A final book by an iconic figure in American letters is due to be published by Doubleday in the US and Faber in the UK to celebrate the author’s 100th birthday in March 2019.
Little Boy is by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet, publisher, bookseller, painter and one of the last surviving members of the Beat Generation – the name given to the 1950s group of writers and intellectuals who rejected the materialist values of the day and sought a kind of Bohemian liberation through travel, jazz music, Eastern religion, non-conformity and writing. Their most famous figures are Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road, and the poet Allen Ginsberg, author of Howl which Ferlinghetti published after he established his famous New Directions publishing house, which is still publishing today.
Felinghetti also co-founded one of the world’s most famous independent bookshops – City Lights in San Fransisco. His many volumes of poetry include the celebrated A Coney Island of the Mind, published in 1958.
Little Boy is described as an experimental novel cum memoir, which the New York Times says ‘fuses elements of autobiography, literary criticism, poetry and philosophy in a headlong, often stream-of-consciousness style’.
Ferlinghetti is represented by the agent Sterling Lord, who is 97 and who also represented Jack Kerouac in the Fifties and was the agent who sold On the Road.
The author has had an extraordinary life, serving in the Navy during the Second World War and visiting Nagasaki soon after the atom bomb fell, an experience that turned him into a lifelong pacifist. He has received many awards in his long career. He was named San Francisco’s s Poet Laureate in August 1998, a post he held for two years. In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal and the Author’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. In the same year he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The National Book Foundation honoured him with the inaugural Literarian Award (2005), given for outstanding service to the American literary community.
Faber says Little Boy is the story of one man’s extraordinary life, and the madness of the century that witnessed it – “a story steeped in the rhythmic energy of the Beats, gleaming with Whitman’s visionary spirit, channelling the incantatory power of Proust and Joyce – this is Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s last word”.