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The Beats: A Graphic History

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3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  1,178 ratings  ·  222 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,087)
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Sam Quixote
Harvey Pekar presents a brief introduction to the 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. Pekar also takes a look at some of the minor artists while providing an historical context of this period.

The best parts of this volume are the appraisals of the lives of Kerouac/Burroughs/Ginsberg. While I knew something about these writers’ lives already and have read their
...more
Printable Tire
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
James
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
HeavyReader
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
Wallace
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
Ryan
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
Kristen
As a fan of the Beats I really enjoyed this brief history and that it included a section on Beatnik women is always a plus. However I think if this was a first introduction you would be lost. This is for people already familiar with the characters described as all the histories are extremely short and some poorly done. The various artists that created the graphics make this interesting and for the most part it is a quick read.
Carol
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.
Michellette
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.
Jerry Ghazali
The Beats, sebuah novel grafik yang bagi aku begitu informatif perihal suatu pergerakan seni anak muda iaitu Beat Generation yang diasaskan paska Perang Dunia Ke-2 di mana jenayah diraikan, penulisan disanjung, berparti, menogak arak, perbincangan intelektual, dadah dan seks mempengaruhi hidup.

Istilah Beat Generation diperkenalkan Jack Kerouac. Suatu pergerakan yang peka terhadap aktiviti-aktiviti underground dan anti-conformist. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg dan Williams S. Burroughs mulanya men
...more
zxvasdf
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
Elizabeth
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
Malbadeen
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

but

please

enough with the Beat Poets!

You have so
...more
Belinda
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
Jeremy
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
Terry
I just watched "American Splendor" so I was definitely in the mood for this book! It's too bad the opening biography of Kerouac is kind of tedious--first he moves here, then he moves there, then he goes over there, then he comes back here, then he--blah. The other biographies are more interesting, and the authors do include a great number of writers who tend to get some short shrift (in the mainstream anyway, those people who really aren't familiar with poets or poetic movements), although the s ...more
Mark
There's is nothing wrong with the artwork and I generally like Harvey Pekar, but this graphic volume that illustrates the lives of both the dominant and lesser figures of the Beat movement has a feel of just being dumbed down biography.
It may work as an introduction for someone completely unfamiliar with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs...etc. But if you have some knowledge of these authors and would like to know more, you would be better served in reading some full length biographies.
Theresa
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
Gary
I had a sense this would be very good and it was. It is set up nicely. Having separate chapters on Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Then it swithces gears and gets into the lesser known beats, the SF scene and the City Lights Bookstore.
This is a must have for anyone interested in the beats, and the medium of graphics really fits well. It is hilarious, and informative. It should prove a springboard for many in discovering more about this dynamic time.
Within the graphic story it also mentions work
...more
Irwan
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.
Unquenchable
...more
Claire
The Beats: A Graphic History is a graphic novel that chronicles the life of the three main players of the Beat Generation (Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg) as well as other lesser-known players. It's drawn in the style of American Splendour graphic novels and is cool in the same way. I always enjoy reading novels and it's especially effective with the beats in capturing their wayward style and jazzy conventions.

The main three dudes lives are teased out, starting with a det
...more
alana
Jun 22, 2014 alana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of any Beat authors or modern poetry
This anthology profiles several key movers and shakers of the Beat Generation. Harvey Pekar pens the majority of text with Ed Piskor illustrating in sharp black and white. Their collaboration comes off primarily as an illustrated timeline, the bulk of which centers on the lives and interaction of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. The second half of the book has Pekar/Piskor briefly highlighting a few other Beats whlie a few other authors and several other illustrators profile other poets, artist ...more
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
Paul Mirek
I'm not getting the hate for this book or for its brother-in-arms, Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. If you've got any lingering interest in the Beat generation beyond that first rush we all feel when one of their demimonde idols comes into our knowledge, I'd think there's plenty to occupy you in this marvelously-constructed book. Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs get in-depth bios to start things off, followed by a look at the S.F. Poetry Renaissance, the role of women, and m ...more
Joe
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.
Alvaro
Pocas veces he necesitado tanto tiempo para leer un comic (no creo en el termino "novela gráfica", menos en "Graphic History" como aparece en la portada de este libro). Y pocas veces me ha producido tanto tedio. Estuve a punto de desertar, pero por inercia o por una disciplina mal dirigida logré terminarlo.

En las historias principales Harvey Pekar intenta abarcar la vida de Kerouac, Ginsberg y Burroughs en muy pocas páginas, el resultado es una serie de viñetas inconexas y sin desarrollo, datos
...more
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
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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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