Summary and Info
Written as a cultural weapon and a call to arms, Howl touched a raw nerve in Cold War America and has been controversial from the day it was first read aloud nearly fifty years ago. This first full critical and historical study of Howl brilliantly elucidates the nexus of politics and literature in which it was written and gives striking new portraits of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs. Drawing from newly released psychiatric reports on Ginsberg, from interviews with his psychiatrist, Dr. Philip Hicks, and from the poet's journals, American Scream shows how Howl brought Ginsberg and the world out of the closet of a repressive society. It also gives the first full accounting of the literary figures--Eliot, Rimbaud, and Whitman--who influenced Howl, definitively placing it in the tradition of twentieth-century American poetry for the first time. As he follows the genesis and the evolution of Howl, Jonah Raskin constructs a vivid picture of a poet and an era. He illuminates the development of Beat poetry in New York and San Francisco in the 1950s--focusing on historic occasions such as the first reading of Howl at Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955 and the obscenity trial over the poem's publication. He looks closely at Ginsberg's life, including his relationships with his parents, friends, and mentors, while he was writing the poem and uses this material to illuminate the themes of madness, nakedness, and secrecy that pervade Howl.A captivating look at the cultural climate of the Cold War and at a great American poet, American Scream finally tells the full story of Howl--a rousing manifesto for a generation and a classic of twentieth-century literature.
More About the Author
Jonah Raskin (born January 3, 1942) is an American writer who left an East Coast university teaching position to participate in the 1970s radical counterculture as a free-lance journalist, then returned to the academy in California in the 1980s to write probing studies of Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg and reviews of northern California writers whom he styled as "natives, newcomers, exiles and fugitives." Beginning as a lecturer in English at Sonoma State University in 1981, he moved to chair of the Communications Studies Department from 1988 to 2007, while serving as a book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.