From Publishers Weekly
Ginsberg apparently approached each interviewer "as a future Buddha"; open to any opportunity for conversation, he answered every question, no matter how rude or peculiar. An unpublished 1983 interview here with Steve Foehr consists of one query about the relationship between art and commerce and Ginsberg's seven-page answer ("I simply hung on and tried to get it all written down," says Foehr); others fill only half of a page. The Beat master reiterates that all of his thoughts and expressions emerge from his 1948 auditory hallucination of the voice of William Blake, whose poetic rhythms, childlike innocence, social vision and volatile emotionalism infused Ginsberg's every utterance thereafter. Taken together, these interviews read like an immense jazz oratorio, with rising and falling riffs on prosody, politics, sex, hallucinogens, ecology, jazz, psychoanalysis, Buddhism and his favorite authors Blake, of course, and also Whitman, Pound, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams and Kerouac. Editor Carter, who worked with Ginsberg on one of the first gay cable television shows, provides helpful headnotes for all 30 interviews (culled from some 350), and a "Biographical List" identifies approximately 200 people mentioned in the text. If the 1972 Gay Sunshine interview is the most intimate of these pieces and the excerpt from Ginsberg's testimony in the 1969 Chicago Seven trial the funniest, the strangest entry is surely the 1988 is surely the 1988 Chronicles interview by John Lofton, who wanted "to confront [Ginsberg] with the Truth of God's Word." As Lofton tries to compel the self-described "excitable visionary Jewish Buddhist" to admit the error of his ways, Ginsberg demonstrates his essential sweet nature and his love of verbal Ping-Pong. Carter captures the best of his witty, generous chatter here.
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Ginsberg pumped out poems for 50 years. Yet his greatest gift was for conversation. When he conversed, he used a
, and the
like any normal person, which makes his talk more readable than his article-deficient writing. When he conversed, he didn't goof off as he did when reciting, and that makes what he said more cogent than what he wrote. So this generous selection of Ginsberg interviews is the best introduction to date to his intentions as artist and public figure. He explains the combination of Charles Olson's conception of "projective" verse with Jack Kerouac's instructions in spontaneous composition that became his own poetic practice according to the maxim "First thought, best thought." He explains that he was in Chicago for the riots during the 1968 Democratic presidential nominating convention on a peacekeeping mission. He explains his lifelong lust for men and boys as a matter of healthy candor, of Whitmanian adhesiveness, of acknowledging beauty, etc. And he is convincing, especially when facing an unfriendly interlocutor, such as William F. Buckley and the born-again Christian who talked with him for the paleoconservative journal Chronicles
. But he is convincing about his sincerity more than his wisdom--or so many may think, even as they nod appreciatively and murmur, "Oh, now I get it." Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved