BEAT Scrapbook, by Gerald Nicosia (coolgrove press)

Read the review by Jim Feast in
Sensitive Skin

Gerald Nicosia has dedicated all his nonfiction books to describing those who, through whatever means, fought for the underdogs.

His biography of Kerouac, the finest we have, Memory Babe, describes how the Beat author, himself from the lower class, in all his writings showed his sympathy for the downtrodden, whether it be city hustlers, Mexican street walkers or those who rode the boxcars with him as he traveled the country.

“In fact, one of the most developed points in Memory Babe is Nicosia’s bringing out that Kerouac’s greatness as a writer is closely tied to his far-reaching humanity. Then Nicosia turned to the Vietnam vets. In his Home to War, he left indelible portraits of activists, such as Ron Kovic, who denounced the war and the shabby treatment of vets, particularly, in later years, by battling the VA and the government who long denied them treatment for Agent Orange exposure and other ills they suffered. An outstanding feature of both these books is that in describing these fighters, there is absolutely no whitewashing. Kerouac, the vets, we see they all had strong flaws along with the tremendous virtues.

“As a poet, Nicosia has ventured down various avenues, but, still, it is no surprise that in Beat Scrapbook, he turns in a personal way to providing a set of tributes to indelible characters, living and dead, who have set their seal on him and, in the cases of the writers and artists mentioned, put that seal on whole generations. As in his nonfiction books, he gives us unvarnished, unforgettable pen portraits of outstanding individuals. When he talks of the Beats, who appear frequently, his writing has a special clarity, particularly when contrasted to other writers’ memorials to Ginsberg, Corso and other luminaries. Those who write encomia are often lamenting figures whom they know only through their writing or, at best, from a few encounters. Nicosia generally surpasses these other (praiseworthy) efforts, I think, because of what he brings to his appreciation. He is deeply familiar with their writing, and writes with a particularly considered knowledge, since as a trained literary critic, he is able to uncover the deeper patterns that move through their work.”

--Jim Feast in his review published in Sensitive Skin Magazine


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