[In his essay, “Anatomy of a Beatnik” (1960), Fred W. McDarrah attempted to counter negative press that had recently come out about the Beats (derogatorily referred to as Beatniks).  To bolster his argument he interviewed various people in the “scene.”  The essay provides no consensus but that’s appropriate as the Beats were about spontaneity and living in the present.  What is certain is that the 60’s revolution happened and the Beats were its harbingers.   jbm 2/28/2017]

“Its seems clear that the mighty US press has caught on its journalistic meat hook a new  scapegoat, a whipping boy, a real live sucker, the so-called Beatnik.”

“Allen Ginsberg puts it much better than I can.  ‘Life is a nightmare for most people, who want something else…People want a lesser fake of Beauty…We’ve seen Beauty face to face, one time or another and said, Oh my God, of course, so that’s what it’s all about, no wonder I was born and had all those secret weird feelings!  Maybe it was a moment of instantaneous perfect stillness in some cow patch in the Catskills when the trees suddenly came alive like a Van Gogh painting or a Wordsworth poem.  Or a minute listening to, say, Wagner on the phonograph when the music sounded as if it was getting nightmarishly sexy and alive, awful, like an elephant calling far away in the moonlight.’

“What Allen describes here are a few basic necessities of life, the things that make us what we are, Truth, Love and Beauty.  As I see it there is very little else in the world that means anything.  And this is what the real meaning of the Beat Generation is.  This is what the so-called Beatnik wants.  The Beat wants his life to mean something to himself.  He is looking for Order.  Whether he finds it in poetry, painting, music, plumbing, carpentry, weight lifting, selling shoes, or no matter what, he must find meaning for his life.  He wants a hero he can genuinely believe in, not like the figure all too frequently presented today, a hero in the form of a professional soldier who won the Bronze Star and half a dozen battle stars, a soldier who carries in his wallet a souvenir photograph of a Red Chinese soldier he bayoneted.  Essentially, it’s a matter of living, of awareness, of sensitivity to nature.”

[Quoting Ed Fancher] “Not only is the Beat Generation interested in intellectual work, they themselves are very social people.  It’s an attempt to cry out that what we need is a sense of society.”

[Quoting Bernard Scott] “Our culture defines people in terms of their utility.  The Beat wants to know what you are thinking, what’s licking inside of you, how real you are in your heart, what you’ve got to say, can you help me see anything, can you turn me on…”

[Quoting John Mitchell] “The Beats aren’t a formal movement, but they know what they don’t want.  They don’t want cold wars, hot wars, military service, all the rest.  One of the things they reject is a political party in a group.  Some good will come from all this.  It’s a healthy thing and a lot of people are involved.  The American people put them down because they’re afraid that they don’t want change and the [Beats] might change their ways.  The last big thing in this country like the Beat Movement was the marches on Washington during the Depression.  This moment will be stronger.”

[Quoting Jack Micheline]  “Aside from my work I’m interested in girls…The reason for my rebellion is that I want to be able to be what I want, do what I want, without being restricted.  I fight to remain myself…Perhaps there will be an overthrow of the old order and not everything will be keyed to the machine age.  You might say this is a rebellion against escalators….”

[Quoting Mary Nichols] “It’s a question of anxiety, I think, that produces the Beat Generation.  It may be an anxiety for order and security, which is a funny thing to  say about them, but they want a security that’s more cosmic than what the average square wants…Beatniks are really very political in a strange way.  I think there is a relation between their rejection of politics and their concern over the H-Bomb.  You can’t reject something unless you’re involved in it.  I think the security the Beat person wants is knowing that he’s not going to be annihilated in the next ten years.”

Fred W. McDarrah – Anatomy of a Beatnik (1960)  Copyright 1960 by Fred McDarrah.

photo: Audrey Hepburn in movie “Funny Face.”

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