By a curious coincidence Bob Rosenthal, Andy Clausen and I all published our memoirs of the Beats at pretty much the same time. We all lived to some extent in Allen's shadow, Bob as his manager and major domo, Andy as his poet protégé, and me as his evil spirit and perennial problem child. It was inevitable that when the day came to set a recording pen to paper we were all at some pains to do so with individual style, to assert at last that we were more than Allen's echoes, that we had something to add, and in a unique voice.
As regards unique voice, Andy beat both Bob and I by the length of a sky. Although his style has a clear antecedent in Kerouac, and there's more than a hint of Ginsberg in it, it's all his own, and it's a heady read. The content is likewise one-of-a-kind. His working class hero, unreconstructed Beatnik exuberant engagement with life and poetry is joyous, accepting and unselfconscious. He's like a character out of Whitman, or Thomas Hart Benton. He's the real salt of the earth, and he has not lost his savor.
At first I found his book a difficult read, but when I approached it less as prose and more as prose-poem, as a glorious torrent of personality, it was enthralling. I knew Andy was a very accomplished poet. Ginsberg championed him, yes, in part, because he colored inside the lines of the Ginsberg aesthetic, but really because Andy can really write. His prose is often nothing short of terrific. There are passages that are Kerouac or Faulkner grade in their formidable sonority. This book may well be his greatest poem.
This ultimately personal Kerouac-Ginsberg-Whitman style of writing requires tremendous skill, and carries the power of self-discovered truth. It is, in the hands of a writer like Andy, large, and contains multitudes. Gregory Corso, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Burroughs, and a host of little-known poets — multitudes indeed, and a fascinating crew they are, described in savory anecdotes.
This is a real work of Beat literature — not just literature about the Beats.