The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg (Edited by Bill Morgan) - review by Alex Blasdel

Alex Blasdel

Affairs to Remember

The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats

By

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‘Dream Record: June 8, 1955’ was almost the last poem Allen Ginsberg ever wrote. In it, he interrogates the ghost of William S Burroughs’s wife, Joan. Burroughs had shot her dead in Mexico City in 1951 during what was, according to legend, a pie-eyed game of William Tell. (Instead of an apple, she supposedly had a champagne glass on her head.) ‘Joan, what kind of knowledge have the dead?’ Ginsberg asks in his elegant composition, which he wrote shortly after his twenty-ninth birthday and later called a survey of the major characters of the Beat Generation up to that time. ‘What do you remember of us?’

There might have been no Beat Generation to remember if the poet Kenneth Rexroth hadn’t thought that ‘Dream Record’ smacked of formalist ‘bullshit’. ‘Listen Ginsberg,’ he said. ‘You’re too old to be going on with all this formal stuff.’ Ginsberg responded by upending his life and renouncing poetry. It wasn’t

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