Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was one of twentieth-century literature's most prolific letter-writers. This definitive volume showcases his correspondence with some of the most original and interesting artists of his time, including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady, Lionel Trilling, Charles Olson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Whalen, Peter Orlovsky, Philip Glass, Arthur Miller, Ken Kesey, and hundreds of others.
Through his letter writing, Ginsberg coordinated the efforts of his literary circle and kept everyone informed about what everyone else was doing. He also preached the gospel of the Beat movement by addressing political and social issues in countless letters to publishers, editors, and the news media, devising an entirely new way to educate readers and disseminate information. Drawing from numerous sources, this collection is both a riveting life in letters and an intimate guide to understanding an entire creative generation.
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In 1956, Allen Ginsberg published Howl,” one of the most widely read and translated poems of the twentieth century. Ginsberg was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and cofounder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute.
Bill Morgan, Allen Ginsberg's literary archivist for many years, is the author of a biography of Ginsberg and editor of The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice, Ginsberg's early journals. He lives in New York City.Review:
Columbia College Today, Jan/Feb 2009
“Morgan has put together the best of Allen Ginsberg ‘48’s letters to friends and fellow writers.”Augusta Metro Spirit, 6/25/08
“A stunning display of the mind at work...A talented editor with firsthand knowledge of the subject, Morgan is able to craft a fascinating journey through the mind of one of the world’s best poetical voices...Crafted with supreme care, organized under a chronological format, and placed together in a series of thrusts from the mind of a master thinker now gone, this collection of letters serves as a collective howl into the cognitive recesses within the open-minded free thinkers of today.”Library Journal, 9/01/08
“Always intelligent, sometimes gossipy, and occasionally cranky and impatient, Ginsberg is accurately reflected in these letters taken together...On the whole, [Morgan’s] quest to compile ‘a greatest hits album’ of Ginsberg’s correspondence succeeds admirably. Highly recommended for all literature collections.”Q Syndicate, 8/25/08
“[A] mouth-watering sampling of correspondence across six decades...Rich and revealing...Stamp this meticulously edited collection of letters ‘transcendent.’” It was also the column’s “featured excerpt.”
Washington Blade, 8/22/08
“A historical epistolary novel...A guide to the Beat generation.”
New York Post, 9/14/08
“Full of wonderful tidbits about Ginsberg.”
San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20/08
“This wonderfully rich collection of 165 letters from the 1940s until the poet's death in 1997, put together by his longtime archivist, Bill Morgan, gives us a firsthand view of the man behind the poems, someone of whom it can be truly said that the personal was political...This remarkable collection by someone who perhaps invented the concept of ‘oversharing’ long before it became fashionable, reminds us of why he mattered then, and still does now.”
Details, October 2008
“Morgan has catalogued 165 of the poet-activist’s letters to people you’d expect and some you wouldn’t.”
USA Today’s Pop Candy, 9/26/08
“Will surely interest anyone who read [Ginsberg’s] work.”
Santa Fe New Mexican, 12/19/08
"A fascinating story...Morgan deftly injects notes before many of the 165 letters to give readers a sense of context. This turns Ginsberg's most private thoughts into a cohesive narrative...Watching Ginsberg mature as an artist in his private letters is a pleasure."
“Reading The Letters of Allen Ginsberg is an unexpectedly moving experience...His letters show that...there was something rare and genuine about Allen Ginsberg. He may have been a fool, but he was a holy fool; and next to his holiness, the maturity and realism of his critics can look a bit unlovely.”
“[An] extraordinary collection.”
The Advocate, 9/9/08
Reference & Research Book News, November 2008
“From topics as personal as a recommendation of medicine for dysentery to Kerouac, to his excitement at discovering the painter Francis Bacon, to frank comments on his own work and that of others, the letters are captivating. Through them we see not only into the mind of a seminal poet but also into the society that shaped him.”
Curled Up with a Good Book, 10/08
“Since [Ginsberg’s] friends and correspondents included some of the great figures of his times, this epistolary collection has a deep footprint...If you want to understand the Beat generation, the hippies, the intellectual drug scene, the intellectual gay scene and poetry, this is a must-read.”
“To Ginsberg fans and scholars, his letters provide insight into his personality, his creative process, and his works.”
Magill Book Reviews
[The letters] indicate just how thoroughly Ginsberg often thought about a subject or situation, and just how much control he had of the rhetorical devices which make non-fiction prose an informative and illuminating form...A fascinating glimpse into an important part of American cultural history, as well as a kind of autobiographical account of the poet’s primary political and aesthetic concerns...[Morgan’s] concise, knowledgeable explanations and contextual formulations are invaluable in leading the reader, even one familiar with Ginsberg’s life, to a more complete understanding of the writer’s thoughts and emotional condition at the time of the writing. Ginsberg’s life has been adequately covered in various biographies and commentaries, but this volume adds to and complements all of them, a compilation of enduring interest to anyone interested in the poet’s life and times.”
Gay & Lesbian Review, 11/08
“Will doubtless serve a purpose for the many scholars and students of the Beat generation.”
“Morgan has—once again—done a terrific job with Ginsberg’s words. In many ways, what we have here is the very heart of the Beat Generation. A wonderful book.”
“We are served the spectrum of Ginsberg’s many moods and interests and his who’s-who guide of a rolodex...Some of the letters from the early ‘50s, pre-Howl, provide remarkable insight into the poems written around the same time...What The Letters offers that previous editions of Ginsbergalia, including the two biographies that have come out recently, cannot is the raw glimpses into the poet’s love life.”
“A superb collection that mirrors the beauty, humor, and energy of Ginsberg's work, and will serve well those who entered, and maybe never left, their Beat stage.”
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