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The Beats: A Graphic History, those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the Mad magazine artist Peter Kuper, The Beats takes us on a wi The Beats: A Graphic History, those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the Mad magazine artist Peter Kuper, The Beats takes us on a wild tour of a generation that, in the face of mainstream American conformity and conservatism, became known for its determined uprootedness, aggressive addictions, and startling creativity and experimentation. What began among a small circle of friends in New York and San Francisco during the late 1940s and early 1950s laid the groundwork for a literary explosion, and this striking anthology captures the storied era in all its incarnations—from the Benzedrine-fueled antics of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs to the painting sessions of Jay DeFeo’s disheveled studio, from the jazz hipsters to the beatnik chicks, from Chicago’s College of Complexes to San Francisco’s famed City Lights bookstore. Snapshots of lesser-known poets and writers sit alongside frank and compelling looks at the Beats’ most recognizable faces. What emerges is a brilliant collage of—and tribute to—a generation, in a form and style that is as original as its subject.


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The Beats: A Graphic History, those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the Mad magazine artist Peter Kuper, The Beats takes us on a wi The Beats: A Graphic History, those who were mad to live have come back to life through artwork as vibrant as the Beat movement itself. Told by the comic legend Harvey Pekar, his frequent artistic collaborator Ed Piskor, and a range of artists and writers, including the feminist comic creator Trina Robbins and the Mad magazine artist Peter Kuper, The Beats takes us on a wild tour of a generation that, in the face of mainstream American conformity and conservatism, became known for its determined uprootedness, aggressive addictions, and startling creativity and experimentation. What began among a small circle of friends in New York and San Francisco during the late 1940s and early 1950s laid the groundwork for a literary explosion, and this striking anthology captures the storied era in all its incarnations—from the Benzedrine-fueled antics of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs to the painting sessions of Jay DeFeo’s disheveled studio, from the jazz hipsters to the beatnik chicks, from Chicago’s College of Complexes to San Francisco’s famed City Lights bookstore. Snapshots of lesser-known poets and writers sit alongside frank and compelling looks at the Beats’ most recognizable faces. What emerges is a brilliant collage of—and tribute to—a generation, in a form and style that is as original as its subject.

30 review for The Beats: A Graphic History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Printable Tire

    Harvey Pekar at his best uses the patently exciting comic book medium to conjure the pretense of drama to altogether mundane run-of-the-mill life; at his worst, which includes this book, he and his collaborators damn and fumble with by default a fun medium hard to fuck up and an exciting topic and churn out pinko propaganda reminiscent of dull children’s textbooks with boring art and the text of highly slanted wikipedia articles. If I was a teenager I would hate this book. I was never given a Harvey Pekar at his best uses the patently exciting comic book medium to conjure the pretense of drama to altogether mundane run-of-the-mill life; at his worst, which includes this book, he and his collaborators damn and fumble with by default a fun medium hard to fuck up and an exciting topic and churn out pinko propaganda reminiscent of dull children’s textbooks with boring art and the text of highly slanted wikipedia articles. If I was a teenager I would hate this book. I was never given a reason why I should care about the beats, why they are exciting and not just some relic-historic fuddy-duddies. We are never given a glimpse of their prose, just a sling of meaningless adjectives and a dry recount of their lives- Howl was “great” or “revolutionary,” Kerouac met so-and-so, this guy pussied around for a while in his head and became a monk, Burroughs liked Tangier because of the little boys (mentioned three times!), etc. The most exciting background art used is a bookshelf. The book lacks any narrative punch, just slanted, biased facts, panels upon panels of retellings of similar biographies over and over again. Everyone comes out like a pompous windbag, a spoiled white-boy, and I’m fine with that: that’s what they were, but some of them did amazing things as pompous windbags and spoiled white-boys, this book just lacks the ability to make me care about the sometimes amazing things they did. I love Jack Kerouac, but he’s been taking a beating from the Cool Dad PC Bobos that have commandeered the beatnik (as well as all countercultural) movements, and there is nothing to really love about him here, as he is portrayed as a self-indulgent, homophobic gay manchild clamoring for money. We can’t get into any of these heads, we can’t see any of the drama, just The Information. Is there gonna be a quiz? I hated how clean this book was, how all the beats were Saints and Geniuses. The art was clean to match the bland predictability of the factoid prose. They’re all treated as if they were MLK or Gandhi or some other pasteurized, artificial beatified (pun intended) figure. In other words, they don’t seem like real people, just historic articles. I was looking forward to the other artists take on the Beats at the end of the book but they were for the most part disappointing. Only Beatnik Chicks by Joyce Brabner used the comic book medium in any stimulating way and what she personally had to say wasn’t altogether interesting. Jerry Lewis’ thing on Tuli Kupferberg had the most appropriate art but like the other pieces fell back on a dry recitation of the guy’s biography, purified and objectified so you can’t get into his head, but just see him as walking cardboard for the Leftist Movement and ends with a link to the Fugs website. Many other pieces serve basically as spam commercials to bastions of archaic cool like the City Lights Bookstore. This book also confuses Beats with just plain-old counterculturals, and sees too much of a smiling parallel between the Beats and the Hippies, when in my eye the two groups couldn’t be more apart. And no mention of Larry Lipton! The 21st century has brought us sterile shit that has digitized the past into a homogenized New Liberal World Order, where lived people become whitewashed status figures, where interesting ambiguous fluctuating life becomes a string of meaningless facts and input data art. We live in a world past history, where the past people are mythologized or sneered at or respected too much to learn from. If you’ve never heard of the Beats before or you’re in the library of some hippie middle school, then you might learn the names of some people you don’t know about so you can look them up on your laptop or ipoop and read the “original documents” that they are credited as authoring. The only guys I found in here that looked interesting was Kenneth Patchen and Slim Brundage.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Harvey Pekar presents a brief introduction to the artistic movement from the mid-20th century known as The Beats, focusing on the three major writers of this movement: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Pekar also takes a look at some of the minor artists while providing an historical context of this period. The best parts of this volume are the appraisals of the lives of Kerouac/Burroughs/Ginsberg. While I knew something about these writers’ lives already and have read their Harvey Pekar presents a brief introduction to the artistic movement from the mid-20th century known as The Beats, focusing on the three major writers of this movement: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Pekar also takes a look at some of the minor artists while providing an historical context of this period. The best parts of this volume are the appraisals of the lives of Kerouac/Burroughs/Ginsberg. While I knew something about these writers’ lives already and have read their major works, I still learned some things about them I didn't before reading this. Kerouac was very conservative despite his reputation for being free-wheeling, and he was misogynistic, homophobic, and racist, all of which were odd stances as he was bisexual himself and had many Jewish friends (Ginsberg for one). Burroughs' life was as sordid as I remembered it though I hadn't realised his own son's had been quite so horrific as well. I liked how Ed Piskor drew him throughout as a kind of vampiric zombie - Burroughs didn't seem like a nice person despite the art he produced. Ginsberg's life was full of political activism and he could rightly be considered a celebrity because of his work and his connections to just about everybody within the Beat movement. He also comes across as the nicest person the group, a man with demons of his own but who didn't deal with them destructively nor allow them to destroy him. The second half of this 200 page comic takes up the rest of the Beats, none of whom I recognised and shows you how well-researched and fascinated in the subject Pekar was. Through brief strips you get to know these people and a variety of artists illustrate these parts (Ed Piskor illustrated the first half of the book that covered Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg). Joyce Brabner (Pekar's wife) contributes an excellent strip at the overlooked women of the Beat movement, showing the similarity between their difficult lives and their male counterparts’, which were somehow never recognised to the same extent. It also casts the "heroes" of the Beat movement in a critical light, showing them as pretentious, selfish and hypocritical. Overall the book was an excellent read that was very informative about these interesting, though flawed, artists and this particular moment in history. More than anything, looking upon this explosion of art inspires you to turn your hand as easily as they did to anything at all, writing, music, painting, and so the book is overwhelmingly positive in this regard to creative readers looking for a spark to set them off. Pekar manages to provide the reader with a highly informative and entertaining impression of this movement and anybody looking for a none-too-demanding overview of the Beats would do well to pick up this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jackie "the Librarian"

    I love the idea behind this book - present the leading figures of the Beat movement in graphic novel form. How fun! This is not only informative, it's a great way to get someone who might not pick up a standard biography of any of these folks to learn more about their lives. Graphic novels work great for moving stories along, presenting action, taking you into a scene. However, it's more appropriate for short stories, and not so great for exposition. Here, especially for the Jack Kerouac chapter, I love the idea behind this book - present the leading figures of the Beat movement in graphic novel form. How fun! This is not only informative, it's a great way to get someone who might not pick up a standard biography of any of these folks to learn more about their lives. Graphic novels work great for moving stories along, presenting action, taking you into a scene. However, it's more appropriate for short stories, and not so great for exposition. Here, especially for the Jack Kerouac chapter, there was so much background history to cover, that instead of episodes with movement, we get snapshots: Jack Kerouac discovers jazz, Jack Kerouac quits Columbia, Jack Kerouac meets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac gets hooked on speed, Jack Kerouac goes to Colorado to hang out with Neal Cassady... It was a lot of information, but none of it fleshed out. So, if you're like me, and you don't know a whole lot about the Beats, it was a little dry. Which is kind of surprising, given how sensational and how seedy some of the aspects of their lives were. Plenty of booze, drugs, and sex going on here! (But presented in a PG-13 way, so don't get too excited, folks.) And not helping the situation was the fact that I didn't like what I was seeing. Kerouac came across as a selfish, amoral man, who used women and didn't care about anyone but himself. However, once the book moved past Kerouac, and on to Allen Ginsberg and others, there was less background information to cover, and so the authors could take more time with separate events, and it got more interesting. I found Ginsberg much pleasanter company than Kerouac, for one thing. I liked his intellectual curiosity, his generosity to other poets, and his working for causes such as gay rights. There's one other longish chapter on Burroughs, and then many shorter chapters on other figures and places of importance. My favorite parts were the chapters on Diane di Prima, and especially Beatnik Chicks, written by Joyce Brabner, which were not just about the beat movement, but about the restrictions on women's roles back in the 50s. Women beatniks were fighting against not just 50s repression, but the whole long history of being seen as second class citizens: Beatnik chicks wore pixie cuts or long hair with blunt cut bangs. They dressed in black clothes with black tights. They were something to laugh at. Many were too serious and too smart. Those beatnik chicks usually wore glasses that made them even more funny-looking. There was supposed to be something ridiculous about smart, serious women with glasses. That worried me. And in this and the next panel we see a pictures of Brabner as a girl in 1961, and present day, wearing glasses. Then she recounts the stories of the women around the Beats, who were treated as disposable by Kerouac and Ginsberg and Jones. Joan Kerouac, Hettie Jones, Joyce Johnson, Carolyn, Cassady, and others: These women were not absurd ornaments. And they made much possible for women like me. They were "nobody's wife." As a smart, glasses-wearing woman who appreciates being regarded as my own person, having my own career, and being more than just a wife, I was really moved by this chapter. So, I recommend this book not for Kerouac's story, which I found as loathsome as Brabner does, but for the other Beats and the history of the movement.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James

    Booklist named this collaboration as one of the best works of graphic nonfiction published in the last year. I thought it was pretty much a waste of time - mine, Pekar's, and et al's . Harvey Pekar is brilliant when he's writing about Harvey Pekar, but this 'history' read like a high-school student's report - dry recitation of facts and criticism on the order of "I thought The Subterraneans was good. I don't know why the critics didn't like it." Adding incoherence to this desultory performance, Booklist named this collaboration as one of the best works of graphic nonfiction published in the last year. I thought it was pretty much a waste of time - mine, Pekar's, and et al's . Harvey Pekar is brilliant when he's writing about Harvey Pekar, but this 'history' read like a high-school student's report - dry recitation of facts and criticism on the order of "I thought The Subterraneans was good. I don't know why the critics didn't like it." Adding incoherence to this desultory performance, there is a weird redundancy that I found reminiscent of reading the Bible - you know, "God created man and woman. Male and female created He them," which , in fact, made this snoozefest read like a conflation of two indifferent high-school reports. Here's an example of what I mean: "Always interested in gaining more knowledge about drugs and spirituality, Ginsberg took a trip to Tangier, then through Europe to India, to broaden his studies in 1961, and did not return to North America until 1963. In 1961, he took a round-the-world trip to enhance his spirituality. He ended up in India and stayed there for two years." At one point Pekar claims that Burroughs performed armed robberies while living the Times Square hustler life portrayed in Junky. It's the first I've heard of it, and, while it makes for a sexier story than rolling drunks, I can do without a lazy schoolchild's Liberty Valance-y history, especially from someone I really admire. The Ed Piskor art featured in the majority of the pieces is awful. The Holy Trinity are only distinguishable by crude signifiers: Ginsburg is the one with the glasses, Burroughs is the one with the dark circles under his eyes ('cuz he's a dope fiend, see) and Kerouac is the one who looks like a really pudgy Sal Mineo. The sole meritorious exception in this nonentity is Joyce Brabner's "Beat Chicks," which is a superb reassessment of the role of women in Beat culture. It's incisive, deeply felt, the art (by Summer McClinton) is head and shoulders above that found in the the rest of the volume, and it turned me on to the very hep Suzuki Beane.

  5. 4 out of 5

    HeavyReader

    This book is really GREAT! It starts off with the big three of the Beat Generation--Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs--but also has plenty of info about other, equally important Beat writers. I wish there had been more about women who were also Beat writers. (Why are we told explicitly how many kids Diane di Prima birthed, but are not given the same statistics about the reproduction of any of the men?) There is the awesome "Beatnik Chicks" section written by Joyce Brabner, wit This book is really GREAT! It starts off with the big three of the Beat Generation--Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs--but also has plenty of info about other, equally important Beat writers. I wish there had been more about women who were also Beat writers. (Why are we told explicitly how many kids Diane di Prima birthed, but are not given the same statistics about the reproduction of any of the men?) There is the awesome "Beatnik Chicks" section written by Joyce Brabner, with art by Summer McClinton, which helps tell what our Beat foremothers did. That section is totally my favorite part of the book. I was also really surprised and excited by how many of the Beats mentioned in this book identified as anarchists or had at least studied anarchism. I'm still convinced that I would not have cared much for Kerouac or Burroughs, and Neal Cassady was basically just a pig (although I was pretty dumb in my twenties, so maybe my younger self would have fucked one or more of them, given the chance), but I do appreciate how all of the Beats opened up the world and made life easier for me. Could I be Poet-in-the-Box if the Beats had not paved the way? Could I be a single woman if the Beats hadn't changed American and made the sexual revolution possible? I am grateful for the Beats, even if they were not everything I wished they were. Anyway, this book is an excellent introduction to the personalities of the Beat Generation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    dianneOnRBG RIPmalaiseBreak

    A really bad graphic novel about the lives of the Beats. The storytelling is dull, dry, and pedantic. Methinks the Beats would have hated its sterility. The level of misogyny is mythic. There are a few different contributors but only one or two with any talent - it is as though we are supposed to give it all a big “hey OK!” because it's about Kerouac (spoiled mama’s boy who hated women) and Ginsberg et al. Yes most of us already knew Burroughs was a waste of air but here he is taking up more spa A really bad graphic novel about the lives of the Beats. The storytelling is dull, dry, and pedantic. Methinks the Beats would have hated its sterility. The level of misogyny is mythic. There are a few different contributors but only one or two with any talent - it is as though we are supposed to give it all a big “hey OK!” because it's about Kerouac (spoiled mama’s boy who hated women) and Ginsberg et al. Yes most of us already knew Burroughs was a waste of air but here he is taking up more space, more oxygen, more nitrogen. Bleh. Spit it out, creep. i did learn the truth about (surprise! cruel misogynist!) Amiri Baraka, and repeatedly of Burroughs’ predilection for little boys, apparently easier to “obtain” in Morocco; thus his extensive time there. Should you find yourself in a place where this is the ONLY book (say the Bush compound in Kennebunkport*) flip to page 160-170 written / drawn by Joyce Brabner and read the best bit: Beatnik Chicks. Sad, a bit predictable, but necessary. As a GR reviewer points out they really were a “vile lot of slumming degenerates”. Another points out that Green Apple is a cooler place than City Lights in San Francisco. As a 32 year resident of SF: True. * “Brendan Gill recalls roaming the Kennebunkport compound one night while staying there looking for a book to read — the only title he could find was “The Fart Book.” http://www.salon.com/2004/09/14/kelle...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wallace

    Type: {Commuter Read: format lends easily to starting/stopping – and- Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent conversation piece.} Rating: {I’m Lovin’ It: Very Entertaining!} Why You’re Reading It: You’re interested in the beat generation an would like an easy overview You enjoy graphic novels You’re a Harvey Pekar fan What I Thought: Everyone knows about the beats, but not everyone knows about the beats. I was one of the latter. However, last year I started getting i Type: {Commuter Read: format lends easily to starting/stopping – and- Impress Your Friends Read: notable; prize-winner or all around intelligent conversation piece.} Rating: {I’m Lovin’ It: Very Entertaining!} Why You’re Reading It: You’re interested in the beat generation an would like an easy overview You enjoy graphic novels You’re a Harvey Pekar fan What I Thought: Everyone knows about the beats, but not everyone knows about the beats. I was one of the latter. However, last year I started getting intrigued by hearing about some of the women of the Beat Generation, and I turned to Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation (I will review this soon) to find out more about these artists who are not nearly as famous as their male counterparts. What did I know about the beats? Jack Kerouac. Well, I’m also pretty sure I’d heard of Allen Ginsberg, but I thought of him more of the political persuasion than the artistic. Who knows why? Is there some guy with a similar name who is a politician? Anyway, I’d heard about Kerouac, as so many have. I had never read his work, but I knew he was something akin to the James Dean of literature. Upon seeing the graphic novel The Beats, I decided it was high time I learned about this group of artists that basically changed American culture in the 1950′s and 60′s. Be warned, this book is for those who either know very little about the beats and want a quick overview, or those who know so much that they are interested in seeing their favorites portrayed in a different medium. Don’t read this book if you are trying to dig into this subject to learn intimate details about their work and lives, you won’t find it here. I am the former, I knew very little and wanted an overview, which I got. And ooooooh shoot. These guys were Messed up (with a capital M). They were misogynistic… Women are mistakes and should be eliminated from the population. - William S. Burroughs (says the man who killed his wife by playing a game of William Tell when they were both very drunk… but later in life stated that there were no accidents. Hmmmm. He’s a keeper, that one.)… racist, philandering, drug addicted, alcoholic, homophobic, absentee fathers. The only one whom I actually found tolerable out of the three most famous and their main muse (Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg and their idol, Cassady) was Ginsberg. He too did his fair share of not so great things, but he also had a sense of responsibility and follow through that the others didn’t have. In fact, it could be argued that the others would not have been published at all if not for Ginsberg. These men slept with everything that walked, including each other (even though, as I listed before, they were homophobic… explain that one to me). Ingested anything that would alter their mind. And visited mental wards like people go to the dentist. So I had to start wondering, why is it that throughout history many of the most infuential minds that live so utterly out of their gourd? Because, ultimately, these men were part of a group that radically changed the face of American culture. Apart from the fact that they were all of the above (my horrible list from before), they are also part of the generation of artists that sparked the hippie movement, the feminist movement, and supported the civil rights movement. This is the group who started the cleansing fire of the sexual revolution and freedom of speech movement. It was, to a great extent, the publishing of Ginsberg’s Howl that presented the idea of how absurd it was to be able to legally arrest people for saying obscenities. (Yes, people, you could be put on trial for being obscene — aka, using foul language and talking about sex). So, as much as I am not impressed with who many of these people were as human beings, I cannot help but be grateful for what they did. And feel sad that so many of them literally were killed by their lifestyles and missed the day when their efforts would come to fruition. My favorite part of this book (which is broken up into many parts), was the section by Joyce Brabner called “Beatnik Chicks.” I relate to her sentiments about the men of the generation, …I found Kerouac and his cronies loathsome. Drive across the country. Drive back. Roll joints, roll around with women, dispose of each when done and get back in the car. Fascinate your buddies with epic tales of road trips told in run-together sentences laced with Amphetamine Argot, jazz jargon. Self stylized odysseans whose abandoned children grew up angry. She shows an over-view of the women (whom I looked up in Knights book as I went along) that portrayed their pathetic sides and their poignancy. We’d been more than black stockings on spread legs…we’d danced, painted, acted, and yes, there were writers among us. -Hettie Cohen So why, you might ask, have I already borrowed Howl from the library? Why am I eyeing On the Road on my bookshelf? Why do I find myself diving into the stories in Knight’s book and looking up the memoirs of the women who Brabner highlighted? Because these people lived a life that I will never live. And though they made choices that make me want to throw up, the choices they made are also enticing to me. It’s like watching a train wreck, can’t avert one’s eyes. But a train wreck that changed the world. And all neatly wrapped up in a Graphic Novel that reads like a comic book. Imagine that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    My dislike of this book is not really the fault of the authors (although they often made Jack Kerouac look like Rod Blagojevich). I simply have decided, after years of study, that with the exception of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, the Beats were a vile lot of slumming degenerates.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michellette

    This is the most poorly written, poorly edited garbage I have ever read. I was fooled by the Daniel Clowesesque artwork into thinking there might be anything of substance in these pages.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ed Erwin

    Most of the text is by Harvey Pekar and is nowhere near as interesting as when he wrote about his own life. Most of the art is by Ed Piskor, and is OK but he's done more interesting biographies when he writes the text himself. (See Hip Hop Family Tree.) The male "beats" were often jerks. That is why the story about "beatnik chicks" is a welcome relief. The best thing here for me is that it allowed me to discover whimsical poet/illustrator Kenneth Patchen. (The section about him can be read online Most of the text is by Harvey Pekar and is nowhere near as interesting as when he wrote about his own life. Most of the art is by Ed Piskor, and is OK but he's done more interesting biographies when he writes the text himself. (See Hip Hop Family Tree.) The male "beats" were often jerks. That is why the story about "beatnik chicks" is a welcome relief. The best thing here for me is that it allowed me to discover whimsical poet/illustrator Kenneth Patchen. (The section about him can be read online here courtesy of the illustrator Nick Thorkelson.) Overall, not a very recommended read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    nadia | notabookshelf

    2.5/5 for the women, really, and the sentiment. as a 21st century woman, i despise the majority of what the men (again, the majority) of the beat generation stood for and represented. as an english literature enthusiast, however, it would be stupid of me not to acknowledge at least ginsberg's impact on american (and world) poetry and social consciousness, and burroughs-kerouac influence on prose. so, yeah, that's answering the question why. in truth, i also just enjoy reading about these inexplica 2.5/5 for the women, really, and the sentiment. as a 21st century woman, i despise the majority of what the men (again, the majority) of the beat generation stood for and represented. as an english literature enthusiast, however, it would be stupid of me not to acknowledge at least ginsberg's impact on american (and world) poetry and social consciousness, and burroughs-kerouac influence on prose. so, yeah, that's answering the question why. in truth, i also just enjoy reading about these inexplicable creatures that seemed to have existed in a completely parallel universe to everyone else. the beatniks truly created a universe of their own, whether one chooses to romanticise it a-la On The Road or not. it's just a fact. the book, then. well. it was dry, lacked any passion or any distinct authorial voice; in fact, the majority of the book read like a wiki-page copy-paste. i swear i did a better report on 20th century russian poets in high school than this writing. so yeah, a bummer. the artwork was, uh, not the best of them all, for the most part? it features different artists, so there were sections where the illustrations were nice, but, uh, for the most part? weird. the Beatnik Chicks was my favourite chapter. it didn't really tell me anything new, i just love reading about women, in this case the extremely under-appreciated, oppressed and miserable women of the beatniks. overall though, the beat generation remains my impossible inspiration. i can't quite explain why, but reading the works by and about these humans makes me mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. that's just how it's been for years now, and that's what it's gonna stay for years to come. *** pre-review: me @ myself, standing in the poetry aisle in my favourite used books shop where i have wandered into on accident just as it always happens when i'm out with my mom: you have not read anything by or about the beat generation for years now. you are moving into a new house next month. please stop hoarding i beg you. my goblin brain seeing the colourful cover and realising it had heard of the book years ago and really wanted to have it then so it is impossible to let go now: it is almost 60% off. you need to have it right now or there will not be another chance do you hear me. so yeah i got the book

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Good but uneven. The first half treats the lives of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs; the second half examines some of the lesser-known beats including Kenneth Patchen, one of my favorite authors - I was unaware that he was included in this book when I picked it up. As a history or biographic comic, this certainly does the trick. You get a sense of the small social circle that birthed the original beats, as well as the generally unpleasant character of Kerouac and his friends. It's an uncompromis Good but uneven. The first half treats the lives of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs; the second half examines some of the lesser-known beats including Kenneth Patchen, one of my favorite authors - I was unaware that he was included in this book when I picked it up. As a history or biographic comic, this certainly does the trick. You get a sense of the small social circle that birthed the original beats, as well as the generally unpleasant character of Kerouac and his friends. It's an uncompromising, but sympathetic look, for the most part. By the end of the first half, when the book is taken over by a bevy of other artists, Ed Piskor's art had started to wear on me. It's either employing a stylized set of icons & expressions, or else it's simply repetitive. Everyone seems to wear the same shoes or button-down shirts, for instance. Although I did find his style to be more appropriate for a non-fiction comic than some of the later artists' less-refined offerings, his work would benefit from a greater dynamic range, especially regarding facial expressions. Altogether a good read if you're interested in the beats. For a strict comic anthology, there are better works out there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    As a fan of the Beats I really enjoyed this brief history and that it included a section on Beatnik women is always a plus. However I think if this was a first introduction you would be lost. This is for people already familiar with the characters described as all the histories are extremely short and some poorly done. The various artists that created the graphics make this interesting and for the most part it is a quick read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    And now I HAVE to go back and watch 'Kill Your Darlings' again. I loved that they included the most ignored women of the Beat Generation. Especially the Sassy 'Beatnick Chicks' session. Ah man. This book took me back to my university days, especially the night I encountered Ginsberg's "Howl". And one must comment on the art. Ah! This is a beautiful book! P.S. I need to listen to The Fugs.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    Marvelous cartoon overview of the beats, from the early 50s to Tuli and the Fugs.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    This is actually two books. The first part is Harvey Pekar's take on the Beats with the bulk of it devoted to Kerouac, Ginzberg and Burroughs. The last part, a third of the book is a series of "guest" graphic writers and artists covering different aspects of the beats. In the first part, Pekar's style cuts through the rhetoric and nostalgia of the era. The beats made great progress in literature, led progressive political movements and affirmed freedom of the press, but their personal morality le This is actually two books. The first part is Harvey Pekar's take on the Beats with the bulk of it devoted to Kerouac, Ginzberg and Burroughs. The last part, a third of the book is a series of "guest" graphic writers and artists covering different aspects of the beats. In the first part, Pekar's style cuts through the rhetoric and nostalgia of the era. The beats made great progress in literature, led progressive political movements and affirmed freedom of the press, but their personal morality left a lot to be desired. When one beat shot another, there was no remorse, only a desire to get the shooter off. They went to Morocco for boys and drugs. Burroughs hooks his wife and son on drugs. The beats' treatment of women was sociopathic: Burroughs played with his wife's life (and she lost); Kerouac denied his daughter despite a DNA match. The text shows their serendipitous choices in content and titles and the casual attitudes of the period. In Mao's China, Castro's Cuba and cold war Russia. Ginzberg speaks freely about sex. Pekar has Daniel Ortega telling him to watch what he says, true or not, the context seems correct. In the later part, the other writers and artists give different beat perspectives. The most moving of these is "Beatnik Chicks" by Joyce Brabner (wife, now widow, of Harvey Pekar) and illustrated by Summer McClinton. The last of these pieces, "Tuli Kupferberg" is reader-unfriendly by the busyness of its text and images. There was a lot new to me. For instance, I did not know about Kenneth Patchen's bedridden life, or Diane DiPrima's 5 children or the origins of the City Lights Book Store. This is the third graphic history I've read. The first, was the National Book Award nominee Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout which pushed the boundaries of this art form. The author created her own type and used paper coated with light sensitive materials. The use of color and the images evoked the use of radiation, good and bad. Pekar brings out the essence of his subjects. He tackles tough material and shows people what they might not want to see. I will look for more graphic histories by Pekar, Joyce Brabner and others.

  17. 4 out of 5

    zxvasdf

    The Beat Generation has been glamorized for subsequent generations, the romance of the open road and stripped inhibitions tickling the experimental nature of our socially constrained selves. We admire these men for being brave enough to be so true to their convictions as to submit to every whim and desire to be wrangled into something vicarious for the reader. The truth is the long swathes of sullen apathy between frantic moments, the twitch of unfulfilled addiction, the thing that puts the beat The Beat Generation has been glamorized for subsequent generations, the romance of the open road and stripped inhibitions tickling the experimental nature of our socially constrained selves. We admire these men for being brave enough to be so true to their convictions as to submit to every whim and desire to be wrangled into something vicarious for the reader. The truth is the long swathes of sullen apathy between frantic moments, the twitch of unfulfilled addiction, the thing that puts the beat in the Beat Generation. Offering a perspective one doesn't often receive while digesting the canon of Beat writers' works, The Beats: A Graphic History connects the dots for the Generation's Holy Trinity and exposes a nitty gritty we probably wouldn't have grokked by ourselves. Most of the revelations concerned Kerouac himself; because he is regarded as the figurehead of the movement, most of the later reviews are of praise and admiration. The darker aspect of Kerouac's frustration, his misogyny, his inability leave home to completely strike out on his own. Burroughs is as reptilian as ever, likeable in his unlikeability; Burroughs has always been my favorite, because he has a way with words, and of building strange, offensive worlds with them. His life is stripped out for all to see, leathery and repulsive, but you can't help but stare into that sun. For myself Ginsburg has increased in esteem. Ginsberg, although a little strange, even for the standards of the times, was REAL. He truly believed in what he said, and the madman shed all shame of the flesh and emotion so that he could walk among us a weird hippie prophet. But... after the prosaic and too-short vignettes of other heroes of the Generation, the real gem of this book is revealed: the little recognized group within the Beats: women. Yes, the beatnik women and the women who loved the men who went away on whim's wind. It was a hard life, but they defined entire generations as much as their male counterparts did, although their influence isn't as easily recognized within the turbulence of Kerouac and Ginsberg. This book was a illuminating change of perspective for this fan of the Beat Generation, and it has caused me to revise my opinion of some of their works, especially Kerouac's.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mick Phillipe

    I picked this book off of the library shelf because it looked intriguing. And I didn't know ANYTHING about the beat poets. I'm not really poetry fan either, but I've always wanted to know about these people. It's so strange to think that they existed during a time of cookie cutter houses and perfect 50s housewives.. and they were NUTS. I could never dare to live like they did, and I think most people can agree with me on this. I'm not talking about the sex and drugs part, but the fact that they I picked this book off of the library shelf because it looked intriguing. And I didn't know ANYTHING about the beat poets. I'm not really poetry fan either, but I've always wanted to know about these people. It's so strange to think that they existed during a time of cookie cutter houses and perfect 50s housewives.. and they were NUTS. I could never dare to live like they did, and I think most people can agree with me on this. I'm not talking about the sex and drugs part, but the fact that they lived how they wanted to and did a lot of what they did for the sake of artistic creation and expression... without any well laid out plan for the future. They were so free, and I think that a lot of young people should be exposed to their life stories and material before they "decide" to become members of our respectable society. :P Just a thought. Most of the graphic novel is about Kerouac, Ginserberg, and Burroughs. Each beat has his own little chunk that explains each of his personal history in a fun, entertaining, informative way. I thought that this book was well written, with lots of different perspectives other than the main beats.. from musicians, lesser known beats, pre-beats, and female beats. Just one thing, I wish they went into the lives of some more female beats. The illustrations are a plus!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I can't remember when I read this book though I do remember a red haired boy from Lowell tried to impress me on the train by telling me Jack Kerouac was also from Lowell (which I knew since I had just read that two pages before he told me). I imagine it was shortly after it came out in the spring of 2009 but may have been more recently. The brief biological sketches of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg were interesting...sort of. I loved the artwork, but I could have just read a bunch of wikipedia I can't remember when I read this book though I do remember a red haired boy from Lowell tried to impress me on the train by telling me Jack Kerouac was also from Lowell (which I knew since I had just read that two pages before he told me). I imagine it was shortly after it came out in the spring of 2009 but may have been more recently. The brief biological sketches of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg were interesting...sort of. I loved the artwork, but I could have just read a bunch of wikipedia articles. The writing was often dry (despite the subjects), jokes were corny or forced. I'm not sure who the intended audience was but for much of the book I felt as though someone was trying to beat into my head "THE BEATS WERE REVOLUTIONARY, CRAZY AND TOTALLY COOL" but I already knew that...that's why I wanted to read the book in the first place. The second half of the book was much better, each author and artist pair captured a very 'beat' sensibility that came across in each segment, mostly because few of them said "This happened, and then this other thing happened and then so and so did this". Beatnick Chicks by Joyce Brabner was one of my favorites! *If anyone remembers me reading this book in 2010 let me know!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Malbadeen

    The first 1/2 was interesting if nothing else for it's titillation factor but the 2nd 1/2 seemed too scattered - I gave up on it. *note to SanFrancisco - I LOVE you, you should know by now how much I LOVE you. I love your murals, I love your restaurants, I love, love, love China Town in the morning (the colors! the buckets of spices! the exotic vegetables - the POTENTIAL!) uhhhh and ahhhh and ohhh the neighborhood gardens, the buildings, the Castro but please enough with the Beat Poets! You have so The first 1/2 was interesting if nothing else for it's titillation factor but the 2nd 1/2 seemed too scattered - I gave up on it. *note to SanFrancisco - I LOVE you, you should know by now how much I LOVE you. I love your murals, I love your restaurants, I love, love, love China Town in the morning (the colors! the buckets of spices! the exotic vegetables - the POTENTIAL!) uhhhh and ahhhh and ohhh the neighborhood gardens, the buildings, the Castro but please enough with the Beat Poets! You have so much more to offer. On one visit to SF, I felt like I would barf if I heard the word Beat Poet one more time. **note to visitors to SF - yes, the CityLights bookstore http://www.citylights.com/ is worth visiting, the building is cool, the selection is amazingly quality but beware if you are within a 10 mile radius of this store you will hear more references to beat poetry than one should have to endure in a life time. ***I suggest you follow the advice of a friend of mine and visit The Green Apple bookstore http://www.greenapplebooks.com/ instead, or at least in addition to City Lights.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Garcia

    At times amusing and entertaining, at other times disappointing. The numerous writers in this collection of comics offer skewed, often conflicting, interpretations of the Beats that occasionally perpetuate misinformation or hide information. Sometimes these interpretations conflict with one another, which leads the reader to conclude that these are simply interpretations of Beat history. However. the subtitle, "A Graphic History" suggests that the book is objective. In addition, some of the comic At times amusing and entertaining, at other times disappointing. The numerous writers in this collection of comics offer skewed, often conflicting, interpretations of the Beats that occasionally perpetuate misinformation or hide information. Sometimes these interpretations conflict with one another, which leads the reader to conclude that these are simply interpretations of Beat history. However. the subtitle, "A Graphic History" suggests that the book is objective. In addition, some of the comics simply fall flat. The opening Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs pieces are visually unexciting. Many panels involve characters speaking with one another instead of showing any actual action, which usually involves reading to audiences. It isn't until later in the collection that the artists take creative approaches to the imagery. Nonetheless, it begs the question why this book is in graphic novel form in the first place. I recommend this book to die-hard Beat enthusiasts who already know the history of the Beat Generation. However, I cannot recommend this book to newcomers to the Beats, which, unfortunately, seems to be the book's primary audience.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Belinda

    Very nice summation of the Beat movement by Harvey Pekar and many artists and writers--all of it carries Pekar's dark humor and opinions. The art is wonderful--varying from bio to bio. My only real complaint is the re-telling of the "misogynist" attitudes the male beats are always accused of and rumor mongering about Kerouac's sexuality (does not matter to me, but it's been called out as untrue by many people close to Kerouac.) I always find it ironic that people praise Ginsberg to the moon as t Very nice summation of the Beat movement by Harvey Pekar and many artists and writers--all of it carries Pekar's dark humor and opinions. The art is wonderful--varying from bio to bio. My only real complaint is the re-telling of the "misogynist" attitudes the male beats are always accused of and rumor mongering about Kerouac's sexuality (does not matter to me, but it's been called out as untrue by many people close to Kerouac.) I always find it ironic that people praise Ginsberg to the moon as the "kind" beat when he was more horrible to women than any of them. Even within this book there is the story of one of the Beat muses who Ginsberg used for many things (including as a secretary) and then broke her heart to the extent that she descended into madness and drug abuse and committed suicide. Other than some disinformation this is a really fun and entertaining way to get a basic idea of not only the most important beat artists but the more obscure beats.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is a really enjoyable, boiler-plate history of the Beats. The main focus for the first 100 pages is on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Pekar really peels away the mystique that these guys have developed and shows the people behind the mythos (and what terrible people they could be, racist, homophobic, openly misogynist, pedopheliac, murderous bastards they were). The second half of the book is dedicated to the perennially over-looked figures of the movement like d.a. Levy, Diane De prima, This is a really enjoyable, boiler-plate history of the Beats. The main focus for the first 100 pages is on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Pekar really peels away the mystique that these guys have developed and shows the people behind the mythos (and what terrible people they could be, racist, homophobic, openly misogynist, pedopheliac, murderous bastards they were). The second half of the book is dedicated to the perennially over-looked figures of the movement like d.a. Levy, Diane De prima, Slim "The Janitor" Brundage and many others. These are also some great essays on City Lights bookstore, and the role that girl-beats played in all of this. Like any graphic collection, its all very truncated, but considering its just under 200 pages it does present an incredible amount of un-sugarcoated biographic and contextual information.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the lives of the Beats in a graphic novel format. It is such a fitting way to tell their stories, and should be considered an important contribution to the ongoing tale of the Beat generation. This book, I feel, both adds to their mystique and tears down a lot of the wonder and awe surrounding them. Really, they were a bunch of loathsome characters--scumbags--misogynist jerks. Nonetheless, they did change the world in their own way, broke down walls, surely. Th I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the lives of the Beats in a graphic novel format. It is such a fitting way to tell their stories, and should be considered an important contribution to the ongoing tale of the Beat generation. This book, I feel, both adds to their mystique and tears down a lot of the wonder and awe surrounding them. Really, they were a bunch of loathsome characters--scumbags--misogynist jerks. Nonetheless, they did change the world in their own way, broke down walls, surely. Their influence is still strongly felt. More than other writers, it's difficult to separate their own lives from their writing. That is such a huge part of their movement and why I found this book so fascinating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    I had a sense this would be very good and it was. It is set up nicely. Having separate chapters on Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Then it swithces gears and gets into the lesser known beats, the SF scene and the City Lights Bookstore. This is a must have for anyone interested in the beats, and the medium of graphics really fits well. It is hilarious, and informative. It should prove a springboard for many in discovering more about this dynamic time. Within the graphic story it also mentions work I had a sense this would be very good and it was. It is set up nicely. Having separate chapters on Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. Then it swithces gears and gets into the lesser known beats, the SF scene and the City Lights Bookstore. This is a must have for anyone interested in the beats, and the medium of graphics really fits well. It is hilarious, and informative. It should prove a springboard for many in discovering more about this dynamic time. Within the graphic story it also mentions works by the authors, that would be well to get acquainted with. Highly recomended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Irwan

    I saw the best minds of The Beats generation. Enviable for their heroic freedom, non-conformity, and original, long-lasting, liberating impact in the history. Not so for their pains and torturous life. Some self inflicted. Short lived, yet-possibly-meaningful lives. I saw the best minds of my generation immersed in the perverted, middle-class, non-stop streaming of non information. One-second wisdom of statuses and tweets, scraping for the minuscule of drama, one and then to the next. Unquenchable I saw the best minds of The Beats generation. Enviable for their heroic freedom, non-conformity, and original, long-lasting, liberating impact in the history. Not so for their pains and torturous life. Some self inflicted. Short lived, yet-possibly-meaningful lives. I saw the best minds of my generation immersed in the perverted, middle-class, non-stop streaming of non information. One-second wisdom of statuses and tweets, scraping for the minuscule of drama, one and then to the next. Unquenchable thirst. My nameless generation.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    There's is nothing wrong with the artwork and I generally like Harvey Pekar, but this graphic volume that illustrates the lives of both the dominant and lesser figures of the Beat movement has a feel of just being dumbed down biography. It may work as an introduction for someone completely unfamiliar with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs...etc. But if you have some knowledge of these authors and would like to know more, you would be better served in reading some full length biographies.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    The 3 main stories are annoying. Kerouac story is particularly annoying. Other material is a mixed bag. A few stories in the latter half of the book are drawn well and entertaining, but there's also some really stupid stuff in here. If you're really into the Beats this may be even more annoying than if you're not. In short, this book is mostly annoying and not recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nick Kives

    This book starts out strong and interesting. First 100 pages are on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, but then the next 100 pages are just short blurbs about 20 other people. Not enough to give real information about them except to list their name.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susana Moragrega

    Could have gotten this from Wikipedia.

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