Having more or less established the canon of American literature, the Library of America is doing interesting things with anthologies these days.
The Cool School: Writing From America's Hip Underground basically is a Beat anthology, but it defines the term very loosely. It has contributions from Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassady, of course, but it also features dozens of other writers, including Norman Mailer and Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan and Mort Sahl, Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches.
Glenn O'Brien has done a spectacular job of editing — there's even a selection from Mezz Mezzrow, whose fame as a junkie eventually exceeded his reputation as a jazz musician. (Not coincidentally, there are a lot of junkies in this book: Art Pepper, Herbert Huncke, Alexander Trocchi, and, unless I completely miss my guess, a few people who are still alive, despite the odds.)
To give you some idea of how cool the book is: The review O'Brien includes from music journalist Bangs is of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, which was to Reed what His Satanic Majesty's Request was to the Rolling Stones or Planet Waves was to Dylan: a flaunting of disaster, an open invitation to the straights to get off the bus and go somewhere else.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
'The Cool School: Writing From America's Hip Underground'
Edited by Glenn O'Brien
Library of America. 500 pp. $27.95.