Herbert Gold on the beatniks (1957)

Hip, Cool, Beat—and Frantic

The hipster-writer is a perennial perverse bar mitzvah boy, proudly announcing: “Today I am a madman. Now give me the fountain pen.” The frozen thugs gathered west of Sheridan Square or in the hopped-up cars do not bother with talk. That’s why they say “man” to everybody—they can’t remember anybody’s name. But Ginsberg and Kerouac are frantic. They care too much, and they care aloud. “I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!” That they care mostly for themselves is a sign of adolescence, but at least they care for something, and it’s a beginning. The hipster is past caring. He is the criminal with no motivation in hunger, the delinquent with no zest, the gang follower with no love of the gang; i.e., the worker without ambition or pleasure in work, the youngster with undescended passions, the organization man with sloanwilsonian gregory- peckerism in his cold, cold heart.

--Herbert Gold, review of On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, November 16, 1957 in the Nation magazine


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