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The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso in Paris, 1957-1963 Hardcover – 27 Sep 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (27 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903809142
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903809143
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 952,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I picked this up on the off-chance - well actually I liked the way the book looked so I thought I'd give it a try. I was not disappointed - in fact, I was very pleasantly surprised. The Beats never did much for me: I attempted reading On The Road, but didn't get past the 5th page, I've always thought Ginsberg looked like he needed a bath and a shave and William Burroughs just plain creeps me out. As for Gregory Corso, this was my first encounter with him.
As the book's anchor is a hotel in Paris where all of the above stayed off and on - short-term, long-term - in the latter half of the 1950s, early 1960s, no one person takes centre stage for too long. Told chronologically, there are any number of bit players coming in and out of the story and you get a real sense of place and time with this book. You are also able to see how all the Beats helped, hindered, inspired, repelled each other, which gives the movement much more of a shape in my mind.
There are also some absolutely laugh out loud moments. One in particular was when Ginsburg and Corso were invited to a party to meet the Surrealists. They inevitably got drunk and high before they pitched up (lots and lots and lots of drugs in this book) and when they did get there, in what can only be described as a Wayne's World 'we're not worthy' display, they followed Marcel Duchamp around on their hands and knees. Duchamp took it in good humour but the host was mortified. (I've always loved Duchamp, especially after I found out he was a chess grand master.
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I was very lucky to find this book as I'd only ever seen it for £50 before. I met Ginsberg when he was in London in the 60s because I lived in the house in Notting Hill where he was staying with fellow writer, poet Harry Fainlight - 24 Arundel Gardens, W11, if there's anyone reading this who remembers the place. At times that address was a bit 'Beat Hotel' like. I have recently become fascinated with Paris in the 50s and 60s and was delighted to read about people who were there and the beginnings of the 'alternative' life.

The writing is very vibrant and the facts well-researched. Especially interesting were the pieces of information that could only be known by someone who actually knew the people and was around at the time. I will look out for more books by Barry Miles. This book ticked all the boxes for me, old Beat that I am and grateful that I am for having been introduced to these writers at an early age. The era is fascinating, the events, both literary and political invigorating and the writing gripping. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of alternative thought, philosophy, literature and expat living.
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