Dittman, Michael J.
Dittman, Michael J.
Office—Butler County Community College, 107 College Dr., Butler, PA 16002. E-mail—[email protected]
Butler County Community College, Butler, PA, instructor in humanities and social sciences.
Jack Kerouac: A Biography, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 2004.
Small Brutal Incidents (novel), Contemporary Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Masterpieces of Beat Literature, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 2007.
Michael J. Dittman, who teaches at Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania, has written two books that focus on the Beat movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. Jack Kerouac: A Biography, a volume in the "Greenwood Biographies" series, offers an overview of the writer's life and influence. Kerouac, the author most notably of the Beat classic novel On the Road, was born into a French-Canadian family in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. Kerouac attended Columbia University on a football scholarship, but dropped out after a career-ending injury. He began writing early in his life, and formed a close association with a circle of writers that included the poet Allen Ginsberg, whom he had met at university, as well as William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso. Kerouac traveled constantly, crossing the United States by car between the country's two capitals of Beat culture, New York and San Francisco.
Dittman provides an overview of Kerouac's early life and education, his travels and various itinerant jobs, and the writing of On the Road, as well as his drug use (he was addicted for much of his life to Benzedrine, a stimulant, and was also an alcoholic). Dittman also discusses Kerouac's personal relationships, struggles with fame, and later career.
Dittman's second book, a volume in the "Greenwood Introduces Literary Masterpieces" series, is Masterpieces of Beat Literature. The book includes excerpts from major Beat texts, as well as biographies, plot synopses, and a discussion of styles, themes, and sociopolitical context for the works. As Dittman makes clear, the Beats were writing at a time of intense social anxiety in the United States. The Cold War was at its height, and fears of nuclear war or Communist world domination were never far from the surface of daily life. The Beats, influenced by jazz artists, anarchist poets, and other nonconformists, created literature that strove to celebrate concrete experience and personal freedom. Among the texts considered in Masterpieces of Beat Literature are John Clellon Holmes's Go, Kerouac's On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems, Burroughs's Naked Lunch, Neal Cassidy's The First Third, and Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Internet Bookwatch, July, 2007, review of Masterpieces of Beat Literature.
Journal of American Studies, December, 2005, Katie Stewart, review of Jack Kerouac: A Biography, p. 553.
Library Journal, April 1, 2007, William Gargan, review of Masterpieces of Beat Literature, p. 89.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 2005, review of Jack Kerouac, p. 271; February, 2007, review of Masterpieces of Beat Literature.