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Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters Hardcover – 8 Jul 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books; First Edition edition (8 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021949
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.2 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 803,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, where, he said, he 'roamed fields and riverbanks by day and night, wrote little novels in my room, first novel written at age eleven, also kept extensive diaries and "newspapers" covering my own-invented horse-racing and baseball and football worlds' (as recorded in the novel Doctor Sax). He was educated by Jesuit brothers in Lowell. He said that he 'decided to become a writer at age seventeen under influence of Sebastian Sampas, local young poet, who later died on Anzio beach head; read the life of Jack London at eighteen and decided to also be a lonesome traveler; early literary influences Saroyan and Hemingway; later Wolfe (after I had broken leg in Freshman football at Columbia read Tom Wolfe and roamed his New York on crutches).'

Kerouac wished, however, to develop his own new prose style, which he called 'spontaneous prose.' He used this technique to record the life of the American 'traveler' and the experiences of the Beat generation of the 1950s. This may clearly be seen in his most famous novel On the Road, and also in The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums. His first more orthodox published novel was The Town and the City. Jack Kerouac, who described himself as a 'strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic,' was working on his longest novel, a surrealistic study of the last ten years of his life when he died in 1969, aged forty-seven.

Other works by Jack Kerouac include Big Sur, Desolation Angels, Lonesome Traveler, Visions of Gerard, Tristessa, and a book of poetry called Mexico City Blues. On the Road: The Original Scroll, the full uncensored transcription of the original manuscript of On the Road, is published by Penguin Modern Classics.

Product Description

HardCover Pub Date: 2010 07 Pages: 528 in Publisher: Viking Adult The first collection of letters between the two leading figures of the Beat movement Writers and cultural icons Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are of the most celeated names of the Beat Generation. Linked together not only by their shared artistic sensibility but also by a deep and abiding friend-ship. one that colored their lives and greatly influenced their writing. Editors Bill Morgan and David Stanford shed new light on this intimate and influential friendship in this fascinating exchange of letters between Kerouac and Ginsberg. two thirds of which have never been published before. Commencing in 1944 while Ginsberg was a student at Columbia University and continuing until shortly before Kerouac's death in 1969. the two hundred letters included in this book provide astonishing insight into their lives and ...

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Blundell on 29 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Brilliant. Exhilarating: Sends those tingles through your soul that tells your poor brain 'y're onto something special here...'

Genuinely interesting; (this is the first letters collection I have read by either author) you go through the development of the Beat literary movement with two of the legends directly responsible for its genesis. From stuttering beginnings to raging pinnicles of accomplishment and down again, it's a ride taken with a wire straight to the minds of the authors who are in the process of creating new writing - World Changing Work - based on the feelings of their gut spirit in reaction to the confused and chaotic existence surrounding them.

The simple truth: The book starts slow, develops pace, and then ends right when you want it to carry on. I would have liked more from the years of Kerouac's post-fame disillusionment however (this is available in other collections), it provides a nice overview of their lives leading up to breakthrough and established success. They were truly great friends and it shows. The real strength of the book is the dual presentation of their letters; often chatting casually, back & forth like a spoken conversation, you will rea-lly dig this.
My life is richer as a result.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Must-Read for Beat Fans and Scholars 20 July 2010
By Stephen Silberman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One afternoon in 1944, two aspiring writers met in an apartment a few blocks from the Columbia campus in New York City. The younger of the pair was a 17-year-old poet from New Jersey named Allen Ginsberg. Skinny, bespectacled, and excruciatingly self-conscious, Ginsberg was instantly smitten with the other student -- a blue-eyed, 21-year-old, French-Canadian football player named Jack Kerouac.

Decades later, Kerouac would wryly recall that his first impression of Ginsberg was of "a lecher who wanted everybody in the world to take a bath in the same huge bathtub which would give him a chance to feel legs under the dirty water." After seeing the shy poet say goodbye to each step in his apartment building as he moved out, however, Kerouac recognized Ginsberg as a kindred spirit. Their creative alliance became the central axis of an ever-expanding circle of writers, artists, musicians, and fellow travelers that Kerouac christened the Beat Generation. Many of the authors lionized by academia during the post-war era have been forgotten (read any Conrad Aiken lately?) but the best novels and poems produced by this group - which eventually encompassed William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Diane DiPrima, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman and others -- still seem fresh, hip, and relevant.

The result is a Beat revival that has been ongoing since the '70s. A feature film based on Ginsberg's breakthrough poem "Howl" is coming out this September, featuring the hot actor of the moment, James Franco, in a nearly uncanny performance as the young Ginsberg in San Francisco. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Son Volt's Jay Farrar recently teamed up for a Kerouac tribute called "One Fast Move or I'm Gone." Urban futurist Geoff Manaugh, author of "The BLDGBLOG Book," cites Ginsberg's wide-ranging curiosity as a primary inspiration for his intellectually omnivorous blog.

One of the most industrious toilers in this eternal North Beach of the mind is Bill Morgan, an archivist who negotiated the sale of Ginsberg's voluminous store of papers and personal effects (including his clipped beard) to Stanford University for $1 million in 1994. Morgan has written and edited more than a dozen Beat-related books, including Ginsberg's journals, a 2006 biography of the poet called "I Celebrate Myself," and guides to relevant landmarks in New York and San Francisco.

The collected Kerouac/Ginsberg correspondence, edited by Morgan, is pure literary gold that fans and scholars will mine for decades to come. Ginsberg always gave Kerouac props for turning him into a real writer, but now, readers can see that process in action, as Ginsberg morphs from being the timid author of lovelorn sonnets to the genre-busting powerhouse behind "Kaddish," the epic memoir of his mother's descent into madness.

The letters also challenge some myths propagated by the Beats themselves, such as the notion that Kerouac didn't find his own voice until he read Neal Cassady's benzedrine-fueled accounts of his own sexual exploits in 1950. Kerouac's rapturous descriptions of Manhattan in a letter written two years earlier show that he was already in command of his lyrical flow: "It was too much to believe, near, almost near enough to touch (like the stars), and so huge, intricate, unfathomable and beautiful in its distance, smoking, window-flashing, canyon-shadowed realness there, with the weave of things touching and trembling at its watery apron below."

In 1961, Kerouac predicted to poet and City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti that "someday 'The Letters of Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac' will make America cry." That day has arrived, and it was worth the wait.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I Love This Book 8 Sept. 2010
By Kenneth M. Goodman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I respectfully disagree with the "greenhornet" review, which complains that Kerouac letters from this collection also appear in the Ann Charters collection. What "greenhornet" fails to take into consideration is the fact that Ginsberg's letters TO Kerouac are not included in the Charters collection, so you get no sense of the "back and forth" flow of the correspondence between these two literary giants and therefore miss (at least) half the story. This collection, however, shows how Jack and Allen's relationship changed over the years. I must say that I absolutely love this book. Check out this ecstatic Buddhist advice from Kerouac: (p. 308). "The mind has its own intrinsic brightness but it's only revealable when you stop thinking and let the body melt away. The longer you hold this position of cessation in light, the greater everything (which is Nothing) gets, the diamond sound gets louder...the transcendental sensation of being able to see through the world like glass, clearer...all your senses become purified and your mind returns to its primal, unborn, original state of perfection Don't you remember before you were born?"
Hooooo weeeee now, that's some cool advice Jack is giving Allen. Because Kerouac and Ginsberg are my two favorite authors, I've actually replaced (on my bookshelf) the Charter books with this collection.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Epistolary Heaven! 29 Oct. 2010
By Pinouille - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I also absolutely love this amazing collection and wish I had an exceptional soul mate to collaborate with and share my innermost thoughts with like these two had in one another. There are so many ideas, delightful stories from places like bughouses, creative mini poems, literary references, truth, and glimpses into their lives and souls... I am having fun exploring their references each morning after a night of pure pleasure in the company of this book.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Food for my soul 6 Oct. 2010
By Kimberly Wade - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters is a collection for fans who are well versed in Beat literature and all it's peripheral characters as there's very little biographical data given. I'm that fan. I never get enough of Jack and Allen, and this inside peak into their intimate relationship, which they both hoped would someday be published, was food for my soul. It was more than an intellectual relationship; it was more than two writers sustaining each other through all the long years of not getting published. It was soulful, spiritual twining. Jack was not always nice to Allen. At times he was down-right mean, and then there was this on Jan. 13, 1950:

"What is the mystery of the world? Nobody knows they're angels."

Followed a few days later by:
"Jesus, Allen, life ain't worth a candle, we all know it, and almost everything is wrong, but there's nothing we can do about it, and living is heaven."

"If we were not haunted by the mystery of the world, we wouldn't realize nothing."

The letters are full of "I love you, Allen," "I love you, Jack," especially towards the end, when Jack was caught in the downward spiral of alcoholism that eventually led to his death at age 47.

I felt every word.
Great :) 30 Dec. 2014
By Lilly - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a fan of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and just had to have this book. It is very interesting to see their letters to each other, and i loved the book so much that the pages are worn down by my paragraph- long annotations, and several sentences being underlined and joded down for reference. I actually don't even like reading too much, but Jack Keroucs and Allen Ginsbergs work's never fail to impress me. Great price, and great shipping!
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