Wednesday, 1 December 2010
THE TYPEWRITER IS HOLY by BILL MORGAN
The jacket of Bill Morgan’s book proudly boasts as being “The complete, uncensored history of the Beat Generation”, which asks two questions: can any biography be considered complete and if this is uncensored, what has previously been censored?
Morgan pulls off an impressive feat of editing the lives of its key protagonists: Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac, plus their associates, into just 250 pages that zip by. He manages to combine their overlapping lives with conciseness yet provides clarity lacking in similar works, not shying away from Allen’s orgies, Bill’s drug use or Jack’s drinking.
Morgan has studied the Beats for over forty years and that knowledge shows itself in some of the extra detail and correcting of previous misinformation. For example, the killing of their friend David Kammerer: I always thought he was stabbed to death yet he died only after his body was dumped in the Hudson River. Also the death of Neal Cassady’s girlfriend Natalie Jackson after slashing her wrists and jumping off a building is given extra background detail. Cassady, as ever, doesn’t come across in a good light.
The Typewriter Is Holy focuses on their topsy-turvy lives, from the 1940s to the end of the 60s, rather than their works, and as with the stories above can be read as a stand-alone introduction into what can seem a confusing myriad of characters. It’s as complete and uncensored as you’ll need to start picking through the addictive Beat universe.
The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History of the Beat Generation by Bill Morgan is published by Free Press, priced $28.