If, like editor and poet Waldman, you'd like to pretend the Beat Generation is an ``ongoing literary avant garde'' (rather than a historic phenomenon), then you might enjoy this quirky little anthology. All the major figures—Burroughs, Kerouac, Corso, Ginsberg—are represented, though in Ginsberg's case with less well-known parts of his most famous poems (e.g., part II of Howl). In a gesture to these gendered and race-conscious times, Waldman includes minor poets Lenore Kandel, Joanne Kyger, and Bob Kaufman; the biographical headnotes, meanwhile, chronicle friendships, and illustrates the mutual admiration society aspect of the Beats. Waldman attends to the near-mythic anecdotes, as well as to each figure's relationship to Buddhism. Ginsberg's wiggy scholarly foreword on the meaning of ``beat'' manages to include quotations from himself, while Waldman's lackluster introduction—citing the ``unique'' ``life styles'' of the Beats—confirms the notion that this still-popular group of writers was more significant as sociology than literature. A silly guide to ``Beat Places'' further distinguishes this odd volume from the more canonical anthology by Ann Charters, The Portable Beat Reader (1992).
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