Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Morgan's New Biog Doesn't Tell The Whole Truth

Bill Morgan's unimaginatively (and confusingly) titled biography of Allen Ginsberg I CELEBRATE MYSELF has appeared. I say it's confusingly titled because it seems strange and misleading to me to use a quote from one mega-famous poet to title a book about another. But perhaps I'm being too literal-minded.

Anyway. Early reviews suggest it's a congenial-enough book lacking in a certain incisiveness because of Morgan's proximity (if not closeness) to Ginsberg in life. It would also appear to paint a rather saintly picture of the Beats' central poet, stressing--according to SFGate--his ceaseless promotion of his friends' works during the Beat explosion and for the rest of his long career.

Well, maybe. But according to conversations I've had with people closer to Allen, and to other poets and writers in the Beat environs, Morgan has chosen to omit a few very telling details about Ginsberg's life from the biography, details that contradict the picture of the man that he is attempting to paint. Include these and Ginsberg is a flawed man capable of overweening ambition and fits of astoundingly disloyal behaviour.

Which is fine by me, I've heard the stories and I've still got a large portrait of Allen over my fireplace. I don't need my heroes to be cleaner than the Lone Ranger. And I don't think anybody else who's a fan of the Beats would expect it either. Or perhaps we're now going to see an attempt at reinventing Ginsberg for suburban readers and neocons?

Anyway, at least one of the writers Morgan chose to ignore when he was writing I CELEBRATE MYSELF will be publishing his story on this page soon instead, so the balance will be somewhat redressed. Keep an eye on WHOLLY COMMUNION to see the side of Allen Ginsberg that the folks from the Estate didn't think you would be able to swallow.

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