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Little Boy: A Novel (Paperback)
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From the famed publisher and poet, author of the million-copy-selling collection A Coney Island of the Mind, his literary last will and testament -- part autobiography, part summing up, part Beat-inflected torrent of language and feeling, and all magical.
"A volcanic explosion of personal memories, political rants, social commentary, environmental jeremiads and cultural analysis all tangled together in one breathless sentence that would make James Joyce proud. . ."
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
In this unapologetically unclassifiable work Lawrence Ferlinghetti lets loose an exhilarating rush of language to craft what might be termed a closing statement about his highly significant and productive 99 years on this planet. The "Little Boy" of the title is Ferlinghetti himself as a child, shuffled from his overburdened mother to his French aunt to foster childhood with a rich Bronxville family. Service in World War Two (including the D-Day landing), graduate work, and a scholar gypsy's vagabond life in Paris followed. These biographical reminiscences are interweaved with Allen Ginsberg-esque high energy bursts of raw emotion, rumination, reflection, reminiscence and prognostication on what we may face as a species on Planet Earth in the future. Little Boy is a magical font of literary lore with allusions galore, a final repository of hard-earned and durable wisdom, a compositional high wire act without a net (or all that much punctuation) and just a gas and an inspiration to read.
About the Author
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI was born in Yonkers, New York in 1919. Founder of the famed City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, he was an activist, painter, and author of numerous works of poetry, prose, and drama. His A Coney Island of the Mind was one of the bestselling poetry books of all time. Among his many honors were the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Award, the NBCC's Ivan Sandrof Award, and the ACLU's Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. He was also a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He lived in San Francisco, close by to the bookstore he founded. He died in 2021.
"A volcanic explosion of personal memories, political rants, social commentary, environmental jeremiads and cultural analysis all tangled together in one breathless sentence that would make James Joyce proud. . .[Ferlinghetti is] the silliest, angriest, kindest, smartest man you’ve ever heard — a whirling dervish of scholarly asides, literary allusions, corny puns and twisted aphorisms. . .No one alive carries the history, the writers, the personal experience of 20th-century literature in his mind as Ferlinghetti does. . .There’s something hypnotic about Ferlinghetti’s relentless commentary, a style that amuses him, too. . .If you're willing to let go, he'll win you over."—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Ferlinghetti maintains [an] unrelenting mental deluge, scraping the furthest edges of his memory and imagination, like a socially conscious John Ashbery on Benzedrine. . .Ferlinghetti's wits are afire, his wisdom is wide and deep, and this little book is packed with incredible sentences. . .He's still got it." —NPR
"Ferlinghetti has not just survived for a century: He epitomizes the American culture of that century. Specifically, he has been a unique protagonist in a national drama: the American struggle to imagine a democratic culture. . .Is Ferlinghetti’s career as an influential, best-selling poet a story of high culture or of popular culture? Is his City Lights, as bookstore and publisher, a San Francisco tourist trap? Or is City Lights a literary, moral and legal shrine that not only published Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems” and Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems” but in a 1957 court case established First Amendment principles that transformed American life? The store’s North Beach location has been designated an “official” San Francisco landmark. Is that a funny contradiction in terms? Or a triumph? The answer to all these questions is, emphatically, yes — all of the above. . .The story of Little Boy echo[es] a great national question. . .Who, little boys and girls, juvenile yet old, do we think we are?" —Robert Pinsky, The New York Times Book Review
"Little Boy may start off sounding like a conventional memoir, but before long, Ferlinghetti reclaims his beat soul, quickens the pace, dropping punctuation like a used-up booster rocket, and off we go on the last wild, motor-mouth, book-length riff of this poet’s generation. All finger-popping readers will be gleefully swept up in this hip word-flood, this spontaneous stream — no, make that torrent of consciousness. Bravo, maestro!” —Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate and author of The Rain in Portugal: Poems
"Lawrence Ferlinghetti has given us a slice of his cake in the form of a dense, daffy, and often delightful prose-poem. It’s a surging century’s worth of language that combines elements of memoir, journaling and comic wordplay, with hints of an alternative State of the Union address. . . A headlong rush of thoughts, memories and shameless whimsies. . . Happy birthday, Ferlinghetti. It’s a lot of candles. Strike another match across the night sky." —San Francisco Chronicle
"A torrent of textual splendor. . . Everything Ferlinghetti has read, written, lived, experienced, thought and understood in his near-hundred-years on this planet has been tossed into the blender of his consciousness. Little Boy gives us the opportunity to watch as it all swirls in that blender, the blades slowly bringing all these disparate particles together into a more homogenous flow — everything connected, everything consequential, yet without direct plot or meaning (much like life itself). . .If Little Boy is just a dream, then it’s one you can easily get lost in. . .wandering one last time through the Coney Islands of an iconic poet’s mind." —The Los Angeles Times
"As a poet, [Ferlinghetti] has rarely been a critical favorite. But his flexible and plain-spoken and often lusty work — he has published more than 50 volumes — has found a wide audience. . .[Little Boy] is a summing-up near the end of a big, wide, productive life." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"The text lifts and plunges, like a flock of birds, into poetry. . .Memories and literary references fuse and spark: [Ferlinghetti] rails against the unwanted external voices that crowd our minds. Light emerges and dips continuously as the source of existence and meaning, while darkness rears and disappears alongside. . .[Little Boy] is a portal into an outsider movement that evolved. . .into a literary canon. . .This book burns bright in your hands." —BOMB
“A spiraling stream of consciousness that celebrates the divine transcendence of poetry and an all too human coming-of-agelessness. His mentoring example and love of the written word is illuminating and inspirational.” —Lenny Kaye, lead guitarist of the Patti Smith Group
"[Little Boy] calls itself a novel but feels like a mystical memoir. . .Highly allusive and terminally punning. Its prose accretes the oracular weight of a holy text as it evokes the genesis of Little Boy's lonely consciousness. . .[Ferlinghetti] stages a deliberate ramble under gauzy light." —The New Yorker
"[Ferlinghetti's] mind is still on fire." —The Guardian
"Prolific. . .propulsive and exceedingly personal. . .A local philosopher-hero's origin story." —San Francisco Magazine
"Ferlinghetti is central to America’s literary and cultural life. How do you even begin to describe his many decades of achievement? Ferlinghetti has done it himself. Little Boy is a hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness, autobiographical prose-poem. . .It’s a book full of the artists, poems, travel, loneliness, and joy in Ferlinghetti’s long life—the whole arc of his human experience passes in a sustained collage of images. . .An indelible wonder." —Barry Miles, Poetry
"A Goethean poly-directional consciousness on an exciting journey through time and space, Ferlinghetti’s unclassifiable act is delightful, tragic, magical. Here is seriousness at play with all the power of a spontaneous concert. Bravo Maestro Lawrence!" —Michael McClure, author of The Beard
“Ferlinghetti has given us a uniquely revelatory book. At first his narrative was what I'd hoped it would be, and then his words turned, like lively flashing fish, into what he wanted it to be, so he could leisurely reel me in, ever so surely, to his sublime conclusion. Little Boy evoked my surprise and delight — thank you, Lawrence! —Ann Charters, author of the American Book Award-winning Women of the Beat Generation
"Little Boy, an uncategorizable stream-of-consciousness bildungsroman offers an inspiriting case study of keeping the blessed callings of poetry, art, and political radicalism alive by example. . . Ferlinghetti’s work and life serve as useful reminders that radical poetics are really as American as jazz, baseball, and the atomic bomb." —The Baffler
“One hundred years of Lawrence’s life dance and shimmer in breathtaking sentences that shine with the light of this great writer’s gorgeous imagination. Little Boy is a treasure.” —Diane di Prima, author of Memoirs of a Beatnik
“Wonderfully effusive. . .stunningly evocative. . .This book is a Proustian celebration of both memory and moments that will delight readers.” —Publishers Weekly
"Densely allusive. . .A wealth of literary references and musings on meaning and mortality, consciousness and dissent, America and global citizenship. With a cascade of warnings, memories, and literary figures, we hear the familiar, often funny poet. . .unafraid to blend lowbrow humor with quotations of Proust, to unapologetically address the reader in both a decisively new style and in his signature voice. . . [Little Boy] insist[s] that we take control of our own minds." —Los Angeles Review of Books