The Best Minds of My Generation
A Literary History of the Beats
By Allen Ginsberg, Edited by Bill Morgan
Grove Press, 2017; 460 pp., $27.00 (cloth)
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche invited Allen Ginsberg to the Naropa Institute in the early days of the West’s first Buddhist-inspired university. Thus began Ginsberg’s twenty-three-year run teaching a course—at Naropa and later at Brooklyn College—on the literary history of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg’s poetic voice shines through in the forty-nine lectures reprinted in this volume. Many of the Beat luminaries are there: Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr, William Burroughs, and Gregory Corso, as well as the author of Howl himself. But there’s nothing predictable about this collection, which delves into topics like the influence of jazz musician Charlie Parker’s improvisations on Kerouac’s prose style, the Buddhism in On the Road, and what the Beats scene in Times Square was like in the 1940s.