I didn't want to write another blog about a graphic novel, but.... it's the end of the semester, and they make a nice genre to read in between work and writing papers.
Harvey Pekar is most famous for his long-running comic book American Splendor, but he also writes interesting little graphic histories of topics that are near to his heart, usually falling at the intersection of radical politics and great American literature. Students for a Democratic Society is an anthology spear-headed by Pekar with graphic vignettes about the SDS and its place in the counter-culture of the 60's.
Now, he has given us The Beats:A Graphic History: a similar collection of short historical pieces about key figures in the Beat Movement. Written by Pekar himself and a group of other writers, the book of course treats the main figures of the movement like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. These biographical pieces are brief, so I agree with many reviews I found online that complain of the thinness of the material. But I would say that it gave me a view of the beat landscape and definitely conveyed Pekar and his cohort's passion for their writing. Honestly, I have not read a lot of the books of these iconic writers, but Pekar's short biographies made me curious to know more about the wild lives that they lived and why their work has been so influential. I was especially glad to know more of some of the other names from the movement: Phillip Whalen, Gary Snyder, Michael Mcclure, Amiri Baraka, Philip Lamantia as well as many others. This is not a comprehensive history of the beats, but not a bad place to start.
But, why did I title this blog "Beatnik Chicks"? Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner writes a section about the women of the movement who, as often so sadly happens, are not given proper credit for their contribution. Knowing how famous these men are, it is refreshing to know about the women who were part of this vibrant artistic scene and lived expressive, passionate lives. Women like Diane Di Prima, Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, and Jay DeFeo seem like fascinating people, and Brabner's short but fiery tribute to them is well worth the read.
If you know someone looking to know more about the Beats, tell them about Pekar and Brabner.