A blistering character study and an examination of the American melting pot and the judicial system that keeps it in check, Twelve Angry Men holds at its core a deeply patriotic faith in the U.S. legal system. The play centers on Juror Eight, who is at first the sole holdout in an 11-1 guilty vote. Eight sets his sights not on proving the other jurors wrong but rather on getting them to look at the situation in a clear-eyed way not affected by their personal prejudices or biases. Reginald Rose deliberately and carefully peels away the layers of artifice from the men and allows a fuller picture to form of them—and of America, at its best and worst.
After the critically acclaimed teleplay aired in 1954, this landmark American drama went on to become a cinematic masterpiece in 1957 starring Henry Fonda, for which Rose wrote the adaptation. More recently, Twelve Angry Men had a successful, and award-winning, run on Broadway.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Contributors include Russell Banks, Donald Barthelme, Rick Bass, Richard Bausch, Charles Baxter, Amy Bloom, T.C. Boyle, Kevin Brockmeier, Robert Olen Butler, Sandra Cisneros, Peter Ho Davies, Janet Desaulniers, Junot Diaz, Anthony Doerr, Stuart Dybek, Deborah Eisenberg, Richard Ford, Mary Gaitskill, Dagoberto Gilb, Ron Hansen, A.M. Homes, Mary Hood, Denis Johnson, Edward P. Jones, Thom Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Jhumpa Lahiri, David Leavitt, Kelly Link, Reginald McKnight, David Means, Susan Minot , Rick Moody, Bharati Mukherjee, Antonya Nelson, Joyce Carol Oates, Tim O’Brien, Daniel Orozco, Julie Orringer, ZZ Packer, Annie Proulx, Stacey Richter, George Saunders, Joan Silber, Leslie Marmon Silko, Susan Sontag, Amy Tan, Melanie Rae Thon, Alice Walker, and Steve Yarbrough.
Contemporary readers of Peyton Place will be captivated by its vivid characters, earthy prose, and shocking incidents. Through her riveting, uninhibited narrative, Metalious skillfully exposes the intricate social anatomy of a small community, examining the lives of its people -- their passions and vices, their ambitions and defeats, their passivity or violence, their secret hopes and kindnesses, their cohesiveness and rigidity, their struggles, and often their courage.
This new paperback edition of Peyton Place features an insightful introduction by Ardis Cameron that thoroughly examines the novel's treatment of class, gender, race, ethnicity, and power, and considers the book's influential place in American and New England literary history.
Selected by five hundred writers, English professors, and creative writing teachers from across the country, this collection includes only the most highly regarded nonfiction work published since 1970.
Contributers include: Jo Ann Beard, Wendell Berry, Eula Biss, Mary Clearman Blew, Charles Bowden, Janet Burroway, Kelly Grey Carlisle, Anne Carson, Bernard Cooper, Michael W. Cox, Annie Dillard, Mark Doty, Brian Doyle, Tony Earley, Anthony Farrington, Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, Diane Glancy, Lucy Grealy, William Harrison, Robin Hemley, Adam Hochschild, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver , Ted Kooser, Sara Levine, E.J. Levy, Phillip Lopate, Barry Lopez, Thomas Lynch, Lee Martin, Rebecca McCLanahan, Erin McGraw, John McPhee, Brenda Miller, Dinty W. Moore, Kathleen Norris, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lia Purpura, Richard Rhodes, Bill Roorbach, David Sedaris, Richard Selzer, Sue William Silverman, Floyd Skloot, Lauren Slater, Cheryl Strayed, Amy Tan, Ryan Van Meter, David Foster Wallace, and Joy Williams.
Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.
Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature.
"By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America."
"Toni Morrison is the closest thing the country has to a national writer."
The New York Times Book Review
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011
The first authoritative biography of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a writer who changed the conversation of American literature.
In 2006, Charles Shields reached out to Kurt Vonnegut in a letter, asking for his endorsement for a planned biography. The first response was no ("A most respectful demurring by me for the excellent writer Charles J. Shields, who offered to be my biographer"). Unwilling to take no for an answer, propelled by a passion for his subject, and already deep into his research, Shields wrote again and this time, to his delight, the answer came back: "O.K." For the next year—a year that ended up being Vonnegut's last—Shields had access to Vonnegut and his letters.
And So It Goes is the culmination of five years of research and writing—the first-ever biography of the life of Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut resonates with readers of all generations from the baby boomers who grew up with him to high-school and college students who are discovering his work for the first time. Vonnegut's concise collection of personal essays, Man Without a Country, published in 2006, spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. The twenty-first century has seen interest in and scholarship about Vonnegut's works grow even stronger, and this is the first book to examine in full the life of one of the most influential iconoclasts of his time.
Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Trimalchio, an early and complete version of The Great Gatsby, is like listening to a familiar musical composition played in a different key. It is the same work and yet a different work.
Fitzgerald wrote Trimalchio during the summer of 1924 and submitted it to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner’s, in October of that year. (He titled the book after the ostentatious party-giver in the Satyricon of Petronius.) Perkins had the novel set in type and sent the galleys to Fitzgerald in France. Fitzgerald then heavily revised the galley pages, shifting material around and changing the title. The result was The Great Gatsby, his signature work.
Trimalchio, however, is also a remarkable achievement. It differs considerably from The Great Gatsby: its plot and structure are not the same, two chapters of Trimalchio were completely rewritten for the published novel, characterization is different, Nick Carraway’s narrative voice is altered, and it contains several passages and sequences missing from Gatsby. Most importantly, in Trimalchio Jay Gatsby’s past is revealed in a wholly different way.
This casebook for the story includes an introduction by the editor, a chronology of the author's life, the authoritative text of the story itself, comments and letters by O'Connor about the story, critical essays, and a bibliography. The critical essays span more than twenty years of commentary and suggest several approaches to the story--formalistic, thematic, deconstructionist-- all within the grasp of the undergraduate, while the introduction also points interested students toward still other resources. Useful for both beginning and advanced students, this casebook provides an in-depth introduction to one of America's most gifted modern writers.
“An essential book . . . a page-turner. Blume combines the best aspects of critic, biographer and storyteller . . . and puts the results together with the skill of an accomplished novelist. [This is] a complicated story, told masterfully.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Magnificently reported.” — Gay Talese
In the summer of 1925, Ernest Hemingway traveled to Pamplona for the infamous running of the bulls. He then channeled that trip’s drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals, and midday hangovers into a novel that redefined modern literature. Lesley Blume tells the full story behind Hemingway’s legendary rise for the first time, revealing how he created his own image as the bull-fighting aficionado, hard-drinking literary genius, and expatriate bon vivant. In all its youth, lust, and rivalry, the Lost Generation is illuminated here as never before.
“Engrossing . . . Drawing on journals, letters, and autobiographies of many members of the artistic circles in which Hemingway moved in the early 1920s, Blume shows how ruthlessly Hemingway betrayed his mentors, skewered his friends in his fiction, and sought to advance his career at all costs.” — Boston Globe
“Fascinating . . . compulsively readable.” — Houston Chronicle
Bringing together an impressive group of established scholars from television studies, film studies, sound studies, games studies, and more, each of the 65 essays in the volume focuses on a critical concept, from “fan” to “industry,” and “celebrity” to “surveillance.” Keywords for Media Studies is an essential tool that introduces key terms, research traditions, debates, and their histories, and offers a sense of the new frontiers and questions emerging in the field of media studies. Visit keywords.nyupress.org for online essays, teaching resources, and more.
But there was much more to Thoreau than his brief experiment in living at Walden Pond. A member of the vibrant intellectual circle centered on his neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was also an ardent naturalist, a manual laborer and inventor, a radical political activist, and more. Many books have taken up various aspects of Thoreau’s character and achievements, but, as Laura Dassow Walls writes, “Thoreau has never been captured between covers; he was too quixotic, mischievous, many-sided.” Two hundred years after his birth, and two generations after the last full-scale biography, Walls restores Henry David Thoreau to us in all his profound, inspiring complexity.
Walls traces the full arc of Thoreau’s life, from his early days in the intellectual hothouse of Concord, when the American experiment still felt fresh and precarious, and “America was a family affair, earned by one generation and about to pass to the next.” By the time he died in 1862, at only forty-four years of age, Thoreau had witnessed the transformation of his world from a community of farmers and artisans into a bustling, interconnected commercial nation. What did that portend for the contemplative individual and abundant, wild nature that Thoreau celebrated?
Drawing on Thoreau’s copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.
“The Thoreau I sought was not in any book, so I wrote this one,” says Walls. The result is a Thoreau unlike any seen since he walked the streets of Concord, a Thoreau for our time and all time.
Steinbeck's letters were written on the left-hand pages of a notebook in which the facing pages would be filled with the test of East of Eden. They touched on many subjects—story arguments, trial flights of workmanship, concern for his sons.
Part autobiography, part writer's workshop, these letters offer an illuminating perspective on Steinbeck's creative process, and a fascinating glimpse of Steinbeck, the private man.
Harriet E. Smith, Benjamin Griffin, Victor Fischer, Michael B. Frank, Sharon K. Goetz, Leslie Myrick
This guide to Salinger’s provocative novel offers:an accessible introduction to the text and contexts of The Catcher in the Rye a critical history, surveying the many interpretations of the text from publication to the present a selection of new critical essays on the The Catcher in the Rye, by Sally Robinson, Renee R. Curry, Denis Jonnes, Livia Hekanaho and Clive Baldwin, providing a range of perspectives on the novel and extending the coverage of key critical approaches identified in the survey section cross-references between sections of the guide, in order to suggest links between texts, contexts and criticism suggestions for further reading.
Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of The Catcher in the Rye and seeking not only a guide to the novel, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds Salinger’s text.
Jerry's mother was nineteen years old and nine months married when he was born. She had received Grandfather Stoll's permission for the wedding because she agreed to help out on the farm the following year. However, with Jerry on the way, those plans failed.
Jerry recounts his first two years of school in the Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario and his parents' decision to move to Honduras. Life in that beautiful Central American country is seen through an Amish boy's eyes-and then the dark days when the community failed and the family returned to America, much to young Jerry's regret. Jerry also tells of his struggle as a stutterer and his eventual conversion to Christ and the reasons for his departure from the childhood faith he knew.
Here is a must-read for not just Jerry's fiction fans, but also for readers curious about Amish life.
Conceived nearly a century ago by a man who died believing himself a failure, it's now a revered classic and a rite of passage in the reading lives of millions. But how well do we really know The Great Gatsby? As Maureen Corrigan, Gatsby lover extraordinaire, points out, while Fitzgerald's masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully comprehend its power.
Offering a fresh perspective on what makes Gatsby great-and utterly unusual-So We Read On takes us into archives, high school classrooms, and even out onto the Long Island Sound to explore the novel's hidden depths, a journey whose revelations include Gatsby's surprising debt to hard-boiled crime fiction, its rocky path to recognition as a "classic," and its profound commentaries on the national themes of race, class, and gender.
With rigor, wit, and infectious enthusiasm, Corrigan inspires us to re-experience the greatness of Gatsby and cuts to the heart of why we are, as a culture, "borne back ceaselessly" into its thrall. Along the way, she spins a new and fascinating story of her own.
CliffsNotes on Fahrenheit 451 explores a twenty-fourth century world in which books are considered evil because they inspire people to think and to question.
Following the story of a 30-year-old fireman who's spent the last decade destroying books for a living, this study guide features a graphical map to show how the novel's characters relate to one another. In addition, CliffsNotes provides character analyses that take you deeper into the minds and mechanical workings of Ray Bradbury's famous social criticism Other features that help you figure out this important work includePersonal background on the authorSynopsis of the book and a look at major themesSummaries and commentaries on each part of the bookReview section that features multiple-choice questions, quoted passages, and suggested essay topics and practice projectsResource Center with books, articles, and websites that can help round out your knowledge
Classic literature or modern-day treasure—you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.
Richly intermingling elements of burlesque, farce, and social satire with a wry look at the world market in art, Is He Dead? centers on a group of poor artists in Barbizon, France, who stage the death of a friend to drive up the price of his paintings. In order to make this scheme succeed, the artists hatch some hilarious plots involving cross-dressing, a full-scale fake funeral, lovers' deceptions, and much more.
Mark Twain was fascinated by the theater and made many attempts at playwriting, but this play is certainly his best. Is He Dead? may have been too "out there" for the Victorian 1890s, but today's readers will thoroughly enjoy Mark Twain's well-crafted dialogue, intriguing cast of characters, and above all, his characteristic ebullience and humor. In Shelley Fisher Fishkin's estimation, it is "a champagne cocktail of a play--not too dry, not too sweet, with just the right amount of bubbles and buzz."
Finalist Mention, 2017 Lora Romero First Book Award Presented by the American Studies Association
Winner of the 2012 CLAGS Fellowship Award for Best First Book Project in LGBT Studies In 1964, noted literary critic Leslie Fiedler described American youth as “new mutants,” social rebels severing their attachments to American culture to remake themselves in their own image. 1960s comic book creators, anticipating Fiedler, began to morph American superheroes from icons of nationalism and white masculinity into actual mutant outcasts, defined by their genetic difference from ordinary humanity. These powerful misfits and “freaks” soon came to embody the social and political aspirations of America’s most marginalized groups, including women, racial and sexual minorities, and the working classes. In The New Mutants, Ramzi Fawaz draws upon queer theory to tell the story of these monstrous fantasy figures and how they grapple with radical politics from Civil Rights and The New Left to Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements. Through a series of comic book case studies – including The Justice League of America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and The New Mutants –alongside late 20th century fan writing, cultural criticism, and political documents, Fawaz reveals how the American superhero modeled new forms of social belonging that counterculture youth would embrace in the 1960s and after. The New Mutants provides the first full-length study to consider the relationship between comic book fantasy and radical politics in the modern United States.
“I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period.” Such is the manifesto of Michael Chabon, an author of indisputable literary renown who maintains a fierce appreciation of the seductive arts of so-called “genre” fiction.
In this lively collection of sixteen critical and personal essays, the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay champions the cause of westerns, horror, and all the stories, comics, and pulp fiction that get pushed aside when literary discussion turns serious. Whether he’s taking up Superman or Sherlock Holmes, Poe or Proust, Chabon makes it his emphatic mission to explore the reasons we tell one another tales.
Throughout, Chabon reveals his own blooming as a writer, from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh to The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. He is living proof of his theory that the stories that give us great pleasure are in many ways our truest, best art—the building blocks of our shared imagination—and in Maps and Legends, he “makes an inviting case for bridging the gap between popular and literary writing” (O, The Oprah Magazine).
This ebook features a biography of the author.
The Companion is keyed to the pages of the principal American editions of Gravity's Rainbow: Viking/Penguin (1973), Bantam (1974), and the special, repaginated Penguin paperback (2000) honoring the novel as one of twenty "Great Books of the Twentieth Century."
“In ten years’ time,” wrote Edmund Wilson in Axel’s Castle, “Eliot has left upon English poetry a mark more unmistakable than that of any other poet writing in English.” In 1948, Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize “for his work as a trail-blazing pioneer of modern poetry.”
This book is made up of six individual titles: Four Quartets, Collected Poems: 1909–1935, Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and The Cocktail Party. It offers not only enjoyment of one of the great talents in contemporary literature, but a deeper understanding of such classics as “The Waste Land,” “The Hollow Men,” “Ash Wednesday,” “Prufrock,” “Murder in the Cathedral,” and “The Cocktail Party.” The Complete Poems and Plays of T. S. Eliot is indispensable.
How were firearms transformed from tools used by pioneers into symbols of modern manhood? Why did the NRA’s focus shift from encouraging responsible gun use to lobbying against gun-safety laws? What is the relationship between gun ownership and racism in America? How have the film, television, and video game industries molded our perception of gun violence? When did the fear of gun seizures arise, and how has it been used to benefit arms manufacturers, lobbyists, and the far-right?
Few ideas divide communities as much as those involving firearms, and fewer authors are able to tackle the subject with the same authority, humor, and intelligence. Written from the unique perspective of a gun lover who’s disgusted with what gun culture has become, Arms is destined to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
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CliffsNotes on The Giver explores a world in which disease, hunger, poverty, war, and lasting pain simply don’t exist. The members of this utopia have given up all human emotions and memories to live in a state of Sameness.
Following the story of a 12-year-old boy who recognizes the hypocrisy of his community’s “social order” – and who crafts a way to free everyone from the bane of Sameness, this study guide provides summaries and critical commentaries for each chapter within the novel. Other features that help you figure out this important work includePersonal background on the author, Lois LowryIntroduction to and synopsis of the bookCharacter descriptionsCritical essays on the author’s themes, style, language, and moreReview section that features interactive questions and suggested essay topicsSelected bibliography and list of critical works
Classic literature or modern-day treasure — you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.
CliffsNotes on The Catcher in the Rye introduces you to a coming-of-age novel with a twist. J.D. Salinger's best-known work is more realistic, more lifelike and authentic than some other representatives of the genre. Get to know the unforgettable main character, Holden Caulfield, as he navigates the dangers and risks of growing up.
This study guide enables you to keep up with all of the major themes and symbols of the novel, as well as the characters and plot. You'll also find valuable information about Salinger's life and background. Other features that help you study includeCharacter analyses of major playersA character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the charactersCritical essaysA review section that tests your knowledgeA Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites
Classic literature or modern-day treasure—you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.
CliffsNotes on Atlas Shrugged is your guide to author Ayn Rand's masterpiece, an impassioned defense of the freedom of man's mind. She shows that without the independent mind, our society would collapse into primitive savagery.
Delve into the post-World War II historical context of Atlas Shrugged and the modern implications of its conclusions. Other features that help you study includeCharacter analyses of major playersA character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the charactersCritical essaysA review section that tests your knowledgeA Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites
Classic literature or modern-day treasure—you'll understand it all with expert information and insight from CliffsNotes study guides.
Snyder and Mitchell reveal cracks in the social production of human variation as aberrancy. From our modern obsessions with tidiness and cleanliness to our desire to attain perfect bodies, notions of disabilities as examples of human insufficiency proliferate. These disability practices infuse more general modes of social obedience at work today. Consequently, this important study explains how disabled people are instrumental to charting the passage from a disciplinary society to one based upon regulation of the self.
- Representation of women's roles, gender, sexuality and power
- Language, style and form
- Dystopias and genre fictions
- Power, control and religious fundamentalism.
Combining helpful guidance on reading Atwood's text with overviews of significant stylistic and thematic issues and an introduction to criticism, this is an ideal companion to reading and studying A Handmaid's Tale.
The alternately racy and moralistic narrative recounts the adventures of a young woman from rural Massachusetts who is seduced by a false-hearted lover, flees to Boston, and is entrapped in a brothel. She eventually escapes by disguising herself as a man and serves with distinction on board the U.S. frigate Constitution during the War of 1812. After subsequent onshore adventures in and out of male dress, she is happily married to a wealthy New York gentleman.
In his introduction, Daniel A. Cohen situates the story in both its literary and historical contexts. He explains how the tale draws upon a number of popular Anglo-American literary genres, including the female warrior narrative, the sentimental novel, and the urban exposé. He then explores how The Female Marine reflects early-nineteenth-century anxieties concerning changing gender norms, the expansion of urban prostitution, the growth of Boston's African American community, and feelings of guilt aroused by New England's notoriously unpatriotic activities during the War of 1812.
In CliffsNotes on Huckleberry Finn, you follow the Mississippi River adventures of Mark Twain's mischief-making protagonist Huck Finn and the runaway slave Jim.
Just like Huck's makeshift raft, this study guide carries you along on his incredible journey by providing chapter summaries and critical analyses on life in the late-19th-century American south. You'll also gain insight into the man behind this American classic—Mark Twain, a.k.a. Samuel Clemens. Other features that help you study includeCharacter analyses of major playersA character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the charactersCritical essaysA review section that tests your knowledgeA Resource Center full of books, articles, films, and Internet sites
In The Hoarders, Scott Herring provides an in-depth examination of how modern hoarders came into being, from their onset in the late 1930s to the present day. He finds that both the idea of organization and the role of the clutterologist are deeply ingrained in our culture, and that there is a fine line between clutter and deviance in America. Herring introduces us to Jill, whose countertops are piled high with decaying food and whose cabinets are overrun with purchases, while the fly strips hanging from her ceiling are arguably more fly than strip. When Jill spots a decomposing pumpkin about to be jettisoned, she stops, seeing in the rotting, squalid vegetable a special treasure. “I’ve never seen one quite like this before,” she says, and looks to see if any seeds remain. It is from moments like these that Herring builds his questions: What counts as an acceptable material life—and who decides? Is hoarding some sort of inherent deviation of the mind, or a recent historical phenomenon grounded in changing material cultures? Herring opts for the latter, explaining that hoarders attract attention not because they are mentally ill but because they challenge normal modes of material relations. Piled high with detailed and, at times, disturbing descriptions of uncleanliness, The Hoarders delivers a sweeping and fascinating history of hoarding that will cause us all to reconsider how we view these accumulators of clutter.
Anyone who cares to understand the literary and cultural ferment of America in the later twentieth century must be familiar with the writings and lives of those scruffy bohemians known as the Beat Generation.
In this highly entertaining work, Bill Morgan, the country’s leading authority on the movement and a man who personally knew most of the Beats, narrates the history of these writers as primarily a social group of friends, tracing their origins together during the World War II years to the full blossoming of their notoriety in the late 1950s to their profound influence on the social upheaval of the 1960s. Indeed, it is impossible to comprehend the sixties without first grasping the importance of the social ripples set in motion by the Beats a decade earlier.
Although their prose and poetry varied in style and for the most part did not represent a genuine literary movement, the Beats, through their words and nonconformist lives, collectively posed a challenge to the staid and complacent America of the postwar years. They believed in free expression, opposing all censorship; they dabbled in free love; they practiced Eastern philosophy, leading to an embrace in America of alternative forms of spirituality; sooner than others, they watched with dismay the increasingly heavy hand of military and corporate culture in our national life; they embraced the aspirations, as well as the lingo, of urbanized black Americans. They believed in the liberating influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
In short, the Beats were thoroughly American in their love of individual freedom. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that J. Edgar Hoover described them in 1960 as one of the three greatest threats to American security (after communism and intellectual "eggheads").
The story that Bill Morgan tells has less to do with sociology than with social mingling. He traces the closely knit friendships of the Beat luminaries Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and the small army of other names. Although Kerouac, author of the much loved novel On the Road, was the most famous of the Beat writers, it was Ginsberg, Morgan contends, who resided at the center of the group and for more than two decades provided it with cohesion and a sense of direction.
The Beats were not saints. They were sexually irresponsible, undependable in marriage (the movement could in fact fairly be described as misogynistic); they did too many drugs and consumed too much booze; the very quality that characterized their lives and writings—a fervent belief in spontaneity—destroyed some friendships. Indeed, Morgan’s story begins with a murder in New York’s Riverside Park in 1944.
Bill Morgan has provided a sweeping, indispensable story about these discontented free spirits. We watch their peripatetic lives, their sexual misadventures, their ambivalent response to fame. We are reminded above all that while their personal lives may have not have been holy, their typewriters and their lasting words very much were.
We love these commands, especially in America, because they appeal to what we want to believe: that there's an authentic self to which we can be true. But while we mock Tricky Dick and Slick Willie, we're inventing identities on Facebook, paying thousands for plastic surgeries, and tuning in to news that simply verifies our opinions. Reality bites, after all, and becoming disillusioned is a downer.
In his new book Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life, Eric G. Wilson investigates this phenomenon. Hedraws on neuroscience, psychology, sociology, philosophy, art, film, literature, and his own life to explore the possibility that there's no such thing as unwavering reality. Whether our left brains are shaping the raw data of our right into fabulous stories or we're so saturated by society's conventions that we're always acting out prefab scripts, we can't help but be phony.
But is that really so bad? We're used to being scolded for being fake, but Wilson doesn't scold--because he doesn't think we need to be reprimanded. Our ability to remake ourselves into the people we want to be, or at least remake ourselves to look like the people we want to be, is in fact a magical process that can be liberating in its own way. Because if we're all a bunch of fakes, shouldn't we embrace that? And if everything really is fake, then doesn't the fake become real--really?
In lively prose--honest, provocative, witty, wide-ranging (as likely to riff on Bill Murray as to contemplate Plato)--Keep It Fake answers these questions, uncovering bracing truths about what it means to be human and helping us turn our necessary lying into artful living.
“The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood
“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace
By now a modern classic, The Gift is a brilliantly orchestrated defense of the value of creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities. This book is even more necessary today than when it first appeared.
An illuminating and transformative book, and completely original in its view of the world, The Gift is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers. It is in itself a gift to all who discover the classic wisdom found in its pages.