I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...
What's on your bookshelf? Maybe you're a literary snob: your shelves boast with the likes of Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Steinbeck, and White. Maybe the majority of your introduction to great American literature was had and left in the chalky dust of your AP English class over a decade ago. Either way, the works that find their way to call a place "home" upon your shelves have made it there for one reason or another. It's a classic. My girlfriend said I HAD to read this. I had to buy them for my college courses.
The bound pages one displays only allow yet another set of "covers" for others (i.e., those who have themselves thought consciously about their own visible collection) to judge you by. And it's just another conversation starter for those interested, while some would rather chose to comment on your collection of records--or lack there of--or the tabletop of trophy bourbon.
I'm by no means a literary snob, nor have I left my passion for literature on the high-pressure laminate work surface of years gone by. My collection is a combination of books I've read and acquired through my own means, books snatched up waiting patiently in queue, books borrowed, and those adopted from my partner's own collection. One from the latter that I've seen floating around, that I've even rearranged neatly within our Ikea cubed bookshelf, is the above: Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. This ongoing contact lead me to choose "Howl," the movie, as my most recent movie drama.
Ginsberg's work was published by City Light Books in San Francisco in 1956. It's uninhibited use of obscenities brought it, along with the publishing house, much attention. To some, Ginsberg's choice of words were found offensive. For this, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the publishing house owner, was charged for distributing obscene material. The 50s were a time of cultural revolution; those who chose to write about it became known as the "Beat Generation." But as once said by Ginsberg himself, and once again in the movie through the lips of James Franco,"there is no Beat Generation, just a bunch of guys trying to get published."
The trial drew national attention and marked a pivotal point in literature: breaking down the boundaries of what could and could not be published in the United States. It allowed for an entire generation to come out in expressive word, even in sexual orientation. It broke ground in the use of acceptable language. It openly announced that the world is not an aesthetically pleasing place to us all; therefore, describing it just as one sees it, be it beautiful or damned, was deemed acceptable. Together this Beat Generation flipped the bird to euphemisms, and banned together toward a world of written word that allowed them to tell it like they saw it. Write it how they felt it. Put words to the sighs that left their mouths. The tears that dampened their cheeks. The howls that boomed from their bellies.
I've already picked up the book I had organizationally tangoed with. The run-ons, the incantations, repetition, even the obscenities sit with me well. And it's because of its existence and what it brought thereafter that is due thanks for such an open invitation.
Seek the movie out. Watch it. And fall in love with the power of words and the writers who masterfully organize them to say that which the rest cannot.