Any attempt to label an entire generation is unrewarding, and yet the generation which went through the last war, or at least could get a drink easily once it was over, seems to possess a uniform, general quality which demands an adjective ... The origins of the word 'beat' are obscure, but the meaning is only too clear to most Americans. More than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of soul; a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself.
Its members have an instinctive individuality, needing no bohemianism or imposed eccentricity to express it.
- John Clellon Holmes
After its eventful start, Barry Miles’s biography “Call Me Burroughs” (Twelve) becomes rather like an odyssey by subway in the confines of William S. Burroughs’s self-absorption, with connecting stops in New York, where he lived, in the late nineteen-seventies, on the Bowery, in the locker room of a former Y.M.C.A., and, returning to the Midwest, in the congenial university town of Lawrence, Kansas, where he spent his last sixteen years. Miles’s always efficient, often elegant prose eases the ride, but a reader’s attention may grow wan for want of sun.
Allen Ginsberg’s Committee on Poetry, Inc. farm, Cherry Valley, New York Thanksgiving 1969. From left, standing: Julius Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gordon Ball, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley. Front, seated: Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky.