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East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg Hardcover – November 29, 2011
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"Gordon Ball has written an important book. He is already known as a filmmaker and editor of earlier collections of writings by Allen Ginsbergincluding Allen Verbatim (1974) and three volumes of Ginsberg’s journalsas well as the author of the memoir 66 Frames (1999). Now Ball deserves to be called the Beat Boswell” for providing his uniquely personal, detailed account of the years 1968 to 1971 when he participated in and observed the people and events at Allen Ginsberg’s farm five miles from Cherry Valley, New York. Anyone interested in Ginsberg’s life and work, or desirous to explore the gritty daily reality of the Beat/Hippie lifestyle, will find this book essential reading."Ann Charter
"In writing a memoir about the time he spent managing Allen Ginsberg’s farm in upstate New York, Gordon Ball has detailed an important yet often overlooked side of the poet’s colorful life. Anecdotally fertile, with a memorable cast of characters, East Hill Farm is informative, entertaining, often very funny, and ultimately important. Allen Ginsberg and Friends live again in these pages." Michael Schumacher, author of Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg
I couldn’t stop reading East Hill Farm and learning so much of what really went down on that farm in that so crucial period in the lives of the Beats. I visited the farm just twice but wish I had had Ball’s innocent yet so perceptive eye.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"In the late 1960s, poet Allen Ginsberg bought an isolated, broken-down farm in upstate New York as a retreat for himself and his worn-out, burned-out friends. Ginsberg hoped to create an Elysium where they could escape from the urban pressures and drug addictions that had laid Kerouac, Corso, Orlovsky, and Huncke so low. Only a masterful story-teller like Gordon Ball could turn a depressing tale of poets at rock bottom into a triumph of the human spirit. Ball's East Hill Farm is one of the most intimate memoirs I've read about those wild, back-to-nature expeditionary times which so many baby-boomers recall. Ball has painstakingly traced his days as the "farm manager" who tried to plant the crops, do the chores, and keep on an even keel while the rest of the tribe were literally bouncing off the walls. It led him to tremendous joy, sadness, ecstasy, and a black eye. This is a personal book that examines the period that changed Americafor better or worse? You decide. Bill Morgan, author of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg
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During these years he was almost ever-present and, more than anyone else, responsible for the smooth day to day running of the farm and the hard work involved in trying to make it more self-sustaining and habitable. This was also the period of time when the farm had the greatest number of residents and visitors.
His writing is never judgmental, always gently perceptive in his observations of the challenges posed both by the decrepit state of the farm itself and by the idiosyncrasies of those living there.
This is my sense of what the book is about:
(1) The farm itself: abandoned for seven years with no running water, no electricity. It is impressive just how much back breaking work Gordon, Peter Orlovsky, and others put in, and how hard this was. Week in, week out, there was so much work to do, especially during the growing season.
(2) The backdrop of the times. Gordon vividly conveys the particular craziness of those years. John Sinclair and Tim Leary both received insane jail terms on dubious charges of minimal marijuana possession. The government was getting deeper and deeper into Viet Nam. There was growing polarisation in society of war and anti war, drug user and straight, long hair and short, permissiveness and conformity. Revolution and violence were in the air. This deepening polarisation eventually led Allen to begin meditating for an hour a day on a regular basis, something that would develop further once he got to know Chogyam Trungpa in the early `70s.Read more ›
(Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011).
In the late sixties and mid seventies Gordon Ball did a good job editing some of Ginsberg's journals while writing his own. He's meticulous. Get halfway through the book and it's still only the spring of 69. He was a movie maker. Gregory Corso taunts him by saying that all movie makers do is point a camera but he's a POET and he does something. Funny stuff.
He kept a journal and the book follows the journal authentically. It just goes to show how much a person can forget without some type of record. The book is spliced into more or less chronological incidents of life on Ginsberg's farm focusing on the personalities that resided or visited. This book is so detailed it's really refreshing.
I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but I just couldn't wait for this book to end. It was like: oh know, he's gonna talk about his sexual relations again-he provides mondo detail about all the pseudonymous women he slept with-and there were plenty-good for him-but I thought this was about Ginsberg's farm? Maybe Ginsberg's farm was about sex, maybe sex is the crux of poetry, maybe poetry is the crux of sex. Maybe he wrote this memoir to impress his old lady.
Once Mr. Ball pissed me off. Barry Miles suggested that he go see the Mothers on Mother's Day instead of going to see Linda Ronstadt. He mentioned that he didn't like Zappa's "Suzy Creamcheese" put down of little girls, Zappa's stance turned him off. Okay that's fine, it's okay to have an opinion, and even I disagree with some of Zappa's pronouncements. But here we have a guy that details every sexual encounter he's ever had (for the whole world to see) (he uses pseudonyms and generally respectful) BUT Zappa's bad?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is a fascinating account, of a fascinating group of people, during a fascinating time. I would hope everyone buys this book and reads it. Read morePublished 15 months ago by keith woolford
As someone who was alive during the 1960s but too young to be aware of many of the cultural happenings, I found Ball's book to be singularly insightful as to the life and times of... Read morePublished on November 27, 2013 by Dutton Peabody, Editor
Gordon Ball, while at Davidson College, had a girlfriend who was supposedly very important to him. He spent a great deal of time going back and forth between Charlotte and... Read morePublished on October 27, 2013 by Yvonne Zemotel