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The Best Minds of My Generation A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg

Disclaimer: I read this book as an advance copy from Netgalley. My thanks go to them, Grove Press, to the author, and the editor Bill Morgan, for this opportunity. The opinions stated in the review are my own.

When I was in University I had a fantastic teacher who lit a fire under our class (or at least me) and set us off to read as much of it we could. It spoke to me as a teenager, particularly as one who yearned to travel. I still love reading so much of the work that came from these writers, particularly Ginsberg, Corso and Snyder. What has come to my interest more recently is the work that came after the wild phase that lives more in legend, after the time that was kicked off during the Columbia University days. 

This book is a fascinating look at back taken from Ginsberg's lectures at the Naropa Institute and at Brooklyn College, around twenty years after the publication of 'Howl'. He speaks about the works, not particularly focusing on them in terms of adventures, but recalls situations and experiences. The translation of the lectures to text works well. It doesn't require a constant recollection of his voice but the rhythm of his speech and the energy comes through very clearly. I found the pace with which I read raced and slowed as if I were there hearing it spoken aloud. Given the dialogue based nature of the text it's one I enjoyed picking up for a section or two and then returning at a later date.


Ginsberg relates his experiences, knowledge and passion for his and his  friends' writing in this book with a palpable excitement but not an overblown one; there is criticality and introspection here. For me the most valuable and enjoyable part of reading this book was the warmth and passion that has been invested in it. Such a passion that it is passed on to the reader.

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