The writers of the Beat Generation were obsessively self-documenting, jotting down their observations and enthusiasms in pocket notebooks and journals, and in long letters sent to their friends from various resting places “on the road.” We already have access to first-hand accounts of the Beats in India through the published journals of Allen Ginsberg (Indian Journals), Gary Snyder (Passage Through India, reviewed in Geist 68) and Joanne Kyger (Strange Big Moon). In A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (Penguin), Deborah Baker adds to these earlier accounts with details gleaned from papers and unpublished letters held in scholarly libraries in North America. In addition to Ginsberg, Snyder and Kyger, we hear from Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, and from members of India’s own literary scene during the 1960s and 1970s, young writers who met and were influenced by these wandering American poets. The mysterious figure of Hope Savage, a young woman whose Brownian path took her from South Carolina to Greenwich Village, and ultimately to India, is woven through the book like a gold thread in a sari. In a letter to Ginsberg, Corso described Savage as “our Rimbaud and more,” and Baker follows her faint traces through Cuba and Mexico, to the Soviet Union, Italy and Paris, before finally losing the trail. This book is an absorbing study of a modern American bohemia’s fascination with a more exotic culture, a culture that seems to have viewed these visitors with a blend of tolerance and puzzled curiosity.