Half a year ago I began assembling Beats In Time: a Literary Generation’s Legacy, an anthology of the best articles about the Beat Generation from the Literary Kicks archives. Many of these articles dated back to this website’s first five years, 1994 to 1999, when Litkicks called itself the Beat Generation website.
I’ve expanded the site’s focus since then (and vastly expanded my scope as a reader too), which is probably why I now look back at some of these early Litkicks articles with wistful dismay, even though I treasure them. I am no longer the same innocent person who wrote or published these enthusiastic pieces about Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady and Gary Snyder, and I suppose a big part of my subconscious impulse in assembling Beats In Time was to gather all these articles together so that I could say farewell to them, and send them on their way.
In retrospect, this is not a good reason to publish an anthology, and fortunately my readers let me know this nearly the minute the book hit the Kindle store. The initial feedback I got was spookily perceptive; everybody seemed to notice that I had done a rush job on the editing, that I hadn’t pored through every individual piece for necessary tweaks and fixes, that I hadn’t even thought about the ways the book’s implicit themes — ecology, religion, digital communication, violence, love, the writing process, the mercurial process of literary criticism — could be highlighted as relevant to today. One person, a book marketing professional who’d been following my ambivalent and semi-agonized blog posts about my editorial process, was particularly helpful and perceptive, and volunteered to work with me on a complete edit of the entire text, followed by the publication of a new, better edition of the book.
I was very gratified to have her help, though the editing process was painful to me (and to her, since she had to listen to my complaints and objections). I do not enjoy the process of careful revision, and incline much more naturally towards Allen Ginsberg’s ideal of “first thought best thought”. Alas, once I began reviewing each sentence in the book it became clear that some of these first thoughts were not the best possible ones, and I agreed to improve each piece, even when that involved contacting the original authors and asking them to allow changes in pieces they’d written more than a decade ago (in some cases, the authors helped with the changes).
I was skeptical at first, but I quickly saw the light as I watched the book improve before my eyes. Submitting to the editing process is hard work, and it’s tough on the ego. But the result usually speaks for itself, and I’m happy to announce that the new version of the book (Beats in Time 2.0) is now available in both Kindle and paperback. (Other formats, including iBooks, coming very soon).
The difference between the old version of the book and the new one is that the old one felt like an act of closure, while the new one feels like an act of opening: opening to new readers, to new attitudes, to future minds who will hopefully find enduring value in the articles a bunch of eager Internet-connected Beat Generation aficianados wrote during the mid-1990s and early 2000s. One thing’s for sure: the eighteen individual pieces in this book are powerful, original and heartfelt. I only hope the book’s overall package is as good as the raw material deserves.
Here’s a line from my introduction to Beats In Time: “There are wildly varying articles and points of view in the pieces selected for this book, but the common theme among all is the emergence of a timeless view of Beat literature.” (I tried to represent this by placing it among a few timeless tokens of symbolism and spirituality in the photograph at the top of this page.)
Please read an enthusiastic reaction to Beats In Time by Goodreads member Ian Graye. To buy the book, please one of the following links. Thanks!