Synopses & Reviews
A literary exploration of the Beats' encounter with India in the 1960s, a journey that inspired and influenced generations of Americans and Indians alike In 1961, Allen Ginsberg left New York by boat for Bombay, India. He brought with him his troubled lover, Peter Orlovsky, and a plan to meet up with poets Gary Snyder and Joanne Kyger. He left behind not only fellow Beats Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs, but also the relentless notoriety that followed his publication of Howl, the epic work that branded him the voice of a generation. Drawing from extensive research in India, undiscovered letters, journals, and memoirs, acclaimed biographer Deborah Baker has woven a many layered literary mystery out of Ginsberg's odyssey. A Blue Hand follows him and his companions as they travel from the ashrams of the Himalayan foothills to Delhi opium dens and the burning pyres of Benares. They encounter an India of charlatans and saints, a country of spectacular beauty and spiritual promise and of devastating poverty and political unease. In Calcutta, Ginsberg discovers a circle of hungry young writers whose outrageousness and genius are uncannily reminiscent of his own past. Finally, Ginsberg searches for Hope Savage, the mysterious and beautiful girl whose path, before she disappeared, had crossed his own in Greenwich Village, San Francisco, and Paris. In their restless, comic and oftimes tortured search for meaning, the Beats looked to India for answers while India looked to the West. A Blue Hand is the story of their search for God, for love, and for peace in the shadow of the atomic bomb. It is also a story of India-its gods and its poets, its politics and its place in theAmerican imagination.
"A fabulous book-and written with great verve and nerve- about the Beats and their passage to India."
- Michael Ondaatje
"[A] dense, exotic, intriguing saga-not just Ginsberg's but India's too."
-National Geographic Adventure
"A piece of devoted scholarship and legwork dunked in the screwy, hyper-intelligent, tragicomic essence of everything that drove Ginsberg to take a trip that not only changed his life but helped spawn generations of hipsters, hippies, writers, artists, rock stars, mental cases, and self-anointed medicine men."
-The New York Times
Baker presents a literary exploration of the Beats' encounter with India in the 1960s, a journey--led by Allen Ginsberg--that inspired and influenced generations of Americans and Indians alike.
In this engrossing new piece of Beat history, Pulitzer Prize finalist Deborah Baker takes us back to the moment when America's edgiest writers looked to India for answers as India looked to the West. It was 1961 when Allen Ginsberg left New York by boat for Bombay, where he hoped to meet poets Gary Snyder and Joanne Kyger. Baker follows Ginsberg and his companions as they travel from ashram to opium den. Exposing an overlooked chapter of the literary past, A Blue Hand
will delight all those who continue to cherish the frenzied creativity of the Beats.
About the Author
Deborah Baker moved to Calcutta in 1990, where she studied Bengali and wrote In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding, a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in biography. Since then, her essays have appeared in a range of publications, from The New York Times to the Calcutta Statesman.