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Mania by Ronald K.L. Collins

Mania (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Ronald K.L. Collins, David M. Skover

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3510321,274 (3.82)13
Authors:Ronald K.L. Collins
Other authors:David M. Skover
Info:Top Five Books (2013), Hardcover, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Advance Reading Copy, beat generation, literary criticism

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Mania by Ronald K. L. Collins (2013)



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm a longtime fan of the beats (I'm a poet and definitely wore the black beret in high school) so I was very intrigued by this book. It brought up a lot of the issues I'd heard about but not really read about, especially with the opening that begins with the murder by Lucien Carr. I especially enjoyed learning more about the relationship of the men there and the issues behind their madness. I thought the book was well crafted and quite readable and definitely a good choice for the beat fan who still likes to consider their lives and what it meant to be who they were, thinking like they were, in a time when they were not politically or socially correct but are now acclaimed for their writing.

I haven't read the book about Howl, but I wonder how much of it parallels with what is in Mania. I think that while the stories may be similar, the writing and pacing of Mania make it worth the read even if you've read other books on the subject previously. ( )
  sentimental13 | Dec 4, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As someone who doesn't usually enjoy non-fiction, I was pleasantly surprised with Mania. I've been curious about the beat generation for years, but never knew where to start, and I am glad that winning this book from Early Reviewers gave me the opportunity to start somewhere reliable yet simple. By no means do I mean simple in a negative connotation. Had I started anywhere else, I wouldn't have the fervor for learning more about these people than I have after having read Mania. The visualization and authenticity of the voice used makes one feel comfort that the story being told is genuine. I have no real qualms with this books, aside from the occasional annoyance due to footnotes, which is really just a personal preference. ( )
  kaylayackamouih | Jul 26, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It is the late 1940's and early 50's in America. In New York City a very small group of crazed poets gravitate towards one another on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Drawn there by their relationship to Columbia University and their shared interests, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lucian Carr, William Burroughs and Neal Cassady bond as a new vanguard in American culture. Indeed they represent the first members of the counter-culture which many of us have now incorporated into our mutual accepted values and perspectives.

Along with some other hangeronners amongst them drug addicts and petty thieves, this group of writers start to chronicle a new way of life. They celebrate what is different and new. They encourage one another's journeys and authorships. It is Ginsberg who becomes their informal press and literary agent.

The authors of this book do a good job at depicting this special time in NYC and in our culture. They give the reader a behind the scenes look at the adventures these characters embark upon. In a few brief years they create a new genre of literature with such classics as HOWL, ON THE ROAD, NAKED LUNCH and several other novels, poems and streams of consciousness.

When Lawrence Ferlinghetti owner of the City Lights Press and Bookstore in San Francisco publishes Ginsberg's HOWL, the depiction of promiscuity, anger and rebellion depicted in foul and base language is met with a District Attorney and obscenity trial that becomes a hallmark for First Amendment Rights.

The 2nd half of the book revolves around this legal trial and examines well the intricacies of Constitutional Law. The victory allows many other books to be published.

The authors also depict the arc of experience for Kerouac, Ginsberg and the others. Many of them have tragic, bittersweet endings.

This book is perfect for those interested in the counter culture, the Beats, and constitutional law. Credit is given to Collins and Skover for documenting an important moment on our country’s history. ( )
  berthirsch | May 15, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Not a huge fan of non-fiction, but I enjoyed Mania. I've dabbled in the beats on my own time and took a course on Ginsberg years ago, but this clued me in on lots of connections and anecdotes I'd never have known otherwise. Since my initial fascination with Kerouac's wild & free lifestyle, I've come around to what a sad and hurtful dude he actually was. This has shed more light on that and knocked Cassady down a number of pegs as well.

The book read easily; I didn't feel like I was choking on sand like other non-fic/biographies. I wish it dealt a bit less with the "Howl" obscenity trial and a bit more with the later years of the beat authors' lives before skipping straight to the epilogue/obits. ( )
  kxlly | Mar 14, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mania is somewhat misleading in that it is not a comprehensive biography of any of the several major Beat authors it treats; nor a collection of critical essays; nor even an effort to understand the broad cultural and literary context in which the Beats lived, wrote, or influenced others. It does offer, essentially, (a) a portrait of mutual relationships and shared experiences between key Beat authors, primarily: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and to a lesser extent, Holmes and Huncke; combined with (b) a thematic argument regarding the importance of the Beats for First Amendment expression. Even in this it is no more than a sketch, if a detailed one. As regards the personal interactions, it's not clear that all friends equally important to these men were included, and fairly evident the episodes included are representative only, and could very well skip over equally influential episodes relevant to the people discussed. And regarding censorship, only three works are treated in any fleshed-out way, following legal or editorial censorship.

This may be a result of packaging. Collins and Skover are each law professors and their take on the Beats is in many ways a review of legal issues concerning censorship, creative license, public decency, and the like; combined with an examination of a specific historical context in which some of these issues were tested. Even here, Mania is specific in the works and time period it discusses, it's not an authoritative discussion of any of those legal topics. But as useful as that is for law students and others interested in its narrow range, acknowledging it in an advertising campaign probably wouldn't sell many copies. I wonder to what extent the title and subtitle, the cover art and design (spiral motif, typeface), and the marketing blurbs were designed deliberately to evoke depravity and voyeurism, such as with pulp fiction or exploitation art. (A two-page "press pack"-style marketing flyer accompanied my ARC of Mania).

Collins and Skover do not give the impression they were focused on titillation. What is missing from their account, to my way of thinking, is any attempt to understand the motivations of the various Beat authors, whether in terms of their personal approach to life or their creative intentions. They provide plenty of anecdotes on the poverty, privation, and in many cases deplorable behavior on the part of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and their friends; and they make clear how strongly each was driven to create what they created. I'm not familiar with their biographies but I have no reason to doubt the veracity on these points. But there is nothing whatever on why these men were driven to write, and to what purpose, yet clearly that intention is the clearest distinction between them and their friends (particularly Lucien Carr and Neal Cassady) who behaved similarly but didn't have any pronounced interest in creative expression. The omission can be explained by speculating Collins and Skover aren't interested in answering that question. Rather, they are interested in defending freedom of expression, and in showcasing specific historical instances in which expression was threatened. With such an objective, the motivation for writing isn't germane, only the fact of that expression, and its link to actual behaviour by the authors.

From that standpoint, Mania is a supportive account of a counter-culture but from a dominant culture perspective. That is, the authors align themselves with the Beats on principles of freedom and/or freedom of expression, but with little substantive sympathy for the art or the artists. I learned a lot about moral failings and irresponsible behaviour on the parts of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs; I certainly learned how closely these men were involved in one another's lives, whereas previously I'd thought they largely were grouped as a movement (though I vaguely knew Ginsberg & Burroughs were friends). I also profited from the discussion of the trial over "Howl", and to a much lesser extent the publication challenges facing Kerouac and Burroughs (primarily concerning On The Road and Naked Lunch).

I didn't get to know any of them as writers, though, or even as authentic individuals. I'll need to get that elsewhere.


Black and white photos integrated into section dividers. Occasional footnotes for asides, endnotes are not marked in the text, but identified by excerpt or short description in the note itself (an irritating format). Index omitted from ARC. ( )
1 vote elenchus | Mar 8, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
"Stunning, disturbing, and remarkably intimate....With MANIA, Collins and Skover provide readers with a rare close-up of the lives, the loves, the trials, and the tribulations of a handful of rebels who forged new cultural ground. It is likely this book will help assure that the key figures of the Beat Generation will not soon be forgotten."
"A balanced history—sometimes admiring, sometimes blistering—of the writers who fractured the glass capsule of literary conformity."
added by TopFiveBooks | editKirkus Reviews (pay site) (Dec 15, 2012)
"Collins and Skover offer a vivid retelling...those in search of a good story and the raw, compelling 'feel' for the mindset and actions of the Beats will be rewarded....The madcap, savage world of the Beats is laid out in spades."
added by TopFiveBooks | editPublishers Weekly (Dec 10, 2012)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ronald K. L. Collinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Skover, David M.Authormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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The only people for me are
the mad ones, the ones who
are mad to live, mad to talk,
made to be saved...
—Jack Kerouac
First words
August 14, 1944, 3:30 a.m.
What to do with the body? He gazed over the dark waters of the Hudson River and then looked down.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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By the time Lucien Carr stabbed David Kammerer to death on the banks of the Hudson River in August 1944, it was clear that the hard-partying teenage companion to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs might need to reevaluate his life. A two-year stint in a reformatory straightened out the wayward youth but did little to curb the wild ways of his friends. What is more remarkable than the manic lives they led is that they succeeded-- remaking their own generation and inspiring the ones that followed.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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