Mosley’s Memory

Walter Mosely’s meditation on his first memories in The New York Times is a detailed account of awakening consciousness. Mosely, at the age of three — the year most likely is 1955  —  opens his eyes in front of the television in his parents’ home. He is suddenly flooded with images and sensations. He says, “in some essential way,” it was the beginning of his life.

“There was a sense of excitement tingling in my shoulders and thrumming at the back of my head; an electricity that made me want to laugh out loud, but I didn’t laugh…There was dark blue carpeting beneath my knees and the room I was in, the living room, was bright because of daylight that came through the windows and also from the front door of the adjacent dining room. This door was open but the screen was closed.”

What might have been stolen from this memory had the television been on?

That Mosley’s visual memory of  specific events some 55 years past are so acute and detailed isn’t so surprising in light of his fiction, which is also acutely visual and focused. His 2010 novel, The Last Days of Ptolmey Grey,  centers on a nonagenarian who suffers the consequences of reviving lost memory. But it’s safe to ask:  Does Mosely really remember all this detail? Does he really remember the floral pattern of his mother’s dress, the “spiky” feel of the grass beneath his bare feet, the paleness of the violet dahlias his father was digging with a hand trowel?

I’ve often been credited with unbelievable recall of my early years. I astonished my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles with details of an overnight stay in Children’s Hospital, a horse sticking its head through unshuttered windows one humid night on  distant cousins’ south Texas farm, the events surrounding my sisters birth; all occuring just before and when I was three. As I picture these things well over a half century later, I remember the times I remembered them and wonder if my memory is just recall of the memories, something akin to imagination, and not the memories themselves.

Mosley’s account, clearly remembered as he states, recalls the same kind of awakening Chris Ware illustrates in his last couple graphic novels as the pixels of toddler consciousness gather into image.  But Mosley goes on to express doubt at the depth of his formative memories. Nor does he attribute recollection to the mind:

The boundaries have become smaller as I have aged. The passions have receded and the sun shines less brightly. But none of that matters because the primitive heart that remembers is, in a way, eternal.

In the way a poet might, Mosley ties imagination, a creative function, to a symbol of the human spirit. It’s a brilliant piece, poignant and meaningful to our experience as well as his. —Cabbage Rabbit

Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lenny Bruce and Me

“I am the man who has best charted his inmost self.” Antonin Artaud quoted by Helen Weaver

Helen Weaver’s account of  her early days in Greenwich Village is misleadingly titled. Weaver, a new age author and translator nominated for a National Book Award in 1977 for her reading of Antonin Artaud, was a member of New York’s hip set in the 1950s and ’60s. She had affairs with Jack Kerouac and Lenny Bruce, a longstanding friendship with Allen Ginsberg and worked in the heart of the publishing scene for Harold Vursell and Roger W. Straus Jr. at Farrar, Straus and Cudhay, later Farrar, Straus and Giroux. So who’s the awakener in all this?

Well, it’s the guy whose name will sell the most books, thus the subtitle A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties.  But a large part of  the book deals in Weaver’s life without Kerouac. Equally interesting sections, some maybe more so,  deal in her relationship with Bruce and her own life in Greenwich Village, smoking pot, getting into jazz and generally pursuing a life of her own. If you’re thinking the book is strictly about Kerouac, you’ll be disappointed. Women also named Helen as well as guys named Tommy and Monty all help shake Weaver into consciousness.

But this is not  a disappointing book. Weaver’s story is a late coming-of-age tale in an era (and among a generation) that treated women with (mostly) quaint attitudes  (“Jack wouldn’t let me smoke dope; that was for the boys.”). She breaks away from a “middle-class” upbringing in Scarsdale, Pennsylvania and a dull first marriage. Weaver avidly pursues life, embracing hetro and homosexual relationships, indulging in drugs and following psychoanalysis. By the time you finish, you’ll think  Weaver awakened herself.

Weaver’s sexual awakening after undergraduate studies and while she was married has more affect on her development than the undependable, often drunk, brilliant writer who gave us On the Road.  “If women had suddenly been transformed from rivals to the objects of my desire,” she writes, ” then all my previous conditioning went out the window.”

This is also a story of privilege. Despite her claim to the middle-class, Weaver attended Oberlin, her father paid for her first Village apartment and much of her psychoanalysis and her career in publishing came from her connections.  She could afford to be different. When things don’t go well, the family is there to bail her out. Not every struggling artist or bohemian has that advantage.

Still, Weaver’s honesty about it all makes the book sincere and rewarding. She’s refreshingly disarming about her mistakes with men and women and her own youthful preoccupations, especially when viewed from her later years. And she’s particularly descriptive when it comes to her beloved Greenwich Village. Here are the clubs and coffee shops, the quaint streets and magical social scene that made the Village of the late ’50s and early ’60s a sort of Never Land for those avoiding the conformity of that era.

Weaver ends the book with Kerouac considerations, some pulled from reading, some from observation, some from astrology. These short chapters are the ones Kerouac devotees will be most interested in. Even when seeing “Pisces-Virgo contradictions” in the writer’s life, she’ll make insightful revelations: “Kerouac’s struggle with opposites was a rich source of creativity, the shifting ground on which he was able to arrive at symmetry or balance in his art.”   These same sort of contraditions, though less dramatic, make Weaver’s book  fascinating.–Cabbage Rabbit

Holden Caulfield, Guru

UPDATED (at end): Since the death of J.D. Salinger, there’s been scads of comment declaring his books as life-changers (or not) and plenty of speculation on what waits in his safe to be published or what might be made into a movie and even some of that personal, David Copperfield kind of crap. But there’s been precious little about why Salinger’s great achievement, The Catcher In the Rye, had the impact it had. How is it that the story of a post-World War II, New York prep-school kid spoke across class and generational divides to six decades of teens as well as adults? What is it that continues to speak to readers, not only in the competitive world of New York private schools, but to kids in Nebraska, California and Montana as well (this may be changing) ? Why do those of us who read it more years back than we’d like to remember and, picking it up again, still find plenty of laughs, poignancy  and situations to identify with?

Salinger’s Holden Caulfield does what all adolescents do:  struggle to define identity (see Erik Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis).  Holden’s struggle overwhelms him. What teenager can’t empathize with his alienation? The book is full of things that teenagers still hear:  “frequent warnings to start applying myself”  (“applying?”…what does that mean?), and “life being a game” ( “Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game all right–I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side….”). Sexual identity adds confusion, lots of confusion: “Sex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t” and, “In my mind, I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw.” Holden’s sensitivity leads him to find the importance attached to the innocuous discouraging. “If somebody, some girl in an awful looking hat, for instance, comes all the way to New York — from Seattle, Washington for God’s sake–and ends up getting up early to see the goddamn first show at Radio City Music Hall, it makes me so depressed I can’t stand it.” Then there’s hypocrisy. Remember Ossenburger, the Pencey graduate who made “a pot of dough in the undertaking business”? How in his address to the students,  “He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs”?

Phonies. They’re the bane of Holden’s existence. And who’s the biggest phony? “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life,” Holden says.  Remember him on the train home feeding manure to Ernie Morrow’s mother about how great her son was? (“Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school.”) Somehow, we know we aren’t really who we think we are (Holden: “I’m quite illiterate, but I read alot.”), a realization that puts us in Caulfield-like crisis.   This is the “fidelity” stage of Erikson’s   personality theory. Society’s push to make us conform puts Holden in a quandary. Where do the ducks in Central Park go when the pond is frozen? Why does Holden wear his red hunting cap with his pajamas?

That the story is told with humor and a certain spoken rhythm adds to its authenticity. Salinger pioneered the irreverent, scatological humor so prevalent in movie comedies of the last several decades (“The only good part of the speech was right in the middle of it….all of a sudden this guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in chapel and all…”). The swearing–still the bane of high school librarians everywhere–not only adds realism but a sense of the phoniness directed towards teens.  “I toleja about that. I don’t like that type of language,” says the woman that Holden dances with in his hotel’s lounge.  Holden’s relationship to adults–his parents, cab drivers, waiters,  elevator operator and prostitute–contrasted with that to his 10-year-old sister Phoebe seems too idealistic, as if children could never be mean or  phony. But it stands as a symbol of innocence and genuineness, a  nostalgic cry for our lost childhood.

The book’s central image, the catcher in the rye keeping children from going over the edge, speaks to this nostalgia. In my case, it led to a life dedicated to working with children, a result that was a slight misinterpretation of what Salinger probably intended. But right reading of the image or wrong, my life was changed. Salinger’s other books didn’t affect me as deeply, though I loved them well. The Nine Stories, Raise High the Roof Beam ,Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction were lessons on the sometimes radical actions that come of identity confusion and the use of those actions as symbol for larger meaning. Franny and Zooey introduced us to a type of specific yet undefinable spirituality that has since been embraced by writers ranging from Isabelle Allende to Jim Harrison. As good as these books are, they seem footnotes in Salinger’s career. But Holden Caulfield? He’s our  guru.–Cabbage Rabbit

UPDATE: Adam Gopnik’s sparkling Salinger “Postscript” in the February 8th issue of The New Yorker sums up Salinger’s writing better than anything else we’ve read. He writes of Salinger’s ear for American dialogue, his “essential gift for joy” and, how “that amid the malice and falseness of social life, redemption rises from clear speech, and childlike enchantment, from all the forms of unselfconscious innocence that still surround us,” statements that explain Salinger’s fascination with children and his reluctance to paint them or their experience as perfect. “writing, real writing,” he says, ” is done not from some seat of fussy moral judgment but with the eye and ear and heart; no American writer will ever have a more alert ear, a more attentive eye, or a more ardent heart than his.”  Note to writers (including self): Forget that MFA, “high-hearted” moral posturing and all the other (to borrow Holden’s word ) crap and start paying closer attention to what you hear from those around you as well as your own heart.

Mad Man

There’s much to quibble over in Abram’s big, beautiful The Art of Harvey Kurtzman (the “man” in Kurtzman isn’t spelled out but drawn as  simplistic balloon-stick figure). Why include the complete “Superduperman” from Mad no. 4 (1953) instead of  samples from “Dragged Net!,” the parody of television’s cigarette-selling, L.A Cop promoting Dragnet or “Bat Boy and Rubin” that parodied the legal power of comic book publishers and the homoerotic relationship between the protagonists or show more of the incredible post-horrors-of-war Two-Fisted Tales or, or…

That’s the problem with writer, illustrator, editor and Mad magazine founder Kurtzman. His career was so long, varied and important; so influential to American humor at large, that it would be impossible to do it justice in any single volume. His early strip work for Timely Comics and Stan Lee, his sci-fi and war stories for Will Gaines’ EC, the founding of Mad and its turn from comic to magazine, the follow-up publications  Trump, Humbug and Help, the bread-and-butter work of “Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy, his late work for the French alternative market; any overview can only touch work that all deserves long and serious consideration.

This over-sized book, selected and annotated by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, does an impressive job to highlight the obvious as well as illuminate less well-known aspects of the Kurtzman legacy.  Including everything from high-school woodcuts to his 1988 cover-design for the graphic novel Kings In Design this big volume would embarrass any coffee table with its crazed and crazy riches.

Not only did Kurtzman direct the course and tenor of  social satire, he employed and/or influenced many of its greatest artists and writers. Terry Gilliam came up at Kurtzman’s side where he was first introduced to John Cleese. Both Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb credit their success to Kurtzman. Even Gloria Steinem came up through Kurtzman’s rank ranks. Successful humor enterprises from National Lampoon to The Onion all wear their Harvey Kurtzman influences proudly. Kitchen and Buhle effectively quote a host of big names to find Kurtzman’s esteemed place in culture. On their own, they seem to have some trouble defining his importance. His work, they write,  not only gave us “critical insights that shaped our view of vernacular art and its uses, but it also helped shape the world as it came our of the war in the 1940s by giving us a very different future.”  A discussion of how Kurtzman shaped the future outside of the world of graphic arts and satire is lacking.

Kurtzman’s biography isn’t full of success. He was constantly  looking for ways to make money and remain true to his individual and artistic beliefs. It’s not surprising that anyone who challenges the status quo to the extremes that he did would find tough sailing in America. Kurtzman’s death in 1993 was given short shrift by the mainstream press and might have been entirely lost on the public if not for efforts by Spiegelman and Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker. His reputation was always secure among those he influenced and those who enjoyed bits of his work, even if it was consumed under bed covers by flashlight. This book goes a long way to lift the entire body of his work.–Cabbage Rabbit

Hefner’s True Love

Hugh Hefner may have had dozens of girlfriends over his 83 years, but his life-long love is jazz. Hefner declared his undying devotion to swing and big band music when the Rabbit interviewed him in 2008 for an inside story, “Jazz Playboy Style.” With all the recent attention, good and bad, given to Hefner —  Brigitte Berman’s documentary ” Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel that premiered at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, a  forth coming Hollywood biopic to be directed by Brent Ratner, a feature in the New York Times, rumors of financial problems and bad mouthings from former girlfriends — the Rabbit feels its time to revisit Hefner’s jazz legacy. Everyone knows what he did for the middle-class male libido. Let’s not overlook what he’s done for music.

“My own taste in music, as is often the case, was defined by my early experiences,“ he said in an afternoon call from the mansion. “There were two major sources of music in those days, the big band broadcasts on radio and recordings. I had some occasion in high school to take a girlfriend to a ballroom or a theater and see a band. I saw the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, the Harry James Orchestra, a couple of my favorites at the time. I really love the early origins of the music, the Dixieland, blues, and New Orleans music of the ‘20s and ‘30s. One of my favorites is Bix Beiderbecke. We still play a lot of him around here.”

Playboy’s affair with jazz dates to its very first issue in 1953 that included, along with the famous pictorial of “sweetheart of the month” Marilyn Monroe, a profile of the Dorsey Brothers. The magazine introduced its jazz poll in 1957 and its very first interview subject was Miles Davis back in 1962. The panel discussion on the state of jazz in Playboy’s “Jazz and Hi-Fi” issue of February 1964 included the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus and Stan Kenton among others. The discussion center on the future of jazz, how it might evolve, where it would be performed and how it would attract new fans. The schisms between old and new, tradition and innovation and even black and white are often visible. Still, the comments somehow seem apt all these years later.

Hefner often brought jazz standouts to his television series Playboy After Dark and Playboy’s Penthouse, appearances that demonstrated his love and knowledge of the music. In a classic scene from a 1959 installment of Playboy’s Penthouse, Hefner introduces the “divine” Sarah Vaugh with the respect and affection of a dedicated jazz fan. He notes that she’s appearing at The Empire Room in NewYork’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, a club not normally associated with jazz. “That’s quite a transition,” Hefner says. The singer agrees, saying she’s trying to attract those listeners as well. Hefner talks of Sarah’s early involvement with Earl Hines pre-bop band that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He lets Vaughn introduce her accompanists. Then he steps back to let her enchant us with “Broken Hearted Melody.”

Or take another example from a 1960 broadcast . Count Basie is at the piano at what appears to be a swank penthouse party (it was actually a studio at Chicago television station WPKB ). Occasionally playing with one hand while cradling a cigarette in the other, Basie accompanies singers Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross, joined by Basie’s ”favorite son,” singer Joe Williams. They scat along to “The King,” a tune from the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross LP Sing A Song Of Basie. The composition pays homage to jazz royalty:  “Earl “Fatha” Hines, Duke Ellington and, of course, the Count. As the singers improvise a spiraling series of scat lines, a tuxedo-clad Hefner and a host of impeccably dressed men and women bounce along to the irresistible beat. Television has seldom seen a hipper moment.

The magazine, like the culture at large,  has largely ignored jazz over the last several years. And Playboy’s signature jazz festival, held annually at the Hollywood Bowl, has become something other than a celebration of jazz (though it always pays homage). But to find Hefner’s true devotion to the music of his youth, travel back to the inaugural Playboy Jazz Festival, staged at the old Chicago Stadium in 1959, an event that included a long list of the top jazz names then on the planet.

“What made Chicago [Playboy Fest] unique for me was the time frame and the giants that were there. [Jazz critic] Leonard Feather called it the single greatest weekend in the history of jazz. I wasn’t that far from my college and high school years and there I was standing on stage with all the greats that influenced me and were celebrities to me. It’s a moment impossible to recapture.”–Cabbage Rabbit

Jung and Foolish

What would Carl Jung say about the current state of political discourse in America? The Rabbit’s been rereading the founder of analytical psychology’s The Undiscovered Self in preparation for Liber Novus, a “new” book which records Jung’s middle age conflict or, in pop-psychology parlance, mid-life crisis. Undiscovered is one of Jung’s most political texts (the Rabbbit here admits to being only a casual reader of Jung’s work) and we were only a bit astonished to find him speaking across a half-century to post-millennial America and the psyche of tea-party extremism.

The parallels  seem prophetic (indeed, the book’s first line is, “What will the future bring?”). Jung cites “physical, political, economic and spiritual distress”  as he describes the modern condition. He seems to be speaking directly to our time and its irrational politics when he states, “Rational arguments can be conducted with some prospect of success only so long as the emotionality of a given situation does not exceed a certain critical degree. If the affective temperature rises above this level, the possibility of reason having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies.” Is there any question, with the screaming of August giving way to the racism of autumn, that we’ve exceeded that “affective temperature?” Jung even seems to explain the numbers of shrill and mindless protesters which spring from the 20 per cent that still support discredited conservative policy (as opposed to valid, rational  conservatism; the discredited are known as “Republicans”). “Such individuals are by no means rare curiosities to be met with only in prisons and lunatic asylums,” he says. “For every manifest case of insanity there are, in my estimation, at least ten latent cases who seldom get to the point of breaking out openly but whose views and behavior, for all their appearances of normality, are influenced by unconsciously morbid and perverse factors.” Is that what we’re seeing today? A breaking out of latent insanity?

The extreme right as well will find much to quote in The Undiscovered Self, especially in regard to Jung’s declaration that the state is increasingly depriving the individual of  “the moral decision as to how he should live his own life…”  There’s even a line which seems to describe Islamic (as well as Christian and right-wing) terrorists: “Everywhere in the West there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready…”  But it must be remembered that Jung is writing in the throes of the Cold War and it becomes apparent as one reads on that he is talking of  life in the Soviet bloc and in terms of East/West rivalries. Indeed, he cites the dangers of religious fanaticism present in the West (read “the Christian right”) and says that the West “unfortunately (has) not yet awakened to the fact that our appeal to idealism and reason and other desirable virtues, delivered with so much enthusiasm, is mere sound and fury.”

This short, easily-read text, updated in 1958 to reflect the consequences of the Hungarian uprising, has much to offer modern times, especially regarding our need for spirituality and the political surrogates rising up to replace it. The Undiscovered Self speaks to us with communal as well as personal relevancy. Can we expect the same of  Jung’s upcoming, personal  account of his descent into creative madness? We may never know. Set to be released in early October, The Red Book as it has come to be known, carries a list price of $195. Sometimes the price of knowledge, especially self-knowledge, is too dear.–Cabbage Rabbit

Beat Goes On

The Beats of America’s 1950s stood far apart from the duty-bound, God-and-country, organizational-man times. It didn’t take long for the commercial culture to assimilate them in a wave of berets and bongos. The poetry, novels and art of the true counter-culture known as Beat is an honest reflection of American spirit and independence, commercial culture be damned.

During times of conformity, it’s the non-conformist who draw all the attention. The Beats of America’s 1950s stood so far apart from the duty-bound, God-and-country, organizational-man times that they soon became the freak-show focus of films, big-circulation magazines and television shows. It didn’t take long for the commercial culture to assimilate them in a wave of berets and bongos. Like the hippies that followed, they were stereotyped and scorned for a supposed anti-work ethic. Never mind that they created some of the greatest literary works of their generation.

That’s why we’ve always thought that “Beat” and “Beatnik” were two different schools. Beatniks were the posers, the wannabes that modeled their cool afterwhat they saw in Look magazine and on The Steve Allen Show. Beatniks spewed “daddy-o” while living off their daddies. Those that represented a true counter culture were Beat. Their resistance to the status quo and the pursuit of their own lives outside accepted social definitions made them truly radical and innovative. The Beats were largely a literary movement. Beatniks were a cultural and commercial fad.

This hair-splitting is important to understanding writer Harvey Pekar, illustrator Ed Piskor and others’ collection The Beats: A Graphic History. Many of their subjects don’t seem to be beatniks, but something else entirely. The comics celebrate the individuals that made up the anti-establishment of the times and whose art and social action outlives them. The stories are drawn by an eclectic mix of cartoonists and told by characters—including Pekar–every bit as individualistic as their subjects.

The book’s first hundred pages focuses on the generation’s three central players: Jack Kerouac (who gets the largest section), Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs. Pekar gives us just the bare bones of their stories, emphasizing the formative moments and underscoring how they influenced each others’ work. It’s this no-man-is-an-island connection between them that made Beat literature a true movement. In different panels we see the often drunk and shiftless Kerouac urge Burroughs to write a novel, and Ginsberg, finding Burrough’s pages strewn around his Mexico City apartment, assembling and editing what was to become Naked Lunch.

It’s Ginsberg who emerges as the movement’s saint aiding his fellow writers, challenging the system and remaining true to his principles. All three men are shown to be flawed, addictive and with, the possible exception of Ginsberg who seems something of a pure sexual being, abusive to women and sexually confused.

Beat lovers will be disappointed the simplistic, boilerplate hash of these lives, especially readers who’ve delved into the excellent (and not so) biographies of these three central figures. Paul Buhle, the book’s editor, and Pekar acknowledge as much in the book’s intro:

“The book before you is a comic art production with no pretension to the depth of coverage and literary interpretation presented by hundreds of scholarly books in many languages, a literature also constantly growing. It has a different virtue, curiously in line, somehow, with the original vernacular popularization of the Beats.”

That virtue, they neatly explain, is its fresh, visual approach and appeal to narrative rhythm. And it’s true for much of the book. Some eleven illustrators contribute and their panels, ranging from symbolic realism to the surreal bring the movement to life. We’re shown the crash-pad hovels, the anger, frustration and depravity, the exotic locations and the confusion of the squares in comic detail. Pekar and five other writers supply the words, often restating the obvious when a quote or illustration would do.

This isn’t the first time comics have been used to convey Beat life. Rick Bleier’s heavily cross-hatched “Visions of Paradise: Kerouac in N.Y.C.” which appears in The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats is a visually fascinating if glamorized, short account of the movement’s beginnings that surpasses in language and visual appeal most of what’s in Pekar’s book. Where Pekar et al succeed is in their addressing the lesser but still important figures of the Beat movement.

The Beats’ second hundred pages– “The Beats: Perspectives”– is its best. It emphasizes the era’s poets and the important role of women to both its creative achievement and social consciousness. Poets Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Robert Duncan, Gregory Corso, Charles Olson and others, not all of them necessarily pegged as Beats, are given brief, respectful treatment. Joyce Brabner’s “Beatnik Chicks” is an eyes-open view to the contributions and hardships, not to mention stereotyping, faced by women of the movement. Brabner defines the “Beat-chick” model as well as the their lack of acceptance by many males in the movement. She gives a shout-out to Carolyn, Cassady, Hettie Jones, Joynce Johnson and others, but no more than a shout out. (readers should dig up Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution for considerations and examples of these women’s work). Pekar and Mary Fleener’s chapter on poet Diane di Prima, first seen in Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri’s spring 2008 edition of Mineshaft (a great publication true to the underground comics and literary spirit…find it here) is a mix of cold reality and spiritualistic surrealism that symbolizes the entire movement.

It’s good to see Pekar involving himself in this kind of counter-culture history. The last run, back in 2008, of Pekar’s American Splendor, the comics that with help from Robert Crumb established him as a storyteller and inspired the 2003 movie starring Paul Giamatti, was something of a disappointment. It was as if Pekar had exhausted ways to make his everyman stories relevant. The Beats gives him worthy material. While not as engaging as his graphic history Students For a Democratic Society (also edited by Buhle), The Beats serves to introduce an American cultural phenomenon to a new audience while giving some of its less well-known players fresh exposure.–Cabbage Rabbit