In New York, Mexico, Berkeley, and around the Mediterranean, in spurts between 1952 and 1962, Howler Ginsberg filled eighteen notebooks with poems, recorded and fabricated dreams, notes on visits and conversations, political ravings, and metaphysical ponders: "This lone/scribble in the margin of my days." From that bulk of scrawl, editor Ball has chosen the passages of "greatest general or literary interest" and furnishes footnotes to elucidate the references to books, movies, and the crowd of writers with whom Ginsberg shared peyote, philosophy, and feverish talk—William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Carl Solomon, Peter Orlovsky. Much of the prose is as telegraphic and leap-frogging as the poetry, though it sometimes settles down to business ("My first novel will be a local work—Paterson Revisited. . ." "Nathaniel West wrote true surrealist novels—must read the sources, Cocteau") or reduces itself to elastic one-liners: "Timelessness seen as infinite extensiveness of one moment's room." But the expected Ginsberg themes dominate—anti-establishment rage, drug-enflamed struggles between "phantasy" and the "real sensation"—and the churning mixture of real names and places with Ginsbergian imaginings should satisfy both underground scholars and those harboring a bizarre nostalgia for a singular milieu. "I think I'll be unamerican a few minutes/See how it feels like—eek!
Read full book review >