Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and SonPaperback
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- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Format: Paperback | 448 pages
- Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm 379g
- Publication date: 5 May 2003
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0747558469
- ISBN 13: 9780747558460
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Illustrations note: ports.
- Sales rank: 1,661,858
"Family Business" is not only a personal glimpse into the life of one of the great US poets, but also the moving story of a relationship between a father and a son set against the turbulent world of postwar America. As a literary portrait of a father and son, little can match the eloquence and honesty of this collection of letters, written between the years 1944 and 1976. The illuminating correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and his father, Louis, begins when Allen is a precocious, rebellious college student and charts his ascension as a revolutionary icon in poetry. Their letters are filled with affection, respect, and a healthy dose of argumentative zeal - they debate every major political and artistic issue that faced America in over three decades of extraordinary change. Their correspondence also reveals the defining moments that shaped Allen's art - his experimentation with LSD, his various love affairs and obsessions, his travels around the globe. We see, from this unique perspective, the crucial process of a poet's widening experience of the world, and how these experiences are transformed in his art.
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Michael Schumacher wrote the acclaimed biography of Allen Ginsberg, DHARMA LION, and is also the author of the biographies of Eric Clapton, Phil Ochs, and Francis Ford Coppola. He's been researching FAMILY BUSINESS since 1994, when Ginsberg first agreed to the project.
How much you enjoy this book partly depends on whether you rate Allen Ginsberg as a poet, and whether you think the 1960s Beat poets were pioneers boldly treading a new literary path, or just doped-up irresponsible drop-outs whose poetry was as self-indulgent as their lifestyles. Even so, those who have no time for the Beat poets themselves might find themselves intrigued and moved by the intense, complicated relationship revealed here between a father and his famous son. Allen Ginsberg was one of the most famous and successful of a group whose number included Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and William Burroughs. They embodied the zeitgeist of the 1960s: rebellious, anti-authoritarian, broadly left-wing. They believed in 'free love' and the importance of drugs in transforming our powers of perception. But Ginsberg was a deeply troubled man. Born in 1926, he was a homosexual at a time when it was barely tolerated in the United States, and he felt guilty for most of his life about what happened to his mother. For much of her son's youth, Naomi Ginsberg was being treated in psychiatric hospitals, and as an adult Allen was to authorize her prefrontal lobotomy, something which tormented him long after her death. The letters between Ginsberg and his father, Louis, to whom he was exceptionally close, are a reminder of an age that now seems very distant in its mores and concerns. The early letters verge on the banal - exhortations by Louis that Allen should work harder and to spend his money sensibly, and some rather dull accounts by Allen of daily life. But once Allen becomes famous, the letters spring into life, as the two debate the big issues of the day. The political arguments between the two were fierce - Louis, also a poet, was a staunch anti-communist and a supporter of the war on Vietnam - yet the devotion between them is unquestionable. One of the most touching parts of the book is a brief account by Louis of his feelings about his son. 'Allen is the most compassionate man I know,' he says. 'He was born with a generous heart....' The two men remained deeply attached to each other until Louis's death in 1976, sometimes even doing poetry readings together. 'In some of our poems,' Louis writes, 'we both use the material world as a springboard into the spiritual.' It's a good epitaph - and suggests why, perhaps, his son's poems still have resonance even when the concerns of the Beat generation may now seem remote. (Kirkus UK)