Who were the original hipsters? In this dazzling collection, Glenn O’Brien provides a kaleidoscopic guided tour through the margins and subterranean tribes of mid-twentieth century America—the worlds of jazz, of disaffected postwar youth, of those alienated by racial and sexual exclusion, of outlaws and drug users creating their own dissident networks. Whether labeled as Bop or Beat or Punk, these outsider voices ignored or suppressed by the mainstream would merge and recombine in unpredictable ways, and change American culture forever.
To read The Cool School is to experience the energies of that vortex. Drawing on memoirs, poems, novels, comedy routines, letters, essays, and song lyrics, O’Brien creates an unparalleled literary mix tape bringing together Henry Miller, Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Lenny Bruce, William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Annie Ross, Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Andy Warhol, Lester Bangs, and dozens of others, including such legendary figures as Beat avatar Neal Cassady, jazz memoirist Babs Gonzales, inspired comic improviser Lord Buckley, no-holds-barred essayist Seymour Krim, and underground filmmaker Jack Smith. His one-of-a-kind anthology recreates an unforgettable era in all its hallucinatory splendor: transgressive, raucous, unruly, harrowing, and often subversively hilarious.