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American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation


American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation

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    Available in PDF Format | American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation.pdf | English
    Jonah Raskin(Author)
Written as a cultural weapon and a call to arms, Howl touched a raw nerve in Cold War America and has been controversial from the day it was first read aloud nearly fifty years ago. This first full critical and historical study of Howl brilliantly elucidates the nexus of politics and literature in which it was written and gives striking new portraits of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. Drawing from newly released psychiatric reports on Ginsberg, from interviews with his psychiatrist, Dr. Philip Hicks, and from the poet's journals, American Scream shows how Howl brought Ginsberg and the world out of the closet of a repressive society. It also gives the first full accounting of the literary figures—Eliot, Rimbaud, and Whitman—who influenced Howl, definitively placing it in the tradition of twentieth-century American poetry for the first time.

As he follows the genesis and the evolution of Howl, Jonah Raskin constructs a vivid picture of a poet and an era. He illuminates the development of Beat poetry in New York and San Francisco in the 1950s--focusing on historic occasions such as the first reading of Howl at Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955 and the obscenity trial over the poem's publication. He looks closely at Ginsberg's life, including his relationships with his parents, friends, and mentors, while he was writing the poem and uses this material to illuminate the themes of madness, nakedness, and secrecy that pervade Howl.

A captivating look at the cultural climate of the Cold War and at a great American poet, American Scream finally tells the full story of Howl—a rousing manifesto for a generation and a classic of twentieth-century literature.

"American Scream...seeks successfully, refreshingly to restore attention to Ginsberg's masterwork, a 3,600-word three-part salvo that shook the world of poetry, as well as the world of Postwar America. A masterful synthesis. Raskin unearths a wealth of new material and insight [and] manages to maintain the perfect balance of subjective enthusiasm and appreciation with an objective distance and clarity...Raskin performs an admirable act of literary restoration, crafting a proper appreciation for 'Howl' and its placement within the canon of 20th century American literature.--Andrew Roe, "San Francisco Chronicle"

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Book details

  • PDF | 320 pages
  • Jonah Raskin(Author)
  • University of California Press; New Ed edition (14 Feb. 2006)
  • English
  • 10
  • Biography
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Review Text

  • By C. Askew on 20 July 2007

    I am currently writing an in-depth paper on Ginsberg's early poetry and found this book to be entirely unhelpful. Having read widely and from various sources on the poem 'Howl,' I found that Raskin had nothing to say that had not been said before by other biographers and critics, all of whom said it better. The book had little to offer that could not be found in a Wikipedia article. Furthermore, Raskin has an annoying habit of making potentially important points in one sentence, and then in the next moving on to an entirely different point - never returning to the first statement (for example, [Statement One:] "madness is at the heart of [Ginsberg's] work, and especially at the heart of 'Howl.' [Statement Two:] I have also written about poems that Ginsberg wrote immediately before and after 'Howl.'"As well as being a frustrating read, it full of badly researched/made-up points, which are never backed up with evidence -- e.g, Raskin's apparently fictional argument that Ginsberg's relationship with his father was some kind of Oedipal battle. If the many other biographies and critiques I have read are to be believed, this is just not so, and indeed Raskin never makes any attempt to source or back up his outrageously exaggerated points.In short, good for a casual read, but dedicated scholars ought to steer clear of a book which could be more hindrance than help.

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