I read about 1/2 of this book in November, while I was on my trip to Rome, and I really enjoyed it, but found some of the featured authors a bit ploddI read about 1/2 of this book in November, while I was on my trip to Rome, and I really enjoyed it, but found some of the featured authors a bit plodding. And yet, I picked it up to fill in some gaps in my historical knowledge of the movements of that period and some history of the city I live in (San Francisco), and influences to my social circles and lifestyle. I had no idea how much of an influence this small group of notable "Beats" had on society and later generations.
I remember watching cartoons that featured Beatniks, and seeing Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, as a caricature of a Beatnik (or Beat's girlfriend, as they were a male-dominant group, with women mostly in the side-lines). My sister, only 6 years my junior, had no knowledge of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; Couldn't even recall having heard of Beatniks, Beats, Beat Poetry, many/any of the major authors/poets, or Beat *anything* when she moved to San Francisco! Shocking! Although in retrospect, my knowledge was hardly rich with understanding, even though I'd read some Burroughs, knew of Kerouac and On the Road, Ginsberg and Howl.
I appreciate this anthology because Ann Charters does a great job of positioning the works, the sentiments and feelings in relation to history. Coming from only a rudimentary knowledge of the era and the motivation of the Beats, it's helpful to have the stories and poems skillfully placed alongside the back-stories of the people involved and the times they lived in.
This book reminds me of the best parts of evaluating writing in a college classroom - an adept, knowledgeable guide can make a huge difference to understand, or better, *liking* a piece. While I may have been predisposed to liking Beat writing because of it's influence to my life and culture, I very much believe Ann Charter's book has given me much deeper appreciation and stronger liking for the works I've read in this anthology so far.