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Were they angel-headed hipsters, dope smoking dropouts or the most exciting group of writers in postwar American literature? Their stories of drugs, sex and the search for an alternative to 'squaresville' have cornered the market in cult literature, remaining hip even while being taught on university courses and in schools. On the Road, Naked Lunch, and Howl have become milestones of underground literature and the key Beats (Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg) are mythic figures of contemporary pop culture. This Pocket Essential provides an introductory essay examining the importance of the writers and their work in American culture. Separate chapters are devoted to the lives and work of Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac. Later chapters discuss the other members of this movement (Neal Cassady, Herbert Huncke, and many more), the Beats on film, and their influence on the counterculture of the 60s.

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