Clockwise from top left: Hunter S. Thompson; Patti Smith; Mickey Spillane; Charles Bukowski; Jack Kerouac; Grace Paley; Norman Mailer; Henry Miller
”’The Outlaw Bible of American Literature’ is a new anthology put together by the writer Alan Kaufman, the editor Neil Ortenberg and the seminal publisher Barney Rosset, whose Grove Press and Evergreen Review gave a brand — and more important, a home — to writers once deemed, for whatever reason, too dangerous to handle.” Who’s your favorite “outlaw” writer, and why?
From the review of ”The Outlaw Bible of American Literature’ by the New York Times:
From left: Woody Guthrie , Richard Brautigan, Terry Southern and Kathy Acker
Some of the foreigners Rosset supported (Beckett, Pinter, Ionesco) have long since become respectable, if no less formidable. But most of the Americans he published (William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Terry Southern) remain outsiders. In part this is because of the work itself: sometimes semipornographic — though seldom gamier than passages in John Updike and Philip Roth — sometimes antiestablishmentarian, sometimes hard to read, sometimes all of the above. But in part it’s because the idea of literary outlawry — any kind of outlawry — is irresistible to the American imagination, which may never outgrow its Puritan-Manichaean origins. In fact, for two cents, I’d say ”The Outlaw Bible” is a quintessential document of the Bush Era, but that would hurt everybody’s feelings.
[A]lthough the Rosset-sponsored rebels of the 50’s and 60’s center this collection, the editors have opened the countercanon wide to take in a full range of American Unclubbables. Mickey Spillane, Sapphire, Waylon Jennings, John Waters, Greil Marcus, Margaret Sanger, Dave Eggers, DMX: you won’t find all of these people together in any other book, ever.
It’s just what an anthology of alternative/outsider literature ought to be: all over the place. You can read Woody Guthrie on hopping freights, Valerie Solanas on cutting up men and Emma Goldman on doing prison time. As long as you’re not expecting that all these writers can write, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a good time.
But ”The Outlaw Bible” is supposed to be good for you, and that’s what changes it from an entertaining miscellany to something worth thinking about. Depending on where you sit, it’s either a document recodifying a revolution or a relic recyling an obsolescent controversy. The editors’ introduction, of course, argues for its contemporary relevance: ”a revolt against a landscape dominated by a literary dictatorship of tepid taste, political correctness and sheer numbing banality.” …