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The Beats: A Graphic History

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3.47  ·  Rating details ·  1,813 ratings  ·  310 reviews
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 us on a wi ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Hill and Wang
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Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,813 ratings  ·  310 reviews


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Sam Quixote
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Printable Tire
May 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 giv
...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 Kero
...more
James
Sep 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
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, there is a weird redundan ...more
dianne
Jan 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
A really bad graphic novel about the lives of the Beats. The storytelling is dull, dry, and pedantic. Methinks the Beats would have hated its sterility. The level of misogyny is mythic. There are a few different contributors but only one or two with any talent - it is as though we are supposed to give it all a big “hey OK!” because it's about Kerouac (spoiled mama’s boy who hated women) and Ginsberg et al. Yes most of us already knew Burroughs was a waste of air but here he is taking up more spa ...more
Wallace
Aug 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 w
...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
...more
Carol
Oct 23, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jun 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Ed Erwin
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Most of the text is by Harvey Pekar and is nowhere near as interesting as when he wrote about his own life. Most of the art is by Ed Piskor, and is OK but he's done more interesting biographies when he writes the text himself. (See Hip Hop Family Tree.)

The male "beats" were often jerks. That is why the story about "beatnik chicks" is a welcome relief. The best thing here for me is that it allowed me to discover whimsical poet/illustrator Kenneth Patchen. (The section about him can be read online here courtesy of the
...more
nadia (( disquieting thing ))
2.5/5 for the women, really, and the sentiment.

as a 21st century woman, i despise the majority of what the men (again, the majority) of the beat generation stood for and represented. as an english literature enthusiast, however, it would be stupid of me not to acknowledge at least ginsberg's impact on american (and world) poetry and social consciousness, and burroughs-kerouac influence on prose. so, yeah, that's answering the question why.

in truth, i also just enjoy reading about the
...more
Ryan
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
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
...more
Kristen
Jan 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic-graphic
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.
Sandra
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And now I HAVE to go back and watch 'Kill Your Darlings' again. I loved that they included the most ignored women of the Beat Generation. Especially the Sassy 'Beatnick Chicks' session. Ah man. This book took me back to my university days, especially the night I encountered Ginsberg's "Howl". And one must comment on the art. Ah! This is a beautiful book!

P.S. I need to listen to The Fugs.
Corey
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous cartoon overview of the beats, from the early 50s to Tuli and the Fugs.
zxvasdf
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
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

eno
...more
Thomas Garcia
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
At times amusing and entertaining, at other times disappointing. The numerous writers in this collection of comics offer skewed, often conflicting, interpretations of the Beats that occasionally perpetuate misinformation or hide information. Sometimes these interpretations conflict with one another, which leads the reader to conclude that these are simply interpretations of Beat history. However. the subtitle, "A Graphic History" suggests that the book is objective.

In addition, some
...more
Belinda
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
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
Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
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 p
...more
Terry
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Theresa
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Irwan
May 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, finished
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.
...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 m
...more
Mark
May 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
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.
Joe
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Ryan Madman Reads & Rocks
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Quite informative. I think I might just be a part of the next generation of Beat Poets and Writers.
Complete review coming soon!
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