Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 100 on March 24. Although not as well-known as his peers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, he was a huge influence on the Beat Generation and their scene. As the co-owner of San Francisco's City Lights bookstore, he took up Ginsberg’s Howl when it was banned for obscenity and published the early works of the Beats, among others.
Ferlinghetti's first novel is coming out in time for his 100th birthday. Called Little Boy, it's an experimental blend of poetry, memoir, literary criticism and philosophy.
In addition to Ferlinghetti's work, here are some other titles from this era of rebellion worth getting to know:
Memoirs of A Beatnik: Diane Di Prima was the Queen of the Beats, one of the few women in a male-dominated genre. This memoir describes her rise into a true rebel artist. An erotic and gritty underground classic.
Girls Who Wore Black: These critical essays measure the important role that the woman of the Beat Generation had in the movement. The book also tackles how other collections have given them little or no credit.
Bop Apocalypse: The Beat Generation was awash in drugs (William S. Burroughs was especially notorious for his drug use.), and this history of drug culture traces it from jazz music (which heavily influenced the Beats) right up through Kerouac and the rest.
Certainly the best writer of his generation, Burroughs deserves his own category. Check out Junky, Queer and the Nova Trilogy, also known as the Cut Up Trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express). Burroughs also has been immortalized in biographies and documentaries.