This sympathetic biography of one of the most popular poets from the Beat era details Lawrence Ferlinghetti's career from his early years--born in 1919, ``both parents gone before he was two, abandoned at six''--to present-day San Francisco, where he is ``increasingly a presence in civic affairs.'' Silesky, a freelance writer, shows how Ferlinghetti's life and poetry have been influenced continually by two main themes: the sense of how ``the outsider was an inextricable part of his identity'' and his ``social and political commitment.'' Although an exhaustive account by a biographer who clearly admires Ferlinghetti's work and who had access to his journals, the book does not look deeply or consistently beyond the facts. Phrases such as ``Ferlinghetti's journal asks directly the reasons for his compulsion to travel, but never finds a direct answer'' serve as an incomplete means to the source of the poet's troubled personal life. Photos not seen by PW. Aug.
School Library Journal
YA-- Ferlinghetti has worn many masks during his 40-year literary career: poet, bookstore owner, publisher of the ``Beat Generation'' poets, painter, and civil activist. Here, Silesky traces the life of the poet from his lonely childhood, through his association with the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the leading ``Beat'' poets and writers, to his own passionate activism in a variety of causes from the anti-Vietnam war ferment of the '60s to the Greenpeace environmental crusades of today. A book for students of modern American literature, history, and culture.-- Richard Lisker, Fairfax County Library, VA