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Synopsis

The writings that shocked America out of the 1950s

Blasting through the crew-cuts and conformism of their day, the Beat writers were queer in the fullest sense of the word: their fluid sexuality challenged all sexual and romantic conventions. Most shocking of their unconventional attitudes was their embrace of same-sex eroticism. At a time when gay people were considered mentally ill or criminal, the Beats celebrated spontaneity and freedom in thought, word, and action. Their highest value was nakedness—even before Allen Ginsberg stripped bare at a poetry reading to silence a heckler. They would try anything once, then write about it.

Queer Beats: How the Beats Turned America On to Sex traces, for the first time, the queer pulse that throbs throughout the Beats' writings—from William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Allen Ginsberg's wistful, boy-loving sex poems to Jack Kerouac's hero-worship of Neal Cassady—and Kerouac's denial of having sex with men, despite erotic encounters with Ginsberg and Gore Vidal: "Posterity will laugh at me if it thinks I was queer."

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