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The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, 1956-1991
One of the central relationships in the Beat scene was the long-lasting friendship of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder. Ginsberg introduced Snyder to the East Coast Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, while Snyder himself became the model for the serious poet that Ginsberg so wanted to become. Snyder encouraged Ginsberg to explore the beauty of the West Coast and, even more lastingly, introduced Ginsberg to Buddhism, the subject of so many long letter exchanges between them. Beginning in 1956 and continuing through 1991, the two men exchanged more than 850 letters. Bill Morgan, Ginsberg's biographer and an important editor of his papers, has selected the most significant correspondence from this long friendship. The letters themselves paint the biographical and poetic portraits of two of America's most important--and most fascinating--poets. Robert Hass' insightful introduction discusses the lives of these two major poets and their enriching and moving relationship.
Starred Review. This sparkling collection of letters between Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg offers enthusiasts an intimate glimpse of the poets' shared vision of creativity, spiritualism, and their work, as well as literary and sexual adventures from across the globe. In vivid prose that makes the infamous Yage Letters (between Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs) seem juvenile, these legendary Americans reveal a stunning amount, sharing both innermost doubts and grand career aspirations. Ginsberg's voice often feels more authentic, with a natural story-teller's zeal for conveying the racy details of his personal life; he also exposes the paranoia and crushing self-doubt that forever plagued him. Snyder, while earthy and open, often veers towards metaphysical subjects and writes more cautiously, as if aware of his legacy even in these pre-fame days. Though it's a small miracle so many letters survived the writers' extensive travel, gaps in the chronology may frustrate some readers. Still, the decades-spanning dialogue never fails to entertain or offer deeper insight into the artists' process. ("No wire or pill will ever put a poet out of work," Snyder insists.) Filled with the sort of high-minded yearning for knowledge that Ginsberg and Snyder are known for, this volume presents a thrilling opportunity to eavesdrop on two of the most intriguing American poets-and personalities-of the 20th Century.
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November 24, 2008
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