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January 02, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

SNAPSHOT POETICS: A Photographic Memoir of the Beat Era by Allen Ginsberg (Chronicle: $12.95; 95 pp.). Ginsberg may not rank as a great photographer--many of the pictures in this striking collection are little more than snapshots--but he knows so many important literary figures intimately, he's able to capture them in vivid, revealing portraits. The young Jack Kerouac radiates the same energy as his prose, while the sepulchral visage of William S. Burroughs seems to crumble over the years, like a ruined temple. Equally striking is Ginsberg's own transformation from a skinny nerd in horn-rims to a Buddha-like figure, serenely contemplating his own image in a mirror.

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