A balanced history—sometimes admiring, sometimes blistering—of the writers who fractured the glass capsule of literary...

The co-authors of The Trials of Lenny Bruce (2002) return with a sharp-edged history of the Beats.

Collins and Skover, both law professors (Univ. of Washington and Seattle Univ., respectively), focus on the notables of the movement. William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti enjoy the most space, but we also learn about the friends, lovers and criminals swept along in the artists’ wakes—though it’s sometimes questionable whose wake is transporting whom. Early on, Collins and Skover emphasize the lawless culture that attracted the artists: the drugs, drinking, violence, thefts and infidelities that found the Beats in and out of trouble (and jail and mental institutions). The authors begin with a fatal stabbing, introduce us to Herbert Huncke (junkie, hustler, thief) and describe a serious car accident that propelled Ginsberg into an asylum. Then another death—that of groupie Bill Cannastra in a reckless subway stunt—and another: junked-up Burroughs, in a William Tell moment, shooting his lover in the head. Throughout, Neal Cassady jumped from woman to woman. “It was a world,” write the authors, “where, by and large, men were verbs and women objects.” The last half of the volume deals with Kerouac’s long struggle to publish On the Road, Ginsberg’s publication of and ensuing obscenity trail for Howl and Other Poems and Burroughs’ legal problems with Naked Lunch, all of which occurred somewhat simultaneously. Collins and Skover handle the various trials and legal issues with aplomb, and by the end, they soften their criticisms of the Beat lifestyle—though they do suggest, more than once, that Ginsberg, traveling in Europe during the Howl trial, left some San Francisco friends in a precarious position.

A balanced history—sometimes admiring, sometimes blistering—of the writers who fractured the glass capsule of literary conformity.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-938938-02-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Top Five Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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