American Artistic Movements
Entertainment for the Masses by Malaya Neri
A review of Martin Halliwell’s American Culture in the 1950s
Professor Martin Halliwell presents an in depth reevaluation of the 1950s in America in his work American Culture in the 1950s. Through the exploration of popular art, music, and entertainment of the decade, a perspective of American life in the 1950s is presented in a manner suggesting the decade had more to offer than shallow and wholesome advertising and entertainment. Halliwell also provides an intellectual outlook of the era, underlying significant historical events and peoples to aid in explaining the morals and beliefs of the American public in the 50s. The presentation of historical events and their significance assists the modern reader’s understanding of the era and serves as a translation for the subject matter of the art, media, and entertainment of the decade. Halliwell aims to paint a true representation of the 1950s – “or what is often confused with a half remembered and half-mythical period called ‘the fifties.”1
Halliwell’s introductory chapter, “The Intellectual Context,” explores and dissects major historical events and figures in order to determine their significance and identify their role in contributing to the molding of 1950s American society. Halliwell mentions McCarthyism and the Red Scare and evaluates their significance; Halliwell suggests the public, due to threat coming from the Cold War with the Russian nation, easily accepted the paranoia that came along with the Red Scare. The paranoia is translated in the patriotic and nationalistic advertising, media, entertainment, and attitude present in the American culture. The looming threat of foreign communism lingered domestically and resulted in the suppression of the people’s voices and opinions being heard “for fear of being recast as radicals.”2 Along with advertisements, fifties literature was also subject to be influenced by paranoia, as discussed in the first chapter “Fiction and Poetry.” The chapter examines the major literary works as well as styles that were produced during this decade, as well as gives a general overview of key themes and interpretations of literature in the period, including both changes in literary style and developments such as cheap paperbacks. Sections on fiction, poetry and ‘resistant fiction’ end with case studies of The Catcher in the Rye, ‘Howl’ and Invisible Man. Halliwell declares, “the early 1950s was a transitional period for American literature”3 with the Cold War resulting in a climate of censorship resonating fear amongst writers of the decade and thus “made it difficult for writers to offer direct social commentary.”4 Halliwell also takes note of the change between the reader and novels during the decade, revealing that the growth of the paperback market was due to their popularity amongst soldiers during World War II. The post-war climate of the 50s led many distinguished writers to write novels with anti-heroes and war themes. Having set up theoretical frameworks, each of the following chapters examines a different cultural form. The book progresses onto the topic of theatre in chapter two, “Drama and Performance.” Halliwell points out “there is … a tendency to be nostalgic for the late 1940s and early 1950s as a renaissance in the American drama,” a title given for the era due to the earlier decline of public interest in theatre.5 On the other hand, musical theatre and other music-based performances flourished during this period. Traditional naturalistic theatrical styles also began to shift to more experimental forms later in the decade. Theatre productions in the 1950s were a mix of modernist culture and mainstream appeal.
Chapter three, “Music and Radio,” delve into the many different styles of music as well as the major impact the radio had on American society. The chapter has sections on folk, rock and roll and contemporary interconnections between black and white music, with case studies on The Anthology of American Folk Music, ‘Elvis and 1956’, and Jazz on a Summer’s Day. “The rapid growth of the music industry marked a decade of changing consumer tastes,” the increased interest of the public in the music industry resulted in the increase production of records and live-performances.6 The three dominant and primary forms of music of the decade were folk, urban, and art music. Although the music industry seemed to have boomed during this decade, the success did not come without competition. Radio was fiercely challenged from the emergence of television. Halliwell dismisses mythologized views of ‘the fifties’ as bland and homogenous, instead presenting it as a period of paradoxes and tensions, and argues that the decade can usefully be examined through the twin lenses of the Cold War and the continuing influence of modernism. The rapid development of the TV industry is explored in chapter four, “Film and Television.” The boom in business for the television industry posed a threat not only to radio but to the film industry as well. Entertainment was made easily available to the public with the production of televisions and this new technology provided convenience and comfort to American families. The acceptance of this new technology was aided with television programs that featured the TV set frequently, this practice “was to familiarize viewers with the technology.”7 The 1950s is immortalized through the TV shows that aired to the public; TV shows reflected the interests and morals of the American people with popular television programming including game and quiz shows as well as slapstick comedy such as I Love Lucy. TV shows depicted the wholesome, patriotic American family lifestyle present in booming suburban towns; these attributes echo the suppressed, controlled, and “clean” values of the American public. This rapid acceptance of TV sets into American homes took a toll on the film industry, losing about 30% of their film audience due to TV. The three dominating studios of the century: Twentieth Century-Fox, Paramount and Universal controlled all studio output in the 1950s. These studios focused their profits on advertising and promotional campaigns in an effort in creating major star images, eventually drawing in a following. The film industry was also subject to censorship during the 1950s: the NAACP discouraged the production of controversial social topics in public films, greatly inhibiting the works of movie directors.
The dissection of the art world is dealt in the book in chapter five, titled “The Visual Arts Beyond Modernism,” the chapter looks at painting, photography and ‘multimedia and the avant-garde’, with case studies of Jasper Johns’ Flag, Robert Frank’s photography collection The Americans and the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, planned over the second half of the 1950s. The popularity of television, widescreen cinema and musical spectacles helped pave the way for the appreciation of the visual arts due to the public’s early exposure to visual stimulation. Halliwell dictates, “modernism was a guiding force that facilitated the production of some [art] forms and discouraged others.”8 A great example to the modernism phenomena is seen with Jackson Pollock’s revolutionary style of action painting; which forever changed the art world as his practice of Abstract Expressionism led the way for other experimental artistic styles of future generations, for example: PopArt in the 1960s. Photography also made a notable impression during the 1950s with photojournalism in high demand “as newspapers and magazine editors tried to entice readers away from the lures of television.”9 1950s art also welcomed the new practice of “hybrid activities,” in which the visual piece is composed of different forms of media. Rauschenberg, along with other PopArtists, began their careers in the early 50s and began to hint at the future expressionistic and avant-garde styles found in the 60s. Multi-media artists experimented with visual pieces composed of a variety of mediums such as photography, paint, newspaper clippings, and ready-made objects. This new form of artistic expression reflects the experimental and risk-taking attitudes of American artists in the 50s.
The author sums up his book in the last chapter, “Rethinking the 1950s,” with references to famous figures and works previously mentioned in earlier chapters. Halliwell reflects on the subject matter stating, “the contradictions of the 1950s become more evident when focusing on the interrelation of cultural forms.”10 He goes on to say how the cultural image of the 1950s was shaped partly by the political and social climate of the era. The mass media and as well as the fine arts played important roles in creating the 1950s conflicted image; the juxtaposition of wholesome values with experimental and abstract forms of art. Halliwell presentation of historical events and figures intertwined with his personal observations and analysis results in the formation of a new layer in the image of the decade. The 50s, with the aide of Halliwell’s book, is no longer subject to be perceived as a two-dimensional period, it is instead allowed to be viewed as an era of creative thinking mixed with wholesome and paranoid tendencies.
Halliwell intertwines historical context with his interpretations of the significance of various events in order to reshape, or rather, re-evaluate the modern perception of the 1950s in America. He attempts to present factual viewpoints in order to “offer a more nuanced notion of cultural production than suggested by the recycled myths of the decade.”11 Halliwell’s choice in examples aide in his attempt to re-evaluate the decade, as can be seen in his discussion about McCarthyism and the Cold War’s effects on the public. These two events, according to Halliwell, resulted in the creation of an atmosphere of paranoia and a society subjugated to censorship, that is translated through all forms or art and entertainment. Halliwell’s goal to create a more substantial view of the 1950s is an attempt to present truth and an unbiased perception of the decade, to separate and identify fact from legends; legends that were created by advertisements, programming, and nostalgia of the period.
Martin Halliwell teaches the whole gamut of American literature from the Revolutionary period through to contemporary America, and takes a special interest in early twentieth-century literature and post-World War II American fiction. He teaches American film, visual culture, critical theory and popular music. His extensive knowledge of the history of several multi-media industries as well as American history makes Halliwell extensively credible to discuss the American culture of the 1950s. This book was written in 2007 and thus the work is subject to more modern and liberal viewpoints and tone, apparent in his reference to the decade with the repeated use of “nostalgia” implying a derogatory and negative connotation.
In a review written by Alison Stanley of King’s College London, Halliwell’s The American Culture of the 1950s, received praise. Stanley summarizes the book chapter by chapter and reconstructs the layout of the book by describing it, mentioning “Halliwell’s book is clearly laid out and easy to read.”13 She goes on to acknowledge Halliwell’s repetitive structure and the “cultural forms chosen as the subjects of each chapter are well-selected and offer a broad view of 1950s culture.”14 Halliwell’s blending of facts and commentary is also noticed in Stanley’s review when she says “the reader is constantly warned of oversimplifying the period, so its complexities and tensions are emphasized.” 15 Stanley’s remark on Halliwell’s ever-present warning signifies Halliwell’s success in persuading readers to remember to stay unbiased. Stanley reviewed Halliwell’s book with positive remarks and states the book “offers a thoughtful, balanced and challenging introduction to the 1950s culture.”16
Halliwell discussed the 1950s American culture in a fairly proficient reading level which allows his points to be better understood by the general public. His attempt at re-evaluating and changing the modern perception of the 1950s from a two-dimensional perspective to a three-dimensional one is partly encouraged due to the era being overly romanticized by how modern media shows display it. Halliwell executes his mission well with his carefully balanced intertwining of historical facts, specific examples, first hand accounts, and personal commentary. His well-orchestrated structure allows the reader to evaluate the decade on their own, however Halliwell’s easily understandable diction clearly presents his own ideas on the subject matter. Throughout the book, Halliwell subtly reminds the reader to remain unbiased and to take into account the many factors leading up to an event/general thinking. On the subject of focusing on political history, Halliwell states “the danger is that critics either ignore the broad sweep of American culture to focus on government.”17 Halliwell’s subtle warning to the reader provides a reminder to the reader as well as an explanation to Halliwell’s layout decisions. The abundance of first-hand accounts and visuals provide even more layers to the image Halliwell set out to do.
The 1950s were home to individuals who lived in constant paranoia with censorship looming over their heads yet exercised liberal actions. The 50s was a transitional period in American history in which new forms of technology and media made their debut, new art forms were being practiced, and new styles of voice in literature were explored. It is also an era of conservatism, especially in regards to the government. The American people’s fears of the spread of Communism in American society led to the general perception that in order to preserve the American spirit, one must act in a nationalistic and patriotic manner. The American people were distracted by the mass media and new technology and the luxuries that resulted in mass production and thus the nostalgic air of the 50s was romanticized. Yet in reality, the American people were stripped away from their liberties due to government suppression exercised through censorship. Halliwell supports the claim that the 50s was a mixture of high spirits along with fear as it was an era of progressive actions with conservative thinking. Halliwell provides ample evidence supporting the claim that the American culture of the 1950s was a transitional period. It is seen through the evolution of music and artistic styles, American entertainment taste, and the new technology being used. Halliwell states the American culture is a “clash between Christian and Roman values, in which allegories of McCarthyism are juxtaposed with the liberal belief in the possibility of alliances between races.”18 The liberalism found in artistic forms in the 50s is overshadowed with the suppression of expression by the government.
American Culture in the 1950s aims to provide an introduction to the different cultural forms of the decade, and is generally very successful in doing so. The introduction provides an excellent theoretical framework that the chapters then build on, and the cultural forms chosen as the subjects of each chapter are well selected and offers a broad view of 1950s culture. The coverage of each cultural form is broad and helpful for a newcomer to the subject, and the case studies allow for more detailed discussion and critical analysis. Halliwell’s execution of presenting historical facts alongside his opinions and interpretations to historical events allow the reader to fully analyze and conclude with a personal consensus of the 50s. Overall, Halliwell paints a picture of the 1950s as a decade of general paranoia, suppression, and conservatism mixed with liberalism, creativity, and artistic expression. The re-evaluation of the era allows for events in the decade to be better understood with a decrease in bias and nostalgic tendencies.
Halliwell, Martin. American Culture in the 1950s. Edinburgh University Press, 2007. 4.
Halliwell, Martin. 20.
Halliwell, Martin. 51.
Halliwell, Martin. 53.
Halliwell, Martin. 87.
Halliwell, Martin. 119.
Halliwell, Martin. 147.
Halliwell, Martin. 190.
Halliwell, Martin. 206.
Halliwell, Martin. 241
Halliwell, Martin. 43.
Halliwell, Martin. 241.
Stanley, Alison. European Journal of American Culture. 2010. 255.
Stanley, Alison. 256.
Stanley, Alison. 257.
Stanley, Alison. 255.
Halliwell, Martin. 9.
Halliwell, Martin. 9.
The American Prophet by Nicole Wu
A review of Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life Raised High
Having worked on the biography of J.D. Salinger for eight years, Kenneth Slawenski finally published J.D. Salinger: A Life in 2010 and dedicated it to Salinger, who had died earlier that year. Slawenski believed that although Salinger had died, "he [would] always live within the pages he created."1 By writing this biography, Slawenski urges the readers to explore the life and works of Salinger.
Born to a Jewish family in New York in 1919, Jerome David Salinger, once referred to as Sonny, grew up under the indulgence of his mother and thus developed a spoiled personality. While fond of his mother, Salinger disliked his father Solomon, whom he saw as pragmatic and insincere. Although he was bright, Salinger owned a rebellious personality that often prevented him from paying attention in class. Because of his short attention span, while Salinger was enrolled in McBurney private school, his grades were so bad that the highest grade he gained was a B in English. McBurney could not tolerate such terrible grades and forced Salinger to drop out. Seeking more discipline his son for his behavior, Solomon Salinger enrolled him in Valley Forge Military Academy, which became the basis for Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye. Although Salinger did not enjoy his time at Valley Forge, he participated in various activities, including becoming the chief editor of the student newspapers, and actually thrived in the school both socially and academically. He even wrote the Class Song, which is ironically still sung annually at Valley Forge during each commencement. During the 1930s Salinger attended several universities but never completed his degree. He was sent by his practical father to the turbulent Europe to practice business skills, residing in an Austrian Jewish family, for whom he admired strongly. He even had a crush on a girl in the family, whom he later based his story “A Girl I Knew” on. After he came back and attended Columbia in 1939, Salinger became a student of Professor Burnett, the chief editor of the Story magazine, in which Salinger published a story "The Young Folks" that resembled the style of his idol F. Scott Fitzgerald and expressed his disenchantment with the ideals of upper-class. Patriotic and ambitious when the peacetime draft was initiated in 1940, Salinger was depressed to find out that he had a minor heart problem that prevented from enlisting. Still, he published a patriotic short story, "The Hang of It", and earned The New Yorker's acceptance of "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," which provided a basis for his future Caulfield series and demonstrated that although he detested the phoniness of upper-class Manhattan society, "he had become part of it."2 His private life also demonstrated his mixed feelings toward the phoniness of the upper-class. He had dated and been deeply in love with Oona O’Neil, a pretty upper-class girl who lacked substance. In order please Oona, Salinger tried his best to get his stories published by the New Yorker. However, after Oona later entered Hollywood, she met Charlie Chaplin, who was thirty-six years older than her, and eventually became his fourth wife.
During World War II, Salinger was able to pursue his dream of enlisting in the army once the restrictions on draft were loosened, and he eventually joined the 12th Regiment of Fourth Infantry Division, which participated in the invasion of Normandy. While Salinger was in the army, he continued writing short stories containing the Caulfield characters, including "I'm Crazy", which advocated for innocence, "A Boy in France", which condemned the phoniness of war, "the Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise", in which Vincent Caulfield moans the loss of Holden Caulfield, and "the Ocean Full of Bowling Balls", which illustrated the death of Allie Caulfield and the innocence he symbolized. His transition from patriotism to disillusion with war was largely a result of his wartime experience. Besides the landing on Normandy, Salinger had also participated with the 4th Infantry Division in the Hurtgen Forest battle and the Battle of the Bulge. While involved in combat, Salinger continued writing and produced stories such as “the Magic Foxhole", which portrayed the horrible psychological effects of war. Having found out that his cherished Jewish Austrian family had been exterminated, he wrote several short stories condemning racism, especially anti-Semitism. After V - E Day, Salinger stayed to assist de-nazification and married a German girl named Sylvia Welter, and he even gave her a French passport so that he would be able to marry her. However, the cultural difference and constant quarrelling gradually alienated the couple, and Salinger ended up divorcing her in 1947. In Salinger’s family, Sylvia became a subject that was never to be mentioned again. After he returned to the US, Salinger began to gain popularity. His first Glass story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, which portrayed the difficulty for veterans to fit into society, was published by the New Yorker in 1948. The protagonist, Seymour Glass, a veteran who came back considerably transformed from the war, eventually committed suicide next to his sleeping wife. When the New Yorker discovered Salinger’s talents through this story, it entered a contract with him, granting it first- reading rights and made his later stories almost exclusive to the New Yorker. During this period, Salinger began to study Zen Buddhism and mystical Catholicism, embracing spirituality and unity in his works. Moreover, “Salinger’s stories grew to bask in the sheer delight of childhood”, as evidenced by “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”, published in 1950, and The Cather in the Rye, published in 1951. 3
While “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” focused on a veteran’s postwar trauma and his emotional connection to two orphans who symbolize innocence, Salinger’s most significant work, The Catcher in the Rye, “was confession, purging, prayer, and enlightenment all encased in a voice so distinct that it would alter American culture.”4 Utilizing a stream-of-consciousness technique, The Catcher in the Rye described Holden Caulfield’s journey from Pencey Prep to New York, through which Salinger attacked the phoniness of society. Although its unconventionality was met with some suspicion, Holden’s loss of faith, aimlessness evasion of reality, and longing to protect innocence helped the novel gain considerable popularity for and directly influenced the development of the Beat Literature. Because of Salinger’s ambitions and arrogance, Salinger maintained high control over the publication of his work and protection of his privacy. He bought a house in a rural village Cornish and married his second wife, Claire Douglas, in 1955. Devoting his every effort to writing, Salinger produced a series of short stories on the Glass family: “Franny”, “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”, “Zooey”, “Seymour: an Introduction”, and “Hapworth 16, 1924”, all of which contained religious symbols that reflected Salinger’s espousal of Zen Buddhism. Seymour, the main character who elopes with his fiancée and commits suicide next to his wife in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, is constantly featured in these stories as a spiritual savant. Franny, influenced by Seymour, reads an Orthodox classic, The Way of a Pilgrim, which contributes to her emotional breakdown. Buddy, the narrator of most of the Glass stories, reflects Salinger’s emotional connection to his characters and his loss of faith. However, although most of the Glass stories gained appreciation among the readers, others were met with criticism, especially “Hapworth 16, 1924”, an 81-page letter narrated by Seymour. Not only did it require the readers to know the Glass characters well, “but it also demanded that they love them as much as Salinger did”. 5 Some of the Glass family stories contained ideas from Zen Buddhism, haiku, and Hindu Vendata, which to a certain extent annoyed the Western readers who did not regard spirituality as importantly as Salinger did. Salinger’s extravagant focus on spirituality and the innocence of his characters alienated some critics and readers, but these stories also created a tremendous impact on the writers of 1950s.
After the completion of “Hapworth 16, 1924”, Salinger continued writing but never published again, fearing that several publishers had betrayed his trust by disregarding his demands to avoid publicity. Despite countless attempts by journalists and fans to interview him, he almost always remained unreachable. Although determined to live as recluse, Salinger did not live peacefully during the latter half of his life. Since he devoted most of his time to writing, his family was often left uncared for and isolated in the house. After having two kids, Salinger’s tensions with Claire exacerbated. He finally divorced Claire in 1967, and he dated several other women since until he married Colleen O'Neil, who was much younger than him, in 1988. Besides enduring the controversy over John Lennon’s murderer, who was inspired by The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger also engaged in court battles with Ian Hamilton, who published a biography using his letters, and Fredrik Colting, who published a book titled 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. Tightening control over his copyright, Salinger denied various attempts to adapt The Catcher in the Rye to the big screen, although various movies had used elements from the novel. Salinger remained as a recluse until his death in 2010, when, “within a few hours of the announcement, thousands of blogs and websites had posted tributes… Salinger’s death was front-page news in every American newspaper and most throughout the world.”6 Ironically, Salinger would have likely objected to such popularity.
Slawenski expresses his admiration of Salinger by depicting him as an “American prophet” in the book. According to Slawenski, “Salinger may have considered himself an American prophet, a voice crying in the urban wilderness.”7 His works, especially The Catcher in the Rye, have greatly influenced the American culture. Even during the conformist 1950s, “the call to rebellion that the public had come to associate with Salinger’s work began to bleed into mainstream society.”8He was not only the inspiration for the Beat Generation, but also for many generations hence. After Salinger’s death, thousands of individuals, mostly young, posted videos of them reading their favorite bits of Salinger’s works on YouTube, which proved that Salinger’s works were timeless.
Born and raised in New Jersey, which is considered one of the more liberal states in the nation, Kenneth Slawenski, the author of the book, runs a website on the work and life of J.D. Salinger, DeadCaulfields.com. Slawenski took seven years to work on the biography of Salinger, “determined to one day deliver a… account of Salinger’s life justly infused with appreciation for his works”.9 He has also published another short biography praising J.D. Salinger in Vanity Fair. It is evidenced that the author is clearly a fan of Salinger, which leads him to convey more appreciation and less criticism of Salinger’s works and life. Since Slawenski was likely to be born to a liberal background, he might also have disregarded Salinger’s unconventional writing style, which is more abhorred by conservatives.
According to Ferdinand Mount’s “Refusing to Play the Game”, Slawenski does not write professionally in his work. Besides writing in an amateurish way, such as spelling “Adolf” as “Adolph”, “Slawenski cannot quote chunks from letters or diaries or even from the books”, because he is not authorized.10 Jay McInerney also states in the book review “J.D. Salinger’s Love and Squalor” that, because of Salinger’s lawsuit with Ian Hamilton, Slawenski had to follow a strict interpretation of copyright law, “limiting himself pretty much to short phrases (that could be quoted from Salinger’s work).”11 However, although Mount has pointed out some of Slawenski’s flaws, he still regards the book with approval and contends that, “Slawenski has a priceless humility and a sympathy with his subject”; therefore, Mount concludes that, “If you can imagine Salinger having a soft spot for any book about him… then Slawenski’s might be the one.”12In conclusion, despite Slawenski’s flaws, his efforts are still commendable.
Even though Slawenski’s analysis of Salinger’s life and works is very thorough, his writing style remains the biggest flaw of the book. By using phrases such as, “the struggle of Holden Caulfield echoes the spiritual journey of the author”, Slawenski makes his writing appear like a high school student’s essay on Salinger’s works.13 Moreover, because of Slawenski’s strong sympathy for Salinger, he often conveys qualified appreciation for the latter and tends to even justify some of Salinger’s more controversial actions. For example, after Claire Douglass married Salinger and moved into his house in Cornish, Salinger dedicated most of his time to writing instead of accompanying his family, a behavior that the readers found somewhat appalling. Even though Slawenski accurately described Salinger’s actions with qualified detachment, he still viewed Salinger during this period with more veiled appreciation for his works and stories than criticism for his lack of care towards his family. However, although the book might contain some bias, the readers can truly comprehend Salinger’s character and actually care for him. When Slawenski detailed the battles that Salinger participated in during WWII, he vividly portrayed the fear of death and disenchantment with war that Salinger faced. Through his writing, Slawenski gradually pushed the readers to sympathize with Salinger and comprehend the transformation of Salinger’s writing from patriotic to disillusioned.
According to Slawenski, the literature of 1950s was largely marked by liberalism instead of conservatism. The fact that The Catcher in the Rye, a book published in 1951 that contained controversial use of diction, could be endorsed by most of the critics and readers, demonstrated that people of the 1950s could still accept nonconformist literature. Not only was Salinger’s writing accepted, but it was also praised by the acclaimed Beat Generation. During the 1950s, “writers such as Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs continued the dialogue Salinger had begun, taking the discussion of alienation and displacement to new levels.”14 Many controversial fictions, including the infamous Lolita, which was reportedly directly influenced by Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, were published during the 1950s. Such a literary movement proved that the 1950s was not a period of pure conformity. Still, Slawenski made references to the post-war conformity in the society in the book. In fact, Slawenski mentioned that Salinger had written a short story titled “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”, which specifically criticized the post-war suburban social conformity. However, the story was published in the late 1940s and could not be used to describe the 1950s. Therefore, although the 1950s were marked by conformity, there were still liberal elements present during this decade.
In conclusion, by analyzing Salinger’s life and works as well as his influence upon American society, Slawenski points out Salinger’s enduring influence on American popular culture and how he affected the literary trends of 1950s. As the beatniks sought validation of their discontent with the society, “many found this validation in The Catcher in the Rye… (and) seized upon the character of Holden Caulfield as the spokesperson for their generation.”15
Slawenski, Kenneth. J.D. Salinger: A Life. New York: Random House, 2010. x.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 46.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 172.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 193.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 370.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 411
Slawenski, Kenneth. 414
Slawenski, Kenneth. 308.
Slawenski, Kenneth. ix.
Mount, Ferdinand. "Refusing to Play the Game." The Spectator. The Spectator Ltd, 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 June 2014.
McInerney, Jay. “J.D. Salinger’s Love and Squalor.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 04 June 2014.
Mount, Ferdinand. "Refusing to Play the Game." The Spectator. The Spectator Ltd, 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 June 2014.
Slawenski, Kenneth. J.D. Salinger: A Life. New York: Random House, 2010. 214.
Slawenski, Kenneth. 308
Slawenski, Kenneth. 307.
The Voice of a Generation by Kyle Chang
A review of Bill Morgan’s The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation
After the destructive events of WWII, with the advent of the Cold War, America experienced a shift in culture. It was an age of surveillance, a time when any expression of liberalism was considered treason. Despite the suspicious aura, there were still those who rejected conformity and expressed their views through their artistic works. On October 7th, 1955, the Beat generation “was made whole” after the electrifying reading from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. In his book The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, Bill Morgan delivers a tediously detailed timeline of the Beats' influences, whereabouts, and accomplishment throughout their lives.
Morgan begins the story by introducing Lucien Carr, a disgruntled 18 year old who attends Columbia University. There he meets Allen Ginsberg and their ensuing conversation “ changes Ginsberg’s life and alters the course of American literature and culture forever.” Carr's open friendliness inspires Ginsberg to admit his previously hidden desires, and would later grow the courage to express those desires in words. Through mutual friends, the two meet Bill Burroughs and David Kammerer, two other future Beatniks. Their discussion and openness in discussion of taboo topics like homosexuality sparked Allen’s suppressed desires, but not all of them shared this trait. Lucien, became increasingly frustrated with Kammerer’s predatory stalking of him, and in a drunken stupor, Lucien kills him. This calamity temporarily splits up the group of friends. Eventually, when they regroup, the group added Jack Kerouac and Hal Chase and a few of them moved in to a small apartment. Every night at their apartment on West 115th street, the teenagers held intellectual discussions concerning spirituality and some members began experimenting with drugs. In the spring of 1947, Ginsberg made a heavy decision pertaining to his mentally ill mother, Naomi. He decided to give his mother, a schizophrenic, a risky pre-frontal lobotomy that would “haunt him forever.” . Following the operation, his mother’s violent seizures disappeared, along with her former personality. Naomi became a virtual walking corpse, even forgetting who Allen is. Throughout his childhood, Naomi scarred her son with her insane rants and raves. This insanity would later serve as a source of inspiration for his poem, Howl. As time went on, the sympathetic and gullible Allen served as an adhesive that kept the group together. He always took care of his friends in need; in one case, he helped his criminal friends hide their stolen loot causing himself to be arrested. Instead of prison however, Allen was sent to the New York State Psychiatric Institute for therapy. Meanwhile, Kerouac had successfully published The Town and the City, and spent most of his time traveling and visiting friends, like Bill Buroughs. Bill had spent the last several years attempting several failed ventures, and his uncontrollable drug addiction led him to many run-ins with the law. He eventually left for Mexico City after being caught on drug charges and in a Mexican prison, he would later draft the work Junkie. Kerouac’s journeys led him to writing his most acclaimed novel, On the Road. Inspired by Neal Cassady’s spontaneity, Kerouac decided that he would ignore traditional rules of writing like punctuation and paragraph breaks to type the story in “one long, sustained burst of energy.” He even glued pieces of papers on his typewriter together; he never had to interrupt his train of thought or his free flow of words. Kerouac and the other Beats writers tended to be spontaneous and capricious, the relationships they had with potential spouses were always brief. For these impromptu writers, a family would only tie down their imagination and potential.
In November of 1953, the New York Times commissioned John Clellon Holmes to write an article about the up and coming writers of his generation. Holmes titled his piece “ This is the Beat Generation" the first to use this particular phrase in print. In New York, Kerouac, began to show interest in the Buddhist practice; especially in New Age spirituality. Allen, who had been urged to resist his homosexual desires by his psychiatrist, was constantly tormented until he met Peter Orlovsky. Orlovsky had been a model for Robert LaVigne, a prominent supporter of the arts at the time in San Francisco when he met Allen. They would live together, and Orlovsky's company helped bolster Allen's enthusiasm in his work. During this time, LaVigne decided to hold an informal poetry reading at his Six-Gallery with other modern poets of the city. Ginsberg recited Howl, which condemned the dehumanizing nature of America’s corporate culture; all his feelings were laid bare, undiluted and direct, exposing society’s raw nerve to a group of attentive listeners. On that night, “ the Beat Generation was made whole.” The liberal city of San Francisco embraced the young poets, and helped the Beat Generation make nation-wide headlines. A larger, more organized repeat reading at Berkeley cemented the movement's leaders' reputations.
With the publishing company , City Lights's release of Howl and Other Poems, the city inspector of customs seized the prints claiming it was inappropriate for children. The book-seller, another Beatnik Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had anticipated attacks from censors, and had already secured a promise from the American Civil Liberties Union to defend City Lights. Public opinion favored the poets, as they viewed the case as a direct attack on first amendment rights. In a surprising decision, the judge Clayton Horn labeled Howl as a work that had " some redeeming social value." This set an important precedent and soon, " Banned books would soon become a thing of the past." Meanwhile, Kerouac found a publisher for On the Road, and Burroughs and his entourage finished edits on his piece The Naked Lunch in Morocco. On the Road, focused on Kerouac and his cross country travels in the late 40's. It is considered a defining work of the 1960's counterculture, since its protagonists sough self discovery through jazz, drug, and alcohol use. Meanwhile, The Naked Lunch is a series of loosely connected short stories, which emphasized drug use and anti-social behavior. These two works along with Howl would later be considered the main accomplishments of the Beat Generation, and are revered as symbols of the group. At the same time, Leroi Jones, an African American, and Diane di Prima, a woman, had moved into Greenwich Village and earned the respect of original Beats. Their existence as minority members in the group is significant for the fact that the Beat Generation's ideals of almost selfish personal-gratification and rejection of societal norms was rare among women and African Americans. Even more rare was their acceptance from the Beatniks; the mostly white, male members of the Beats tended to objectify women, viewing them only as " sex objects, providers, and mothers, and rarely did they believe that they could write as well as their male counterparts." For the most part however, the Beatniks did not include many minorities, and was mostly composed of white males.
Despite the spectacular year of 1957, the Beat Generation began to decline. Many conservative critics had emerged, calling the Beats " The Know nothing Bohemians" and " The Cult of Un-think." Several members, like Kerouac and Burroughs, had been unable to end their alcohol and drug addictions, and were tied down by this inability. During this time, Allen continued to help his friends through direct financial aid, references, and somehow kept the group in contact. By 1961, the group had lost their enthusiasm and the group essentially split apart. Treated as heroes in the liberal world, the members pursued their own ambitions. Allen, toured many countries, including Cuba and Czechoslovakia before he was eventually deported from both of them, as his prominence as a potential "evil" influence had followed him across the borders. Finally, the event that truly showed the end of the Beat Generation occurred with the death of Jack Kerouac, whose alcoholism led to his death by liver failure. William Burroughs, never could repeat the success he had with The Naked Lunch; in 1966, he was able to successfully quit his drug addiction and lived a quiet life in Kansas writing until his death. The Beats had finally become an event of the past, but their influence on America was still very much relevant. During the 1970's, the "Hippies" emerged from the ashes of the Beat Generation, determined to continue the liberal agenda in America. All in all, the Beats and their open thinking and spontaneous prose changed the way Americans felt about conformity.
Throughout his work, Morgan establishes the idea that the Beats were more than just a group of hipster writers with too much time on their hands and money to spend; he emphasizes the fact that the Beatniks " broke free of the status quo in life and art, and set the stage for the future." Following the end of World War Two, most Americans looked forward to enjoying post war prosperity quietly, but the beatniks had other ideas. They sensed that an essential spiritual element of America had disappeared with the emergence of conformity, and their vision of the importance of the individual helped shape the true idea of an American Dream. By observing the influences and events that the major Beats took part in, the reader can understand the transformation the Beatniks underwent to earn their radical views.
The astounding amount of depth in the Beat Generation in The Typewriter of Death: The Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, shows both Morgan's supportive attitude and detailed understanding of the group. When Morgan was in college in the early 1970's, he found an interest for the Beats and wrote his thesis on core Beatniks such as Kerouac and Ginsberg. He later became the personal archivist of Allen Ginsberg; this personal experience allowed him to tell the meticulous details of the book without flinching,"...loving someone so much that their two bodies would merge in one giant "slurp." His tolerance of these taboo practices probably stemmed from his personal experience in the countercultural "hippie-movement." However, despite the title's suggestion that the book is an "uncensored" account, Morgan still shows some restraint in his use of vocabulary. When describing sexual encounters, he often simply put " Kerouac wouldn't have minded getting into bed with the flirtatious Celine, and so on." Despite his admiration for the Beats, Morgan could not openly advocate the group. The politics of the year of publication, 2010, also suggested a conservative resurgence, as a more fanatical version of the book would have resulted in harsh criticism. Morgan's work serves as an important bridge between the two sides, liberalism and conservatism as he delivers a more credible history with less commentary.
Morgan's account of the Beat generation is only one out of many; Multiple versions of the history of the Beats, all with different emphasis and viewpoints, have been published. Conflicting opinions of Morgan's effectiveness were shown throughout the various reviews made. In particular, Jonah Raskin, a professor of Sonoma State University, Raskin concluded that Morgan had poorly used his personal friendship with Ginsberg to " take the place of fresh scholarship and new insights." Besides this, he also claims that Raskin misses the point with not delegating enough credit to the social circumstances of the time. However, it is important to note that Raskin himself was a Beat researcher and writer, so what he considers "new information" may differ from that of a regular person. On the other hand, William Gargan of Brooklyn College wrote that despite the work's " overly-factual emphasis,” it is a " solid contribution to Beat Studies, for scholars and general readers alike." To add onto this, New York Times writer Janet Maslin, stated that Morgan's concise history put " the far reaching Beat tentacles and vast Beat cultural legacy into perspective." The general consensus of reviews state that Morgan effectively teaches the public by delivering a detailed report of Beat Generation and their accomplishments.
Overall, the work provided an insightful and comprehensive log of the birth, life, death, and legacy of the Beat Generation. A problem that the book did have was that certain facts like exact dates and locations of certain members seemed trivial. Morgan also introduces the names of many characters; this causes the reader to juggle keeping track of the location of multiple people and places that often seems pointless, such as when he says," By the time Marthe returned to San Francisco, Jack had already left the bay area...He headed for the Skagit Valley."Marthe, the wife of another character, is never mentioned after this excerpt, and thus the inclusion of this information seemed confusing and off-topic. The book does gives a strong overview through its chronological structure and usage of personal quotes, Morgan concisely educates the reader on the Beat Generation in a 280 pages. Finally, the casual diction and tone makes the book very enjoyable, despite its minor flaws. Taken as a whole, The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation provides a complete perspective of the Beat Generation and its deeds.
Based on Morgan's book, the 1950's was a time of conservatism. The Beats' existence itself proved this, they found that " the average American was content and wanted to enjoy postwar prosperity quietly..." and the Beats sensed that "an essential spiritual element was missing." On top of that, the police seizure of the first prints of Howl showed the readiness of the older generation to censor potential threats. For the older generations and especially for those who fought in WWII, the Beatniks were trying to disrupt a peace that their forefathers had fought so hard to attain. But the Beats rejected the conservative agenda of the decade, and their efforts forced American society to accept its current state of affairs and go forward, evolving from that baseline.
The Typewriter is Holy, written during the 21st century, was a modern reflection of the Beat Generation complemented with personal anecdotes from its key characters. Ultimately, the Beats turned down traditional standards of success like financial stability with a "better, richer, and happier life" in favor of "spiritual growth and intellectual freedom." What others felt was a radical destabilization was, simply an extension of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. During the following years of the 1960-'s and 1970's, the countercultural movement of the "hippies" would draw much of their inspiration from the Beats. The conditions of conservatism in the 1950's allowed the Beats to break barriers; as their belief in the importance of the individual led to widespread changes in the arts and unprecedented protection of the freedom of speech in America.
Morgan, Bill. The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation. New York, NY: Free 2010. 87
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Beyond the Scripts by Nancy Huang
A review of John Lardas’s The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs
Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that “The poet turns the world to glass, and shows us all things in their right series and procession” which Lardas includes in his introduction for the new generation of the 1950’s. Fact and fiction concerning the lives and religious views of the “Avant-Gardes of Culture”, or the Beats, are conjoined in John Lardas’ complex work,The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. John Lardas presents a window into the Beat consciousness of the 1940’s and 1950’s that intricately defines Beat culture and religiosity in a spiritualistic manner. The Beats movement had its roots and inspirations in the musical talents of Charlie Parker and Lester Young, the psychology of Wilhelm Reich, the linguistic theories of Alfred Korzybski, the hipsters of New York City, and most notably, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. Lardas’ work examines the metaphysical realities, spiritual drive, and literary inspirations of the “counter-culture” by examining the individualistic views of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs.
Lardas begins by discussing the Beat’s beginnings in postwar America. Lardas dedicates the first chapter to a thorough analysis of German philosopher, Oswald Spengler’s work, The Decline of the West. The Beats’ style of writing was heavily influenced by Spengler’s symbols and metaphors; however, they presented their works by their own religious interpretation. Overall, The Decline of the West claimed that “Western civilization was on the verge of total collapse” and that the currently reigning culture would perish within time. The Decline of the West studied the relationship of cultures such as Greek, Roman, Indian, Arabian, and Mayan. However, Spengler mainly focused on evaluating contemporary European civilization and reached a conclusion that with the decline of the West, there would be the birth of a new culture. Similarly, the Beats felt that there existed a strong correlation between what was presented in his book with what was happening in the postwar period in America. Though overlooked in its time, Spengler’s The Decline of the West garnered attention and admiration from a generation of young intellectuals beginning in the 1940’s. The Beats movement appealed to the middle-class members and youth who were “suspicious of Western democracy, fearing the strictures of socialism, and yet harbored desires for a simple life of rural virtue.” Spengler believed that faith was unique to every culture, and that it helped the intellect formulate ideas that would result in social criticism and reform. It was an unintentional foreshadow of the rise of the Beats. The Beats opposed the established institutions and culture, the devastating consequences of war, and the pressures of America’s growing economy. Their goal was to experience the world rather than analyze it; following Spengler’s “notion of correspondence”, they began to question reality, experience, emotions, and culture.
As the book progresses, Lardas continues to connect Spengler with the Beats, but then shifts his attention towards three of the most renowned Beat writers. He introduces the core concepts and shared perspectives of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs as their ideas were connected through Spengler’s writing. Each writer did not strictly follow any guidelines from Spengler’s work or copy his ideas. Consequently, they incorporated and upheld Spengler’s view of the world, while still keeping things creative and distinctive with their personal flair. Although the Beats gained most of their insight and inspiration from Spengler’s book, they were also mesmerized by the music and art of their time. They looked to the jazz improvisation for inspiration by fusing music’s “jagged melodies, asymmetrical style, and rhythmic complexity of bebop” into their own styles of writing. Later on in his career, Kerouac used sketching as a source of relief and a way to connect to the cosmos; this sketching method stemmed from his Buddhist practices and meditation. The Beats valued every-day experiences and believed it was possible to find the ultimate meaning of life through those encounters. Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs all shared this similar goal; however, they each took a different route to achieve it. Kerouac and Ginsberg reminisced on the peaceful America of the past, while Burroughs was more of a self-conscious thinker who cared more about events being experienced in the present.
The book then takes an extensive look into each writer’s distinguished works and summarizes their key points and techniques. Popular works like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959), were subversive and yearned for social and self-awakening. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, a prolonged poem, challenged social conformity with its spotlight on the previously secluded world of drug-addicts, prostitutes, and swindlers. Among the three writers, Ginsberg was the most mystical, spiritual, and carefree. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is a narrative that connects literary stream of consciousness with drug visions. Kerouac’s life was filled with confusion, discord, and depression, which eventually led to the decline of his career. Kerouac incorporated his Catholic and Buddhist views in his writing as religion made a huge impact on shaping his open-minded perspective. The major belief shared by Kerouac and Ginsberg in regards to their romantic sensibility was that “Poets were not only priests, but also possessed the power to regenerate culture sexually”. William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is a unique piece that drew attention with its obscure language and style. Diverging from Kerouac and Ginsberg’s goal, Burroughs’ chose not to evaluate the world in a mysterious and mystical manner, but rather to focus on the value of words and language. He developed the cut-up method, which he thought by repositioning phrases and piecing words together, could manipulate or translate a message. Burroughs approached things in a strict and pessimistic way, introducing factualism as an organic form of writing that would communicate purpose and its raw elements. As a result, factualism relied on experiences to showcase identity and reason; Burroughs infused himself with alcohol, crime, and heroin to experience beyond consciousness. He believed “The only thing to do with junk sickness, like pain, is to plunge right in the middle of it”. All three Beat writers were fully-immersed into the world of crime and drug-use as a drive and inspiration for their works. Hence, foul language, slang, sexual and spiritual experience, and explicit content were all common in their works and shocked the semi-conservative society of the 1950’s. In conclusion, Kerouac and Ginsberg’s writings focused on mystical experience and intimate connection to the universe; while in contrast, Burroughs advocated factualism to rid writing of its irrelevant elements, in a similar fashion to ridding post-war America of its corruption.
Lardas concludes his work by exploring how the Beats gained their insights and conclusions on America’s state of being, and their evaluation of the conditions on a larger scale. Initially, they aimed to gain hope by breaking down the barriers of corruption and restriction that limited society’s prosperity. Transcendentalism, a philosophical and religious movement developed during the 1820’s, had a great impact on the Beat movement. The Beats yearned for the same ideal world of the transcendentalists, known as Utopia. In order to achieve such a state of perfection and stability, they began to shift their focus to finding out what America was missing, and how they could improve it. By searching for these obscure answers, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, became more vulnerable, globally attached, and aware of America’s unstable position. All of them visited lands like Mexico, as it was thought that new ideas and developments could bloom in the “naked” landscape. In these foreign places, each formulated separate conclusions about the area in comparison to America and Spengler’s text. Burroughs stated that Mexico was similar to America in that it was full of corruption, and was undergoing degeneration due to its horrendous history. Dissimilarly, Kerouac embraced Mexico’s culture and conditions, claiming that it represented “innocence and purity” because it was not overtaken by industry or capitalism. The section concludes by reiterating the Beats’ wish to return to a natural state, in which America could renew itself.
Lardas’ main point in The Bop Apocalypse is that there is more to the Beats than what meets the eye in regards to religion, spiritual experiences, and what drove them to initiate a counterculture. Throughout the book, Lardas includes the criticism of the Beats from the media and the general public; the Beats were seen as nothing more than a rebellious generation of youths. He argued that “In such roles, the Beats become either heroes or cranks, never Americans running up against barriers, making sense of the world, and finding their place within it”. Lardas challenges the popular attitude like the Beats challenged the dominant culture by describing what it was like for the Beats during their struggle and how they perceived the world during its “Western Decline”. He supports his beliefs by explaining the reasons behind why the Beats aligned themselves with crime and drugs, associations that were controversial in the eyes of the dominant conformist society. Additionally, he presents how the Beats viewed themselves; Kerouac labeled the movement “Beats” to symbolize a “beat down generation, but capable of overcoming oppression through spiritual development”.
Denouncing the “popular” speculations and stereotypes of the Beats, Lardas believes that “their commonalities go still deeper than their association in the popular imagination.” His encounter with the writings of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs during college led him down an intellectual path focusing heavily on the study of theoretical perspective in religion. He approaches the Beats with adoration and in-depth understanding of their works and views. This exclusive knowledge is shown in his multiple articles regarding the Beat Generation including Building a Better Beat Generation, The Beats and Religion, and The Ginsberg Century. Secularism in Antebellum America is a book that includes his various works; evidently, he puts a considerable amount of emphasis on the underlying foundations of the Beats with a close connection between religion and spirituality. The New Criticism of the 1950’s degraded the works and writers of the Beat Generation, permanently damaging their reputation and causing contemptuous attitudes about them to be carried throughout the 20th century. Lardas, with the publication of his book in 2001, wished to demolish the contemptuous attitude of the majority on this subject. In The Bop Apocalypse, he aims to discover and analyze “the center around which the Beats framed literary discussions and formulated deeply felt religious questions.” According to Lardas, religious beliefs and practices can define humans in supernatural and subhuman ways; subsequently, impacting the world on a large scale by forming trends in sexual, ethnic, and gender roles.
John Lardas’ The Bop Apocalypse has received numerous positive reactions from other authors and professionals. His extensive analysis on the Beats has been coined the “the first book to engage the religious world of the Beats on its own terms” by the University of Illinois Press “blending biography, cultural history, and literary criticism”. The University of Illinois Press acknowledges that the book sheds light on the subject of the Beats in a more intimate level, analyzing their sexual openness, connection with drugs and crimes, and mental reasoning. M.H Begnal Pennsylvania State University highly recommends the book as it examines a broad range of influences from the ideas of Spengler, bebop music, theories, down to visionary poetry. Rowland A. Sherrill, author of Road-Book America, praises Lardas’ work by claiming that “this is the most perceptive, nuanced, and exhaustive account extant of the religious character of the Beat’s expressive arts”.
The Bop Apocalypse is a complex piece of work that dives deep into the abyss of the minds of late 20th century intellects. Lardas examines and projects the notion of religion as being the key to Beat ideas by examining the subject from all points of view. The book is perplexing yet captivating with its inclusion of both the dominant culture and the counter culture’s contradicting perspectives. Furthermore, it helps readers understand better, beyond simple summarization of the era, by giving a glimpse into each Beat writer’s work and how Spengler’s philosophies influenced each one. Though informative, the book is very subjective and focuses only on the religious inferences of the Beats in their early development. It does its intended task of tracing the Beats back to its origins, and analyzes the impact their writing had on society and the rising counter-culture of postwar America.
The 1950’s were a time of progress with bustling creations of trends and ideas. Lardas states that “the 1950’s within the context of American religious history is focused on radicalism and evolution”. He agrees that though the Beat movement constituted only a fraction of the 1950’s surge of change and evolution, it made a huge imprint on history and would lead to bigger events such as the Hippie movement of the 1960’s. Beginning in late 1940’s with the spread of Spengler’s famous work The Decline of the West, many questions concerning America’s future and consequences of the waning culture surfaced. Many of the Beat writers attempted to answer the questions by sending messages to the readers through their captivating works. The important question was whether or not America was really in decline, and if it was, how to revive it and rid of its sins. Sadly, the public did not recognize that the whole Beat movement itself was dedicated to finding out the solution to better society. Burroughs answered the question, stating that America was indeed inclined to an ill fate because the American people have become detached. Kerouac was more optimistic in his answer in that he believed in redemption by constructing a utopian community. Ginsberg believed that the focus should be placed on connecting the individual’s soul with the universe in order for changes to occur. By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the counterculture had grown and influenced a sizeable amount of people in each community. In correlation, cultural politics of the time such as the New Left and the Radicals also garnered attention and fueled debates. This further added to the postwar notion of “revolution” and influenced the perspective and tone of the Beats in the latter half of the century.
The Beats contributed immensely to the shifting tides of postwar America in the 1950’s. Beat writers like Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs made astounding innovations in writing with the application of scientology and the cut-up method, which
“were ways to expose word controls in order to free a subject from its determinative effects.” Likewise, they desired to free the American citizen and the inner soul from Western civilization’s corruption, decline, and eventual apocalypse.
1.Lardas, John. The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and
Burroughs. University of Illinois, 2001. 3.
2.Lardas, John. 43.
3.Lardas, John. 43.
4.Lardas, John. 156.
5.Lardas, John. 170.
6.Lardas, John. 153.
7.Lardas, John. 184.
8.Lardas, John. 32.
9.Lardas, John. 18.
10.Lardas, John. 13.
11.Lardas, John. 37.
12.“The Bop Apocalypse” University of Illinois Press. N.p., Web. 29 May 2014.
13.Sherrill, Rowland A. N.p., Web. 29 May 2014.
14.Lardas, John. 23.