The Beats: A Graphic History
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The Beats: A Graphic History

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  917 ratings  ·  203 reviews
In "The Beats: A Graphic History," those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the "Mad" magazine artist Peter Kuper, "The Beats" takes u...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Souvenir Press (first published March 17th 2009)
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Harvey Pekar at his best uses the patently exciting comic book medium to conjure the pretense of drama to altogether mundane run-of-the-mill life; at his worst, which includes this book, he and his collaborators damn and fumble with by default a fun medium hard to fuck up and an exciting topic and churn out pinko propaganda reminiscent of dull children’s textbooks with boring art and the text of highly slanted wikipedia articles.
If I was a teenager I would hate this book. I was never given a r...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
I love the idea behind this book - present the leading figures of the Beat movement in graphic novel form. How fun! This is not only informative, it's a great way to get someone who might not pick up a standard biography of any of these folks to learn more about their lives.

Graphic novels work great for moving stories along, presenting action, taking you into a scene. However, it's more appropriate for short stories, and not so great for exposition. Here, especially for the Jack Kerouac chapter,...more
Booklist named this collaboration as one of the best works of graphic nonfiction published in the last year. I thought it was pretty much a waste of time - mine, Pekar's, and et al's . Harvey Pekar is brilliant when he's writing about Harvey Pekar, but this 'history' read like a high-school student's report - dry recitation of facts and criticism on the order of "I thought The Subterraneans was good. I don't know why the critics didn't like it." Adding incoherence to this desultory performance,...more
This book is really GREAT!

It starts off with the big three of the Beat Generation--Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs--but also has plenty of info about other, equally important Beat writers.

I wish there had been more about women who were also Beat writers. (Why are we told explicitly how many kids Diane di Prima birthed, but are not given the same statistics about the reproduction of any of the men?) There is the awesome "Beatnik Chicks" section written by Joyce Brabner, wit...more
Type: {Commuter Read: format lends easily to starting/stopping – and- Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent conversation piece.}
Rating: {I’m Lovin’ It: Very Entertaining!}

Why You’re Reading It:

You’re interested in the beat generation an would like an easy overview
You enjoy graphic novels
You’re a Harvey Pekar fan
What I Thought:

Everyone knows about the beats, but not everyone knows about the beats. I was one of the latter. However, last year I started getting i...more
Sam Quixote
Harvey Pekar presents a brief look at an artistic movement from the mid-20th century known as the Beats, focusing on the three major writers of this movement: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, while also looking at some of the minor artists and the historical context of this time.

The best part of this slim volume is the looks at the lives of the Big 3. While I knew about these writers lives and have read their major works, I still learned some things about them I didn't befo...more
Good but uneven. The first half treats the lives of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs; the second half examines some of the lesser-known beats including Kenneth Patchen, one of my favorite authors - I was unaware that he was included in this book when I picked it up.

As a history or biographic comic, this certainly does the trick. You get a sense of the small social circle that birthed the original beats, as well as the generally unpleasant character of Kerouac and his friends. It's an uncompromis...more
My dislike of this book is not really the fault of the authors (although they often made Jack Kerouac look like Rod Blagojevich). I simply have decided, after years of study, that with the exception of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, the Beats were a vile lot of slumming degenerates.
This is the most poorly written, poorly edited garbage I have ever read. I was fooled by the Daniel Clowesesque artwork into thinking there might be anything of substance in these pages.
The Beat Generation has been glamorized for subsequent generations, the romance of the open road and stripped inhibitions tickling the experimental nature of our socially constrained selves. We admire these men for being brave enough to be so true to their convictions as to submit to every whim and desire to be wrangled into something vicarious for the reader.

The truth is the long swathes of sullen apathy between frantic moments, the twitch of unfulfilled addiction, the thing that puts the beat...more
Mick Phillipe
I picked this book off of the library shelf because it looked intriguing. And I didn't know ANYTHING about the beat poets. I'm not really poetry fan either, but I've always wanted to know about these people. It's so strange to think that they existed during a time of cookie cutter houses and perfect 50s housewives.. and they were NUTS. I could never dare to live like they did, and I think most people can agree with me on this.
I'm not talking about the sex and drugs part, but the fact that they...more
I can't remember when I read this book though I do remember a red haired boy from Lowell tried to impress me on the train by telling me Jack Kerouac was also from Lowell (which I knew since I had just read that two pages before he told me). I imagine it was shortly after it came out in the spring of 2009 but may have been more recently. The brief biological sketches of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg were interesting...sort of. I loved the artwork, but I could have just read a bunch of wikipedia...more
The first 1/2 was interesting if nothing else for it's titillation factor but the 2nd 1/2 seemed too scattered - I gave up on it.

*note to SanFrancisco - I LOVE you, you should know by now how much I LOVE you. I love your murals, I love your restaurants, I love, love, love China Town in the morning (the colors! the buckets of spices! the exotic vegetables - the POTENTIAL!) uhhhh and ahhhh and ohhh the neighborhood gardens, the buildings, the Castro



enough with the Beat Poets!

You have so...more
Very nice summation of the Beat movement by Harvey Pekar and many artists and writers--all of it carries Pekar's dark humor and opinions. The art is wonderful--varying from bio to bio. My only real complaint is the re-telling of the "misogynist" attitudes the male beats are always accused of and rumor mongering about Kerouac's sexuality (does not matter to me, but it's been called out as untrue by many people close to Kerouac.) I always find it ironic that people praise Ginsberg to the moon as t...more
This is a really enjoyable, boiler-plate history of the Beats. The main focus for the first 100 pages is on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Pekar really peels away the mystique that these guys have developed and shows the people behind the mythos (and what terrible people they could be, racist, homophobic, openly misogynist, pedopheliac, murderous bastards they were).
The second half of the book is dedicated to the perennially over-looked figures of the movement like d.a. Levy, Diane De prima,...more
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the lives of the Beats in a graphic novel format. It is such a fitting way to tell their stories, and should be considered an important contribution to the ongoing tale of the Beat generation. This book, I feel, both adds to their mystique and tears down a lot of the wonder and awe surrounding them. Really, they were a bunch of loathsome characters--scumbags--misogynist jerks. Nonetheless, they did change the world in their own way, broke down walls, surely. Th...more
I saw the best minds of The Beats generation.
Enviable for their heroic freedom, non-conformity, and original, long-lasting, liberating impact in the history.
Not so for their pains and torturous life. Some self inflicted. Short lived, yet-possibly-meaningful lives.

I saw the best minds of my generation immersed in the perverted, middle-class, non-stop streaming of non information.
One-second wisdom of statuses and tweets, scraping for the minuscule of drama, one and then to the next.
Miguel Jiménez
Un cómic que da una noción general y muy completa de lo que fue este movimiento artístico. Si bien una parte del libro se centra en tres figuras fundamentales como Jack Kerouac, Allen Gingsberg y William Burroughs, cada quien por su parte le daba fuerza a una nueva manera de expresarse, con ideas quizá no tanto extravagantes sino liberales, creo que así se puede definir y representa muy bien lo que fue lo "beat". A pesar de enunciar algo que ya está hecho o se sabe, Harvey Pekar cuenta una histo...more
An interesting treatment of a fascinating historical period and its contributors. Though he is the star contributor, Pekar's contributions are actually the weakest part of the book: his biographies of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs are flat, lacking in purpose, and occasionally difficult to follow. He attempts to use first names and surnames interchangeably, but tends toward "Kerouac" in the Kerouac section and then "Allen" in the Ginsberg section, a move that is ultimately distracting. In ano...more
The 3 main stories are annoying. Kerouac story is particularly annoying. Other material is a mixed bag. A few stories in the latter half of the book are drawn well and entertaining, but there's also some really stupid stuff in here. If you're really into the Beats this may be even more annoying than if you're not. In short, this book is mostly annoying and not recommended.
Nick Kives
This book starts out strong and interesting. First 100 pages are on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, but then the next 100 pages are just short blurbs about 20 other people. Not enough to give real information about them except to list their name.
Miroku Nemeth
Hard to describe this book, as it really is many books in one seemingly thrown together with little attempt to give a consistent balance to the text as a whole. Some of the most balanced and compelling of the Beats were given a terribly inadequate 2 page individual coverage, while there were repetitions of the incidents in the life of the "big three", Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs that did not serve to tie things together necessarily in a masterful way, but instead seemed like a sloppy hobble...more
This caught my eye at City Lights, so I thought I'd pick it up and thumb through it. Seeing as I was in City Lights, I figured I'd check out the bit about Ferlinghetti. Immediately I notice an error. The book states he earned his BA at Columbia, when, in fact, he earned it at UNC (to follow in Wolfe's footsteps). I see the writer did some serious fact checking for this one.

My impression is this: shallow(and flawed) information about some beats that reads like the first paragraph of a Wikipedia...more
As always, Pekar and his associates take the "Comic Strip" to another level
Regan Sharp
This book is divided into two sections. The first is devoted to covering the most recognizable icons of the beats, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs (as pictured, top to bottom, on the front cover), as well as other major contributors, such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Creeley and Leroi Jones. This portion is the strongest, allowing enough space to give a fair sense of who these authors were and what they accomplished. Harvey Pekar handles the writing duties effectively, wh...more
Reading this book has been a labor of love. I really really really wanted to like it,and there were definitely parts that stood out but man was it a chore to get through.

The major fault of this book was definitely that it tried to accomplish too much. It tried to provide way too much information, which caused it to lose the "story" and high readability that nonfiction graphic novels usually have going for them. I also just felt overwhelmed by information at some points. The book is divided in t...more
I was obsessed with the Beats in high school, and got pretty into graphic novels a few years ago, so I had been meaning to read "The Beats: A Graphic History" for awhile. The artwork is pretty fun, but there's not much of a narrative structure to the text. There's a chapter on Kerouac, a chapter on Ginsburg, a chapter on Burroughs, and a chapter on the rest of the Beats - perhaps helpful to people for whom TBAGH is an introduction to The Beat Generation. I did learn some interesting things I had...more
Shockingly bad...a Graphic History can serve as an introduction to a formidable body of work that may otherwise intimidate a novice or it can be a useful refresher course for enthusiasms of years gone by but this provides neither...the illustrations don't remotely resemble the writers(photographic realism isn't needed but a good caricature is a reasonable expectation...for example,the young,handsome Kerouac and the bloated recluse look the same),oft-told stories like the Kerouac/Vidal encounter...more
This collection is great at profiling some of the "lesser" beats and some of their influences that rarely get discussed while everyone is in a lather over On the Road. It's nice to see people like Charles Olson and Diane DiPrima get some page space, and even the women who were the consorts to their beatnik men - Carolyn Cassady, Hettie Cohen (Joyce Brabner's chapter on the Beatnik Chicks is definitely a *must-read*). I do applaud the late great Harvey Pekar for not holding back. It's true - Kero...more
Mark Plaid
As a loud and proud nerd I'm not afraid to admit that I love documentary type comics and The Beats: a Graphic History is one of the best I've read so far. The first part of the book focuses on the three central figures of The Beat Generation Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Harvey Pekar writes and Ed Piskor illustrates all of the first part. Although best known for his writing in the autobiographical comic American Splendor, Harvey Pekar is no stranger to non-fiction writi...more
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Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series.

In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

More about Harvey Pekar...
American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar The Best American Comics 2006 The Quitter Best Of American Splendor Our Cancer Year

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