No one’s biography has more completely or ardently embodied the visions and contradictions, the achievements and calamities, the social mobility and social animosities, of that life span [of the last century] ... The book begins with a few dozen pages of engaging narrative of a conventional kind ... That linear setup gradually sublimates into long, lyrical sentences of freewheeling associations: the verbal riffs of a good talker. Readers hoping for reminiscences of Beat figures like Ginsberg ('Ginzy') and Jack Kerouac ('Ti-Jean') may be disappointed. Ferlinghetti approaches writers and writing in a more sweeping, lofty way ... Above all, Ferlinghetti is literary in the American way of his generation, with the appealing old-fashioned enthusiasm of an autodidact ... the story of Little Boy echo[es] a great national question. From the sublime mass-art works of Buster Keaton, now preserved in university archives, through the ebullient logic of classical music in 'Looney Tunes,' to the absurdity of a president rising from a dumb 'reality' TV show, from Coney Island to the Mind: Who, little boys and girls, juvenile yet old, do we think we are?
Not quite a novel nor a memoir. The book’s publisher rightly calls it an 'unapologetically unclassifiable work.' It’s at once a novel, a memoir, a poem, a monologue, a psalm, a rant, a scientific treatise, a political address, a last will and testament, a mostly punctuation-free stream of consciousness — a shout into the maw of oblivion, a definitive capstone to a long and storied literary life ... reads like a surreal semi-autobiographical blackbook record of a semi-mad period, except here it’s a period in which a nonagenarian looks back on his life as his centenary looms over the horizon. There’s little else to compare the book to, aside from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, where language becomes confused with life, which becomes confused with dreams in a pool of 'sublime babble,' or Conrad Aiken’s Ushant, another memoir-cum-unapologetically-unclassifiable-work that spirals the psyche of its elderly author and mines his history in an attempt to reach somewhere, something, somehow ... a torrent of textual splendor, where groan-worthy puns sit side by side with deep philosophical ruminations ... if Little Boy is just a dream, then it’s one you can easily get lost in, and by the time you wake up, you won’t quite know what you did or where you went, but you’ll have felt as though you were able to touch another consciousness, if only for a brief moment, wandering one last time through the Coney Islands of an iconic poet’s mind.
Little Boy starts out surprisingly as a memoir, recounting, in a sort of charming third person, Ferlinghetti's earliest years ... In this mode, Ferlinghetti has a playful way of recounting his origins, revealing his story as sad, lucky, and symptomatic of a particular early 20th century moment ... the book suddenly, and rather strangely, abandons all pretext of order, careening into an unpunctuated and rarely paragraphed free-associating diatribe ... Ferlinghetti maintains this unrelenting mental deluge, scraping the furthest edges of his memory and imagination, like a socially conscious John Ashbery on Benzedrine ... It's as if the author got a little ways in, abruptly tired of the rigors of organizing his memories into prose and gave up. It's also as if he joyfully abandoned himself to the frothing appetite of his wild Beat muse ... Ferlinghetti's wits are afire, his wisdom is wide and deep, and this little book is packed with incredible sentences, even if it's short on story.
At once firmly political, critical, autobiographical and forward-looking, this book is a torrent of writing that will leave readers awash in language and perspective a century in the making. Truly, Little Boy brakes for nothing; even so much as a period rarely interrupts the flow of thinking pouring through these pages. And nothing is off the table for the self-described philosophical anarchist, as politics, religion, sex, history — and, yes, even social media — all find themselves subject to examination. Fans of breaking down such sectors of life will be big fans of Little Boy. ... The nonstop accumulation of deep feeling and thinking is at once inspiring and exhaustive ... Readers might find affinity in such musings, but lest you look for comfort, do not hope to find it here ... what Ferlinghetti delivers is a book that truly has to be read and wrestled with to be fully understood ... Like the body of work that precedes it, this book is well worth the ride.
Little Boy, an uncategorizable stream-of-consciousness bildungsroman offers an inspiriting case study of keeping the blessed callings of poetry, art, and political radicalism alive by example ... What Little Boy and Ferlinghetti’s poetry makes clear is his commitment to language above all else. Ferlinghetti’s long poetic career provides a wonderful example of how a poet can dance along the line between obscurity and accessibility ... this book offers a stellar example of how to reach out to the reader in good faith, using fairly clear and uncomplicated language, to offer some cheerful subversion along with the wonder at existence ... Ferlinghetti is a learned fellow, to be sure, but his references and range of experience are vast and stretches beyond the library; he’s also an accomplished painter and has traveled extensively, getting involved in progressive struggles across the globe ... Ferlinghetti’s work and life serve as useful reminders that radical poetics are really as American as jazz, baseball, and the atomic bomb.
...Little Boy is written in a free-wheeling style using stream of conscious, marvelous word play, and uninhibited connections. After those opening autobiographical pages, Ferlinghetti abandons most punctuation ... As always, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is not bound by convention nor limited by language or, indeed, of culture ... Throughout Little Boy is an avalanche of language, words, and phrases, running across and through subjects and over time and space. There are echoes of Whitman ... It is a breathtaking summary of his century on the planet. This is an exhilarating and exhausting read ... If you have read Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry with great pleasure, Little Boy will delight you again and again. It is rich and playful poetry disguised as a novel, and it is pure Ferlinghetti. For those who have not previously encountered him, Little Boy is likely to send you off in search of one of Ferlinghetti’s many volumes of poetry.
... a movie of the mind ... Ferlinghetti lets it rip, going where he will go, in unpunctuated free-association pages of literary allusions, curmudgeonly grumbles, wisdom, and outbursts of beautiful language ... Especially ineffable, especially bravura is a passage beginning 'Oh Endless.' It runs for pages and is by itself worth the price of the book ... a hymn of love to life, which seems so big and permanent to us who live it, and does contain, for Ferlinghetti, the 'crystal moments,' sweetest of the sweet, best of the best. All I can say is, Little Boy done good and is still doing it.
Much like his hero Ezra Pound, Ferlinghetti uses his European literary references as a foil for his range of American tonalities, from wiseguy to blue to pulpiteer to comic. The resulting patois recapitulates his own hybrid origins ... Ferlinghetti, for all his populist claims in favor of literary democracy, is too anarchic to deliver a product as consumable as a memoir ... The virtue of Ferlinghetti’s style is its speed: he zips along in the story, condensing his childhood into fourteen pages before loping ahead to his military service. The gravity of these primal scenes emerges in their retelling, some sixty-three pages later ... Self-reflection is not Ferlinghetti’s forte ... The repetition is what advances understanding ... yet, there are odd discrepancies and omissions that raise the question of how much Ferlinghetti remembers or wants to tell ... Ferlinghetti’s style in Little Boy might strike some readers as perverse: one run-on ramble of a sentence, a kind of deathbed recapitulation of a gone century telegraphed in a present-tense flashback.
... short but powerful work ... At times, the monologue seems circular as it returns again and again to the same few moments of his childhood ... Ferlinghetti’s Little Boy truly is a a deluge—not a stream—of thought that allows readers to witness the author as he grapples with the life he has led. It is a privilege to view the world—past, present, and even future—through his weathered, critical, and poetic lens.
The words create image, illusion, fantasy, and projection, circling back under, over, and around the facts he has already given us, imbuing them with lust, fear, courage, nihilism, and rage ... a portal into an outsider movement that evolved, with a high-energy combination of arrogance and vulnerability, into a literary canon ... The essence of Little Boy is an embracing of both the enduring cosmic mystery and daily stupidities of the mind’s multi-layered fractal structure, the madness of love, the futility of narrative, the obliqueness of language, and the potential of perception. This book burns bright in your hands. Read it to yourself, aloud.
Even if Ferlinghetti’s great age were irrelevant – which it is not – it would be pretty much unreviewable because … well, because Ferlinghetti is Ferlinghetti, the founder of City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, publisher and friend of the beats, poet, artist, activist and living legend, and no one in their right mind wants to argue with a living legend ... A final loosening of a word-hoard is exactly what Little Boy is, and who could object to such an exercise of freedom? This isn’t a book: it’s a reckoning ... The most affecting parts of Little Boy are in fact those that most closely resemble a traditional memoir or autobiography, because Ferlinghetti’s life, even simply told, is utterly extraordinary.
An enigmatic work that serves as a fitting coda to a long and productive career, even as it emphatically resists anything resembling resolution or conclusion ... There’s 'always another thought to be spoken or written and we can’t go on but I do,' declares Ferlinghetti. And that may be the point of this dissonant, bewildering, intermittently beautiful book: the end can be kept at bay so long as one can keep pushing out whirlwinds of words.
What follows for the next 150 pages is a volcanic explosion of personal memories, political rants, social commentary, environmental jeremiads and cultural analysis all tangled together in one breathless sentence that would make James Joyce proud. Do I recommend it? Yes I said yes I will Yes ... As he swoops back and forth through the impressions and highlights of his long life, Ferlinghetti spits on conventional grammar and mocks the very idea of linear coherence. A Beat sensibility? Sure, but there’s also a dose of Robin Williams’s manic comedy here: the hairpin turns, the interior voices bantering with each other, the constant spinning of an idea till it ricochets off to another. He’s the silliest, angriest, kindest, smartest man you’ve ever heard — a whirling dervish of scholarly asides, literary allusions, corny puns and twisted aphorisms ... Yes, [reading this book] can feel like trying to set the table while falling down the stairs, but there’s something hypnotic about Ferlinghetti’s relentless commentary, a style that amuses him, too ... Stick with this book long enough, and you’ll start to hear the central concerns of Ferlinghetti’s life.
Wonderfully effusive ... Ferlinghetti’s prose pulses with the enjambments that energized the beats, whose work he published (famously, Ginsberg’s Howl), and it’s punctuated with stunningly evocative metaphors ... This book is a Proustian celebration of both memory and moments that will delight readers.