Six glorious decades in the life of an iconic artist, poet, and self-described philosophical anarchist.
Culled from his own journals and more obscure volumes unearthed by editors Diano and Gleeson from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Ferlinghetti (I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955-1997, 2015, etc.) shares his globe-trotting adventures spanning the revolutionary 1960s to contemporary times in Mexico and Belize in 2010. After having been abroad as a Navy captain in World War II, he earned his literary doctorate at the Sorbonne and married in San Francisco. There, he opened City Lights Bookshop, the Beat poet’s refuge through which he published many works by his friend and traveling companion Allen Ginsberg. In unrushed, conversational prose, his writings escort readers through the lengthier and much more heavily politicized years of his life in the 1960s and ’70s. In often wry and deliciously witty entries, he chronicles his ventures to post-revolutionary Cuba, getting arrested for anti-war protesting in Oakland, California, and his adventurous journey crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian Express. Ferlinghetti ably captures his wanderlust on cross-country trains hurtling through Paris and Dresden, only to retire in disappointing three-star Verona hotels (“two of the stars must have burned out some time ago”). The author’s raw sketches and original works of lyrical poetry add depth and texture to a narrative already spiced with unfettered cultural criticism (“Paris is now a totally decadent museum of the past”), swatches of stream-of-consciousness “running thoughts,” internal observations, and “curious sexual Italian stories.” Readers curious about how Ferlinghetti’s mind works will find this whirlwind ride through Europe and beyond the ultimate vicarious escape, as his anecdotal musings hover over a richly savored life enjoyed without regret or misgivings.
The artistic intensity of life suffuses this epic memoir spanning the “interior monologues” of a gifted American artist.