The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems: 1937-1952
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The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems: 1937-1952

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  120 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) kept a journal his entire life, beginning at the age of eleven. In these first journals the most important and formative years of the poet’s storied life are captured, his inner thoughts detailed in what the San Francisco Chronicle calls a “vivid first-person account...Ginsberg’s unmistakable voice coming into its own for the first time.” Ginsber...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Da Capo Press (first published October 10th 2006)
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The earliest writings in Allen Ginsberg’s journals are the kind of things one might expect to find in a journal written by a pre-teen boy—comments on relations with his family, notes about teachers at school, mentions of a trip to a relative’s house or of an evening at the movies. One gets a sense in these passages of Ginsberg as a rather studious but otherwise typical youth. In later pages, as Ginsberg begins thinking of himself as a serious writer, his journal writings become both more detaile...more
This book was just reissued in a paperback edition by Da Capo Press. Knowing I'm a Beat fan, my editor there gave me a copy. And this book is definitely for hardcore Beat fans. It starts with an adolescent and scarily precocious Ginsberg and stops before Ginsberg broke huge with Howl. So you really need a deep interest in Ginsberg and the origins of the Beat scene to get into this as heavily as it deserves. I think the best new insights in the book come when A.G. talks about the period when Herb...more
I should note I have this book, but haven't done much reading in it. It's fun for a casual pick up now and then as most books of this kind are. Early on though its quite humorous. Young Allen (at least amidst ages 12-17) loved to passively insult senators in newspaper letters to the editor all the while forecasting his own genius. Rather oddly, his father would jokingly ammend passages in his journal and even write some as "Allen". Quite strange. When it comes to Allen's college years, the journ...more
The earliest parts of the book, the earliest writing of Ginsberg, while fascinating, are not the most interesting or engaging part of the book.

My personal favourite piece featured in the essay—and perhaps, dare I say, my favourite Ginsberg piece—is "A Monologue Without Images or Music".

I highly recommend it to any Ginsberg fans or Beat fans.
Lisa Kozlowski
Knowing next to nothing about Ginsberg, I started back to front with the poems, then skipped to the section about his early days at Columbia and meeting Kerouac, Carr, Burroughs among others; then started at the very beginning and read his early entries, then skipped to his life after leaving Columbia and read through to the end...then re-read some of the poems. Full of youthful self-consciousness and self-confidence in his ability as a writer; not faultering through all the drugs and lonliness...more
It's hard to read anyone's journals, even if that person is as brilliant (and as important to me as an artist) as Ginsberg is. They just get rambly - that's sort of what a journal is for. This covers a period of his life (college and meeting Keroac, Carr, Cassady, Bourroughs etc.) which is really fascinating though, and I enjoyed the insights if it did take me forever to get through. (Plus it meant I knew the story of Kill Your Darlings before there was even a movie...)
Entry from May 1941: "As I said, I am writing to satisfy my egotism. If some future historian or biographer wants to know what the genius thought and did in his tender years, here it is. I'll be a genius of some kind or other, probably in literature. I really believe it. (Not naively, as whoever reads this is thinking). I have a fair degree of confidence in myself. Either I'm a genius, I'm egocentric, or I'm slightly schizophrenic. Probably the first two."

Jul 07, 2009 Jay added it
Excellent collection of journals. It is great reading from a young Ginsberg, age 11 into his 20's. It's not often we get to learn the early thoughts of a great writer. There is a lot of information given about the other Beats - Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassady, etc. The poems at the end of the book weren't very revealing, but they do show the early stages of poems to come.
Drew Hoffman
It's a magnificent pleasure to read the early thoughts of a true master of his craft and "The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice" never disappoints. Ginsberg shares the conflicted feelings and journey toward self-acceptance that fuelled his later masterpiece "Howl" changing the landscape of poetry forever.
Ann M
Nov 06, 2007 Ann M marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
To read the 1947 section, after I finish the original On the Road, scroll version -- Kerouac is writing about Allen's journal-keeping of his grand experiment with Neal Cassady. I'd like to see those notes.
Matthew T.
don't like this so much but like some poems at the end like "Paterson" & "The Poet for J.K."
Shane Kelly
Nice to read. Allen Ginsberg had some great gifts.
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Irwin Allen Ginsberg was the son of Louis and Naomi Ginsberg, two Jewish members of the New York literary counter-culture of the 1920s. Ginsberg was raised among several progressive political perspectives. A supporter of the Communist party, Ginsberg's mother was a nudist whose mental health was a concern throughout the poet's childhood. According to biographer Barry Miles, "Naomi's illness gave A...more
More about Allen Ginsberg...
Howl and Other Poems Kaddish and Other Poems Collected Poems, 1947-1980 Collected Poems 1947-1997 Reality Sandwiches

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