Tuesday, November 24th, 2015...9:00 am

Examining “the Beat”

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Beatnik 1

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items recently cataloged from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.

The arrival of the Beat Generation generated controversy, conversation, and in some cases literature; for some onlookers, though, it was mostly a source of opportunity. Hence Beatnik, which promises “an uncensored, unexpurgated exposé of the ‘Beat Generation’”, “profusely illustrated with candid action photos”.  Inside is a series of accounts, all by the publisher, Heater Wall, of the Beats’ debauchery and disillusionment. “BEATNIK BABE BURNED! COOL PARTY PINCHED!  BEAT BATTERS BATTY BROAD! SEX SILLY SIRENS SAPPED! DELOUSE DOPE DIZZY DAMES!” blares the headline of one article, giving the reader a sense of the writing’s lurid flavor.

Beatnik 3

The volume is not without its accurate details – the Co-Existence Bagel Shop, a social center for San Francisco Beats in the 1950s, is pictured and described – but the slavering reports on violent Beatnik orgies and destitute youths turning to strip-tease for money are more dubious. Disdain for the apathy and dull-mindedness of this feckless new generation is a prominent theme, selling a sense of moral superiority alongside the prurient fantasy.

Beatnik 2

Accompanying this text are numerous photographs and drawings, many of an erotic nature. Some of the pictures are of Beats in their natural habitat, but the larger spreads are often of professional models, and are credited as such in their captions; “candid action photos” these are not. Said captions nonetheless try to sell the dangerous allure of the Beatnik; beneath one lingerie-clad model, the following is written: “Even the callowest Beat chick will revel in crazy under-attire, exotic trappings, ‘gone’ shoes and eccentric jewelry. Many profess an interest in art but few can tell the difference between a Rembrandt and a Bosch.” Another caption reads: “No one can claim Beat chicks are inhibited and only underthings are usually worn around the ‘Pad’.”

Beatnik 4

Beatnik: an uncensored, unexpurgated exposé of the “Beat Generation”. [United States]: Beelzebub Books, 1959. AC95.W1553.959b.

Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.

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