The Beat Generation Richard Luck Reference

language The Beat Generation

by Richard Luck

Published in Issue No. 10 ~ January, 1998

i saw the best minds of my generation destroyed
Few writers have captured the imagination of the American public to the degree that Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and the other members of the Beat Generation have. Their stream-of-consciousness writing style, a result of, as well as an homage to, Eastern religious teachings and the rhythms of progressive jazz, caught a nation weary from World War II and the battles on the Korean peninsula by surprise.
Where the academics of the day were attempting to solidify the rules of literature and poetry, the Beat writers rejected traditional forms, seeking expression, instead, through “intense experiences and beatific illumination.”

the only people for me are the mad ones
Appreciation for the Beat Generation seems to wane then wax, like oceanic tides, as one generation replaces the ideals of its predecessor with its own, almost in direct antithesis. The late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s saw college students finding little use for the writers who based a majority of their works on the various drugs they ingested. But, with the recent release of the film The Last Time I Committed Suicide, based in part on Neal Cassady’s letters to Jack Kerouac, a new dawn of interest for not only the works of these writers, but for the lives they lived, seems to be growing.

Below you’ll find some of the best Beat-related sites on the Internet. Two years ago I remember finding only two, but now their numbers have multiplied significantly. Though by no means a complete directory, the links that follow will at least give you an idea of what’s out there, should you decide to go looking.

Beat-Related Sites on the Web

The Beat Generation
– Home of the Beat on the Web, The Beat Generation Page strikes home the fact that the BG “was not a bunch of hype like today’s so-called ‘Generation X’.”

– This world renowned North Beach saloon was established in 1948 and
remains an historical monument to jazz, poetry, art, and the good life of
the Beat Generation. Vesuvio attracts a diverse clientele: artistes, chess
players, cab drivers, seamen, business people, European tourists and
off-duty exotic dancers

– Posters, Photographs, T-Shirts, Mugs, Watches, CD’s, Video’s & Cassettes. If it has to do with marketing the Beat Generation, you’ll find the paraphenalia here.

North Beach Branch of the San Francisco Public Library
– Boasting one of the largest Beat library collections in the country, this branch of the bay area library system carries over 225 books that are either by or about Beat Writers.

Films Based on the Beat Writers

Heart Beat
– Starring Nick Nolte and John Heard, Heart Beat is an adaptation of a book by Neal Cassady’s wife, Carolyn Cassady.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide
– Based in part on Neal Cassady’s letters to Jack Kerouac, this film chronicles the author’s last days in Denver, his loves and his losses.

Naked Lunch
– Allegedly written in three days, the film based on one of Burroughs’ most harrowing books takes a look at a man losing touch with reality.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
– Ken Kesey’s most recognized novel about a man incarcerated in a mental institution. This is the film that revolutionized the nation’s view of the insane and how we treat them.

Beat Writers on the Web

William S. Burroughs

The Spoken Word Recordings
– Audio files of Burroughs reciting some of his most famous works.

The William S. Burroughs Primer
– A beautiful and horrific vignette, where Burroughs tells of living in Mexico with his wife, Joan, during his writing of Queer and Junky. Burrough’s account of how he killed his wife is also included.

William Burroughs Interview
– Conducted by Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg , this interview originally appeared in Journal For the Protection of All People (1961), and was transcribed by Flesh in 1992.

Neal Cassady

A walking tour of Cassady’s Denver
– Virtual tour of the Denver district where Neal Cassady was raised by his father.

Neal Cassady
– Biographical data, bibliography, and tons of information about Cassady’s Denver roots on Larimer Street, and his close friendships with Ginsberg, Kerouac and many others from the Beat crowd.

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg’s FBI File
– Herbert Mitgang describes how the FBI and other agencies harassed and targeted Ginsberg and other authors it deemed “potentially dangerous.”

Ashes & Blues
– Memorial site for the man who “Prepared the way for Dharma in America without mentioning Dharma . . . distributed monies to poor poets & nourished imaginative genius of the land…”

Jack Kerouac

A Jack Kerouac ROMnibus
– The Kerouac Sampler, with more than a
dozen different readings from Kerouac’s
work by songwriter/performer Graham
Parker, Kerouac biographer Ann
Charters, poet and Kerouac contemporary
Michael McClure and, of course, Kerouac

Jack Kerouac
– Informative site, includes links to biographies about his wife and daughter, and articles on the war over Kerouac’s estate that is still being waged.

Ken Kesey

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
– Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters revved up the “Further” bus for the Grandfurther Tour 1997. The tour across America departed Oregon on April 26 enroute to the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to open the museum’s new exhibit I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era 1965-1969.

Ken Kesey
– Biographical date, lots of links, and the assertion that Kesey consciously borrowed from his idol, Jack Kerouac. So much so, in fact, that he even hit the road with Neal Cassady. As the site author points out: “If that’s not borrowing from Kerouac I don’t know what is.”

Books by Beat Writers

Available for purchase online. Just follow the links below.


Paperback; $9.56

by William S. Burroughs
Called “essentially a lurid dime novel,” this is the book that gave Burroughs his cult following. Showing the various sides of heroin addiction, Burroughs methodically plots the daily goings on of a
drug addict — and most of it is pretty mundane.

Naked Lunch

Paperback; $9.56

by William S. Burroughs
“He was,” as Salon‘s Gary Kamyia notes, “20th-century drug
culture’s Poe, its Artaud, its Baudelaire. He was the prophet of the
literature of pure experience, a phenomenologist of dread….”


Paperback; $8.76

by William S. Burroughs
A “Must-Read” for Burroughs enthusiasts. This is the story in which the newly clean junkie vainly attempts to get laid in Mexico.

First Third and Other Writings

Paperback; $9.56

by Neal Cassady
Considered by many to be “a big mess of a novel,” First Third is one of the few writings by the author, other than his many letters to his wife and friends.

Grace Beats Karma : Letters from Prison, 1958-60

Hardcover; $17.47

by Neal Cassady
Carolyn Cassady, the author’s wife, collected these letters written to her (and to a few
others) while the author was imprisoned in California for selling marijuana.

Collected Poems 1947-1980

Paperback; $18.40

by Allen Ginsberg
Tortured by the paranoia and mental illness of his immigrant mother, and by his own homosexuality in a society that was homophobic, Allen Ginsberg’s early work was as much a measure of his
self-loathing as his detestation of social hypocrisy and injustice.

Howl and Other Poems

Paperback; $4.76

by Allen Ginsberg
The epigraph for Howl is from Walt Whitman: “Unscrew the locks
from the doors!/Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!”
Announcing his intentions with this ringing motto, Allen Ginsberg
published a volume of poetry which broke so many social taboos
that copies were impounded as obscene, and the publisher, poet
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was arrested.

Dharma Bums

Paperback; $9.56

by Jack Kerouac
One of the best and most popular of Kerouac’s autobiographical
novels, The Dharma Bums is based on experiences the writer had
during the mid-1950s while living in California, after he’d become
interested in Buddhism’s spiritual mode of understanding.

On the Road

Paperback; $9.56

by Jack Kerouac
Truly an influential work. Overnight, it propelled
Jack Kerouac from unknown status to “king of the beats” and then
helped awaken a nation of youth who shook America out of the
1950s and ushered in the excitement of the 1960s.

Jack Kerouac : Selected Letters : 1940-1956

Paperback; $12.76

by Jack Kerouac
The life and craft of Jack Kerouac are traced through some of his
most personal and mesmerizing letters. Written between 1940,
when he was a freshman in college, and 1956, immediately before
his leap into celebrity with the publication of On the Road

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Paperback; $9.56

by Ken Kesey
Based in part upon the hallucinogenic drug experiments Kesey underwent at the hands of the psychology department in his college, this book details the horrors and inhumane conditions of what was then a modern mental institution. The publication of this book sparked nation-wide reform, and, when it was made into a move in 1975, launched Jack Nicholson as a leading actor.

Sometimes a Great Notion

Paperback; $11.16

by Ken Kesey
“Never give a inch … even when you risk losing everything,” is the motto of this book. Based upon a family of loggers just trying to get by, the story is one long metaphore for the American condition, where big, corrupt corporations are driving the self-emloyed man out of business.

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Richard Luck is the Founder and Technical Director for Pif Magazine.