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Lester in Letters

This modest assortment of writings is comprised of a series of letters, poems, discursive works, dream journals, and creative musings penned by fourteen-year-old Lester Bangs while he was enrolled as a sophomore at El Cajon Valley High School. In many regards, the writing is typical of a rebellious fourteen-year-old’s diary—raw, digressive, self-indulgent, defiant, and seasoned with expletives.
However, Bangs was not a typical adolescent, and while his writings chronicle his escape from his angst into the counterculture of literary iconoclasts and free jazz composers (to which dozens of references are made in these missives), they are also Lester’s attempt at a manifesto. Their exuberance presages Lester’s signature stream-of-consciousness writing as a rock music journalist, but they are also passionately driven by Lester’s own quest for artistic authenticity, individuality, and integrity. A good many of these letters contain heated jeremiads decrying conformity and materialism, but almost all of them are first and foremost exultations of a higher love, from which emerges a far more innocent portrait of Lester Bangs than what we may be used to.
We hope you enjoy them in this scholarly spirit.



Humble and sincere thanks to 
Lester Bangs's schoolmate and early admirer, Sonia "Tamara" Nordenson, who is responsible for the preservation of these writings, and, in wishing to see them returned to the community where they were written in 1963, donated the collection to Grossmont College in 2014; Ms. Nordenson's generous help with the transcription, especially in navigating Lester's sometimes daunting handwriting, is also deeply appreciated.
Alan Hess, for volunteering his considerable time and care to the digitizing of this collection;
Nadra Farina-Hess, Grossmont College Library Chair, for donating her energies, resources, encouragement, and expertise;
Dr. Oralee Holder, English Department Chair, for her support of this project;
Raul Sandelin, English instructor and San Diego Troubadour journalist, for his dedicated efforts to procure this collection on behalf of Sonia Nordenson.


A Note About Transcriptions 

Documents transcriptions and annotations by Karl Sherlock, Grossmont College English Department. 
With one or two exceptions, virtually all of the documents in this collection are handwritten by Lester Bangs, the majority of them in script. All transcriptions remain faithful to the content of Bangs’s originals, including his spelling errors and non-standard case. However, visitors are encouraged to examine the scans of the originals for their hand-drawn embellishments and other graphical or typographical variations that could not otherwise be transcribed, especially the picture poetry. 
Last Updated: 08/16/2017
The ideas and opinions expressed in the writings of Lester Bangs or those of his scholars do not necessarily represent the views of the Grossmont Cuyamaca College District, nor those of the individuals responsible for the acquisition and archiving of these materials.
Unless otherwise noted, the content of the GC Lester Bangs Archive is the property of the Grossmont Cuyamaca College District. Any unauthorized copying, reproduction, distribution, or duplication of this material other than for educational purposes is strictly prohibited.


Grossmont College Learning Resource Center
The Lester Bangs Letters collection is curated by the Grossmont College library. The physical collection is currently off exhibit. Please see the LRC website for additional info:
  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District