The Portable Beat Reader

The Portable Beat Reader

by Ann Charters (Editor)


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Beginning in the late 1940's, American literature discovered a four-letter word, and the word was "beat." Beat as in poverty and beatitude, ecstasy and exile. Beat was Jack Kerouac touring the American road in prose as fast and reckless as a V-8 Chevy. It was the junk-sick surrealism of William Burroughs; the wild, Whitmanesque poetry of Allen Ginsberg; and the lumberjack Zen of Gary Snyder.

The Portable Beat Reader collects the most significant writing of these and fellow members (and spiritual descendants) of the Beat Generation, including Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, Bob Dylan, Leroi Jones, and Michael McClure. In poetry, fiction, essays, song lyrics, letters, and memoirs, it captures the triumphant rudeness, energy, and exhilaration of a movement that swept through American letters with hurricane force.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142437537
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/29/2003
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 688
Sales rank: 150,120
Product dimensions: 5.07(w) x 7.73(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

Ann Charters, professor of English at the University of Connecticut, has been interested in Beat writers since 1956. After completing her doctorate she worked with Jack Kerouac to compile his bibliography. She has written a literary study of Charles Olson and biographies of black entertainer Bert Williams, and (with her husband) the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. She was the general editor of the two-volume encyclopaedia The Beats: Literary Bohemians In Postwar America and has published a collection of her photographic portraits of well-known writers in the book Beats & Company. She has also edited Jack Kerouac's On the Road for Penguin Modern Classics.



Date of Birth:

November 10, 1936

Place of Birth:

Bridgeport, Connecticut


B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1957; M.A., Columbia University, 1959; Ph.D., 1965

Table of Contents

The Portable Beat ReaderIntroduction
"Variations On A Generation"

Part I
"The Best Minds Of A Generation"
East Coast Beats

Editor's Note

1. Jack Kerouac
On the Road (excerpt)
The Subterraneans (excerpt)
Mexico City Blues (excerpt)
211th Chorus
239th Chorus
240th Chorus
241st Chorus
242nd Chorus
"Essentials of Spontaneous Prose"
"Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

2. Allen Ginsberg
"Footnote to Howl"
"A Supermarket in California"
"Sunflower Sutra"
"On Burroughs' Work"

3. William Burroughs
Junky (excerpt)
The Yage Letters (excerpt)
Naked Lunch (excerpt)
"Deposition: Testimony Concerning a Sickness"

4. Herbert Huncke
"Elsie John"
"Joey Martinez"

5. John Clellon Holmes
Go (excerpt)

6. Carl Solomon
Mishaps, Perhaps (excerpt)

7. Gregory Corso
"I Am 25"
"The Mad Yak"
"Vision of Rotterdam"
"Variations on a Generation" (excerpt)

Part 2
"Heart Beat"
Enter Neal Cassady

Editor's Note

1. Neal Cassady
Letters to Jack Kerouac, 1947-1950

2. Jack Kerouac
Letter to Neal Cassady, early 1951

3. Neal Cassady
The First Third (excerpt)

4. Jack Kerouac
Visions of Cody (excerpt)

Part 3
"Constantly Risking Absurdity"
Some San Francisco Renaissance Poets

Editor's Note

1. Kenneth Rexroth
"Thou Shalt Not Kill"
"Poems from the Japanese"
"Rexroth: Shaker and Maker" by William

2. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"Constantly Risking Absurdity"
"In Goya's greatest scenes . . ."
"One Thousand Fearful Words for Fidel Castro"
"Horn on Howl

3. Michael McClure
"Peyote Poem"
Scratching the Beat Surface (excerpt)
Includes Snyder's poem, "A Berry Feast," Whalen's poem, "Plus Ca Change..."
McClure's poems, "Point Lobos: Animism" and "For the Death of 100 Whales"

4. Gary Snyder
"Mid-August at Sourdough Montain Lookout
"Milton by Firelight"
"Praise for Sick Women"
"Night Highway Ninety-nine"
"Higashi Hongwanji"
"Notes on the Religious Tendencies"

5. Philip Whalen
"Sourdough Mountain Lookout"
"A Dim View of Berkeley in the Spring"
"Prose Take-Out, Portland 13:ix:58"

6. Philip Lamantia
"The night is a space of white marble"
"I have given fair warning"
"There is this distance between me and what I see"
"Fud at Foster's"

7. Lew Welch
"Chicago Poem"
"The Basic Con"
"Taxi Suite—After Anacreon"
"Not Yet 40, My Beard Is Already White"
"The Image, as in a Hexagram"
"I Saw Myself"

8. Bob Kaufman
"Round About Midnight"
"Jazz Chick"

Part 4
"A Few Blue Words To The Wise"
Other Fellow Travelers

Editor's Note

1. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
"In Memory of Radio"
"Way Out West"
"The Screamers"
Letter About Kerouac's Prose

2. Ray Bremser
"Funny Lotus Blues..."

3. Diane DiPrima
"Three Laments"
"Song for Baby-O, Unborn"
"The Practice of Magical Evocation"
"Brass Furnace Going Out"

4. Bob Dylan
"Blowin' in the Wind"
"The Times They Are A-Cahngin'"
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
Tarantula (excerpt)

5. Brenda Frazer (Bonni Bremser)
"Poem to Lee Forest"

6. Tuli Kupferberg
"Greenwich Village of My Dreams"
1001 Ways to Beat the Draft (excerpt)

7. Jack Micheline
"Poet of the Streets"

8. Frank O'Hara
"Les Luths"
"Post the Lake Poets Ballad"
"Personal Poem"
"The Day Lady Died"

9. Peter Orlovsky
"Lepers Cry"

10. Ed Sanders
"Poem from Jail" (excerpt)
"The Cutting Prow"

11. Anne Waldman
"Our Past"

12. John Wieners
"A poem for record players"
"A poem for tea heads"
"A poem for museum goers"
"A poem for the insane"
"Feminine Soliloquy"
"Children of the Working Class"

Part 5
"Tales of Beatnik Glory"
Memoirs and Posthumous Tributes

Editor's Note

1. Charles Bukowski
Notes of a Dirty Old Man (excerpt)

2. William Burroughs, Jr.
Kentucky Ham (excerpt)

3. Carolyn Cassady
Off the Road (excerpt)

4. Diane DiPrima
Dinners and Nightmares (excerpt)

5. Brenda Frazer (Bonnie Bremser)
Troia: Mexican Memoirs (excerpt)

6. Brion Gysin
"The Beat Hotel, Paris" (excerpt)

7. Joyce Johnson
Minor Characters (excerpt)

8. Hettie Jones
How I Became Hettie Jones (excerpt)

9. Jan Kerouac
Baby Driver (excerpt)

10. Ken Kesey
"The Day After Superman Died" (excerpt)

11. Michael McClure
The Mad Cub (excerpt)

12. Ed Sanders
Tales of Beatnik Glory (excerpt)

Part 6
"The Unspeakable Visions Of The Individual"
Later Work

Editor's Note

1. William Burroughs
Nova Express (excerpt)

2. Gregory Corso
"Columbia U Poesy Reading—1975"
"The Whole Mess . . . Almost"

3. Diane Di Prima
"April Fool Birthday Poem for Grandpa"
Loba: Parts I-VIII (excerpt)

4. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"The Canticle of Jack Kerouac"
"Uses of Poetry"
"Short Story on a Painting of Gustav Klimt"

5. Allen Ginsberg
"First Party at Ken Kesey's"
"Wichita Vortex Sutra"
"Anti-Vietnam War Peace Mobilization"
"Ode to Failure"
"White Shroud"
"Fourth Floor, Dawn, Up All Night"
Writing Letters

6. Michael McClure
"Song (I Work with the Shape)"
"It's Nation Time"
"Watching the Stolen Rose"
"The Death of Kin Chuen Louie"

7. Ed Saunders
"Hymn to Archilochus"
"What Would Tom Paine Do?" (Song)

8. Gary Snyder
"Smokey the Bear Sutra"
"I Went into the Maverick Bar"
"Mother Earth: Her Whales"
"The Bath"
"Axe Handles"
"Pine Tree Tops"

Appendix—Three Commentators
1. Norman Mailer
"The White Negro"

2. Alan Watts
"Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen"

3. John Clellon Holmes
"The Game of the Name" (excerpt)

Books For Further Reading

Index Of Authors And Titles


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A deft and definitive collection. It catches the flavor of playful, serious defiance of the whole generation." — Gary Snyder

Customer Reviews

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Portable Beat Reader 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
DavenportsDream on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So you have been sitting around the house wondering what to do? Smoking some reefer and listening to jazz? Then must be just about time for you to flip through The Portable Beat Reader. It gives you a good glimpse at all the usual subjects: Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, etal...and also may give you a glimpse into some you may not have known: DiPrima, Corso, Casady. Overall you would be much better served by picking up some favorite pieces by the ones you enjoy, but half the fun in life is picking up on something you have never read before and digging it. There can be no better place for an introduction to beat writing of any sort than right here...Now go throw on your Bud Powell record and use that LP cover for something besides storing an album. Groovy
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a good smorgasbord of beat lit. For people who want a good overview, you will find it here. As with any anthology there are some people whose inclusion is questionable, but that just gives more grist for the mill.
gazzy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most of the times I think I'd rather hang out with them than read their stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has so much to offer a student or interested person who is studying the beatniks. It includes classics such as Ginaberg's 'Howl' and excerpts from Kerouac's 'On the Road'. This book illustrates wonderfully the mindset of a generation before Vietnam that questioned their surroundings and openlly talked about its problems.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides information enough to be of interest to the casual reader, a beat expert, someone who already knows a little about beatnik culture, or someone you want to become intersted in the literature. All the necessary information is there, plus a little extra. My only criticism is that it can't include all the writers of the movement, but then the book would be the size of the Complete Works of Shakespeare plus a city phonebook, so then you'd have to that 'Portable' out of the title. But, this book is amazing, definately readable.