A travel guide through one of the best minds of the Beat Generation—distinctly not destroyed by madness—Allen Ginsberg’s journals are more tour de force than simple diaries, charting his poetry, political antics, and high-profile encounters behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War.
Offer an unprecedented insight into the poet and his travels ... The reader who is familiar with Howl will find a similar experience in reading Ginsberg's journals: words and scenes rush at you like a tidal wave, leaving you immersed and breathless, then, with surprising immediacy, lift you to another scene, sometimes frantic, sometimes serene. Yet there's a core of Ginsberg's essential being that's always present, threading together these disparate scenarios...Since these are Ginsberg's journals, no editing has parsed out one aspect of his life from another. The scenes move quickly between dinner parties, walks on the beach, poetry readings, personal worries, and sex.
A valuable resource for Beat enthusiasts ... We get inside his mind and gain a new perspective on some parts of the journey – presenting a pretty different take from what appears in the major Ginsberg biographies ... Alas, none of his journals from Czechoslovakia survive (or have been found, at least), so that part of the book is padded out with letters already published elsewhere, and a half-hearted attempt (which ends very suddenly) to recall events that he had written some time later ... My only criticisms of this book are superficial ones. It is Ugly with a capital U. The fonts used throughout the book are inexplicably horrendous, particularly for titles, footers, and the table of contents. Cutesy hearts are used to separate certain sections, and the crude retro designs near the beginning of the book are truly off-putting. The cover is pretty horrific, too, but one knows not to judge a book by that standard… In any case, as obnoxious as these things can be, it is still a superb book and deserves a place alongside the other great collections of Allen’s work.
Ginsberg charts an often choppy course through the Cold War’s roiling cultural waters ... The pattern more or less repeats itself in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Poland, to the detriment of the text, parts of which were confiscated. Editor (and Ginsberg biographer) Schumacher accordingly supplements his faithful transcription with some additional materials, such as letters and retrospective accounts ... Though these diaries largely confirm Ginsberg’s well-known role as a puckish, irreverent observer of historical events, scholars and fans will find fresh nuances and a richly intimate and immersive atmosphere that repay the effort of following the fragmentary diary format.