GINSBERG: A Biography by Barry Miles
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GINSBERG: A Biography

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Masterful, enormously appealing life of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg that defines Ginsberg as never before and gives new meaning to his work. Those who read it with Ginsberg's Collected Poems 1947-1980 at hand may well be convinced that Ginsberg's eloquence conquers all brickbats. Miles quickly pins the reader with his honest eye, strong pace, ever-broadening scope, and ever-deepening grip on the poet. This is a densely rich book about a poet-genius out to shake up the academy and the ""birdbrains"" who have been in charge of American culture and politics since the poet's birth, of his large success and what he paid for it. Some may object to these utterly naked pages, with their orgies, the aging poet seducing teenage students or European streetkids or seen masturbating with a broom up his rectum, and so on, but they are not an apology for Ginsberg's drug-use and lifelong homosexuality. Miles is objective throughout about a man who might well give young Middle American mothers gray hairs as they find out just who ""the best minds of my generation"" were that were destroyed by madness (""a bunch of bedbugs!"" they'll cry--although in his 60s he finds enlightenment through Buddhism and an A.A.-related family service program). Ginsberg was born to poet Louis Ginsberg and his schizophrenic wife Naomi during the Depression and raised in Paterson, N.J. As child and man he often had to care for crazy, nudist Naomi, and his odyssey with her through madhouses becomes the template for his adult friendships with poets and writers. Nearly all of these go batty and depend on Ginsberg at one time' or another or, as with Peter Orlovsky, Ginsberg's companion for over 30 years, become totally dependent drug freaks. Miles sees Ginsberg as the founder of the Beat Generation and gay lib and his naked, confessional statements (""America, I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel"") as the impulse behind the New Journalism and the confessional poets. Says Ginsberg: ""Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does."" Drawn by Miles from Ginsberg's 300 largely unpublished journals and 60,000 letters, this is an immense, unforgettable, moving work, with a feeling of lasting worth about it.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster