“Angry Young Men”
To the Editor:
I can hardly believe that Dan Jacobson’s “America’s ‘Angry Young Men’” could be the leading article in the December COMMENTARY for any reason other than the author’s reputation. Not only was Mr. Jacobson’s examination of the San Francisco writers unintelligibly short and superficial, but it seemed to be based on Mr. Jacobson’s failure to understand Howl and On the Road. . . .
Mr. Jacobson says that Howl was so easy to write that the San Francisco customs officers should have had nothing to fear, but the customs officers certainly did not seize the poem because Allen Ginsberg was shirking his duty as a poet. Mr. Jacobson wants explanations and demonstrations, but Howl is a poem of prophecy and judgment, and Mr. Jacobson’s inability to understand what is being judged reflects upon him and not upon Mr. Ginsberg. [As to On the Road], Mr. Jacobson cannot understand why supermarkets and suburbs are “justification” for drinking, stealing cars, or using drugs, and yet an understanding of the relationship between these aspects of our social scene would be necessary in order to derive any meaning at all from either Howl or On the Road. Certainly it is not the task of the authors to “prove” the relationship.
Mr. Jacobson desires modesty, restraint, and discipline, but perhaps these are some of the values against which these authors are rebelling, the form of this rebellion comprising much of their meaning. . . .
Los Angeles, California
To the Editor:
. . . I had purchased the Evergreen Review last summer, and after finishing Rexroth’s introduction I was stricken with fear that I might be one of the “squares” who couldn’t comprehend the excellent writing he promised would follow—and thus—by definition—I would be inferior. . . . Dan Jacobson’s excellent article has rescued me, and I am eternally gratefully. . . . at least I know there is another Rexroth “square” on earth and a mighty lucid one too.
South Orange, New Jersey