Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

Testimonials: Tribute to Ann Charters

Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

Testimonials: Tribute to Ann Charters

Article excerpt

I'll admit I was slow to recognize Ann. Predictably enough, I had begun with her Kerouac biography, which I read around 1980. I didn't realize its significance as a landmark in taking the Beats seriously, perhaps because it was competing for my attention at the time with Richard Holmes's epic life of Shelley, and I wasn't so persuaded by Kerouac (or "the Beats" as a whole) anyway. And then, as I became more engaged in the field during the 1980s, and started on the path of my own future scholarship, I looked at Ann's book again and liked it less than before. To me, it was another book promoting the centrality of biography, which meant one thing only: not taking the literature seriously enough.

Over time, three things changed my mind and brought me to recognize Ann's very special importance.

One was to realize that back then I lacked the imagination to grasp that one day, were I lucky enough, some young Turks would be lamenting the flaws in my own work as a way to crank up the energy sometimes needed to carry out their own.

The second was publication of the Kerouac letters in 1995. I had just edited Burroughs's correspondence covering more or less the same period, the 1940s and 1950s, and I was blown away equally by the quality of Kerouac's letters and Ann's editing. …

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