With Good Reason

The Hustler Who Inspired the Beats
January 5th, 2013

Image courtesy Gordon Ball

Image courtesy Gordon Ball

The author of a new book about Herbert Huncke says his unrepentant deviance caught the imagination of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Hilary Holladay (James Madison University) writes that Huncke (rhymes with “junky”) often said, “I’m beat, man.” His line gave Kerouac the label for a generation seeking spiritual sustenance and “kicks” in post-war America. Also featured: During the late 1960s, poet Allen Ginsberg bought a farm in New York to serve as “a haven for comrades in distress.” Gordon Ball, who was the farm manager, has written a book about his experience, East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg. Ball also teaches a course on Ginsberg and the Beat Generation to young cadets at Virginia Military Institute.

 

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Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs—all names you might recognize as poets of the Beat Generation. But a friend and inspiration to all three of them, Herbert Huncke, was, himself, a talented writer. A Virginia scholar has published the first biography of Huncke—Allison Quantz has the story.

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