Beginning in the late 1940s, American literature discovered a four-letter word, and the word was "beat." Beat as in poverty and beatitude, ecstacy and exile. Beat was Jack Kerouac touring the American road in prose as fast and reckless as a V-8 Chevy. It was the junk-sick surrealism of William Burroughs, the wild, Whitmanesque poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and the lumberjack Zen of Gary Snyder. "The Portable Beat Reader" collects the most significant writing of these and fellow members (and spiritual descendants) of the Beat Generation, including Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Diane DiPrima, Bob Dylan, Leroi Jones, and Michael McClure. In poetry, fiction, essays, song lyrics, letters, and memoirs, it captures the triumphant rudeness, energy, and exhilaration of a movement that swept through American letters with hurricane force.
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