From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At times loving, at others blistering, sarcastic, often uncomfortably self-lacerating and intimate, these 200 letters, collected in a heroic editorial effort by Ginsberg biographer Morgan and independent editor Stanford, cover the years 1944–1963, the most fertile in the creative lives of Kerouac and Ginsberg. A disbelieving Ginsberg writes to Kerouac in 1952 that On the Road is unpublishable, while Kerouac asks Ginsberg to treat his magnum opus as the next Ulysses. Kerouac immediately praises Howl in 1955, and in return Ginsberg gives Kerouac the manuscript while recounting, like any hopeful author, how freebies have gone to Eliot, Pound, Faulkner. Throughout, the sometimes sporadic letter writing is filled with fragments of works in progress and pungent observations on the authors and publishing people who influenced them, from Dante and Gide to Malcolm Cowley and Sterling Lord. There also is plenty of gossip about Peter Orlovsky, William Burroughs, and others in the circle. A growing rift concludes the 1950s, as literary fame mixed with alcohol weighs on Kerouac, though these soul brothers reunite through letters of the early 1960s. On receiving GinsbergÖs work, Thelonius Monk exclaimed, "It makes sense." In its strange way, so does this intense and offbeat correspondence.
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In August 1944, Allen Ginsberg sends a letter to his close friend Jack Kerouac in care of the Bronx County Jail, where he’s incarcerated as a material witness in a murder case. So begins a profound 20-year correspondence about books, spiritual quests, sex, love, and the struggle for recognition. Morgan, author of The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation (2010), and editor Stanford showcase 200 high-voltage letters, most never before published, that embody the energy and psychic hunger that fueled the creativity of these giants of American literature. Ginsberg and Kerouac frolic and dive in the ocean of language, trading urgent confessions, bracing criticism, and mutual inspiration, using their passionate missives as proving grounds for their radical writing, core beliefs, and personal dilemmas. Here are intense inquiries into art, truth, and Buddhism; wild tales of narcotics, world travels, and their brother Beats, especially William Burroughs and Neal Cassady; and fresh insights into such seminal works as Ginsberg’s Howl and Kerouac’s On the Road. This incandescent collection deepens our understanding of an essential literary revolution. --Donna Seaman