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The Beat generation of writers sought literary achievement, but contemporary fashion, entertainment, and opinion columnists granted them much more notice than did literary critics. When Jack Kerouac, author of (1957) and the unwitting Daddy of the Beatniks, died in 1969 with only one of his twenty-some books in print, the Beat generation seemed destined to fade away, maybe to be remembered primarily as precursors to the politically engaged hippie movement. Time has proven otherwise. In the thirty years following Kerouac's death, more than a dozen biographers have covered his life, replacing the popular press's snapshots with deeply researched tomes that depict a serious and dedicated writer at work. The other major Beat writers—Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs, who all died in the past decade—have likewise had their lives recorded by biographers. References to the Beat writers in popular songs, movies, and television shows constitute a further tribute to their cultural relevance and to the popularity they maintain with the public at large. As distance from the 1950s increased and the 1960s counterculture bore fruit with solid social developments in the 1970s and beyond, many social critics overhauled earlier dismissals of the Beats' significance. It is now clear that the Beats [End Page 747] heralded a refreshing new age of social and literary freedoms that was taken up by the next generation of writers and activists. Solidifying their literary standing, the Beat writers' key works have appeared in reprints even as new and previously unpublished works have come out. Conferences on the Beats held at universities have focused increasingly on the literary value as well as social influence of these writers. Generally, the key Beat writers are now seen as serious literary artists who produced important and seminal work. , edited by Kostas Myrsiades, and , edited by Jennie Skerl, contribute significantly to a body of criticism and literary analysis of Beat writing that has developed over the last decade. The essays in these books enlarge and complicate our conceptions of the Beat generation and bring serious critical acumen to bear on the topic.
"This is the Beat Generation." New York Times 16 November 1952.
The Birth of the Beat Generation.
Regina Weinreich’s contribution to this volume provides a good, succinct overview of the Beat movement. The volume as a whole provides excellent context for other mid-century literature and culture that the Beats were, at turns, influenced by and reacting against.
They were called the beat generation.
Something of a textbook for the study of US Buddhism, an accessible book to contextualize the Beats within Buddhism proper. Seager addresses the Beats, drug culture, and material culture.