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Beat Generation

  The Beat Generation was prominent in US literary life in the mid-1950s. ‘Beat’ connects both with ‘beaten’ and ‘beatified’, because the writers felt crushed by the out-moded values of society and elevated by the headiness of their own revolt. (In this they were analogous to the Angry Young Men in the UK, though the style of their revolt, and of their actual work, was completely different.) Beat writers flouted the ‘rules’ both of society and of art, using a slangy, invented language (of which ‘hip’ is the best-known word to have reached ordinary usage) and blending fury with a Zen-inspired, free-floating anarchy of thought, which anticipated the Hippies of a decade later. The principal figures of the movement were the poets Allan Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and the novelists Jack Kerouac (who gave the movement its name) and (though he stood laterally to it) William Burroughs. Those influenced by Beat ideas, but not totally immersed in them, include Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth and a gallery of sf writers from Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert to Gene Wolfe. KMcL

Further reading Jack Kerouac, On the Road.



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