Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Beat Generation
Beat Generation

Beat Generation

Chicagoans played key roles in the emergence of the Beat Generation. The editors of the University of Chicago's student-run literary magazine, Chicago Review, planned in their Winter 1959 issue to continue their publication of excerpts from Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs, and “Old Angel Midnight,” by Jack Kerouac. Chicago Daily News columnist Jack Mabley decried what he considered the publication of obscenity, and the university's administration suppressed the magazine. The editors, including Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, went independent, raising money with a series of celebrated public readings featuring Beat writers Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso. The first issue of Big Table (named for a note Kerouac wrote to himself about his workspace: “Get a bigger table.”) ran into trouble with postal authorities, who, amidst allegations of obscenity, refused to ship copies. Judge Julius J. Hoffman, better known for the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, found Big Table 1 not obscene, and some important works achieved their first American publication here.

Brennan, Gerald. “Big Table.” Chicago History 17.1 and 2 (Spring and Summer 1988): 4–23.
Morgan, Ted. Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs. 1988.
Nicosia, Gerald. Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. 1983.