From Publishers Weekly
It has become almost a cliché for biographers to speculate about their subjects' psychosexual oddities. But speculation is not necessary when the subject is Allen Ginsberg, because the legendary beat poet and countercultural figure proudly proclaimed his psychosexual oddities, from his youthful incestuous impulses toward his father and brother to his little-requited infatuations with beat golden boys like Neal Cassady and his later eye for young male acolytes. Indeed, Ginsberg meticulously documented all his doings and feelings, and Morgan, his archivist and bibliographer, relies on that trove. Morgan does little to shape the material; each chapter, bluntly titled with the calendar year, simply recounts 365 days' worth of parties, debauches, quarrels and breakups, drug experimentation, all-night debates about literature and philosophy, dead-end jobs, knock-about travels, psychoanalysis, ecstatic Blakean visions, depressed funks, homicides committed by friends, jazz, poetry readings and Ginsberg's contemporary ruminations on all the above. The disorganized, onrushing flow of experience is occasionally eye-glazing, and Morgan offers disappointingly little interpretation of Ginsberg's poems. But Ginsberg and his gang—Kerouac, Burroughs, Cassady et al.—are such vibrant, compelling characters that this mere straightforward chronicle of their lives approaches, as they intended, a fair imitation of art. Photos. (Oct. 9)
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The late Beatnik poet would have been 80 this year, and this massive life chronicle marks the occasion. Ginsberg was an indefatigable journaler, correspondent, and, especially in his latter years, photographer (he got good enough to publish, exhibit, and sell prints), which means Morgan has a rich trove of self-reportage to draw on. Morgan has also extensively interviewed Ginsberg's friends, and the resulting massive tome seems to note every movement Ginsberg ever made. Notes inserted on the margins of each page refer by title and page number to poems (in Collected Poems: 1947-1997
, which HarperCollins is issuing, also in October 2006, and at 1,000-plus pages and $39.95, relatively cheaply) written at the times of events reported in the text. This isn't a critical or interpretive biography, nor is it even fully descriptive, for Ginsberg's is virtually the only personal perspective given any expression in its pages. As a clear, exhaustive record of a very restless man's life journey, however, it will be invaluable to all future biographers. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved