This book is a series of literary criticism essays about some of the writing of the women beats. Unfortunately, I found it to be a bit too critical of the men in the movement who it blamed for not giving enough support for the women writers. (When surely the lack of recognition comes from the "literary critics, be they academics or commercial and not the men themselves). There seemed to be a bit of confusion over the cross-over between beat subculture and the beat literary movement. Women who weren't considered great writers were thought to have been excluded, but were they excluded from the movement? Did you have to be published to be a beat? Surely Neal Cassady is the best example that being a published writer is not a prerequisite for being accepted into the culture.

The biggest problem of this type of criticism was that it was all literary without looking at the social history side of things. People were trying to understand the movement purely through the writing, and a few comments, not all the works, of the leading male figures of the movement. And as such the fact that the majority of the male figures, (2 out of the top 3) were homosexual was ignored. Surely this would affect the dynamics of their relationships and it wasn't simply the fact that they had the misogynistic views of men in the 50s and 60s.

The essays themselves focused on a few poems in most cases, or lines from a few poems. Something as someone who doesn't have a literary criticism background to be rather odd. I did learn quite a bit about the different writers, particularly about Di Parma's anti-birth control and abortion stance, which I found rather horrendous. All told though it didn't make me want to read anything by the women. I'm not sure if this was a failing of the book or just my lack of appreciation for the styles and types of writing.

When I first started reading Kerouac I was really wanting to learn more about the women who were living that lifestyle, the non-conformist rebels of the 40s and 50s. But I wanted a social history not a literary criticism and I've not seemed to be able to find that book yet. I don't even know if it's been written. This was definitely not it.


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