The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats

Grove. Apr. 2017. 512p. ed. by Bill Morgan. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780802126498. $27. LIT
OrangeReviewStarJack Kerouac may have coined the term Beat Generation, but it was Ginsberg's indefatigable energy that shaped and sustained one of the most significant movements in American literature. In 1977, Ginsberg designed a course on the history of the Beat Generation, which he taught several times between then and 1994 at the Naropa Institute and Brooklyn College. Working from transcripts of nearly 100 taped lectures, Morgan, a leading authority on Ginsberg and author of numerous books on the Beat Generation, has done a superb job organizing and editing the material, while preserving the poet's voice and lecture style. Following Ginsberg's own emphasis, Morgan's selection focuses on the core New York City group: Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Ginsberg himself. Minor figures, including Herbert Huncke, Lucien Carr, and John Clellon Holmes, are covered to a lesser degree. The arrangement is more or less chronological as Ginsberg celebrates the lives and works of his literary brothers beginning with their early meetings in the 1940s.
VERDICT Along with Morgan's earlier work, The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, this firsthand account from the movement's chief spokesman will be essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. [See Prepub Alert, 10/31/16; "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/15/17, p. 23.]

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