Mania: The Story of the Outraged and Outrageous Lives That Launched a Cultural Revolution

Ronald K. L. Collins, Author
Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover. Top Five (New Shelves, dist.), $26 (464p) ISBN 978-1-938938-02-3
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Collins and Skover (authors of The Trials of Lenny Bruce) offer a vivid retelling of the lives of the beats. Readers looking for a more scholarly assessment will need to look elsewhere, but those in search of a good story and the raw, compelling “feel” for the mindset and actions of the beats will be rewarded. Split into four main sections, each divided into short, picaresque bites, the book focuses on the usual suspects: Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs, and, at the center of it all, Allen Ginsberg. Opening with the shocking murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr in 1944, the book’s most effective episodes include harrowing depictions of the psychotic delusions and horrific treatment in psych wards suffered by Carl Solomon (later immortalized in Howl), as well as the mania and institutionalization of Allen Ginsberg (and his mother). The book would have benefited from context about the time period. In addition, despite the authors’ best intentions, the women generally remain accessories to the men’s stories. Though the narrative can become overwrought, the madcap, savage world of the beats is laid out in spades. (Mar.)
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