The Essential Ginsberg

Harper Perennial. May 2015. 464p. ed. by Michael Schumacher. photos. index. ISBN 9780062362285. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062362292. LIT
OrangeReviewStarThe work, and not just the poetry, of Ginsberg (1926–97), one of 20th-century America's most important and notorious literary figures, has finally been given the career-arching overview it deserves. Schumacher (Dharma Lion) has compiled the poet's greatest hits into this volume, including the regularly anthologized "Howl," "Kaddish," "A Supermarket in California," "America," and "Kral Majales." What distinguishes this book from other posthumous Ginsberg collections is that it also presents small samples of his songwriting, essays, interviews, letters, journal excerpts, and understated photography. Ginsberg's position at the center of the Beat Movement is made clear through Schumacher's selections, which highlight his key relationships with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, among others. Similarly, his involvement in the burgeoning American counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s is at the heart of many of these selections. By making this volume similar to the ones in Viking's "Portable Library" series, Harper Perennial has all but ensured this book's place in university classrooms for years to come.
VERDICT An essential starting point for any reader encountering the artist's still-controversial work for the very first time.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month