Three Penny Lane:

A Novel

Often compared to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, the lesser-known “beat-generation” writer, Fielding Dawson brings us the third novel in his Penny Lane series, not-so-cleverly titled Three Penny Lane. One of the more popular passages from Three Penny Lane epitomizes Dawson’s style of dialogue:

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses?” “I don’t know,” said Scrooge. “Why do you doubt your senses?” “Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There ‘s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are…”

The action of Three Penny Lane consists of two beery friends sitting in a bar while an acquaintance, a recently divorced poet, describes to them at great length his ideas for a movie script about a recently divorced painter. This actually turns out to be an effective narrative framework, adroitly handled by Mr. Dawson. The problem is that the poet’s script, filling this clever frame, is a rambling and rather tedious soap opera, in which strident, prolonged but unrevealing altercation among the principals is mistaken for drama. The two friends hugely enjoy the poet’s cinematic recitation, but they are probably drunker—and more forgiving—than the average reader.
David Quammen, The New York Times, 1981

Fielding Dawson was a member of the Beat Generation and of the Black Mountain Poets – two movements that continue to reverberate through modern poetry. Like other Beats, Dawson often worked in a stream-of-consciousness style with minimal punctuation, lax grammar, and naturalistic dialogue. In addition, he was an accomplished painter and collagist whose visual work often appeared alongside his writing in literary magazines.

In later age, Dawson added teaching to his repertoire of talents. He taught writing to prisoners at Sing Sing, to at-risk youth at Upward Bound High School in Hartwick, and to Beatnik hopefuls at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. He continued to write and teach until his death in 2002.