Hot Best Seller

Allen Ginsberg: A Biography

Availability: Ready to download

Allen Ginsberg occupies a significant, enduring position in American literature. Following his death in '97, Barry Miles has drawn on both his long friendship with the poet & on Ginsberg's journals & correspondence to produce an immensely readable account of one of the 20th century's most extraordinary poets. Childhood: Paterson A Columbia education: the origins of the Beat Allen Ginsberg occupies a significant, enduring position in American literature. Following his death in '97, Barry Miles has drawn on both his long friendship with the poet & on Ginsberg's journals & correspondence to produce an immensely readable account of one of the 20th century's most extraordinary poets. Childhood: Paterson A Columbia education: the origins of the Beat Generation A street education The subterraneans On the road to California "Howl" & the San Francisco renaissance "The classic stations of the earth" "Kaddish" Adventures in psychedelia Cut-ups India The change The king of May Into the vortex Paterfamilias The lion of Dharma Eminence grise Afterword Acknowledgments Chapter Notes Bibliography Index


Compare

Allen Ginsberg occupies a significant, enduring position in American literature. Following his death in '97, Barry Miles has drawn on both his long friendship with the poet & on Ginsberg's journals & correspondence to produce an immensely readable account of one of the 20th century's most extraordinary poets. Childhood: Paterson A Columbia education: the origins of the Beat Allen Ginsberg occupies a significant, enduring position in American literature. Following his death in '97, Barry Miles has drawn on both his long friendship with the poet & on Ginsberg's journals & correspondence to produce an immensely readable account of one of the 20th century's most extraordinary poets. Childhood: Paterson A Columbia education: the origins of the Beat Generation A street education The subterraneans On the road to California "Howl" & the San Francisco renaissance "The classic stations of the earth" "Kaddish" Adventures in psychedelia Cut-ups India The change The king of May Into the vortex Paterfamilias The lion of Dharma Eminence grise Afterword Acknowledgments Chapter Notes Bibliography Index

30 review for Allen Ginsberg: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tristy

    This is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and at 585 pages, it is a commitment! Barry Miles blends Ginsberg's own words beautifully with newspaper and historical accounts of the time. As Miles says in the Afterword, Ginsberg gave Miles complete access to his unpublished letters and journals. What a treasure! Ginsberg's continuous approach to authenticity is astounding and completely inspiring. And I love how Miles does not sugar-coat Ginsberg's life. True to how Ginsberg approached h This is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and at 585 pages, it is a commitment! Barry Miles blends Ginsberg's own words beautifully with newspaper and historical accounts of the time. As Miles says in the Afterword, Ginsberg gave Miles complete access to his unpublished letters and journals. What a treasure! Ginsberg's continuous approach to authenticity is astounding and completely inspiring. And I love how Miles does not sugar-coat Ginsberg's life. True to how Ginsberg approached his own "documenting" of his life, the darkness is shared with the light, equally. I had always had my reservations about Ginsberg, due to the misogyny that runs so deeply in the Beat movement, and while yes, it was there, I see so much more how Ginsberg was doing his best in the time that he lived in. Jack Kerouac, on the other hand? This book reveals what a woman-hating, conservative, drunk, apathetic man he really was (at least in his later years). And it is revealed that our culture still idolizes Kerouac, not just for his great writing, which is completely deserved, but because Ginsberg raised Kerouac to icon-level after his death. Ginsberg even says in his journals that he dedicated himself to making America remember the Kerouac that Ginsberg always wanted him to be, instead of the man he actually was. Fascinating stuff.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alex Kurtagic

    This detailed biography of the vile Beat poet and pederast is both eye-opening and eye-watering on a variety of levels. Seldom does one read about a creepier and more revolting individual. In the 1960s he came to embody the hippie movement, of which he could for a while—too long, in fact—be regarded as the living cliché, despite being much older than the addled youths he helped to lead astray. A clear example if there was any of an influential figure whose influence was entirely negative and was This detailed biography of the vile Beat poet and pederast is both eye-opening and eye-watering on a variety of levels. Seldom does one read about a creepier and more revolting individual. In the 1960s he came to embody the hippie movement, of which he could for a while—too long, in fact—be regarded as the living cliché, despite being much older than the addled youths he helped to lead astray. A clear example if there was any of an influential figure whose influence was entirely negative and was widely praised while being undeserving of that praise.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This is a sizeable biography of Allen Ginsberg, but I loved every moment reading it. Barry Miles writes with authority and details all the major events of his subject's life in a non-judgemental way, much like Ginsberg himself. Some of the things he got up to were no doubt shocking to the establishment at the time, especially as many considered him America's most well known (if not lauded) living poet for much of his life, but he was resilient to all forms of criticism, whether it was his person This is a sizeable biography of Allen Ginsberg, but I loved every moment reading it. Barry Miles writes with authority and details all the major events of his subject's life in a non-judgemental way, much like Ginsberg himself. Some of the things he got up to were no doubt shocking to the establishment at the time, especially as many considered him America's most well known (if not lauded) living poet for much of his life, but he was resilient to all forms of criticism, whether it was his personal life, his beliefs or his work that was under the spotlight. There is no doubt that Ginsberg was/is a literary queer hero, and this book explains to anyone who doesn't know just why that is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Proudfoot

    This was the book that solidified my love for Allen Ginsberg - and the Beat Generation. Barry Miles is one of the best biographers around. He's thorough, a true story-teller, compassionate - yet - not starry eyed. (I also loved Pink Floyd: A Visual Documentary, Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats: A Portrait, The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1958-1963 and William S. Burroughs: A Life.) In Allen Ginsberg: A Biography - I was deeply moved by the story of his mother, Naomi - who This was the book that solidified my love for Allen Ginsberg - and the Beat Generation. Barry Miles is one of the best biographers around. He's thorough, a true story-teller, compassionate - yet - not starry eyed. (I also loved Pink Floyd: A Visual Documentary, Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats: A Portrait, The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1958-1963 and William S. Burroughs: A Life.) In Allen Ginsberg: A Biography - I was deeply moved by the story of his mother, Naomi - who slipped into madness - and how that affected Allen at such a tender age and continued to weigh heavily on him for the rest of his life. Throughout the book, I felt as though I was on a guided tour through history. I could hear the jazz and feel the gritty streets beneath my feet. I could sense the post war vibe and subterranean, literary pulse - all the way through. From his early days at college, through trying to play it straight - then meeting Kerouac, Burroughs and the other Beat aficionados - the drug usage, wild trips abroad, writing Howl and Kaddish, and meeting his long-time lover - Peter Orlovsky; this book never drags and never bores you with unnecessary details. I highly recommend this book - especially to anyone who wants to gain a well-rounded view of what the Beat Generation was all about. I have read this four times and often go back to it - like visiting an old friend. It's beautifully written, thoroughly researched and popping with vibrant characters and events that make todays' world seem tame and fake in comparison.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    One of the best bios I have ever read. 'Nuff said! One of the best bios I have ever read. 'Nuff said!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Ginsberg's Howl was an important poem in high school, the City Lights publication of it being proffered to my friend Richard by his older brother Steve and read by Richard, Hank and myself, some of it aloud, in the basement of Richard and Steve's parents, a regular hang-out in those days. Later, I obtained my own copy, reading it silently, and went on to read Walt Whitman on my own, beyond the little that had been assigned for English class, so similar were their styles. I "met" Ginsberg during t Ginsberg's Howl was an important poem in high school, the City Lights publication of it being proffered to my friend Richard by his older brother Steve and read by Richard, Hank and myself, some of it aloud, in the basement of Richard and Steve's parents, a regular hang-out in those days. Later, I obtained my own copy, reading it silently, and went on to read Walt Whitman on my own, beyond the little that had been assigned for English class, so similar were their styles. I "met" Ginsberg during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Well, actually, I didn't really meet him. I was in his presence--repeatedly, through the days in Grant Park in front of the Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue--his and the presences of Norman Mailer, Burroughs and Gide, I think. Of the bunch, Ginsberg was the most notable because of his attire--white robes--chanting and thumb cymbals. I picked up this biography not expecting too much. Frankly, I really didn't know that much about Ginsberg beyond a few poems and his contributions to books about psychoactive drugs. He was an icon from the past and the book promised to remind me of that. As it happened, the book, this biography, was much more. Miles made Ginsberg real to me, as a young, insecure and closeted homosexual and as a famous old man. I'm not gay, but Miles represents Ginsberg's affectional life in a manner which transcends any distinction between gay and straight, in a manner which I can relate strongly to. So, too, his representation of Ginsberg's struggle towards authenticity. In all, Allen--for I presume he'd prefer to drop the formality--comes across as a whole person, fallible, but well-meaning. Indeed, thanks to Miles, I've quite come to like him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zack Andresen

    Barry Miles is the ultimate Beats know-all. This book was amazing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    W. Koistinen

    Have been reading about Ginsberg mostly through Burroughs biographies. The only book I half read about Allen was Morgan's "I Celebrate Myself", which tells Allen's life through his diaries. I think Miles' book gives better overall picture, so if I had to choose one, it would be this. Nothing really new here, but ok read. Quite long, but there's also a lot of things happening all the time, so not boring. For me the biggest revelation was how instrumental Allen was in making that generational shif Have been reading about Ginsberg mostly through Burroughs biographies. The only book I half read about Allen was Morgan's "I Celebrate Myself", which tells Allen's life through his diaries. I think Miles' book gives better overall picture, so if I had to choose one, it would be this. Nothing really new here, but ok read. Quite long, but there's also a lot of things happening all the time, so not boring. For me the biggest revelation was how instrumental Allen was in making that generational shift from beats to hippies. He for example went to India before it became fashionable and brought Hare Krishna mantra to West and also encouraged Leary to step away from researching psychedelics to preaching them. And of course there might not even be any "beat generation" without Allen and his enthusiasm - to get books published and people like Burroughs to write at all. So, if you want to know about beats or are interested in psychedelic movement of the sixties, this is a well recommended read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    I've read many books by Barry Miles, on the beats, Bukowski etc and he's always able to dot all the eyes and cross all the t's. It seems he knows more about the persons life than the person. ginsberg's life is incredible from jewish scholrarly kid from NJ to Columbia to hanging with criminals to being the original beat with burroughs and keroauc, to writing howl on the west coast, LSD, eastern meditation, its too much to even list. but the seminal moment in book was the incident at naropa when g I've read many books by Barry Miles, on the beats, Bukowski etc and he's always able to dot all the eyes and cross all the t's. It seems he knows more about the persons life than the person. ginsberg's life is incredible from jewish scholrarly kid from NJ to Columbia to hanging with criminals to being the original beat with burroughs and keroauc, to writing howl on the west coast, LSD, eastern meditation, its too much to even list. but the seminal moment in book was the incident at naropa when ginsbergs guru forces ms merwin and his girlfriend to strip by force of his body guards and ginsburg justifying it. i think it shows great short-sightedness on his part and arrogance about his own judgement. but nontheless a fantastic book showing ginsberg in mostly a very good light. d

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim McDonald

    I feel that this is the best biography of Ginsberg. Miles has a good sense of what it must have been like to live in Ginsberg's body, and writes tenderley about his formative years. He has a keen eye for early home life and how Allen was shaped, and the good relationship with his father. It is a book that illustrates how much Ginsberg packed into an exhausting life: always on the move, always producing poetry, political comment, articles, supporting his friends, and keeping up his journal. His ou I feel that this is the best biography of Ginsberg. Miles has a good sense of what it must have been like to live in Ginsberg's body, and writes tenderley about his formative years. He has a keen eye for early home life and how Allen was shaped, and the good relationship with his father. It is a book that illustrates how much Ginsberg packed into an exhausting life: always on the move, always producing poetry, political comment, articles, supporting his friends, and keeping up his journal. His output was breath-taking. For those who wish to understand Ginsberg and his place at the centre of twentieth-century America, this book is vital.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Rigg

    I was juggling this, a collection of his poems, and his letters to Neal Cassady all during my sophomore year of college. I got obsessed with the Beats and read a lot by them/about them in my teens and early 20s.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Leo

    Great biography, almost as complete as The Dharma Lion biography of Allen Ginsberg. Very useful for research purposes, otherwise it could be even too detailed for an ordinary reading. It includes an index by the end of the book in order to ease the reading, really useful as well

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Eckman

    My first biography that I have ever read and I loved it!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erica Basnicki

    A monster of a book that I couldn’t put down. Thoroughly researched and superbly written. Never have I read such a compelling biography!

  15. 4 out of 5

    emma

    Enjoyed this immensely. At almost 600 pages it can look a tad daunting on the bookshelf, but it's extremely readable. A couple of other reviews mentioned too much detail - personally I thought it struck the perfect balance, giving enough detail to give a good sense of time and place without leading to glazed eyes. It's not an easy read, there's a lot of tragedy and senseless death and mental destruction, but it gives a valuable, unvarnished view of the lives Ginsberg and the other Beat sorts - K Enjoyed this immensely. At almost 600 pages it can look a tad daunting on the bookshelf, but it's extremely readable. A couple of other reviews mentioned too much detail - personally I thought it struck the perfect balance, giving enough detail to give a good sense of time and place without leading to glazed eyes. It's not an easy read, there's a lot of tragedy and senseless death and mental destruction, but it gives a valuable, unvarnished view of the lives Ginsberg and the other Beat sorts - Kerouac comes out of it particularly badly (misogynistic/anti-semitic/ultra-conservative/cowardly/tight-fisted/major mummy's boy) which makes a refreshing change from a lot of the romanticised nonsense that gets written about him.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    An informative look into the life of Ginsberg and those close to him. Although I did appreciate the read I wouldn't say that it was enjoyable. Too many talented people falling to pieces when a little common sense could have made the difference. This crew participated in an invigorating and unusual lifestyle. Miles reveals inner workings and developments of an important subculture launch pad. The most valuable aspect of Ginsberg's life was his unyielding support of friends and those he believed An informative look into the life of Ginsberg and those close to him. Although I did appreciate the read I wouldn't say that it was enjoyable. Too many talented people falling to pieces when a little common sense could have made the difference. This crew participated in an invigorating and unusual lifestyle. Miles reveals inner workings and developments of an important subculture launch pad. The most valuable aspect of Ginsberg's life was his unyielding support of friends and those he believed in. I never tired of hearing how tenacious Allen was in supporting and forgiving those he cared for. His relationship with Kerouac over the years demonstrates this.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yehya Kouzi

    This was the best book I read this year! I'm grateful I'm in love with such a poet. It's not easy to get a love affair with a man from the 20th century. But Here I AM! I LOVE ALLEN GINSBERG. The first time I read HOWL ( the banned book), I felt the urge to dig into the many lives of such a marvelous revolutionary figure. This can go on and on. If you ask me about Him I'd keep talking till dawn and I'd still have things to say. Ginsberg had a big influence that propagates still on two major issue This was the best book I read this year! I'm grateful I'm in love with such a poet. It's not easy to get a love affair with a man from the 20th century. But Here I AM! I LOVE ALLEN GINSBERG. The first time I read HOWL ( the banned book), I felt the urge to dig into the many lives of such a marvelous revolutionary figure. This can go on and on. If you ask me about Him I'd keep talking till dawn and I'd still have things to say. Ginsberg had a big influence that propagates still on two major issues; free verse poetry "the beat generation" and human sexuality! He nailed the smallest details of human existence. Allen's the new breath. Amen.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    I am not a big beat poetry fan, but this Allen Ginsberg biography became one of my favorite books and one I come back to every once in a while. It made me fall in love with Ginsberg and his poetry. I will never forget how much it sucked me in while I was travelling back to Seattle with a few bonus stops in Yakima just to read a few more pages. It is an enjoyable read and a vivid introduction to Ginsberg and his poetry. At times heartbreaking, at times it feels like a crazy pulp novel with funny c I am not a big beat poetry fan, but this Allen Ginsberg biography became one of my favorite books and one I come back to every once in a while. It made me fall in love with Ginsberg and his poetry. I will never forget how much it sucked me in while I was travelling back to Seattle with a few bonus stops in Yakima just to read a few more pages. It is an enjoyable read and a vivid introduction to Ginsberg and his poetry. At times heartbreaking, at times it feels like a crazy pulp novel with funny characters and most of all it is an honest tribute to this great poet. In the end human all too human.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A great, personal biography, albeit with a feeling of incompleteness (no mention of the NAMBLA scandal and other things I wanted to learn more about). But really powerful looks at Allen's difficult childhood, his extensive world travels, and how his ideas helped shape the 60s. As a student of Ginsberg's Jack Kerouac School, it ended up giving me the feeling of reading a religious text, an origin story of our dear poet leader who was a prophet and a catalyst in so many ways. Definitely worth a rea A great, personal biography, albeit with a feeling of incompleteness (no mention of the NAMBLA scandal and other things I wanted to learn more about). But really powerful looks at Allen's difficult childhood, his extensive world travels, and how his ideas helped shape the 60s. As a student of Ginsberg's Jack Kerouac School, it ended up giving me the feeling of reading a religious text, an origin story of our dear poet leader who was a prophet and a catalyst in so many ways. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in writers and 20th century history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jack Brånfelt

    Mostly very entertaining, delving deep into the poetry and character of Ginsberg, as well as the bohemian 50s and the counter culture of the 60s; however the portraits of Kerouac - the drunk, misogynistic right-wing, psuedo-buddhist - and Burroughs - emotionally disturbed junkie - clearly lacks nuances in order to enhance the saintliness of Ginsberg (though also quite a fresh perspective when combined with other, not nearly as negative, biographies about the two (such as Ann Carter's biography o Mostly very entertaining, delving deep into the poetry and character of Ginsberg, as well as the bohemian 50s and the counter culture of the 60s; however the portraits of Kerouac - the drunk, misogynistic right-wing, psuedo-buddhist - and Burroughs - emotionally disturbed junkie - clearly lacks nuances in order to enhance the saintliness of Ginsberg (though also quite a fresh perspective when combined with other, not nearly as negative, biographies about the two (such as Ann Carter's biography of Kerouac)).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Excellent book. I don't know that I consider Ginsberg to be one of the major poets of the 20th Century, but he certainly is a top minor poet. He also is probably one of the most famous poets of the last century. His life is inspiring to me, and it was fun to read about all the things he did in addition to writing his poetry. Great to compare and contrast to my own life. How much of an artist am I? Excellent book. I don't know that I consider Ginsberg to be one of the major poets of the 20th Century, but he certainly is a top minor poet. He also is probably one of the most famous poets of the last century. His life is inspiring to me, and it was fun to read about all the things he did in addition to writing his poetry. Great to compare and contrast to my own life. How much of an artist am I?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rennie

    Always great to read of these characters adventures.. what a crazy world.. makes me want to travel even more to far and exotic lands... Had to knock a star off because I didn't enjoy all the stuff about Kerouac.. Did not understand just how much of a mean and asshole drunk he became in later years.. Ginsberg is one crazy dude. Always great to read of these characters adventures.. what a crazy world.. makes me want to travel even more to far and exotic lands... Had to knock a star off because I didn't enjoy all the stuff about Kerouac.. Did not understand just how much of a mean and asshole drunk he became in later years.. Ginsberg is one crazy dude.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Ah, the Beats. An intriguing bunch of characters. Enjoyed reading about Ginsberg and friends. The level of detail made it tough going at times but it was worth sticking it out. It's rare to find a biography so rich in detail and with so many interviews with really integral people in the subject's life. This crew were not only from another time, they were from another planet. Ah, the Beats. An intriguing bunch of characters. Enjoyed reading about Ginsberg and friends. The level of detail made it tough going at times but it was worth sticking it out. It's rare to find a biography so rich in detail and with so many interviews with really integral people in the subject's life. This crew were not only from another time, they were from another planet.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lockhart

    A very readable and sympathetic portrait of this great poet who led an incredible and quixotic life. The book will encourage you to seek out more of the great man's work and enhance your understanding, not just of Ginsberg's work but of modern poetry generally. A very readable and sympathetic portrait of this great poet who led an incredible and quixotic life. The book will encourage you to seek out more of the great man's work and enhance your understanding, not just of Ginsberg's work but of modern poetry generally.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Clement

    I loved this book. A thorough and non-biased account of one of the most controversial figures of the past 50+ years. Few polarise opinion like Ginsberg and this book examines the the doubts and uncertainties that troubled him as well as the creative highs that characterised his successes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

    A great biography that sometimes gets bogged down in excessive detail about hard drugs and sex, but it's still a great resource for anyone intersted in this fascinating figure in American poetry. A great biography that sometimes gets bogged down in excessive detail about hard drugs and sex, but it's still a great resource for anyone intersted in this fascinating figure in American poetry.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Haylee

    I love Barry Miles. When I took "The Life and Works of William S. Burroughs" in college he came and spoke to our class. I have read several of his books and have enjoyed them all. I love Barry Miles. When I took "The Life and Works of William S. Burroughs" in college he came and spoke to our class. I have read several of his books and have enjoyed them all.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    One of the most rapid fire, compelling biographies I have encountered. Great fun to dip into: what a character!

  29. 4 out of 5

    SJ

    Just finished this epic biography - had no idea Ginsberg was so interesting and so intrumental in so much of what we take for granted today - a totally recommended must read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Laaveg

    Very compelling, thoughtful, and detailed story of a remarkable man. I enjoyed reading this book.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...