Bohemians, Beats and Blues People by Jim Burns (Penniless Press)

Bohemians, Beats and Blues People by Jim BurnsThere are two things I know about Preston. One is that Preston’s Brutalist bus station is a Grade II listed building, and the other is that it is the hometown of Jim Burns. Jim is one of those writers you will only hear about if you read small press mags. The smaller the mag the more likely you are to find him. Jim Burns probably knows more about small mags than anyone else living, and writes in them and about them, covering and reviewing poetry, and jazz, and the beat scene. Typically, his collections of essays are published by Penniless Press. With three Penniless volumes to choose from, I had to pick the one with a chapter “In Praise of Booksellers” where he gives brief introductions to forgotten booksellers, selling forgotten works to customers who’ve probably forgotten they went there. These include the Turret Bookshop in London, presided over by the late Bernard Stone, from Nottingham.

One of Burns’ other chapters is, indeed, “The Names of the Forgotten”. Of course some Beat writers could not be more public – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso – but Burns stretches further back, to “The Origins of the Beat Generation” and to (mostly American) journals – the Evergreen Review, The Masses, and to other American writers, James T. Farrell and B. Traven, author of The Treasure of the Sierre Madre. Literary archaeologists will enjoy all his books.

Ross Bradshaw

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