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I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg Hardcover – October 5, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; annotated edition edition (October 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670037966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670037964
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Really good biography, hard to put down, would highly recommend.
Tayter Bill
Bill Morgan allows the reader to understand and appreciate, in such an interesting narrative, Ginsberg's unique style of poetry.
mary helen wiesel
Bill Morgan's new book about the poet Allen Ginsberg, "I Celebrate Myself", rates at the top of my favorites list.
Lita M. Gamgort

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David S. Nichols on December 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are now many biographies of Allen Ginsberg. Shumacher's Dharma Lion stands out as a particular favorite, and the book-length poem by Ed Sanders is not to be overlooked. Most take a bird's-eye view of this poet and his life. Because of his long personal relationship with Ginsberg as his archivist and bibliographer, Morgan stood closer to his subject, both personally and through his access to the prolific journals Ginsberg diligently kept from the age of eleven to the end of his life, than any previous biographer has, or any future biographer is likely to.

The result is a biography whose intimacy and authority are unparalleled. For or some at least, this will be a decidedly mixed blessing. Those with a strong aversion to sexual revelation and description will be distracted if not put off, for Ginsberg was possessed of a ruthless, at times self-defeating, candor in all matters sexual, as readers familiar with his poetry will know. But, as Morgan shows, he was equally candid in all other areas of his life and feeling.

He was also deeply flawed, persistently naive and hopeful about the numerous lifelong friends he made in his days at Columbia and shortly thereafter: Kerouac, a drunk Republican mama's-boy and anti-semite, whose friendship Ginsberg treasured and whose work he championed to long after Kerouac's death; Huncke, who mooched and stole from him repeatedly; Burroughs, who, for a time lusted after him, but at others was inaccessible and gratuitously mean to Ginsberg's life partner, Peter Orlovsky; Cassady, an insatiable womanizer and artful dodger, or worse; Corso, who embarrassed and abused him often; and Orlovsky himself, heterosexual, chronically unstable and addicted to alcohol and amphetamines, and not infrequently interpersonally and physically destructive.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By mary helen wiesel on November 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend Bill Morgan's "I Celebrate Myself", a biography of the late poet, Allen Ginsberg, a "Beat Generation" writer. Bill Morgan allows the reader to understand and appreciate, in such an interesting narrative, Ginsberg's unique style of poetry. I was truly captivated by this poet's life and work that the book seemed to be much shorter than it actually was. In addition to the title "I Celebrate Myself" from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," I especially enjoyed Bill Morgan's innovative approach of describing occurrences in Ginsberg's personal life that influenced his writing by placing in the margins of the book, the titles of the poems that Ginsberg was writing at the time. This creates for the reader an immediate interest and desire to read Ginsberg's poetry. "I Celebrate Myself" was a joy and adventure to read, and I learned so much about this sensitive, brilliant, and compassionate poet of the twentieth century. Fascinating Book!!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lita M. Gamgort on December 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Bill Morgan's new book about the poet Allen Ginsberg, "I Celebrate Myself", rates at the top of my favorites list. I was immediately captivated when I read in the Introduction about an incident where Ginsberg saw a poor woman who was about to be attacked by an angry dog.Ginsberg went to her and asked,"Would you like a fig newton?" From then on I couldn't stop reading.

The book is full of many interesting facts about Ginsberg's life and poetry.His writings represent the turbulence of the cultural revolution of the time and this book is a wonderful testament to this eccentric and unique writer's talent. I applaud and congratulate Bill Morgan for his superb book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Occam's Toothbrush on November 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Its obvious that Bill Morgan had access to alot of primary materials in writing this biography of Allen Ginsberg, which is clearly a labor of love for the author. And rightly so. Ginsberg's humanity shines thru on these pages - generosity, kindness, creativity, eccentricity, but mostly a dedication to live fully and richly without excuse.

I didnt know much of Ginsberg before I read the book; he seemed at best a minor talent in a discipline I knew little about, at worst a mentally ill crank. But Morgan's book drew me in deeper and deeper, and I soon saw the genius of Ginsberg, a genuis manifested in both his art and his life, which I assume Ginsberg would say were one and the same. In this age of greedy hucksters passing as 'artists', Ginsberg was the real deal. A fascinating human being in the best sense of the word.

Thank you Mr Morgan for such a labor of love.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erik Steevens on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading "Dharma Lion" an also biobook about Allen Ginsberg which I loaned from a library,
I bought this incredible work
In my opinion everybody should read it, it gives a very importanted view of the American culture & history
and for my part Allen Ginsberg was and still is a very important milestone in human history
give this great man a statue
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Bromberg on August 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Reading "I Celebrate Myself" provides a skeleton key to Ginsberg's public obsessions, as well as his private life, as if there were whole new aspects to discover. What was there more to know about the poet whose lifelong ambitions were to find love and acceptance, as well as understanding, from his family, acquaintances, and even from total strangers?

Much, apparently. Not unlike that other obsessive diarist and collector, Andy Warhol, Ginsberg noted everything that happened and wrote it all down, from the William Blake-inspired epiphanies to the failed sexual encounters, and eventually hired assistants who had the task of sorting it all out.

It's a biography not for the squeamish or the faint-of-heart. "I Celebrate Myself" (Morgan's title, taken from Walt Whitman, is not without a little Ginsberg-style self-promotion) is a rollercoaster ride through much of the twentieth century, most of it in a society of underground circles and outside the pale of contemporary considerations.

Early on, however, there are Ginsberg's early, earnest struggles to find a place in 1940s post-war America: the bright student (a genius!) involves himself in a round of well-intentioned jobs, enrollment at Columbia, letters of introduction to literary journals, trying to scale the walls of society in very acceptable ways. He entered Columbia, originally, in hopes of becoming a lawyer.

He tries drugs with a scientific experimenter's zeal, writes unsatisfactory poetry in pale imitation of his literary models, falls in and out of love trying to make up his mind who -- or what -- he really wants.

But poetry becomes the hinge that opens the door.
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