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Long regarded as an underground classic for its gritty and unabashedly erotic portrayal of the Beat years, Memoirs of a Beatnik is a moving account of a powerful woman artist coming of age sensually and intellectually in a movement dominated by a small confederacy of men, many of whom she lived with and loved. Filled with anecdotes about her adventures in New York City, Di Long regarded as an underground classic for its gritty and unabashedly erotic portrayal of the Beat years, Memoirs of a Beatnik is a moving account of a powerful woman artist coming of age sensually and intellectually in a movement dominated by a small confederacy of men, many of whom she lived with and loved. Filled with anecdotes about her adventures in New York City, Diane di Prima's memoir shows her learning to "raise her rebellion into art," and making her way toward literary success. Memoirs of a Beatnik offers a fascinating narrative about the courage and triumphs of the imagination.


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Long regarded as an underground classic for its gritty and unabashedly erotic portrayal of the Beat years, Memoirs of a Beatnik is a moving account of a powerful woman artist coming of age sensually and intellectually in a movement dominated by a small confederacy of men, many of whom she lived with and loved. Filled with anecdotes about her adventures in New York City, Di Long regarded as an underground classic for its gritty and unabashedly erotic portrayal of the Beat years, Memoirs of a Beatnik is a moving account of a powerful woman artist coming of age sensually and intellectually in a movement dominated by a small confederacy of men, many of whom she lived with and loved. Filled with anecdotes about her adventures in New York City, Diane di Prima's memoir shows her learning to "raise her rebellion into art," and making her way toward literary success. Memoirs of a Beatnik offers a fascinating narrative about the courage and triumphs of the imagination.

30 review for Memoirs of a Beatnik

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi

    What I wanted was to know what it was like for a woman to be part of such an amazing scene and time, what I got was a lot of unsavory descriptions of casual sex with multiple partners. I had no idea I'd become such a prude. What I wanted was to know what it was like for a woman to be part of such an amazing scene and time, what I got was a lot of unsavory descriptions of casual sex with multiple partners. I had no idea I'd become such a prude.

  2. 4 out of 5

    M.F. Soriano

    A schizophrenic book, with two distinct personalities: hardcore smut and bohemian memoir. It starts out on the smutty side--the first three chapters are basically quick set-ups for sex scenes--and the sex is written about in classic porno style (lots of lines like "I took his huge, throbbing cock into my hungry, wet pussy."). Fun to read, though I didn't find it erotic enough to actually get my blood moving. What kept me reading was the other side of the story, those glimpses of bohemian life, o A schizophrenic book, with two distinct personalities: hardcore smut and bohemian memoir. It starts out on the smutty side--the first three chapters are basically quick set-ups for sex scenes--and the sex is written about in classic porno style (lots of lines like "I took his huge, throbbing cock into my hungry, wet pussy."). Fun to read, though I didn't find it erotic enough to actually get my blood moving. What kept me reading was the other side of the story, those glimpses of bohemian life, of life as lived by someone with no real interest in making even a somewhat comfortable living. Poverty and squalor, free-spirited artists, fags and outcasts. The account is hardly cohesive, and could be more eloquent in its delivery, but it feels real, and it covers a truly fascinating time period--the start of the American counterculture movement, a decade before the 60s (di Prima guesses that there are maybe another 400 or so bohemian types in the entire United States during this period, and I believe her). I'm currently reading di Prima's more "proper" memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman, written several decades later, and compared to this it feels like an old lady's whine-fest. Memoirs of a Beatnik might be sort of juvenile, with it's hormone-driven sex-obsession and it's wide-eyed naivete, but frankly, it's all the better for it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    Sometimes evocative, mostly just depressingly bad. There's an unpleasant whiff of internalized misogyny in di Prima's digressions about birth control, sex, and unconventional domestic arrangements. Her work as a poet and writer are left totally vague during the years she spent in Manhattan. Kerouac and Ginsberg are trotted out like caricatures. This fictionalized autobiography could have been so interesting. A female poet's perspective on the proto-beatnik scene of 1950's New York is a rarity; I Sometimes evocative, mostly just depressingly bad. There's an unpleasant whiff of internalized misogyny in di Prima's digressions about birth control, sex, and unconventional domestic arrangements. Her work as a poet and writer are left totally vague during the years she spent in Manhattan. Kerouac and Ginsberg are trotted out like caricatures. This fictionalized autobiography could have been so interesting. A female poet's perspective on the proto-beatnik scene of 1950's New York is a rarity; I wish a) the writing was better, b) the book had some structure other than a loose chronology, and c) she hadn't gone along with her publisher's demand for tons of ludicrous sex scenes. The book peters out in San Francisco, 1968 -- another huge missed opportunity for insight. A worthwhile read for the odd details here and there about street life and the beginnings of mid-century counterculture, but not much else.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    I laugh at all the negative reviews of the book because all they saw was a pornographic novel, which is true, because that is what is was written as. But there is stuff hidden beneath the surface that you really don't notice until the last chapter. This was a woman who was beat outside of the beats for a long time. She was someone outside of Kerouac and Ginsberg's circle, so she wasn't even aware the was a thing called Beat until she read Howl. But most of the sex was written just to satisfy her I laugh at all the negative reviews of the book because all they saw was a pornographic novel, which is true, because that is what is was written as. But there is stuff hidden beneath the surface that you really don't notice until the last chapter. This was a woman who was beat outside of the beats for a long time. She was someone outside of Kerouac and Ginsberg's circle, so she wasn't even aware the was a thing called Beat until she read Howl. But most of the sex was written just to satisfy her publishers so she could get paid. And I think the Author's note and the Afterword says a lot to why she wrote this book the way she did. Now I went into this book knowing what to expect because my teacher warned us before reading it for my Beat class. So yes I can understand why you would be disappointed. But the focus on sex was only to satisfy the publisher since a lot of it was made up. Even the term beatnik was the Hollywood term for the Beats and so you could see that it really isn't something that she could term "serious" writing as she mentions in her afterword.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marley

    Kind of awesome. Absolutely LOADED with high-detail explicit polyeverything sex, but in a way that irks me a whole lot less than Henry Miller (because it's not ragingly sexist, funny that) or even Anais Nin (because it's not as oooh and aahhh about the whole thing). It's also (mostly, except for a couple of really awful incidents) really quite hot, and an interesting look at the whole having-sex-with-your-friends-in-the-bushes impulse that artsy types tend to get sometimes. Note that Di Prima wro Kind of awesome. Absolutely LOADED with high-detail explicit polyeverything sex, but in a way that irks me a whole lot less than Henry Miller (because it's not ragingly sexist, funny that) or even Anais Nin (because it's not as oooh and aahhh about the whole thing). It's also (mostly, except for a couple of really awful incidents) really quite hot, and an interesting look at the whole having-sex-with-your-friends-in-the-bushes impulse that artsy types tend to get sometimes. Note that Di Prima wrote porn to get by in this period, and clearly some of that sensibility leaks through. Apparently for those works she'd get her friends to (fully-clothed) try out positions with her to see if they were even remotely feasible, and I do wonder how much this stuff got projected backwards. She's not naive about that issue--There is a hilarious part where she clearly tweaks the reader, describing an orgy for 3 pages under the title "What you wish had happened" before she cuts it off with "What actually happened", which is a bunch of people sharing an apartment and being cold and hungry and bored. In between all the squelchy noises and the moaning (which really is a large portion of the book, even finally throwing in an orgy with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and about 3 other people to seal the deal), is a really piercing look at the bums, runaways and, yes, 'bohemians' getting high, getting laid and trying to get by in New York on the Lower East Side right before this whole Beat thing broke open wide. A great look at the odd jobs, the drug habits, the crash pads, attempts to create a little bit of art, the slang, the creepy predators, and all the rest that was going on at the time. Di Prima is a really still- fresh voice, one I think was criminally underrated while everyone was busy worshiping every little "Pome" Kerouac ever dribbled out. One that manages to look past the macho self-aggrandizement of that movement and into its day-to-day life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

    This book is 80% hyped up erotica (which becomes fairly predictable after the first couple chapters, boring even) and 20% reality. It is worth reading for that 20%, the glimpse through the keyhole of how the Beat artists, poets, writers and actors lived in 1950s New York City, in all its splendid grittiness. There are intriguing paragraphs about foraging for wood to burn in dumpy West-side apartments, subsisting on vats of oatmeal, stale bread and endless cups of sweet, milky coffee, sleeping fo This book is 80% hyped up erotica (which becomes fairly predictable after the first couple chapters, boring even) and 20% reality. It is worth reading for that 20%, the glimpse through the keyhole of how the Beat artists, poets, writers and actors lived in 1950s New York City, in all its splendid grittiness. There are intriguing paragraphs about foraging for wood to burn in dumpy West-side apartments, subsisting on vats of oatmeal, stale bread and endless cups of sweet, milky coffee, sleeping four on a pull-out couch in rat infested digs where rodents are the size of housecats, reading books - any books, all books (Homeric Greek primers, books about revolutions, multi-volume histories of the Republic, Beat poetry though it was not yet known as such), clanking away on typewriters, scribbling in dog-eared notebooks, taking odd jobs (art model, porn model, marriage-buster for hire, secretary, shopkeeper), getting high on hashish and cheap wine, hobnobbing with New York’s underworld , making excursions into the "country" (a bucolic interlude on the Hudson playing earth-mama to three men, a surreal outing with a sexually dysfunctional family in Darien who read like a twisted version of the Addams Family). However to get to all this good stuff you have to wade through other paragraphs (many others) of what amounts to cheap and even boring porn. There are only so many ways you can do “it”, and these are replayed for us over and over with a seemingly endless cast of funky characters, male and female. MORE SEX! her editor demanded, and that is what di Prima gave him because she was hard up for cash in 1969, trying to support a baby and a motley household of unemployed hangers-on in her new home in San Francisco. Towards the end of the book she slips in a mea culpa: we read a sub-chapter, “Evening by the Fire, Maybe” which plays out like a Fellini film with too many body parts intertwined on the couch, contrasted by “Evening by the Fire, Actually” – a modest scene of domesticity in which our players read, write, and nap in separate corners of the living room but never too far from the only source of heat – the wood fire. This and an admission in the Afterword that scenes were spiced up for print (like adding oregano to tomato sauce as she put it) leave us wondering just what the split is between fact and fiction. Here is one book where the facts are much more interesting than the made-up stuff.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Suad Shamma

    I am going to make this short and sweet. I absolutely hated this book. I am far from being a prude, but the content of this book was neither worth my time nor money and I was majorly disappointed that it could even be called a memoir - of a beatnik no less. How interesting, I thought. The feminist in me thought how interesting it would be to read about beatniks from a woman's perspective. Diane Di Prima is not someone I ever want to read or know anything about. Here's how one reviewer put it best I am going to make this short and sweet. I absolutely hated this book. I am far from being a prude, but the content of this book was neither worth my time nor money and I was majorly disappointed that it could even be called a memoir - of a beatnik no less. How interesting, I thought. The feminist in me thought how interesting it would be to read about beatniks from a woman's perspective. Diane Di Prima is not someone I ever want to read or know anything about. Here's how one reviewer put it best: "Porn, porn, porn. Let's see: chapter 1, sex with Ivan. Chapter 2, recollection of the first time she had sex with Ivan. Chapter 3, sex with Robin (a man in love with Ivan). Chapter 4, Sex with Tomi (a female friend). Chapter 5, Tomi has sex with Tomi's brother (incest). Chapter 6, Sex with 4 other women. Chapter 7, sex with Tomi's father Serge. Chapter 8, sex with young Jack and some guy with big ears while runaway girl watches. And so it goes, through all the chapters. So, if you're looking for a "spank" book, then check it out. If you're looking for a book about the beats from a woman's perspective (as it is boldly proclaimed on the front cover), look somewhere else." The most uninteresting, disgusting life ever. And the ending was the most anticlimactic I've read. How do you think a memoir focused on a woman having nothing but sex for 14 chapters end? Why, she gets knocked up of course. Give me a break.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Esther

    The title caught my eye in the secondhand bookstore. I've never really understood what a beatnik was, beyond vaguaries like counter culture, poetry and erm wearing black turtlenecks. I turned to the forward of the book in which the author recalls being asked by a student after she gave a poetry reading in the late 60s 'whatever happened to all the beatniks?' She replied something along the lines of, well sweety some of us sold out and became hippies. This confused me. Wasn't the hippy movement, The title caught my eye in the secondhand bookstore. I've never really understood what a beatnik was, beyond vaguaries like counter culture, poetry and erm wearing black turtlenecks. I turned to the forward of the book in which the author recalls being asked by a student after she gave a poetry reading in the late 60s 'whatever happened to all the beatniks?' She replied something along the lines of, well sweety some of us sold out and became hippies. This confused me. Wasn't the hippy movement, cohesive as you could claim it to be, about not selling out being anti establishment etc as well? So my interest was piqued and I wanted to know what then was the beatnik movement about. Well so what did this book tell me? Nothing. Lots of sex. Ridiculous long passages about shagging this person and that. And then towards the end she talks about writing a book and getting the manuscript back from the publisher with 'good, add more sex' written in red pen. And then it dawns on you, this is that book. And then you realise its probably therefore made up to fit the publishers demands for a racy page turner. Was that what she meant by selling out? But I don't see what that has to do with being a hippy. Wikipedia claims it is a fictionalized account - but fails to mention its also tedious and not very well written.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mérita Selimi

    Disappointing! I really expected her to show us what is was like to be part of such an inspirational movement, time, city... It's a shame she only writes a few words about it in the last third of the book. Disappointing! I really expected her to show us what is was like to be part of such an inspirational movement, time, city... It's a shame she only writes a few words about it in the last third of the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    this book is very bohemian and smutty, and i am loving it very much. If you're into beat literature, erotic literature, feminist literature, then read this. It's amazing. this book is very bohemian and smutty, and i am loving it very much. If you're into beat literature, erotic literature, feminist literature, then read this. It's amazing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mallory (The Local Muse)

    This and more @ The Local Muse Buckle you seat-belts, it's going to be a wild ride of sexism and bohemianism. If you are unaware, Diane di Prima is a poet who wrote during the Beatnik movement in America. For more information on the movement you can read my Literary Look linked above, but it took place during the late 50s to early 60s. The Beats are comparable to modern day hipsters, expect they did a lot of drugs and couch surfing. They were the ultimate bohemians and wrote about their real expe This and more @ The Local Muse Buckle you seat-belts, it's going to be a wild ride of sexism and bohemianism. If you are unaware, Diane di Prima is a poet who wrote during the Beatnik movement in America. For more information on the movement you can read my Literary Look linked above, but it took place during the late 50s to early 60s. The Beats are comparable to modern day hipsters, expect they did a lot of drugs and couch surfing. They were the ultimate bohemians and wrote about their real experiences, many were drug induced, and their real lives. Their works may be embellished or slightly changed, but most of them are based on true stories and true people. This movement was famously dominated by men and it was very hard for women to gain any popularity or critical respect in the movement. di Prima was one of the few women to do this, and is often recognized as the leading female poet of the Beat era. The Beats are pretty controversial; you either love them or hate them. I love them, but I can understand why people hate them.They do a lot of drugs and creating and not much else, but I find them endlessly fascinating because of their lack of care or worry. If you are not a fan of the Beat movement and all that rejection of society and responsibility, you will not enjoy this one. Just like most works from this movement, this book contains an ungodly amount of drugs, sex, and carelessness. First of all, it is important to understand that this is not di Prima's real memoir. That came in the form of recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years published years later in 2001. This is the edition of her memoirs that her publisher thought would sell best. di Prima was asked to put as much sex as possible in the book and that's just what she did. In the afterword of the book di Prima states, "Gobs of words would go off to New York whenever the rent was due, and come back with “MORE SEX” scrawled across the top page in Maurice’s inimitable hand, and I would dream up odd angles of bodies or weird combinations of humans and cram them in and send it off again. Sometimes I’d wander the house looking for folks to check things out with: “Lie down,” I’d say, “I want to see if this is possible.”" I know a lot of people are not aware of this, but as I was reading the reviews of this book on Goodreads I couldn't help but notice something strange that happens when women write about sex. If you know anything about the Beats, you will know that the "founders" (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassidy) had sex with everyone, including each other. They write about this in all of their works, the number of women Kerouac has sex with in On the Road is over ten at the least, but no one bats an eye. Not many would label On the Road as pornographic but you bet your last dollar they labeled di Primas's novel pornographic and question its literary value. Women write about fictional sex in numerous romance novels and make billions of dollars, but once it is suggested that the sex is not fictional but the real experience of the author (which the word memoir does in this case) forget about it, this isn't literature, it's obscene. Did di Prima have sex with every human she met? No. Did her male editor disregard the value of her true experience of being a woman writer in an all-male literary scene and latch on to the suggestive scenes as a way to provide entertainment and make money off of a woman's story? Probably. I'm really glad that I read this before di Prima's real memoir, as this was such a thought provoking read. I'm really excited to read her real memoir to get a better sense of what her experience in the movement was like. Reading classics can be very frustrating at times because women were so often excluded or pushed under the rug, but it is so rewarding to experience and examine women's experiences through the angle of literature, and the story of this novel's publication says so much more about the experience of di Prima in the literary scene than the words inside her novel. The way that we view this novel and the frankness with which di Prima writes about her sexuality and sexual encounters continues to provide a lens through which we can view the double standards and expectations we place on women vs. men when it comes to sexuality.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Geena

    If you want to read a novel that is pretty much purely pornographic, then you will love this book. It is incredibly well-written and di Prima has a serious knack for descriptive imagery. I went into this novel thinking I would be reading about the overall life experiences of a female beatnik, not just the sexual life experiences. Thus, I was vastly disappointed with Memoirs of a Beatnik. However, what saved this book from a 1 star rating, were the few passages that were amazing descriptions of t If you want to read a novel that is pretty much purely pornographic, then you will love this book. It is incredibly well-written and di Prima has a serious knack for descriptive imagery. I went into this novel thinking I would be reading about the overall life experiences of a female beatnik, not just the sexual life experiences. Thus, I was vastly disappointed with Memoirs of a Beatnik. However, what saved this book from a 1 star rating, were the few passages that were amazing descriptions of the energy and lifestyle of that time in NYC. It is no doubt di Prima is an excellent writer, this was just not her finest work. I should mention that she was under enormous pressure from her publisher to "sex up" the book, so that explains a lot of the unsavory sex scenes that are strewn throughout the novel. If you want to read a novel written about the Beat generation through a woman's eyes, skip this one and look at her other bodies of work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Terrie Schweitzer

    There was something unsettling to me about this book, and I finally honed in on what it was when I got to the very end, in author's afterward. So I'm glad the edition I had included this. This is the memoir of a Beat-then-Hippie poet and writer, centering on the Beat years in New York. It's certainly entertaining, though not as satisfying as, say, Patti Smith's Just Kids, which it reminded me of in some respects (it's the story of being a poor artist in Manhattan). This book landed in front of me There was something unsettling to me about this book, and I finally honed in on what it was when I got to the very end, in author's afterward. So I'm glad the edition I had included this. This is the memoir of a Beat-then-Hippie poet and writer, centering on the Beat years in New York. It's certainly entertaining, though not as satisfying as, say, Patti Smith's Just Kids, which it reminded me of in some respects (it's the story of being a poor artist in Manhattan). This book landed in front of me just as I was eagerly seeking out women Beatnik work...loaned by a friend to another friend who declared she couldn't read it. "It's pornagraphic!". Well of course I grabbed it up eagerly, and she's more or less right. There's a lot of graphic sex, but I was left oddly cold by it. Something in the descriptions just felt...somehow lacking. The key, I think, is in what the author says about writing these scenes in the afterward. I'll leave that to you to discover on your own, but it vastly improved my overall opinion of the book in an interesting way.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sammy Ginsberg

    Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima was not what I expected it to be, it was far better. For some reason – classic hipster – I thought it would be reminiscent of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg. It was not. It was it’s own completely unique, beautiful voice, it was a thunderous epiphany of a female and passion, it was cacophonous melancholy and life, it was Diane di Prima. And she lived. SHE LIVED! She truly dangled her female figure over New York City and absorbed its creative, innovative vision Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima was not what I expected it to be, it was far better. For some reason – classic hipster – I thought it would be reminiscent of Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsburg. It was not. It was it’s own completely unique, beautiful voice, it was a thunderous epiphany of a female and passion, it was cacophonous melancholy and life, it was Diane di Prima. And she lived. SHE LIVED! She truly dangled her female figure over New York City and absorbed its creative, innovative vision. She let herself love and pleasure and revel and rebel. She let go of her body and was a drifting spirit, a child of wants and needs and desires. This book made me question so may things about the way i live my life, the way I formulate what and how i do. Check out my list of things to do after reading at literarypixie.com!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Hoskins

    This is such a pornographic book, but wonderfully written. I read it aloud to my current husband when we were in that first or second year of lust over the phone. I actually got to see Diane Di Prima at ALA in San Francisco, 2001. She was really cool. She did a very nice reading. At this same time I was reading _Recollections of My Life as a Woman_. I told her, I really enjoyed the book. I'll do a review on that one, also. It's very wise and brilliant. Anyway she wanted to sign that one, but it This is such a pornographic book, but wonderfully written. I read it aloud to my current husband when we were in that first or second year of lust over the phone. I actually got to see Diane Di Prima at ALA in San Francisco, 2001. She was really cool. She did a very nice reading. At this same time I was reading _Recollections of My Life as a Woman_. I told her, I really enjoyed the book. I'll do a review on that one, also. It's very wise and brilliant. Anyway she wanted to sign that one, but it was a library book and in my hotel room. So she reluctantly signed Memoirs of A Beatnik and it is on my prized book shelf by the art table, not in the basement.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katya

    Honestly, I enjoyed this book. Yes, it was frustrating that it wasn't more focused on what it was like to be a woman beatnik and the world surrounding her, but I thought the book was pretty well written and it kept me engaged. The sex scenes were plenty and I genuinely enjoyed reading them and thought that the sex scenes were part of what made this a strong feminist novel. Yes, her ideas of birth control and male and female roles in the household were outdated, but her blunt ideas on polygamy an Honestly, I enjoyed this book. Yes, it was frustrating that it wasn't more focused on what it was like to be a woman beatnik and the world surrounding her, but I thought the book was pretty well written and it kept me engaged. The sex scenes were plenty and I genuinely enjoyed reading them and thought that the sex scenes were part of what made this a strong feminist novel. Yes, her ideas of birth control and male and female roles in the household were outdated, but her blunt ideas on polygamy and sex were refreshing and new, particularly for the time it was published. In no way was this a perfect novel, but I found it engaging!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Damien

    I was really happy to read a book by a FEMALE beatnik, and although I liked it, I was disappointed in that I hoping she would turn out to be a genius. I was amused by the way in which she freely and frequently talked about sex every chance she got and then some, because I always appreciate sex-positiveness wherever it seems relevant. I was also kind of disappointed that she wasn't as literary (is that the right word for "writes a lot of books"?) as most of her male contemporaries. I was really happy to read a book by a FEMALE beatnik, and although I liked it, I was disappointed in that I hoping she would turn out to be a genius. I was amused by the way in which she freely and frequently talked about sex every chance she got and then some, because I always appreciate sex-positiveness wherever it seems relevant. I was also kind of disappointed that she wasn't as literary (is that the right word for "writes a lot of books"?) as most of her male contemporaries.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Fay

    I stumbled upon this title while wending my way through wikipedia. It was great. A 200+ page orgy. Very well written sex scenes, which is no small feat. Typical beat stuff, I thought, and I love that stuff: food, sex, poverty, crumby New York apartments. It made me feel more alive, or made me wish I felt as alive as Diane Diprima in the 1950s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Allee

    I think what is most important reading this book is reading it in the context of when it was written. By today's standards it is alternately pompous, annoying, and bordering on romance novel-bad writing. But if you take it for the groundbreaking bad assitude that it was in the 50s, its a much better work of art. I think what is most important reading this book is reading it in the context of when it was written. By today's standards it is alternately pompous, annoying, and bordering on romance novel-bad writing. But if you take it for the groundbreaking bad assitude that it was in the 50s, its a much better work of art.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I had high hopes for this book, but I am sadly disappointed with it. Apparently being a female Beatnik meant having as much sex with as many different people in as many different ways as you possibly can. This book is basically porn that's been gussied up a little and called 'Beat'. I had high hopes for this book, but I am sadly disappointed with it. Apparently being a female Beatnik meant having as much sex with as many different people in as many different ways as you possibly can. This book is basically porn that's been gussied up a little and called 'Beat'.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amber Tucker

    I want to reread this to better integrate my feelings about it, and hopefully I'll remember to update this review and change or justify four stars when I get around to that second reading. Just a side note: Someone I worked with told me recently that when studying at Naropa he knew personally not only Diane di Prima, my true-blue Beat goddess of a woman making the goddamn 1970s patriarchy work for her while also being Her Own Babe--yeah, but he also met Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Anne Waldman, I want to reread this to better integrate my feelings about it, and hopefully I'll remember to update this review and change or justify four stars when I get around to that second reading. Just a side note: Someone I worked with told me recently that when studying at Naropa he knew personally not only Diane di Prima, my true-blue Beat goddess of a woman making the goddamn 1970s patriarchy work for her while also being Her Own Babe--yeah, but he also met Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Anne Waldman, etc etc. (I still need to ask about Gary Snyder.) That may seem unrelated and confessional, but it's another reason I have to wait to write this review--because currently my thoughts around di Prima's work are kind of technicoloured by my jealousy. Hahaha.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A very entertaining look at the Beat lifestyle before anyone actually called it that (or used the derogatory term 'beatnik'). Di Prima was living and writing about her bohemian lifestyle around the same time Jack Kerouac, James Clellon Holmes, and others were doing the living that they also would later write about (Kerouac shows up in this memoir, and you can guess what he and di Prima wind up doing). Unlike Kerouac (and more like Clellon Holmes), di Prima makes no effort to glorify what she's do A very entertaining look at the Beat lifestyle before anyone actually called it that (or used the derogatory term 'beatnik'). Di Prima was living and writing about her bohemian lifestyle around the same time Jack Kerouac, James Clellon Holmes, and others were doing the living that they also would later write about (Kerouac shows up in this memoir, and you can guess what he and di Prima wind up doing). Unlike Kerouac (and more like Clellon Holmes), di Prima makes no effort to glorify what she's doing (well, with one major exception): she and her friends are broke, live in abject poverty and at the mercy of those they beg for money (though in fairness, they share everything with little thought to who deserves what) and they do whatever work they can to stay alive and pursue their art. The big exception is a lengthy sexual fantasy (there are several actual sexual escapades covered in much detail) which is described in great detail, then later treated as fiction (dang, too bad) but it leaves you wondering how much of the rest of it may have been embellished for commercial purposes. (It certainly seems likely Di Prima did some writing for pornography magazines, though she never confirms it--but she definitely writes in a style instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever read something that started with the fabled "Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me..." style that most kids snuck a peek at. Anyway, she's an excellent writer, and if you are at all interested in the Beats, you'll be fascinated. Even if you aren't, it's a gas to see how some folks were living in the 1940s and 1950s, despite the endless claims that it was such a pure, clean, morally upright era. Di Prima blows that piece of BS apart, with gusto.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I have to say that although my initial opinion of this book was not high; I ended up enjoying this book a great deal. The sex scenes end up being almost a joke and later I found out it was because the publisher made her put in more and more and more sex. (Read the notes at the end) She desperately needed the money so she did what the publisher wanted. Minus the gratuitous sex, this book is actually a pretty interesting account of what was happening in 1950's and 60's New York. It seems to mostly I have to say that although my initial opinion of this book was not high; I ended up enjoying this book a great deal. The sex scenes end up being almost a joke and later I found out it was because the publisher made her put in more and more and more sex. (Read the notes at the end) She desperately needed the money so she did what the publisher wanted. Minus the gratuitous sex, this book is actually a pretty interesting account of what was happening in 1950's and 60's New York. It seems to mostly focus on The Village neighborhood. What a great melting pot that neighborhood was and how it really was a great time to be an artist cause the city was a lot more free in some ways and there were cheaper places to live. Things just seemed a lot more interesting. Artists and writers could afford to be artists and writers. They could afford to take odd jobs or weird jobs so that they could work on their creativity. This book ended up being a nice little slice of life story and so I gave it 4 stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Seth Kupchick

    I'm sitting in a coffee shop and just finished Di Prima's memoirs, and want to say how much I enjoyed this book. I've read a lot of reviews of it on goodreads putting it down as being second rate smut and how Di Prima wrote it merely for money, since she say's her publisher wanted MORE SEX in the afterword, but this is a vital pulsing book of a generation. It's impossible to imagine "Memoirs of a Beatnik" without all of the sex, since that was a vital component to the life Di Prima was living. I I'm sitting in a coffee shop and just finished Di Prima's memoirs, and want to say how much I enjoyed this book. I've read a lot of reviews of it on goodreads putting it down as being second rate smut and how Di Prima wrote it merely for money, since she say's her publisher wanted MORE SEX in the afterword, but this is a vital pulsing book of a generation. It's impossible to imagine "Memoirs of a Beatnik" without all of the sex, since that was a vital component to the life Di Prima was living. In fact, it's missing the point entirely because Di Prima was a part of a movement flicking the bird at the dullness of '50's conformity, and while those are only words now, she managed to paint the era perfectly. I'm not even sure Kerouac or the other famous beats painted a more lush unforgiving picture of what it felt like to be living at the beginning of a movement that hadn't been named yet. New York bohemianism breathes through this book in a way I've never felt it before, and the only other word that comes to mind is Genet's "Our Lady of the Flowers."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Smith

    This was more like a memoir of all the people she slept with in the 50's, and it's kinda unfortunate that this is because of her editor at the time. I found myself skipping through the weirdly written smut (please just use the word clit, Diane!!! Euphemisms are for fanfic), as the rest of the book was pretty interesting. It didn't, however, create a very complete picture of what it was like to live the beat life. The fair few scenes that did convey what her beatnik life was like were interesting This was more like a memoir of all the people she slept with in the 50's, and it's kinda unfortunate that this is because of her editor at the time. I found myself skipping through the weirdly written smut (please just use the word clit, Diane!!! Euphemisms are for fanfic), as the rest of the book was pretty interesting. It didn't, however, create a very complete picture of what it was like to live the beat life. The fair few scenes that did convey what her beatnik life was like were interesting, though. Maybe I'll give some of her other books a chance. My advice is to skip this one unless you plan to hold the book with one hand....

  26. 5 out of 5

    J.

    And so they would come, each of them the same, but all of them different... And they would clamber half-clothed, hastily, into bed, or sit on the blankets and talk me awake, or they would have brought up some grass or some wine, and I would watch, tousled and sleepy, while they made a fire. There would be the B-Minor Mass to fuck to, or Bessie Smith, and we would have a moon, and open window breezes off the river, or dank, chilly greyness and rain beating down, bouncing off the windowsill in bri And so they would come, each of them the same, but all of them different... And they would clamber half-clothed, hastily, into bed, or sit on the blankets and talk me awake, or they would have brought up some grass or some wine, and I would watch, tousled and sleepy, while they made a fire. There would be the B-Minor Mass to fuck to, or Bessie Smith, and we would have a moon, and open window breezes off the river, or dank, chilly greyness and rain beating down, bouncing off the windowsill in bright, exploding drops, and it was all good, the core and heart of that time. I thought of it as fucking my comrades, and a year slipped by. Lots of sex, maybe even exaggerated amounts of sex. If you read the Biography and the Intro, though, you get the picture: novice author Di Prima was encouraged to overdo the sex parts by her Editor (Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, who would count Miller, Beckett, Burroughs, Nabokov amongst his much-censored clientele) and she complied, with amusingly overdone enthusiasm. Once you get by the sex--and you'll have to do that every other chapter--you get two interesting things from di Prima. First, and sort of unexpectedly, after all of the heaving libertine bodies and open thighs-- you actually get something of a Beatnik memoir. The Scene in Nyc was smaller and simpler than it seems to later historians, and the few blocks of Greenwich Village couldn't really contain a pre-woodstock-nation's worth of beatniks, anyway. There are standalone moments of recognition and cascading epiphany, as here, with the first read of the iconic HOWL: It followed, that if there was one Allen [Ginsberg] there must be more, other people besides my few buddies writing what they spoke, what they heard, living, however obscurely and shamefully, what they knew, hiding out here and there as we were--and now, suddenly, about to speak out. All the people who, like me, had hidden and skulked, writing down what they knew for a small handful of friends--and even those friends claiming it couldn't be published--waiting with only a slight bitterness for the thing to end, for man's era to draw to a close in a blaze of radiation--all these would now step forward and say their piece. Not many would hear them, but they would, finally, hear each other. I was about to meet my brothers and sisters. We had come of age. I was frightened and a little sad. I already clung instinctively to the easy, unself-conscious Bohemianism we had maintained at the pad, our unspoken sense that we were alone in a strange world, a sense that kept us proud and bound to each other. But for the moment, regret for what we might be losing was buried under a sweeping sense of exhilaration, of glee; someone was speaking for all of us, and the poem was good. I was high and delighted. I made my way back to the house and to supper, and we read Howl together, I read it aloud to everyone. A new era had begun. Di Prima encountered all of the writers, jazzers, folkies, artists and bohemians that one could expect. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Miles Davis and other late-50s icons all appear, casually, and as everyday neighbors or even bed partners. My legs relaxed of themselves and opened slightly to Sorry, no. Moving on-- The other non-sex viewpoint is the insider story of the reclamation of downtown Manhattan by determined urban pioneers, artists, anyone who thought they could weather a winter in a drafty post-industrial loft and re-inhabit the deserted industrial warehouses and machine shops of the areas bordering the Villages, both east and west. The sex parts are largely irrelevant, as if she had gone on about the wonders of smoking grass for pages. But they sold books, and Girodias was a salesman if nothing else. The sense of an apocalyptic dawn breaking over a new era, the merging of the modern and the bohemian-- and the everyday kid from the City blooming with the times, belongs to Di Prima, not Girodias. Overlook the naughty bits and there is a lot of heart in this. Ehm, heaving.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Freddy

    Damn I have to re-read this some time

  28. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Three points to begin: 1. The one star is for the publishing industry, not for Diane di Prima. I highly recommend her fierce political poetry, especially Revolutionary Letters, and her real memoir, Recollections as My Life as a Woman, which includes the class sixties section, "The Holidays at Millbrook," a devastating picture of the sexual hypocrisy of the scene surrounding Timothy Leary. 2. If you do read the book, start with, in order,"The Afterword: Writing Memoirs" and the back-to-back section Three points to begin: 1. The one star is for the publishing industry, not for Diane di Prima. I highly recommend her fierce political poetry, especially Revolutionary Letters, and her real memoir, Recollections as My Life as a Woman, which includes the class sixties section, "The Holidays at Millbrook," a devastating picture of the sexual hypocrisy of the scene surrounding Timothy Leary. 2. If you do read the book, start with, in order,"The Afterword: Writing Memoirs" and the back-to-back sections "A Night by the Fire: What You Would Like to Hear" and "A Night by the Fire: What Really Happened" (pp. 148 and 150 in the Penguin paperback. In the Afterword, di Prima reveals that the book--not really a memoir in any meaningful sense--was written for money at a time when she was having trouble paying the rent and that whenever she sent additional "gobs of words" to her editors, the response came back "MORE SEX." In other words, writing this book was roughly equivalent to the times di Prima worked as a nude model: it was a way of making money to support a way of living where money was a secondary concern until there wasn't enough of it to make ends meet. The two "Night by the Fire" sections are a subtle, but unambiguous, warning that what you've been reading through most of the first 2/3 of the book is pornographic gibberish and that the real lives of di Prima and her friends in bohemian New York of the mid-fifties were in fact "real lives" not quasi-erotic nightmare/dreams. 3. I rarely comment on other GoodReads reviews, but I'll make an exception. The reviews of Memoirs are a story-in-themselves, a fascinating set of arguments about women and sex and writing, most of which appear to have been written without the benefit of the aforementioned Afterword. (I don't know if there are editions that don't include it, but if there are, they should be confiscated and/or consigned to some middle ring of the feminist Inferno.) Until I hit the "Night by the Fire" sections, I was wondering out loud: "what the hell is she up to? Why does this read like a set of outtakes from Hustler? Is this teaching me something about feminist erotica? exposing a previously unsuspected puritanism?" As I read the reviews, I found myself pretty sympathetic with both sides, but the resolution absolutely relies on knowing the book's history. So...is the book worth reading? Only if you're really interested in the implications of the way the culture industry works. (The issues there are a bit like the ones involving the artistic "agency"--a buzzword I don't much like but which is pervasive in the academic conversations--of Janet Jackson or Beyonce or the Ronettes--how much of their voices and vision survives the obviously patriarchal industries that mediate their statements?) Or if you're already familiar with Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters or Rosanne Dunbar Ortiz's Memoirs of the War Years, or for that matter di Prima's Memoirs of a Woman, which provide extremely valuable insights into what the beat and post-beat eras were like for women. Memoirs of a Beatnik is a terrible place to start, but it does offer glimpses of the "real world" that I found interesting, especially di Prima's report on what it was like to encounter "Howl" for the first time, and the powerful sense of how isolated the bohemians felt themselves prior to about 1957 or 1958.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara Diana

    I don't even know what to rate this book. Nevertheless, it feels important. "It was as if the weather and I were in complete agreement. I sat there, drinking it in, feeling for the first time in my life how much turbulence I could contain in quiet, what endurance was, being cleansed by the purity, the pure fury of the elements." I don't even know what to rate this book. Nevertheless, it feels important. "It was as if the weather and I were in complete agreement. I sat there, drinking it in, feeling for the first time in my life how much turbulence I could contain in quiet, what endurance was, being cleansed by the purity, the pure fury of the elements."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I recommend skipping the smut sections. But if you skip them it's a wonderful book. I recommend skipping the smut sections. But if you skip them it's a wonderful book.

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