to reading 30 books. A lofty goal, you say? Perhaps, but one that I am anxious to accomplish. After completing two years of college and earning my Associate’s degree, I have now been out of school for two full years. Reading books on the regular, especially rich books with heavy concepts, literature that stimula ...more
Maggie Fay
I stumbled upon this title while wending my way through wikipedia. It was great. A 200+ page orgy. Very well written sex scenes, which is no small feat. Typical beat stuff, I thought, and I love that stuff: food, sex, poverty, crumby New York apartments. It made me feel more alive, or made me wish I felt as alive as Diane Diprima in the 1950s.
I think what is most important reading this book is reading it in the context of when it was written. By today's standards it is alternately pompous, annoying, and bordering on romance novel-bad writing. But if you take it for the groundbreaking bad assitude that it was in the 50s, its a much better work of art.
i chose this at random from one of the four boxes of books c brought to my house (i wonder if i will now feel compelled to read all of her books as well as all of mine?). i enjoyed it much more than i've enjoyed memoirs written by the male beat writers, possibly because it's less filled with male fantasy shit (except for the gratuitous sex, which is revealed in the afterward as having been pushed in by publishers) and more with general countercultural idealism. and reading closely told misadvent ...more
I had complicated reactions to this book while reading it. The first few chapters are *really* off-putting and, I think, unrealistic. Some of the sex she describes is just gross. I suspect a lot of it is exaggerated from what actually happened (the afterword in my edition implies it is, that she was pressured by her publisher to do so). As someone born in the '80s, it's hard to read about all the unsafe sex in this book and not be horrified by it. By the end, though, I came to appreciate the boo ...more
I love Diane DiPrima, and so I can't help it that I gave this book 4 stars when if it were anyone else it wouldn't be. She is so beautiful. I do want to comment though that this book IS more than just sex. When I first started it I was tired of reading about sex after I've overloaded myself with women's literature after a break-up. She does start off with lots of sexual encounters and you think that's what the entire book will be, but it's not. It gets better. The one thing she doesn't go into m ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Cassie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beatniks
Recommended to Cassie by: book store
I was floored when I first read di Prima's words. She seemed so beautiful in her simplicity and yet very complicated at the same time. I read this on the beach and felt very sophisticated for my choice of vacation reads. One day I'll pick this up again and I'm sure I'll find new things to be moved by.
Cody Grey
When I picked up this book at my community college's book sale, I didn't know what I was going to put my mind through, and, quite frankly, I am glad that I didn't. I opened up the first few pages of this book knowing what little I remembered from the brief introduction I had from American Literature class and Kerouac's classic On the Road (the unedited version mind you). Although learning that much of the sex in the book was included at the rather pressuring suggestions of the publishers, I was ...more
Jul 06, 2007 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry people, wanna be beatniks, those who like reading about graphic sex
Shelves: booksofthepast
I read this entire book standing up in a bookstore in Glasgow, Scotland. I remember then thinking that while I was kind of annoyed with the slavish attention to and detailing of sexual events, I really enjoyed that fact that a book by a woman who was part of the Beat Generation was put on display right next to a book of Ginsberg's poetry. This woman was tough, brilliant, and just as out there are the rest of her comrades, despite not having a penis. Having read some of her poetry, which I loved ...more
Tim Boroughs
Jul 03, 2010 Tim Boroughs is currently reading it
I should have done more research before I bought this book. I was after a behind the scenes cultural history of the Beats and not really the porno novel that this is. In between the graphic accounts of incest and orgies there are some worthwhile observations and insights into the lives of young bohemians living in New York in the 1950's though. It's all rendered quite well however, but not what I was wanting which was something a bit more along the lines of Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters. Alth ...more
I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, but this is what I imagine it to be like. Except well-written and without the S&M. And the word "bucked" is used entirely too often.

According to this book, all beatniks ever did was have sex with every single person they came across (no pun intended). There is a sex scene in literally every single chapter. She winds up getting pregnant at the end. Spoiler alert: that's what happens when you have sex all the time.

And I have to read this book for school. It'
Rob Mcbride
Well, I fell for it. I picked it up thinking it was indeed her memoir.

Well, the scenes of NYC in the 50s are wonderfully sketched. They make a vivid picture of the cultural ferment that gave rise to Beat culture, crystallized at the end of the book with the arrival in New York of Howl. And written with her own strong feminist sensibility. The rest of the "Memoirs" -- and the content which sold it -- is unabashed potboiler pornography, which allowed di Prima to support the development of her own
Elisabeth blackwell
Good for a reality check on these women of this time through their eyes. A good book to have on your shelf for a go to or share
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Literary Pixie: Memoirs of a Beatnik Discussion 1 3 Mar 12, 2013 05:19AM  
Is it porn? 4 21 Aug 26, 2012 12:06PM  
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Diane Di Prima is an American poet.
More about Diane di Prima...
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