Monday, March 07, 2005

Setting Out

It seems like everyone who graduates from a library science program these days should know how to blog if they want a job. So here I am killing two birds with one stone: teaching myself blogging skills while creating a project for a much more bookish endeavor, my Literature of the Humanities class in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College.

I'm setting out to investigate the bibliographic history of women of the Beat generation -- the muses, wives, and writers. (I can only hope that no one other than my professor Allen Smith will want to read about the bibliographic history of anything!) I became interested in "Beat women" a few years ago when I read How I Became Hettie Jones. Hettie Jones was the first to bring my attention to the male mythmaking behind the Beat era that was so essentially captured in Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

Anatole Broyard wrote in his 1940's memoir Kafka was the Rage: "The saddest part of sex in those days was the silence. Men and women hadn't yet learned to talk to one another in a natural way. Girls were trained to listen. They were waiting for history to give them permission to speak." (pp. 144-145) Writing about an era slightly earlier, Broyard's words could still be used to describe the Beat era. Hesitantly in the 1970s and 1980s, and more boldly in the 1990s, Beat women began to speak in the form of published memoirs. In addition to Hettie Jones's account, we have Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson, Off the Road by Carolyn Cassady, and Memoirs of a Beatnik by Diane DiPrima. My initial diggings show that there are some earlier memoirs that are already out-of-print, such as Bonnie Bremser's Troia: Mexican Memoirs.

So, I have a pile of these memoirs and assorted anthologies of writing by and interviews with Beat women slowly accumulating by my bedside table. I've started searching through OCLC WorldCat and have made numerous trips to the Simmons library and the Boston Public Library, leaving with shopping bags full of books. My initial thoughts are: the bibliographic history of Beat women is much more rich than I imagined! Meanwhile, I've only started tackling the books. Just wait 'til I get my hands on what else is out there.

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