Cover image for Memoirs of a bastard angel
Memoirs of a bastard angel
Norse, Harold.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, 1989.
Physical Description:
447 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PS3537.O56 Z468 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Norse has spent half a century simultaneously at the center and in the vanguard of literary and homosexual subcultures. His candid autobiography is an engrossing classic of its kind. Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Norse gives new life to that grand old term raconteur in this vital and vivacious set of recollections. He tells the stories of the scads of great, good, and outrageous writers he's run with since early youth and from Greenwich Village to Paris to Rome to Greece to North Africa to San Francisco. Lover of Chester Kallman before W. H. Auden won him, friend to Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs, one of the poets of his generation most admired by William Carlos Williams, Norse is a physically small man with a large heart and wide-open mind. He can tell some very unflattering stories about the famous writers and artists he's known and then, ever so refreshingly in the nose-thumbing world of literature, reassert how great and important their talents and achievements are. He pulls this wonderful trick over and over in the 109 little chapters of a book that solidly confirms the impression made by his poetry--that if he's not the best American poet of his generation, he's the most humanely appealing. Literary memoirs at their most readable. Index. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Norse ( Beat Hotels ) immerses the reader in bohemian and gay subcultures in this freewheeling, name-dropping autobiography. In the early, slightly acrimonious chapters, W. H. Auden steals his lover, Chester Kallman, who became Auden's lifelong companion. Norse dispenses an abundance of stories: he read James Baldwin's first novel in an early draft; he shared a cabin with Tennessee Williams in Massachusetts; William Carlos Williams was a mentor of sorts; Jackson Pollock and Dylan Thomas were his drinking buddies. He spent time in Paris with William Burroughs; lived in Rome; practiced Buddhist meditation in Spain; made the Venice, Calif., ``scene'' in the late 1960s. Among the friends and acquaintances here are Anais Nin, Ezra Pound, Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles and John Cage. Yet some of this memoir's most powerful scenes occur far from the glitter, as when Norse recounts his squalid Brooklyn childhood or describes how, while working in a WW II shipyard, he witnessed a black man beaten to death. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Norse, author of Beat Hotel (1983) and over a dozen book of poetry, has written a gossipy, bawdy memoir recounting an adventurous life on three continents. Although he describes himself as an outsider, Norse was friendly with some of the most important writers of his time, and his book includes anecdotes on a host of literary lions, among them W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, William Carlos Williams, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. The discrimination Norse encountered as a homosexual and a Jew is a central theme in this memoir celebrating tolerance and love over prejudice and hatred. While the book may not win Norse many new readers, it will be welcomed by those already familiar with his work.-- William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A self-styled "fringe figure" of the '40s and '50s Greenwich Village scene, the international avante-garde world of the '60s, and (sporadically) the Beat Generation, Norse successfully defies normal expectations by coming up with a fresh, witty, and well-written account of his mostly down-and-out life and times. Respected primarily for his homoerotic poetry and for Beat Hotel (CH, Oct'83), an account and illustration of his, William Burroughs's, and Brion Gysin's "cut-up" experiments at the famous Left Bank pension in the early '60s, Norse knew or at least crossed paths with almost every writer in the trans-Atlantic "Homintern," as he calls it. Beginning with a detailed narrative of the "Auden-Chester Kallman-Norse traingle" in 1939, the memoirs document almost disarmingly innocent encounters--sexual and literary--with Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Anais Nin, James Baldwin, Gregory Corso, William Carlos Williams, William Burroughs, Julian and Judith Beck, Paul and Jane Bowles, Dylan Thomas, and even Ezra Pound and Marlon Brando. Once dubbed "the American Catullus" for his 12 volumes of mostly gay poetry, Norse tells a fascinating life story of a child of the Depression who was often a bridesmaid but never a bride in the many alliances, feasts, and triumphs of his more illustrious contemporaries. Undergraduate and public libraries. -K. N. Richwine, Western Maryland College