The Beats

We can sense Wakefield's "uneasiness" and dislike for the Beats and their movement in the chapter title itself---"What Rough Beats". Wakefield resented "being labeled because of his age first as silent and suddenly as "beat" when his own life and work had little in common with the life or literary style exemplified by Kerouac's "non stop gush". Wakefield at length goes into the differences between himself and others like him ("writers writers" of the West Village), in opposition to primarily Kerouac but moreover the Beats in general and everything they stood for or represented.

Wakefield believed Kerouac was giving his generation a bad name ("beat") and that his antics were giving "writing and writers a bad name, making them look like the foolish clowns that the worst of our parochial hometown critics took them to be." Wakefield's disdain for Kerouac also stemmed from Kerouac's mixing of the arts--Kerouac often performed in nightclubs, reading his work to jazz. Wakefield saw this "even more transparently as show business rather than a literary enterprise." This notion of mixing the arts and them becoming one or even interdisciplinary flourished in the years to come, as we have seen in Banes book and numerous other happenings Dr. Lounsbury has created in class. I wonder if Wakefield ever accepted this once it became widespread and acceptable amongst the performers of their period or if he continued his backlash against the movement of avante garde. In retrospect Kerouac, along with many other Beat writers, was "hostile" to writers who weren't part of the beat scene and often treated these people including Dan Wakefield with condescension.

Wakefield explains the difference between himself and Kerouac best when he states "Though the writers I admired were able to portray the "beast" within the boundaries of the literary forms that were handed down to us, it was also inevitable that writers would come along who found they needed to break the old forms to express themselves. I can see now that Kerouac's "On the Road" served as such a landmark, though I still don't get it's artistic merits." Wakefield was a product of a different enviroment and setting than Kerouac and most of the Beats, he will never "get it".

Lynette Erbe

Beat Cafe


This website contains relevant information and numerous links to core material we previously discussed within our unit on Columbia University. Discusses the university as the birthplace of the Beat movement and provides links to many crucial Beat writers, including Kerouac, Carr, Ginsberg, and Burroughs. Mentions the influence of Van Doren and Trilling as professors and fatherly figures to several of the Beats. In addition has links to the film Quiz Show and briefly mentions Tom's restaurant and Paul Auster.

Lynette Erbe

Bohemians in Greenwich Village: 1927-1960

According to the Oxford dictionary, Bohemians are artists, literary men/women, or actors who lead a vagabond or irregular and unconventional life.

Among the roar of hundreds of cheering customers, a pretty young model named Amie Cortez was elected the first "Mayor of Greenwich Village" at an informal poll taken at a cafe. As a victory dance, Cortez danced on a table and proclaimed that her first official act would be to establish a court of love where the problems of the heartbroken could be settled. According to the book The Village Square, she proclaimed, "It is important for the Village to have a Mayor. The people who live down here keep different hours and lead different lives from the people in other parts of New York."

In 1927, Greenwich Village was considered to be at its peak according to newspaper headlines. Caf shops were filled with Bohemians and uptowners that liked to watch them. By 1950, the Raven Poetry Circle members, and Joe Gould and his rival Mazwell Bodenheim died. The Village was considered dead and Bohemians a thing of the past. Rent was high and artist could no longer afford to live there. Yet Greenwich Village still offered the right atmosphere to nurture independence and creativity for Bohemians. Despite physical changes, Rhinelander Gardens, the Studio Building, the rackety tenements south of Washington Square continued to grow.

Popular "great good places" included: Don Dickerman's Pirate Den that had a reputation for not returning change to its uptown clientele and during the depression years Life Cafeteria at 4th and Christopher Streets was the hangout for many locals.

Greenwich Village welcomed newcomers from all over America. According to The Village Square, it was best known to the outside world because of the Outdoor Art Show, the "strip" joints along West 3rd Street, the sidewalk fiestas in "Little Italy," and jewelers who grew beards and wore sandals for ambiance. Washington Square and garden clubs were also a legacy and an attraction. The magic in Greenwich Village offered a strong atmosphere of creativity, and pride among its inhabitants. The Village shared so much diverse talent.

The Village Guidebook writes, "Whatever else Bohemia may be, It is almost always yesterday."

Amy Eichenwald

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