Check out this terrific review The Trickster in Ginsberg received from a reader!
If you are interested in Ginsberg, Howl, or Native American mythology, The Trickster in Ginsberg is worth buying just for the bibliography. This book is an amazing survey of available research on all of these subjects. The End Notes and Bibliography are equal to about 25% of the page count. If you are seriously interested in literary criticism, start with the Introduction – it’s incredibly dense and carefully lays out the techniques and assumptions used to analyze the subject. If you are just a Ginsberg or Howl fan, dive right into chapter 1. The book continues to offer a “close reading” of the common themes found in Howl and the Native American Trickster myth, but the author treats the subject with passion and takes on some of Ginsberg’s wild and exuberant language. Howl was new to me and I read it because this book caught my attention. My life is bigger as a result. Chapter 2 begins a dive into the Trickster myth that continues throughout the book. The raw, elemental nature of this mythology set me back at first, but the author leads you to see the fundamental universality of the themes while walking through dozens of stories. These stories were also new to me and, raised as I was on Greek mythology, I would have dismissed them without the author’s lead. And nobody ever told me that the Roadrunner cartoon is rich with the symbolism of the Trickster who tries to trick and trap while ending up falling over the cliff one more time. This book does not intend to say that Howl is an intentional product of Native American thinking, if only you’re smart enough to figure it out. Instead, the author points out (in the Epilogue), that more has been written about Ginsberg the life, than Ginsberg’s poetry. And that his poetry is worth critical analysis through many different lenses – the Trickster myth serving as a rich tool for doing just that. This isn’t a 5 star book for me because it’s a challenging read – sentences are very long and complex. But the author’s love for her subject and facility with Ginsberg’s language are recurrent, for example: “…Howl became a new type of asocial space, perhaps a Beat social space…”; “there is always a skeleton supporting the pleasurable flesh of humor and innuendo”; “Ginsberg uses these bombastic and magniloquent exclamations to reveal…”; “Ginsberg displays a self-destructive type of humor (a humor that is often difficult to acknowledge simply because of it body count)…”; “…we also find a jagged tooth poking out from the grinning lips…”; “starting out on the right foot only to end up tripping over it with the other.”; “…a floating moon seeming light but in truth moored by its own loneliness…”. There is poetry in the prose of this very dense book of literary criticism – Ginsberg would be pleased, I think.
Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that 🙂