Breaking the Rule of Cool
Interviewing and Reading Women Beat Writers
The Beat movement nurtured many female dissidents and artists who contributed to Beat culture and connected the Beats with the second wave of the women's movement. Although they have often been eclipsed by the men of the Beat Generation, the women's contributions to Beat literature are considerable.
Covering writers from the beginning of the movement in the 1950s and extending to the present, this book features interviews with nine of the best-known women Beat writers, including Diane di Prima, ruth weiss, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger, Brenda Frazer (Bonnie Bremser), Janine Pommy Vega, Anne Waldman, and the critic Ann Charters. Each is presented by a biographical essay that details her literary or scholarly accomplishments.
In these recent interviews the nine writers recall their lives in Beat bohemia and discuss their artistic practices. Nancy M. Grace outlines the goals and revelations of the interviews, and introduces the community of female Beat writers created in their conversations with the authors.
Although they have not received attention equal to the men, women Beat writers rebelled against mainstream roles for young women and were exuberant participants in creating the Beat scene. Mapping their unique identities in the Beat movement, Ronna C. Johnson shows how their poetry, fiction, and memoirs broke the male rule that defined Beat women as silent bohemian "chicks" rather than artistic peers.
Breaking the Rule of Cool combines the interviews with literary criticism and biography to illustrate the vivacity and intensity of women Beat writers, and argues that American literature was revitalized as much by the women's work as by that of their male counterparts.
Nancy M. Grace, a professor of English at the College of Wooster, is the author of The Feminized Male Character in Twentieth-Century Literature. Her work has appeared in Contemporary Literature, the Beat Scene, and the Artful Dodge.
Ronna C. Johnson, a lecturer in English and American Studies at Tufts University, has been published in College Literature, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the Poetry Project Newsletter. Johnson and Grace are the editors of and contributors to Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation.