How much do you know about the Beat Generation? Whatever your knowledge level, you’ll find something new in The Beat Generation FAQ: All that’s Left to Know about the Angelheaded Hipsters by Rich Weidman.
The Beat Generation FAQ is one in a series of encyclopedic-style books, giving in-depth overviews and quirky facts about the subject at hand. Founded by Beatles and culture historian Robert Rodriguez, there are FAQ books about a wide range of pop culture topics, from the Fab Four, to Doctor Who, to Lucille Ball.
The book thoroughly covers the basics: the Beat movement’s beginnings, influential thought-leaders, major milestones, and, ultimately, its demise. Author Rich Weidman’s reader-friendly prose and organized structure makes it easy to reference, and articles are informative without being weighty or overly academic.
The basics, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.
More specific articles discuss the role of women in the Beat movement, Beatniks vs. Hippies (hippies won out in the end and the process of transition is quite interesting), and details of the censorship issues that accompanied much of the movement’s artistic output.
But it’s not just an historical record or encyclopedia. Want to take a tour of Beatniks’ graves and related Beat Generation landmarks? There’s a chapter for that. Interested in hearing members of the Beat Generation’s live performances or seeing their films? The book is a great guide for the interested viewer. Ever wondered which artists were influenced by the Beat Generation? There’s sections about that as well (and the artists who took influences from them are surprising indeed). Articles such as “Naked Lunch and the Nightmare of Addiction” lay out the facts but are also thought pieces that will interest even the most expert reader.
The chapters are broken up by topic rather than chronology, but a timeline hits on all the major events that formed the Beat movement in order, starting with the birth of the oldest Beat writer, William S. Burroughs, in 1914, and continuing through the present day.
Being more a reference book than a narrative, chances are that most people won’t be reading it from cover to cover. Like any book in the FAQ series, readers may keep a copy on their shelves as a handy reference, consulting it when questions arise. The mix of both basic and obscure information makes this book interesting to readers with all levels of knowledge and a variety of interests on the topic. Experts will likely not find a great deal of new or groundbreaking info here, but its handy references make it a worthwhile addition to any history buff’s library.
The short-lived Beat movement changed the fabric of popular culture in ways that reverberate through time to the present day; yet due to both its short time span and the experimental (and, at times, inaccessible) nature of the major works makes it a subject about which few people know. The Beat Generation FAQ clears up some of the fog around the movement, and author Rich Weidman conveys an incredible amount of fact in an accessible and enjoyable way.
The Beat Generation FAQ: All that’s Left to Know about the Angelheaded Hipsters is available for purchase on Amazon.