Beat Spirit

Mel Ash, Author Jeremy P. Tarcher $15.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87477-880-9
""No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience,"" wrote Jack Kerouac in his list of rules expressed in his ""Belief and Technique for Modern Prose."" In that spirit, this completely guileless workbook offering brief, guided experiences for aspiring beatniks transcends silliness to be a charming and well-balanced introduction to the literature and ideas of the Beat movement. Ash (The Zen of Recovery) devotes separate sections to Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lew Welch and Alan Watts, providing whimsical exercises at the end of each section to give readers a taste of the mind-set and aspirations of each writer. To help us appreciate Ginsberg's brave honesty, for example, Ash urges readers to risk getting naked. Predictably, some of the tasks have a Zen flavor, encouraging us to see and hear in a fresh way. Others foment gentle personal rebellion. To understand the healthy urge to self-liberation, we are advised to take inspiration from McClure's list of ways people commit suicide, including ""authoritarian demands"" and ""existence without human feelings,"" and to list ways in which we are killing ourselves. Ash writes knowledgeably about the Beat legacy that extends through the work of writers including Richard Brautigan, Tom Robbins and Jim Carroll to artists and musicians like Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson. The real gift of his book, especially for young readers, is the encouragement he provides to not shut down. Extracting positive, applicable lessons from even dark prophets like Burroughs, Ash helps readers find new reasons and ways to, as Kerouac ordained, ""Be in love with yr life."" (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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