“Mortenson’s revisionist study keeps a steady eye on the historical and cultural milieu of Beat writers, drawing on critical theory, feminism, and race/ethnicity studies to explore the movement’s larger impact on U.S. culture during the Cold War. This is a brilliant contribution to cultural poetics.”
—Michael Davidson, author of Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics
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Mortensen's concise and insightful book is a major contribution to studies in Beat literature. Every chapter engages with an important topic, for example, sexuality, the role of photography, visionary experience, concepts of utopia in William Burroughs and Ken Kesey, and the mid-20th-century obsession with authenticity. The author's comments on the Beats and existentialism clarify a murky relationship. Mortensen (Koe Univ., Istanbul) makes judicious use of literary theorists (especially Deleuze and Guattari) without neglecting the cultural and historical contexts of the period. He manages to do justice to women writers especially in relation to the conceptions of the orgasm, providing a full critique of Wilhelm Reich's influence. He also does justice to African American writers and to neglected figures like poet Lenore Kandel. The black-and-white illustrations are well chosen and include book covers, photographs, and works of art. The footnotes are stimulating, and most are a generous paragraph long. The indexing is thorough and the bibliography full. This is one of the best studies of Beat writers in recent times. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. -- B. Almon, University of Alberta
(B. Almon CHOICE
About the Author
Erik Mortenson is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. He has published essays on the Beats in a number of journals and in several books.