Title: The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats
Author: Allen Ginsberg
Pages: 496 Pages
Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Grove Press
In 1977, twenty years after the publication of his landmark poem “Howl,” and Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road, Allen Ginsberg decided it was time to teach a course on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Through the creation of this course, which he ended up teaching five times, first at the Naropa Institute and later at Brooklyn College, Ginsberg saw an opportunity to present the history of Beat Literature in his own inimitable way. Compiled and edited by renowned Beat scholar Bill Morgan, and with an introduction by Anne Waldman, The Best Minds of My Generation presents the lectures in edited form, complete with notes, and paints a portrait of the Beats as Ginsberg knew them: friends, confidantes, literary mentors, and fellow revolutionaries.
Ginsberg was seminal to the creation of a public perception of Beat writers and knew all of the major figures personally, making him uniquely qualified to be the historian of the movement. In The Best Minds of My Generation, Ginsberg shares anecdotes of meeting Kerouac, Burroughs, and other writers for the first time, explains his own poetics, elucidates the importance of music to Beat writing, discusses visual influences and the cut-up method, and paints a portrait of a group who were leading a literary revolution. For Beat aficionados and neophytes alike, The Best Minds of My Generation is a personal yet critical look at one of the most important literary movements of the twentieth century.
I was really eager to read The Best Minds of My Generation but had been put off by an experience of reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This will probably shock a lot of people but I just didn’t rate it. I read it because I felt like I was supposed to have read it. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wasn’t that impressed.
Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it and just immerse myself in the world of the Beat Writers.
I kind of wish I had chosen another book to read. That probably sounds really harsh but it is because this book, The Best Minds of My Generation, is clearly for hardcore Beat enthusiasts. It is not for someone who is tentatively dipping their toes into this genre.
My recommendation would be that anyone wanting to learn about the history of this period then look elsewhere. If you already love this genre of writing then knock yourself out.
The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg is available now.
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