I really really loved this book. I wasn't sure what to expect, being about the Beats but not by Kerouac, but it was phenomenally good. Holmes doesn't have Kerouac's beautiful prose but he has an intensity that I found really appealing. He gave so much insight into his characters and their inner battles. The dialogue was great, their were so many memorable scenes even though so much of it was a whirlwind of parties and bar hoping.
Despite being published in the 50s it was full of sex and drugs and jazz.
I'm not sure how much I liked Holmes, I thought it was a bit telling that the only scene he made up was his wife sleeping with Kerouac, which seemed rather mean. But it was told so beautifully, and her explanation and feelings about it the next day when talking to him, and him not getting it was perfect. I feel like I had that exact conversation with one of my exs. I think that was part of the appeal to me was that it reminded me so much of my life in my 20s and it was lovely to read about the lives of people 50 years earlier and having them do the same crazy things, and go to exactly the same parties and have some similar dramas. In fact the only thing I wasn't expecting was the car chase, but then I suppose no book is perfect.
His portrayal of the beats was different to Kerouac's they seemed rawer and not as nice. Particularly Neal, though I loved his portrayal of LuAnne, and their last fight. I think Kerouac came off most like himself. Ginsberg was interesting in that the homosexuality didn't really get mentioned till about 3/4 of the way through and then it was only hinted at as to why he was so depressed. I think one of my favourite scenes was when the fag and the junkie sat around and talked about their different opinions on society's rejections of them. I don't know if it was a reflection of the author, or society, that made it ok to talk about all the drinking, drug taking and sex but yet homosexuality was still so taboo.
The book was such an amazingly intense ride, even when it was at it's most aimless wandering around in search of tea the characters seemed so vivid. While it was obviously based on real people and real events it felt like a novel rather than an autobiography and I think this really worked in it's favor and added tension.
It was full of psychology and social commentary, without being blatant about it, just in the way the characters were trying to cope with life and get by the best they could.
I totally loved this book, I can't recommend it highly enough. I am definitely going to read anything else I can find published by him....Continua