Go is a semi-autobiographical novel by John Clellon Holmes that is considered by many to be the first novel setting off the Beat Generation. Set in New York City, the book dipicts the lives of Holmes and his friends who used to inhabit the underworld of the city. Drug fuled parties, all night drinking bindges, free spirited sex, writting, reading, and searching for their meaning and place in the world is the main theme of the book, as seen through the eyes of Paul Hobbes. Hobbes is torn between his wife Katherine, who works to support his dream of becoming a published author, and his new eccentric friends, who somehow make him realize that there is more to life than what is on the surface.
Hobbes’ character is one who is fascinated with his new friends outlook on everything, but he manages to keep a certain distance from becoming completly engulfed in their lifestyle. This distance sometimes angers his new friends, but not because it bothers them, but because they want Hobbes to really “be in it”. To let go without worry. The main characters in the book follow the same outline as do many of the Beat Generation works, giving real people, fictional names.
Paul Hobbes (John Clellon Holmes) two best friends in the book are Gene Pasternak (Jack Kerouac) and David Stofsky (Allen Ginsberg). Stofsky is always rambling, thinking, and trying to figure everyone out. He has visions of William Blake, the English poet, painter, and printmaker, and even has dreams of talking directly to God. Gene Pasternak is a good friend to Hobbes, who regularly sleeps on his couch to avoid the long commute back to his house on Long Island. Through these two wild characters, he meets the most beloved Beat Generation figure of all, Hart Kennedy (Neal Cassady). Hart is the wildest of wildmen. He practically invented the phrase GO. During parties, or poems, or outrages, Hart would yell GO GO GO GO! Not to antagonize, but as a sign of approval, a sign that people must not act as they have been programmed, but to act as if no rules apply to them. He knew that life was short, and you only get one chance to make the absolute most of it.
This book is filled with adventures, lessons, meaning, and situations that make you reflect on your own life, and it is still relevant 57 years after it was first published. This book to me represents what many of the other Beat books do, a feeling of being free. The characters who were at the core of the Beat Generation had a vision of life that was different from what the rest of society saw. They were not afraid to act different, to think different, and to be different. They expressed their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a way that I only wish I was brave enough to do myself, and their journies have prooved to be a great inspiration to the many generations that followed.
“I actually yearn for life to be easy, magic, full of love.”
It was to Holmes that Kerouac once said, “You know, this is really a beat generation.”