Quite honestly I only read two chapters of this: the one on the Beat Generation and the one on female rebel figures, the latter of which turned out to...moreQuite honestly I only read two chapters of this: the one on the Beat Generation and the one on female rebel figures, the latter of which turned out to bear only a tenuously indirect relation to my topic of study. The former, I wanted to read to supplement my pre-thesis research on the Beat writers (hopefully - I'm not writing it for a good long while yet). This chapter was helpful, shedding light mainly on the various implications of sexual and social atmospheres in Beat writing - the critical play between heterosexuality, homosexuality, and homosociality. So, for example, there's the gynophobia (is that a word?) throughout Kerouac's writing, the homosexual-verging-on-homosocial in Ginsberg's, portrayal of misogyny and of weird homophobic permutations in some of John Clellon Holmes', etc.
I haven't read all of the works Medovoi discusses, but for those I do know, I think he had accurate points to make about them. I hadn't considered the bizarre gender dynamic of that group: all financial responsibility landing on women's shoulders, to allow their husbands or lovers to continue living in accordance with their own uniquely 'masculine' (ha) "beat" philosophies. I.e, not working aside from their writing. It's definitely food for thought.
As for the other chapter, it discussed the roles and portrayals of rebel girls in some totally obscure early '50s films. It was curious, but rather repetitive. It's sad how much explanation is required about the concept of a female rebel (?!?!). (less)
This is one of the first books I'm reading in preparation (hopefully) for my thesis, which I hope to concern with some aspect of the Beat Generation....moreThis is one of the first books I'm reading in preparation (hopefully) for my thesis, which I hope to concern with some aspect of the Beat Generation. Though I won't be doing my thesis for a while, I love a great deal of Beat writing, so it's no chore for me to start early. It wasn't even a chore for me to read this semi-biography, and I'm not usually into biographies.
"Is she mad?" you cry. "Not 'into' biographies?"
Well, in the past. Maybe now my tastes are changing. And maybe this was an unexpectedly well-written biography - I have often found I can hardly concentrate on the figure/s in question because of technically poor writing, no matter how thorough the research presented. James Campbell's not perfect this way, but he is at least more correct than other biographies I've attempted. More than this, he weaves a surprisingly artful path between story-telling and history-telling that makes this book highly readable. With larger-than-life "characters" like Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Carr and so on, that may not have been so difficult. Still, overall, I never felt that Campbell was fictionalizing or romanticizing his "characters," certainly never to the degree of being untrue to their histories. It could serve either as an introduction to the phenomenon or a somewhat more advanced study. I learned quite a bit, particularly regarding the distasteful mainstream-ization of Beat ("Beatnik"). Where I didn't learn, I still gained a differing perspective from my original less-informed one. Campbell had the daunting task of recounting a few dozen people's interacting lives, and he travels almost seamlessly between them. It's a pretty smooth road read.
I am biased, of course, because I am already passionate about their writing, both for and against various elements of the Beat aesthetic (and, much as an upper-middle class child of the new millennium can be, a little beat myself). The question remains for me, would this biography – if I didn't already have in my head a clear and fond picture of these figures – have brought alive the Beat Generation? I think it would have. Between the skillfully-chosen details amongst major 'events' – Ginsberg's visions, Burroughs' William Tell fiasco – and the sympathetic, not to say rose-coloured, depiction of those in Beatdom, this book takes you there. I think that, on some level, Campbell digs. As Ginsberg would say, the word at last!!!(less)
I'd buy this book in a moment, if only it would kindly appear before me on a bookstore shelf. I started reading it at a sadly tardy point in the summe...moreI'd buy this book in a moment, if only it would kindly appear before me on a bookstore shelf. I started reading it at a sadly tardy point in the summer, and by the time I was heading back to school the unfinished library book was screaming at me in frustration at my leaving it behind.
Okay, so I could be anthropomorphizing there. Maybe I'd just like to believe that this book loved me as much as I was loving it. David Ulin, I promise I will return to your fabulously far-reaching and philosophical gem. It made me feel a bit like I did when reading The Educated Imagination: as though I had been transported into a world where books are at the centre of everything, where reading books and thinking about books and talking, theorizing, worrying, feeling wholeheartedly passionate about the written world is not the least but the most necessary prereq to being fully alive in the physical world.
I started reading in an airport around six a.m, after having scarcely slept for days. I was feeling queasy from exhaustion. I had a muffin and a Starbucks coffee so dark it was scarcely drinkable, even with the sugar I don't like to add. Ho. Hum. Then - cramping, overtired and concerned about catching my bus - I was sucked into Ulin's smooth stream of commentary - by the end of the first few pages, I felt ridiculously/miraculously transcendental.
Too soon, it had to be sent back to its rightful library. But I will find you, lovely book, and when I do there will be no separating us till I have read to your last page, preferably in one sitting. (less)
I found you by chance, my darling, on one of those voracious raids I make on Chapters when lucky enough to get near a city with one. I was thinking ne...moreI found you by chance, my darling, on one of those voracious raids I make on Chapters when lucky enough to get near a city with one. I was thinking nervously of starting university in a few months, altogether doubtful of my worthiness to pursue an English degree, and this caught my eye. I knew nothing, or at least believed I did – or was afraid to believe in my grasp of anything at all. I decided it was high time I Took an Interest In Literary Theory. (My, my, aren't we a gung-ho little English major?) So I picked you up, slim volume that you are, and read you over a series of happy, early-morning book-with-coffee sessions. I kept notes while I read through you, silly notes of what was truly a mind-stretching lecture so valuably committed to paper. Immature as I was, you shaped me and deserve the truth, wonderful little book. This tribute cannot be enough, but here is a selection of what I was thinking about you.
"I am thus far hooked. I've read the first chapter through twice, and comprehended that much more for the extra reading. This is, hopefully, just what I need to reaffirm and elaborately develop my knowledge of how important literature... truly is to humankind, individual and social. It makes so much sense. 'The motive for metaphor ... is a desire to associate, and finally to identify, the human mind with that goes on outside it....' Yes, I know he's right, because I've experienced it. I am familiar with, amorous for that sense of connection with the entire world..." - - - - "It's such a basic statement, yet such a broad one... we use the imagination to create joy, and joy is created chiefly through the use of imagination (is basically what Frye is saying.... Note to self: look up D.H. Lawrence [after admiring an excerpt from "Song of a Man Who Has Come Through"].
"This is helping me find new ways to view life and literature in their primary relation to each other... I've always had this sense that most of the 'great' stories are hopeless ones, and that if I lived a blessed and optimistic life, it seemed less and les likely that I could become a 'person of literature.' But how could I bear to live in a world of no happy endings at all – of sad, inevitable pattern? "Now I'm beginning to see, perhaps, another way. We write of our dark times, and of the hope that we may rise above them to be happy again.... the cycle Frye mentions is still happening, "of how man once lived in a golden age .. how that world is lost, and how we may some day be able to get it back again." -- - - "Funny how the stories a child invents are imaginary, while from a writer the same creations are deemed imaginative. Of course, when you think about it, the latter implies far more intention. If a child's games or tales hold symbolic elements that are also within literary convention ... The writer designs, specifically for the purpose of – what? Well, I guess that's what I'm reading this for.... Ah, and now he's connecting religion, science, politics –>allegories –>literature. Trés passionant, à moi. - - - - "So now I've got a good deal ahead of me. Yay. My ultimate goal? To decipherFinnegan's Wake. Without help. And right now? To read the Bible. Kind of makes me feel a tad nauseous. ... so I see that before I go for Paradise Lost I need to have a thorough understanding of the Bible and classic mythology. Damn, will I ever get to read these things? (I expect the same would go for The Iliad and The Odyssey ... god, don't know if I can even spell that....)"
- - - - - - -
"How can this talk have been given in 1962? It's today, it's me, it's us.
"I'm breathing fast and my brain fears to think as fast as it wants to; the dangers of hyperspeed are formidable. Yet I cannot wait to start reading this book again.
"It has everything I need right now, all that I've needed for months and cried about, literally and internally, for countless hours. The answers are here, for me: I hold them in this slim volume that was written forty-seven years ago and I could cry once again, with gratitude and relief and the transformative power of new-discovered insight.
"I know where I went wrong, and why (or most of why ... we are, after all, complex beings – but I can see now what [names of several counsellors] and myself never saw before). I know what's been unproductive over my months of struggling with spirit and mind. And I am beginning to know what to do next.
Yeah, so this is one of my textbooks. But I can't do other than delve into it with gusto. It's intriguing. The beginning's like a very cursory intro t...moreYeah, so this is one of my textbooks. But I can't do other than delve into it with gusto. It's intriguing. The beginning's like a very cursory intro to the philosophical metaphysics of theatre. <3<3<3 (less)