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Hard to Be a Saint in the City: The Spiritual Vision of the Beats

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An exploration of Beat spirituality--seen through excerpts from the writings of the seminal writers of Beat Generation themselves. The Beat writers stand out as prophets who made a valiant effort to speak the truth in the face of the establishment values of the American post-WWII period, and the fact that so much of their work has stood the test of time is testimony to the An exploration of Beat spirituality--seen through excerpts from the writings of the seminal writers of Beat Generation themselves. The Beat writers stand out as prophets who made a valiant effort to speak the truth in the face of the establishment values of the American post-WWII period, and the fact that so much of their work has stood the test of time is testimony to their importance. The Beat movement was at heart, according to Robert Inchausti, a spiritual enterprise, and the writings compiled in this anthology provide convincing evidence for that claim. Using his broad knowledge of Beat literature, he has created this treasury excerpts from the writings of such figures as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, but also of lesser-known Beatniks--arranged in a way that gives a shape and significance to their spiritual quest. Included are Kerouac's dialogues with Ginsberg and Burroughs on writing as a form of religious resistance and revelation, along with accounts of their experiments with psychedelics and visionary practices, which will then include their shared thoughts on meditation and psychedelic experimentation as visionary practices. This is considerably more than a collection of Beat spiritual writings. It's a kind of introduction to Beat spirituality, presented systematically in the Beats' own words.


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An exploration of Beat spirituality--seen through excerpts from the writings of the seminal writers of Beat Generation themselves. The Beat writers stand out as prophets who made a valiant effort to speak the truth in the face of the establishment values of the American post-WWII period, and the fact that so much of their work has stood the test of time is testimony to the An exploration of Beat spirituality--seen through excerpts from the writings of the seminal writers of Beat Generation themselves. The Beat writers stand out as prophets who made a valiant effort to speak the truth in the face of the establishment values of the American post-WWII period, and the fact that so much of their work has stood the test of time is testimony to their importance. The Beat movement was at heart, according to Robert Inchausti, a spiritual enterprise, and the writings compiled in this anthology provide convincing evidence for that claim. Using his broad knowledge of Beat literature, he has created this treasury excerpts from the writings of such figures as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, but also of lesser-known Beatniks--arranged in a way that gives a shape and significance to their spiritual quest. Included are Kerouac's dialogues with Ginsberg and Burroughs on writing as a form of religious resistance and revelation, along with accounts of their experiments with psychedelics and visionary practices, which will then include their shared thoughts on meditation and psychedelic experimentation as visionary practices. This is considerably more than a collection of Beat spiritual writings. It's a kind of introduction to Beat spirituality, presented systematically in the Beats' own words.

30 review for Hard to Be a Saint in the City: The Spiritual Vision of the Beats

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Such a fantastic, fascinating book! It explores, through the words of Beat Generation icons and scholars, what "Beat" is, how Kerouac's no-holds-barred "Bop Spontaneous Prose" came to be, how Buddhism and jazz influenced not just the Beats' work but their way of life, and more. Reading the words of the various players, Kerouac's stood out by a mile - it reminded my why, to me, he will always be the G.O.A.T. *Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange Such a fantastic, fascinating book! It explores, through the words of Beat Generation icons and scholars, what "Beat" is, how Kerouac's no-holds-barred "Bop Spontaneous Prose" came to be, how Buddhism and jazz influenced not just the Beats' work but their way of life, and more. Reading the words of the various players, Kerouac's stood out by a mile - it reminded my why, to me, he will always be the G.O.A.T. *Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    A little bit like hanging around Vesuvio's, or some North Beach tavern, shooting the bull with the boys (mostly) about matters spiritual. The Beats were great synthesizers, interested in spiritual development, they were not interested in mainstream religion, except for latter day Kerouac. So, we get various takes on Buddhism, Animism, Hinduism transmuted through American sensibilities. Kerouac is alternately fascinating and exasperating; Ginsberg acts (and often is) the visionary; McClure is his A little bit like hanging around Vesuvio's, or some North Beach tavern, shooting the bull with the boys (mostly) about matters spiritual. The Beats were great synthesizers, interested in spiritual development, they were not interested in mainstream religion, except for latter day Kerouac. So, we get various takes on Buddhism, Animism, Hinduism transmuted through American sensibilities. Kerouac is alternately fascinating and exasperating; Ginsberg acts (and often is) the visionary; McClure is his usual opaque bio-spiritual self; Burroughs is dry and surprising, as usual; and Snyder is centered, and direct - again, as usual. Other members chime in, and all in all it's an interesting bull-session. The book is divided into chapters setting up explorations of various aspects of the spiritual search. I don't think you'll find too many exceptional insights, but the angles are clear, and the subject is interesting. Recommended for fellow travelers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aurora Leigh

    I saw this book several times on the shelf at the local bookstore over the past year, but today it was sitting in the half-off box and I decided it was time to give it a try - I'm so glad I did! It was way better than I expected. The excerpts are superbly selected and organized. Many I recognized from my own curating of quotes from these writers over the years. Introduced to me to a few new works I'd like to read as well! I saw this book several times on the shelf at the local bookstore over the past year, but today it was sitting in the half-off box and I decided it was time to give it a try - I'm so glad I did! It was way better than I expected. The excerpts are superbly selected and organized. Many I recognized from my own curating of quotes from these writers over the years. Introduced to me to a few new works I'd like to read as well!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karolina

    "All you do is head straight for the grave, a face just covers a skull for awhile. Stretch that skull-cover and smile." -JK “I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of m "All you do is head straight for the grave, a face just covers a skull for awhile. Stretch that skull-cover and smile." -JK “I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about." -JK "The world you see is just a movie in your mind. Rocks don't see it. Bless and sit down. Forgive and forget. Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you are already in heaven now. That's the story. That's the message. Nobody understands it, nobody listens, they are all running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I will try to teach it but it will be in vain, s'why I'll end up in a shack praying and being cool and singing by my woodstove making pancakes." -JK "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." -JK "You were given the power to love in order to use it, no matter what pain it may cause you." "Suffering is a chance you have to take by the fact of being alive."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I received this book from a Goodreads' Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Using excerpts from the literature of the major movers and shakers of the Beat movement, Inchausti has convincingly revealed that the overarching quest for a spiritually congruent and adept way of living was a significant but largely underappreciated theme running through their work. There was far more going on with the Beats than the creation of new and radical forms of prose and poetry, the adoption of countercult I received this book from a Goodreads' Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Using excerpts from the literature of the major movers and shakers of the Beat movement, Inchausti has convincingly revealed that the overarching quest for a spiritually congruent and adept way of living was a significant but largely underappreciated theme running through their work. There was far more going on with the Beats than the creation of new and radical forms of prose and poetry, the adoption of countercultural lifestyles and rebellion against the "Establishment's" strictures and norms. Ginsburg, Kerouac, Snyder, Burroughs, et. al., were deeply affected by the shallow, artless, materialistic, industrial/military complex that began to dominate American culture in the wake of WWII. Diagnosing and eloquently revealing this through their work wasn't the problem (Ginsburg's "Howl" alone masterfully proves this); but how to survive it, change it and avoid getting caught up in it--or personally destroyed by it--was. Their personal "pilgrimages" and journeys to seek answers took various forms, with arguable degrees of success: hitting the road to look for the "real" America, ditching mainstream restrictions for a no-holds barred Dionysian lifestyle, toying with acid and other mind-altering drugs, finding solace in Eastern religions, participating in marches and protests, to name a few. Inchausti's thoughtful curation of the vast body of Beat prose, poetry and other literary forms nicely encapsulates the Beats' quest for a deeper, more spiritually sustaining way of life, their strivings to grasp the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful of the world, and their attempts to marshall the creational power of art to change it, and themselves, in the process.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fred Sampson

    Getting through this book was a bit of a chore; it's not as engaging as I would have liked. In the end, I find myself more convinced than ever that, at his worst, Kerouac was a pretentious pedantic jerk, especially when he's off lecturing; at his best, when he stops thinking and just lets the words flow he's one of the world's great wordsmiths, melding poetry into prose and back again. I'm also more convinced than ever that Allen Ginsberg was (is) a great bodhisattva and one of America's greates Getting through this book was a bit of a chore; it's not as engaging as I would have liked. In the end, I find myself more convinced than ever that, at his worst, Kerouac was a pretentious pedantic jerk, especially when he's off lecturing; at his best, when he stops thinking and just lets the words flow he's one of the world's great wordsmiths, melding poetry into prose and back again. I'm also more convinced than ever that Allen Ginsberg was (is) a great bodhisattva and one of America's greatest poets. And that, even more so than Ginsberg, Gary Snyder is (was) the most authentic voice of them all. Kerouac may have turned Ginsberg on to Buddhism, but Snyder was out there truly living and being Zen. And that is the one true "spiritual vision of the Beats."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack Greenwood

    Hard to work out what I am rating here. The author's capacity for selecting an arrray of dazzling beat-thought is pretty good I guess. Still find myself torn between full postive affirmation of the beatnik lyrical prose & a lingering suspicion that flowery language has been used to mask an absence of pratical spiritual advice. But I guess I should take that up with the beatniks themselves. I enjoyed it either way. Hard to work out what I am rating here. The author's capacity for selecting an arrray of dazzling beat-thought is pretty good I guess. Still find myself torn between full postive affirmation of the beatnik lyrical prose & a lingering suspicion that flowery language has been used to mask an absence of pratical spiritual advice. But I guess I should take that up with the beatniks themselves. I enjoyed it either way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cherie

    Snapshots and overviews of the beats and their spiritual lives…how sexist they were, but geniuses besides that. I found the choppiness of the selections a bit jarring in the beginning, but got used to that.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    It felt disjointed and lacking the spirit of my favorite beat writers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barry Wightman

    A source book, easy to dip in - pick a page. Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen even. Lovely.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tod Jones

    Brilliant! I loved this book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Hogan

    (I actually finished this some time ago, but forgot to log it in.) Classic Beat wisdom. If you don't know anything about the Beats and are curious, this is a good place to start. (I actually finished this some time ago, but forgot to log it in.) Classic Beat wisdom. If you don't know anything about the Beats and are curious, this is a good place to start.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lewin

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolina Vaz Pinto

  15. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Lederer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mike Elton

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jean-Pierre

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becky Salomons

  21. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denise &

  23. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Piero Piscitelli

  27. 4 out of 5

    Slava Dementiev

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter Morris

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

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