We need our literary outlaws, if only for the vicarious glimpses they give us of life-on-the-edge experiences — just as they need...

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We need our literary outlaws, if only for the vicarious glimpses they give us of life-on-the-edge experiences — just as they need our humdrum selves in order to have something to rebel against.

Now, for readers who have somehow missed the past half-century of literary walks on the wild side, editors Alan Kaufman, Neil Ortenberg and Barney Rosset have compiled a 662-page “Outlaw Bible of American Literature” (Thunder’s Mouth, $24.95). Its purpose: to document a revolt against “a literary dictatorship of tepid taste, politic correctness, and sheer numbing banality.”

All the usual suspects — William S. Burroughs, John Rechy, Henry Miller — are here, along with several unexpected figures: Sandra Cisneros, Eric Burdon, Grace Paley and John Sayles. Pacific Northwest representatives include Katherine Dunn, Ken Kesey and Chuck Palahniuk.

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And as if in anticipatory homage, the late Hunter S. Thompson is given the last word in the book, with a choice cut from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” in which he explains why the gambling mecca is “not a good town for psychedelic drugs.” It comes complete with a Ralph Steadman cartoon-portrait of Thompson in his “Vintage Dr. Gonzo” phase.

Michael Upchurch,

Seattle Times book critic