Review: The Typewriter Is Holy

18 0f 52! That’s what Goodreads says my progress is vis-a-vis my 52-book self-challenge so far this year. The latest progress coming courtesy of…

The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History of  the Beat Generation  (Bill Morgan, Free Press, 2010, 352 pp.)
If you’ve read the tagline of this blog, you know I am aficionado of the Beats. As such, I have read a lot of material related to the Beat Generation and its writers- all of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, many of Jack Kerouac’s and William Burroughs’ novels and other writings, The First Third by Neal Cassady, multiple biographies of all four, and poetry by Amiri Baraka, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Denise Levertov, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, and John Wieners. I even have one of Bill Morgan’s other books, a literary walking guide to Beat sites in San Francisco. Given all this, I’m naturally going to be attracted to a history of the Beat Generation. I’m equally naturally going to be skeptical of whether there’s really much new for me in such a history, especially one that clocks in at less than 300 pages before footnotes, bibliography, etc. But, when I found this book for $2 at a music and arts festival at the North Carolina Music Factory during a work trip to my new favorite city, Charlotte, the intersection between subject matter and price was pretty irresistible. So how did it hold up? It was necessarily very broad, almost a historical outline really. And there wasn’t a lot in it that I didn’t know. But it was useful and interesting to see all the players’ (including many of the more “minor” poets, and the often overlooked women) lives laid out in parallel. Bill Morgan, as an excellent archivist, also alerted me to several biographies and critical overviews I’d like to check out, including his own biography of Ginsberg, and forthcoming collection of letters between Ginsberg and Kerouac. I’d certainly recommend this book for anyone just getting in to the Beats and in need of a quick historical overview, and there are still treasures to be had in it even for Beaten-down oldies like me.       

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