Synopses & Reviews
Who were the original hipsters? In this dazzling collection, Glenn OBrien provides a kaleidoscopic guided tour through the margins and subterranean tribes of mid-twentieth century Americathe worlds of jazz, of disaffected postwar youth, of those alienated by racial and sexual exclusion, of outlaws and drug users creating their own dissident networks. Whether labeled as Bop or Beat or Punk, these outsider voices ignored or suppressed by the mainstream would merge and recombine in unpredictable ways, and change American culture forever.
To read The Cool School is to experience the energies of that vortex. Drawing on memoirs, poems, novels, comedy routines, letters, essays, and song lyrics, OBrien creates an unparalleled literary mix tape bringing together Henry Miller, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Annie Ross, Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Andy Warhol, Lester Bangs, and dozens of others, including such legendary figures as Beat avatar Neal Cassady, jazz memoirist Babs Gonzales, inspired comic improviser Lord Buckley, no-holds-barred essayist Seymour Krim, and underground filmmaker Jack Smith. His one-of-a-kind anthology recreates an unforgettable era in all its hallucinatory splendor: transgressive, raucous, unruly, harrowing, and often subversively hilarious.
"Former Rolling Stone editor O'Brien (How To Be A Man) gathers selections from those associated with the Beats in an attempt to shed light on the 'original hipsters.' Del Close's 'Dictionary of Hip Words and Phrases' offers the observation that 'beatnik' is a word used to denote anybody 'you don't happen to like,' while Norman Mailer suggests that a hipster is 'a philosophical psychopath.' Kerouac, who claims credit for the term's adoption, offers both the slang term 'beat,' meaning 'poor, down and out,' and his own interpretation of it as being short for 'beatific.' By the end of the book, which draws on memoirs, poems, novels, letters, essays, song lyrics, and other sources, the reader has been inundated with so many differing philosophies about the era that no clear picture emerges. With the current generation of hipsters losing its luster, there's a sense of desperation underlying this book's existence, as if by going back to the originals, one can somehow resuscitate 'the sense that we were engaging in the real Scene that lay buried somewhere under the glum hypocrisies and lofty nonsense...' But try as O'Brien might, studied nostalgia can't recreate the Beat generation. Illustrated endpapers. No agent. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Glenn OBrien is the author of Soapbox
, Human Nature: Dubbed Version
, and How To Be A Man
. A former editor at Interview
, Rolling Stone
, and High Times
, he writes frequently on contemporary art, supplied the lead catalog essay to the Whitney Museum exhibition Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-65,” and is a contributing editor at Ten
, LOfficiel Homme
, and GQ
, where he writes the Style Guy” column.