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