The Beats

The Beats: A Graphic History
Text by Harvey Pekar et al., art by Ed Piskor et al.

A fresh take on literary history is offered up by Harvey (American Splendor) Pekar in this collection of what are primarily capsule biographies of the major writers of the Beat generation. The first half of the book, consisting of long chapters on Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, is by far the best. Later appreciations take the form of perfunctory biographical sketches and brief considerations of Beat topics like jazz, art, and San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore. The most interesting of these is a chapter on women and the Beats, “Beatnik Chicks,” by Joyce Brabner (art by Summer McClinton). Although brevity frequently shortchanges the subject, the graphic approach generally works well, with the more spirited artwork adding both perspective and insight.