BOOK RECOMMENDATION: THE BEATS – A Graphic History

So I’m sitting in Barnes and Nobles® having coffee with Artemis, eating neopolitan cheesecake. Shit was good… Anyhow, “The Beats,” a book written by “American Splendor” author and comic book vet, Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle, a senior lecturer at Brown University, caught my eye up on an end cap about 20 yards away.

I see “The Beats” and think… a book about the history of beat making? Not quite, but still an interesting subject to get into, and in graphic novel form to boot.





The 1950’s Beatniks, or Beat Generation, paved the way for the Hippies, Revolutionaries and the Counterculture of the 1960’s. Whether you know much about New York, Chicago and San Francisco in the 50’s & 60’s or not, “The Beats,” is a fun read with endless pages of great Illustration by almost a dozen different artists. The language is very direct, almost text book, with the art translating the story, very literally and often times, humorously.

The first 1/3 of the book, broken into three large chapters, introduces you to the three main voices of the movement; Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Everything from drug & alcohol addiction, marijuana cultivation & distribution, homosexuality, pedophilia, spousal murder, love triangles & lock downs. Each man’s story is presented in a short hand biography, bringing you from their respective beginnings, up until their paths cross and further, until passing on.





The book breaks off into Perspectives for last 2/3’s: The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950’s and it’s Godfather, Kenneth Rexroth, the emergence of the City Lights Bookstore, as well as breakdowns of other 1st and 2nd generation beats like: Philip Whalen, William Everson, Leroi Jones aka Amiri Baraka, D.A. Levy & others.









Visionaries like Philip Lamantia and even Beatnick “chics” such as Diane Diprima, Hettie Jones, Joan Kerouac & Carolyn Cassady are given shine.





if you can find it, and poetry, art & counterculture interest you at all, pick this book up. distributed by Hill and Wang

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9 thoughts on “BOOK RECOMMENDATION: THE BEATS – A Graphic History

    • yeah you are right, it is. It’s a bit out there, but I thought it’s an interesting take on that whole generation. Makes for a pretty good introduction to that group of writers for anyone who cares.

  1. if you are into spoken word and poetry i would say this would be a good book to read from that place and time ,and a glimpse of what was going on in the bay area during the 60’s and 70’s

  2. Wow, That does look really interesting..
    The art work reminds me of the old chic christian cartoon tracts i used to read. I wonder what the moral or point of these would be? I guess I’ll have to read 😀

  3. Just dropped in for an over-due ‘catch-up’ at X… I will definitely be checking this one out. Oddly enough or maybe not, I just received my first NetFlix rental in the mail today. A movie by the name of “The Cool School” which if I’m not mistaken documents the westcoast Beatnik Art movement. I have not had an opportunity to view it yet. I’ll try to follow-up.

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