September 24, 2021

Twenty five years ago, I found myself in a most peculiar and unexpected place: The Getty Research Institute. What was an unemployed typesetter (permanently unemployed in that profession, in fact, due to computers replacing me) doing at the Getty Research Institute, given that he had only a B.A. in Theater Arts, and almost everyone else around him had either a Ph.D. or was working on one? I was indeed the luckiest of the lucky.

The previous winter the Getty Research Institute had realized that it couldn’t hold its usual seminars on classical art and its preservation, and so it decided to organize a year-long seminar on Los Angeles as a cultural site and signifier. I was desperate for any kind of paying gig, and so I floated the notion of a literary history of L.A. poets. Much to my astonishment, they accepted it, and for two months I lived a life of academic luxury. It was a turning point in my life, as I went on to “re-invent” myself, as several friends described the process of turning into a college professor.

One of the people who has been very supportive of my work in the past decade is Nancy Grace, who recently edited a collection of essays that is beginning to receive critical attention. She is a terrific editor to work with and it was an honor to be included in her most recent project, which has just received its first major review.

The article I wrote has its origins in the time during the Fall of 1996 that I was able to spend at UCLA’s Special Collections, going through the journals of Stuart Z. Perkoff. That research would not have been possible without the support of the Getty Research Institute.


THE BEATS: A TEACHING COMPANION, Edited by Nancy McCampbell Grace
The Beats: A Teaching Companion, Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press, Beat Studies series, 2021.

A review by John Shapcott

THE BEATS: A TEACHING COMPANION, Edited by Nancy McCampbell Grace

By way of contrast, William Mohr’s ‘Teaching Venice West, Lawrence Lipton, and California’s Literary Canon’ is very much a micro-focused rehabilitation of Venice West as an Utopian Beat outpost. A guarded appreciation of Lawrence Lipton’s self-promoting The Holy Barbarians (1959) kick-starts Mohr’s reversal of the 1970s/1980s critical neglect of Venice West in Beat scholarship. Nevertheless, some 60 years on, Lipton’s pioneering book remains eminently readable whilst open to introductory classroom critique on a number of levels. Mohr makes a convincing case for looking at Lipton’s transcriptions of conversations with Venice West poets such as Stuart Perkoff, Bruce Boyd, and Charley Foster. Mohr is to be commended for drawing attention to Perkoff’s ‘Feasts of Death, Feasts of Love’, which he reads as the first long, experimental poem written about the holocaust, and which makes for a fascinating comparison with Gary Snyder’s ‘Praise for Sick Women’, published alongside it in Donald Allen’s anthology The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 ( 1999 reprint). In referencing Perkoff’s 1950’s poem, ‘untitled’, taking the Three Stooges on to the Venice Boardwalk , Mohr convincingly links Venice West to a much broader polity that includes Kerouac, popular culture, homosocial bonding (quoting the work of Michael Davidson), and the politics of the street.

THE BEATS: A TEACHING COMPANION, Edited by Nancy McCampbell Grace

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