‘In my opinion, The Fall of America Journals is nothing less than a Ginsberg masterwork.”
From the 2020 interview:
ML: What would you say characterizes Allen Ginsberg in comparison to other Beat writers and poets?
MS: First of all, Ginsberg was an exceptional poet. His father was a published poet, and Allen grew up in a house where poetry was always being read out loud. Allen was aware of the great poets of the past, and he could recite their work from memory. In my opinion, Ginsberg was the best poet of the Beat Generation writers. Ginsberg’s work as a critic and agent was crucial. It’s possible that a number of the Beats, including Burroughs and Kerouac, might not have been published – or at least not so much – if Allen hadn’t worked tirelessly in promoting their work to publishers and the public. Kerouac has often been portrayed as the “King of the Beats” and while I’m not disputing his position the a figurehead, Ginsberg’s work behind the scenes was essential in promoting the books of his Beat Generation friends.”
Check out also Amber Tamblyn in The New Yorker
November 27 – the anniversary of Harry Smith‘s passing – almost 30 years now Harry’s been gone. Trust him to shake the tree from beyond the grave! You’ve been following perhaps the controversy over The Harry Smith B-Sides, the new Dust to Digital lovingly-compiled, (and lovingly-presented), boxed-set collection?
The story is recounted at length in October 14’s New York Times – (“How To Handle The Hate in America’s Musical Heritage”). The salient issues were again aired the following week in The Washington Post – (“The Other Side of America’s Folk Anthology is Entrancing But Also Plenty Disturbing“) – Racism? Censorship? As writer Andy Beta points out:
There’s plenty to critique in Smith’s original presentation, from the lack of many ethnic minorities to including just one artist from above the Mason-Dixon Line. But by choosing the other sides of these respective records, Smith seemed fully cognizant of such underlying racism and did his best to steer away from such sentiments and instead present “the better angels” of America’s nature. One of Smith’s sly moves with the original “Anthology” was that he “successfully desegregated the collection by not indicating whether the singers were white or black,” …Leaving off the race of the performers, Smith let the music speak for itself while also presenting a vision of America that might not be cleaved solely by skin color.
More recently, Jeremy Ray Jewell in The Arts Fuse, chimes in (regarding Lance and April Ledbetter (the couple behind Dust to Digital)’s controversial decision to pull three offensive tracks)
“The existence of prejudice should not be expunged from the historical record. B-Sides seems to have been confused from the beginning about how far to go – if absolute authenticity is your stated intention, then any tampering with the artifacts becomes an act of erasure. Period. Maybe in another 20 years they’ll release The Harry Smith C(ensored)-Sides to remind us of the history that has been omitted here.”
Not to take away from the rest of the music, the extraordinary music, that is on the boxed-set. Here’s one of a number of enthusiastic reviews (from local reviewer Bo Anderson in The Atlanta Journal)
Fiona Sturges reviewed Casey Rae’s William S Burroughs and The Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll book last week in The Guardian.
There’s another review by Pat Carty for Hot Press – here
Tomorrow (November 28) is William Blake‘s birthday