In 1961 Allen Ginsberg, who proclaimed just about everything to be holy in his seminal poem “Howl,” left America for India. What he brought back would become essential to American counterculture. Deborah Baker’s A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (Penguin) is exceptionally detailed regarding what happened and what did not. In the tradition of the Beats, if something did not happen, it still did.
In Blue Hand, Baker found a rare path to biography, paying close attention to Ginsberg’s 15-month quest for enlightenment in India, using what might have been his own way of writing the book, had he done so. Blue Hand is a well-researched, elegant biography written in Ginsberg’s tradition of an open field of composition, where everything counts as long as it can be accounted for in one sitting and with no revision.