cover image The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952

The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems, 1937–1952

Allen Ginsberg, , edited by Juanita Lieberman-Plimpton and Bill Morgan. . Da Capo, $27.50 (523pp) ISBN 978-0-306-81462-4

The troubled and excitable mind of the young Beat poet is given free rein in this exhaustive and often illuminating collection of his early private writing. The text serves as an evolving portrait of both a writer and a man: from the first, self-conscious high school entries to the stylistically mature entries of the early '50s, the degree of insight and the fluidity of prose multiplies exponentially. Throughout, Ginsberg lives up to his reputation as the most intellectually rigorous as well as the most neurotic of the Columbia gang that included Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Luckily, his neuroses—mostly of a sexual/ romantic nature—are often expressed with lucidity and intensity. Ginsberg's obsessive relationship with the charismatic Neal Cassady is discussed at particular length, often in a narrative, slightly fictionalized form that provides a fascinating, and significantly more interior, counterpoint to Kerouac's On the Road . An appendix of early poems provides significant insight into Ginsberg's developing aesthetic. As a whole, the poems are entertaining in their own right, but, like most of the journals, they can best be appreciated in reference to Ginsberg's body of later writing. 16 b&w photos. (Nov.)