Cover image for The beat generation and the popular novel in the United States, 1945-1970
The beat generation and the popular novel in the United States, 1945-1970
Newhouse, Thomas, 1950-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, [2000]

Physical Description:
vi, 193 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Forerunners : The underground tradition -- The war at home : The novel of juvenile delinquency -- Hipsters, beats, and supermen -- Breaking the last taboo : The gay novel -- Which way is up? The drug novel -- Capturing the new : The new journalism -- The age of monsters : Dominance and submission in the sixties.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS374.P63 N49 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The "Beat Generation" that emerged after World War II and reached its zenith in the 1960s represented an era of new perspectives. The questioning, anti-establishment view of the world prevalent among the various members of the Beat Movement found its voice in both novels and poetry. The novels especially, or what might be called underground narratives, were a driving force within the literary, social and cultural revolution that characterized the Beats. This study of the American novel during that era presents the forerunners of the literary tradition of the Beats and examines the major genres of the Beat novel: the juvenile delinquent novel, the self-discovering novel of individuality, the gay novel, the drug novel, the new journalism, and novels taking on topics of defiance and submission. From novels that have found a mainstream acceptance, like The Blackboard Jungle, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and On the Road, to lesser-known works like Go, Young Adam, and Flee the Angry Strangers, numerous representative works are examined in depth. Also included is a chronology of underground narratives, showing the development of these novels from their early twentieth century antecedents to current works.

Author Notes

Thomas Newhouse teaches in the Department of English at Buffalo State University.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

While the Beat Generation receives generous attention in this scholarly study, the book's focus is actually on a broader topic, something Newhouse (English, SUNY at Buffalo) calls "the underground narrative." For purposes of discussion, he breaks this down into several subgenres: the juvenile delinquent novel, the self-discovering novel of individuality, the gay novel, the drug novel, and the new journalism. The book reads like a revised doctoral dissertation, with Newhouse's thesis being "that the impulse for liberation existed in the wider cultural experience of the time and was represented in a variety of narratives, not just in a handful of Beat works." To make this point, the author examines Nelson Algren, Irving Shulman, John Rechy, Hubert Selby Jr., and Ken Kesey, among others, and offers a chronology of underground narratives. His thesis aside, Newhouse is receptive to Beat writers and generally appreciative of their influence on American literature and culture. Recommended for academic libraries.DWilliam Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this study of what he calls "underground narratives," Newhouse (Buffalo State Univ.) analyzes the novels of Beat writers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs in the context of popular culture from 1945 to 1970. The author goes beyond the writers suggested by the title including Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Ken Kesey, and Thomas Wolfe in his discussion of the time period. He looks at "new journalism" as well as novels dealing with the themes of juvenile delinquency, drugs, homosexuality, mythic heroes, and monsters, giving historical overviews but brief analysis. Although some chapters are little more than a series of plot summaries, Newhouse provides a cultural scope introducing new readers to alternative fiction. He points to works by less-known writers that may interest students and teachers already familiar with popular literature of the post-WW II generations. Newhouse both expands the Beat canon and shows how the Beats and their contemporaries moved in a progression from adolescent rebellion to theoretical schools of writing. Most undergraduate and public collections will benefit from this short book. W. Britton; Harrisburg Area Community College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vi
Introductionp. 1
1. Forerunners: The Underground Traditionp. 9
2. The War at Home: The Novel of Juvenile Delinquencyp. 29
3. Hipsters, Beats, and Supermenp. 49
4. Breaking the Last Taboo: The Gay Novelp. 72
5. Which Way Is Up? The Drug Novelp. 98
6. Capturing the New: The New Journalismp. 120
7. The Age of Monsters: Dominance and Submission in the Sixtiesp. 141
Conclusionp. 161
The Underground Narrative: A Chronologyp. 173
Notesp. 179
Indexp. 189