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Black Looks: Race and Representation.

The title is obscure, referring to Ginsberg's Buddhist name, the subtitle misleading, since this biography is more complimentary than critical. But from there on, the book moves along. Schumacher does a competent, for-the-most-part unobtrusive job of telling Ginsberg's story - and such a story it is. This leader of the Beats, this pathbreaker of political poetry, this courageous critic of U.S. policy foreign and domestic, this for-decades-most-open of homosexuals in America, Ginsberg is here on display, and he bears up well under scrutiny. The long biography occasionally bogs down when tracking Ginsberg's numerous trips overseas, but it comes alive when chronicling Ginsberg's creative process in the making of "Howl," "Kaddish," "Wichita Vortex Sutra," and other masterpieces. For fullest appreciation, this work should be read alongside Ginsberg's Collected Poems (Harper & Row, 1984), since none of Ginsberg's poems is reprinted in its entirety in the biography and no amount of prose can capture or replace the power and passion of the verse itself. Still, this is an informative, sometimes fascinating account of one of the most important American poets of the century and one of our more courageous dissidents.
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Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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