Books

Beat Punks

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Beat Punks
Victor Bockris
(Da Capo Press)

Names like Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, and William Burroughs are splashed across the cover of Victor Bockris's collection of profiles--this could easily come off as a marketing scam, and sometimes it absolutely is. But when Bockris takes the time to delve deeper into each subject (his defense of Andy Warhol's writing, his fond friendship with Joey Ramone, and his travel diary of the Berlin social scene), he reveals some poignant insights. Most of the time though, Bockris lets his overworked tape recorder do all the work. The result is page after transcribed page of candid celebrity banter, some of it admittedly dull and confusing, like coming into the middle of a stranger's conversation.

Bockris's real talents are his instincts. These pieces were written when the beat movement was being rediscovered and punk was becoming a cultural force. "Beat" and "Punk" are often the subject of questions in these pieces, and Bockris sets up his multi-person interviews with the savvy of a matchmaker. There's the cab ride with director Nicolas Roeg, Legs McNeil, William Burroughs, and anthropologist Peter Beard; the dinner with Susan Sontag and Richard Hell, and the humorously uncomfortable night with Burroughs, Warhol, Mick Jagger, and Jerry Hall. He's no Greil Marcus, but Bockris does casually fire off interesting questions about the politics of the time, drugs, and sex, without resorting to the usual interview clichés.

This is really a scattershot of Bockris's work, collectively groping for a theme, but nonetheless an entertaining, revealing, and celebratory look at the heroes of our recent past.

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