“Hippies and Beats” by Edward Hoagland Selection 24 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♦8♦ Eight of Diamonds

The Suit:  For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Diamonds is the domain of Lachesis, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato, sings of things that were (i.e. the “past” for Deal Me In purposes). This essay deals with “Beats” and “Hippies” two groups that are hard to find representatives of these days.

The Selection: “Hippies and Beats” – originally published in volume #80 of New Letters magazine. I own it as part of my Pushcart Prize XXXIX Best of the Small Presses anthology.

The Author: Edward Hoagland  – A well-traveled American novelist and essayist born in New York n 1932. Learn more about him at http://www.edwardhoagland.com/

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

Hippies and Beats

“The Beats were patriarchal, for the most part. Women were crash pads where you showered, pigged out and got your ashes hauled, after driving night and day… Hippies by contrast were sisterhood, matriarchal…”

The author of this essay, Edward Hoagland, finds himself writing of two social movements, both of which he experienced but neither of which he was truly part of. As an accident of the timing of his birth, his own “sociological awakening” took place in the borderlands between these two movements. Perhaps this gave him just the right perspective for this brief essay comparing and contrasting the two. As he puts it: “Being a little younger than the Beat Generation writers and yet older than the mainstream Hippie movement later on, I observed both with a certain skeptical affinity.”

I enjoyed reading this essay even though, like Hoagland, I was not a part of either movement (too young!). For me, though, counter-culture is always interesting as I find those who look at things a different way to be quite compelling. Of course, every movement has its crackpots and parasites taking advantage of whatever current direction the wind is blowing, but one would hope that, at its core, there is something there…

For my part, the hippies were a loathed anti-establishment force in the days I was growing up in a conservative Midwestern family. They were perceived as dirty, amoral and a general nuisance. I didn’t encounter many of them growing up in Indy, but was exposed to them on our almost annual summer camping trips out west. It seemed whatever campsite we chose in a National Park would more often than not have a group of hippies somewhere nearby in the campground. As soon as nightfall arrived a guitar would invariably be broken out as they sat around their campfire. Looking back now, I would probably view them as largely harmless, but I guess I might feel differently if I had children I was packing around the country and was trying to “raise them right.” I suppose this was the dilemma my parents felt they were facing.

I didn’t know anything about or discover The Beats until much later in adulthood and my view of them was forged by reading most of the books of Jack Keroauc (and some of the others) about 10-12 years ago.  Kerouac became a favorite of mine, not so much for the Beat movement he chronicled, but for the quality and freshness of his writing style.

What about YOU? Have you read any Kerouac, or any others of the “Beat” writers?

“I’d been pent-up, pull-mell like On the Road and like another perambulatory, though broader-beamed book of the period, Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Audie March, during the 1950s. And we need that kite-flying spirit back, minus Beat inebriation.” – Edward Hoagland

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