If you still groove to the work of the Beat poets, and Kerouac is your idol, a guided visit to their New York stomping grounds is a mandatory pilgrimage. If, alternatively, you're going to New York but feel overwhelmed by its size and options, a focus--taking a walking tour of Kerouac land, for instance--could provide an entertaining structure. Whatever your reasons, if a Kerouac junket is in your cards, Morgan's guidebook provides all the history, stories, neighborhood routes, and Beat trivia you could desire.
Each tour is easy to follow. Morgan tells you how long the tours take to walk (most are a couple of hours), how to reach the starting points by subway and bus, and includes a map of the route region, complete with labeled highlights, followed by a narrative that's a pleasure to read, evincing poetic talent, historic knowledge, and specific, precise instructions. Take the Columbia University tour, for instance. Starting on the east side of Broadway at 116th Street in front of Columbia's main gates, and lasting two to two and a half hours, it takes in the scene where the Beat Generation first appeared in the 1940s "like a wild seed in a city garden." Stopping at McMillin Theater (where Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky performed a poetry reading on February 5, 1959), Columbia Bookstore (site of a Ginsberg vision that led to his book The Visionary Poetics of Allen Ginsberg), and Low Library Plaza (site of many early beat photos), the tour continues by St. Paul's Chapel, Hamilton Hall, Butler Library, and the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity, passes the room Ginsberg took in 1948, the 1944 domicile of the Kerouacs and Joan Vollmer Adams, and the brick apartment building where the Kerouacs lived with Joan Adams, then continues by Riverside Park, the West End Bar, the Yorkshire Residence Club, and an apartment where William S. Burroughs once lived. There are 23 sites in all. Morgan explains each site's Beat significance, including quotes from poems and novels that allude to it. Morgan details nine such walks, taking in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Queens, Yonkers, and the Bronx. With a who's who of Beat personalities and dozens of historic photos, The Beat Generation is as much a contribution to the literary world as it is a useful and enlightening travel guide. --Stephanie Gold [via]