*May Contain Spoilers*
Surprisingly, out of everything I've read, I had never read anything from the Beat Movement before this. It was a time of rebellion and rejection of conformity mixed with experimentation of style in both writing and life. The Portable Beat Reader is a collection of essays, novel excerpts, and poems that really summarizes the Beat Movement.
For the most part, I loved the work. I know it made a huge splash in the 1940s and 50s, but I think it's still relevant to today's society. There is still controversy over some (most?) of the topics the Beat authors wrote about and it makes the work feel timeless. A bit of a warning seems prudent here: Yes, some of the pieces are a bit offensive, some were seized for obscenity upon publication. I think this adds to the importance of the rebellious tone these authors took.
I really enjoyed how the book was about more than just Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg. These names hold weight, but they weren't the sole members of the Beat Generation. It was, in fact, a generation with many contributors. Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, and John Clellon Holmes were three writers who really stood out to me. With themes that range from sexuality to war to stereotypical expectations of society, these authors challenged it all.
For readers who have never read anything from the beatnik authors, but are interested in this idea of writing a rebellion, I highly recommend The Portable Beat Reader. It's a strong collection that offers the history of the era, short biographies of the authors, and the works themselves.
Rating: 4/5 Cups