Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression

Bill Morgan, Editor, Nancy J. Peters, Editor . City Lights $14.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-87286-479-5

For the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems , the poet's archivist and biographer Morgan and City Lights publisher Peters, and City Lights was Howl 's original publisher) have assembled this intermittently fascinating collection of documents, mostly related to the book's obscenity trial in San Francisco in 1957. These documents provides a coherent narrative of the composition of the poem, as well as the prosecution of publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and one of his City Lights employees and their eventual exoneration. The poet's letters discussing the publication of his book are often illuminating, particularly the massive letter to John Hollander that dissects every element of Howl , but not all the correspondence is equally interesting. Similarly, the lengthy trial transcript is entertaining at times, but would have benefited from being rendered into prose and excerpted appropriately. The book is certainly useful as a reference tool for those researching Ginsberg or obscenity law, and will interest Ginsberg completists, but this isn't a smooth read for a general audience. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Prebound-Glued - 224 pages - 978-1-4177-6827-1
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