Why this site?
Seymour Krim's The Beats, Dodge City and 1963
by George Laughead
For many of us in junior high or high school in 1960-64 or so, the paperback book The Beats, edited by Seymour Krim (Gold Medal Books, 1960), was the mother lode of mental excitement. In 1963, a copy of it reached the only paperback bookstore in my hometown of Dodge City, Kansas, and started a censorship issue with my 9th grade English teacher that never ended. She was the sweet bright wife of a Methodist minister--me, the quite reading student wanting to do book reports on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Diana DiPrima, Gregory Corso, and William Burroughs, but unable to get any of their books. To be fair, she did finally let me use Krim's book for weekly book reports. I used Ferlinghetti's "A Coney Island Of The Mind: #5" first.
Later generations would still be affected by Krim's book. Ira Silverberg, Grove Press Editor-in-Chief at the time (1996)--and at least a decade and a half younger than I--told me that The Beats started him on the Beat Generation book path. He graduated from KU in the mid-1980s.
William Burroughs signed my copy in the early 1990s, that same copy I read from in 1963. William also signed my Evergreen Blackcat first edition of Naked Lunch, one that I received as a Christmas gift in 1966--and moved with me all these years.
Meeting the late Lee Streiff by email and telephone (he lived in Wichita), and hearing from longtime friends with sites on my directory, I'm reminded that the movement that became labeled 'the Beats' started all over America in the post-WWII 1940s and early 1950's. The end of 'the Beats' may have come as early as 1965, but for those of us living in Lawrence, Kansas, the 1968 closing of the unique Abington Book Shop -- where George Kimball, Charley Plymell and Jim McCrary worked; where Grist magazine and S. Clay Wilson were published -- and its owner, John E. Fowler, moving, certainly marked one ending point. Harry's wonderful natural food store moved in, and the change to Hippies was completed.
Most of the Beats didn't become famous or rich--they just kept on writing and painting and producing and living a life with all of us richer for their work.
Many of these creative souls have been left out of the 'official' history of the period by those that followed. May this site correct that mistake.
Additional information: From Charley Plymell -- earlier end of the Beats -- "1963 where the beats met the hippies at the 1403 Gough St. [San Francisco -- Charley Plymell's apartment, with roommates Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg] pad."
(© 2002-2010, George Laughead)