The Beat Hotel has been closed for nearly forty years. But for a brief period-from just after the publication of Howl in 1957 until the building was sold in 1963-it was home to Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Brion Gysin, Peter Orlovsky, Harold Norse, and a host of other luminaries of the Beat Generation. Now, Barry Miles-acclaimed author of many books on the Beats and a personal acquaintance of many of them-vividly excavates this remarkable period and restores it to a historical picture that has, until now, been skewed in favor of the two coasts of America.
A cheap rooming house on the bohemian Left Bank, the hotel was inhabited mostly by writers and artists, and its communal atmosphere spurred the Beats to incredible heights of creativity. Its inhabitants followed the Howl obscenity trial, and they corresponded with Jack Kerouac as On the Road was taking off. There Ginsberg wrote Kaddish,” To Aunt Rose,” At Apollinaire’s Grave,” and The Lion for Real,” and Corso developed the mature voice of The Happy Birthday of Death. The Beat Hotel is where the Cut-up method was invented, and where Burroughs finished and published Naked Lunch and the Cut-up novels. From a party where Ginsberg and Corso drunkenly accosted Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, to an awestruck audience with Louis-Ferdinand Céline a year before he died; from a drug-addled party on a houseboat on the Seine with Errol Flynn and John Huston, to Burroughs’s near arrest as a heroin dealer: mischief, inspiration, and madness followed the Beats wherever they went. Based on firsthand accounts from diaries, letters, and many original interviews, The Beat Hotel is an intimate look at a crucial period for some of the twentieth century’s most enduring and daring writers.