Material Wealth in ZYZZYVA

ZYZZYVA Contributing Editor Paul Wilner’s review of Material Wealth.


An ambitious new volume, Material Wealth: Mining the Personal Archive of Allen Ginsberg (powerHouse Books; 256 pages), compiled and edited by Pat Thomas, demonstrates just how committed he was to recording the “minute particulars’’ (again, in Blake’s phrase) of a life of extraordinary range, as well as depth. Culled by Thomas and Peter Hale, photo archivist of the Ginsberg Estate from the multifarious items in the Ginsberg archive acquired by the Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections, it’s no small irony that the collection ended up on the West Coast rather than Columbia, where he received a degree in English (minoring in economics!) despite being twice expelled…

Material Wealth is beautifully put together, with enough white space to allow the photos and text to breathe. But it shouldn’t be seen as an archaic document for Beat and post-Beat completists. (Let the record reflect that Ginsberg was not stuck in the past—he recorded with the Clash and bought a sandwich for Patti Smith in the East Village when she was a struggling poet.)”

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