It ended up uncovering me a large part of the New York beatnik underground of the late fifties and early sixties, the end and height of this movement; Tales unveiled the lifestyle, the language, and the musical inclinations of a whole artistic group.
Ed Sanders, "the bridge between the beatnik and the hippie generations", was (and is still) part of the band The Fugs, one of the most ridiculously irreverencious bands I have heard from this era so far. Ridiculous, but amazing at the same time as listening to them proves to be a real eye-opener when it comes to consider what rebellion and activism meant at the time.
Most of the stories Tales contains often describe the life of extravagant artists, some taking themselves too seriously, others not enough; one of my favourites is this man who spends thirty minutes in his bath every morning wearing scuba diving apparatus. One odd thing Sanders captures very well, to my delight, is the importance so many of his characters put on style, providing very inspiring, detailed, and often tongue-in-cheek descriptions. I thought I'd share them with you:
"Louise liked to wear long-sleeved blouses with drawstrings at the sleeves and at the neck. Discovering Ukrainian clothing, as made by craftspeople of the Lower East Side, was a joy. She must have ordered ten of those blouses, many of them sewn with flowered patterns, from Madame Braznick, a manufacturer of dancing boots and Ukrainian attire on East 7th Street. [...] She bought an armload of canvas and extra supplies and a pair of red dancing boots from Madame Braznick." (p. 94-98)