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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by…

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (edition 2009)

by William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac

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5571817,907 (3.52)1 / 20
Title:And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Authors:William S. Burroughs
Other authors:Jack Kerouac
Info:Grove Press (2009), Edition: First Trade Paper Edition, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Beat Generation, NYC, 1940s, Columbia University, Lucien Carr

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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs


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English (17)  Dutch (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Well, this was my first Beat novel and I read it because my interest was peaked by a podcast on This American Life, featuring William S. Burroughs as told by Iggy Pop.

This book was interesting because it was written in 1945 but not published until 2008 (after all persons the story was based on were dead). Also because alternating chapters were written by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, and it was based on a true life murder in which they were both indicted for knowing the killer and the victim. Many say the murder led to the beginning of the Beat movement? I wouldn't be qualified to even guess at that, being a Beat "virgin" prior to this book, but I may be willing to try a few more novels.

I've heard a lot of the names mentioned in the Afterword in the past, but never gave the Beat movement much thought - except what I saw in movies as a generation who smoked heavily in underground bars, read strange poetry to a conga drum beating in the background, dressed in black turtlenecks, pegged black pants, black berets and thick black glasses. Also, I always thought the Beatniks were part of the 1960s. I didn't realize they started in the 1940s. I also learned that author Caleb Carr ( [The Alienist] ) is the son of Lucian Carr - the murderer the story is based on. I learn so much when I read..... ( )
  morningwalker | Feb 9, 2015 |
Finally, my first Beat novel! It's been a long time coming, though I'd always assumed On the Road would be my first... but whatever. I got this one from the library right after I bought Kill Your Darlings on DVD and realised that the book was essentially a thinly-veiled novelisation of the real events depicted in the film. Labelled a 'crime noir', I actually didn't think it felt that way at all; the murder is a fleeting thing right near the end of the book. It's incredibly easy to read, filled with tiny mundane details that build up a picture of a bohemian alcohol-fuelled lifestyle largely consisting of bar hopping and drifting in and out of each other's homes to eat, sleep, love, talk and dream. I also liked the insight into how boys would 'ship out' to work at sea, and how that process worked. An odd one, this, in that I didn't rank it THAT highly, yet I'd really like to reread it and have my own copy at some point in the near future. ( )
  elliepotten | Oct 24, 2014 |
I really enjoyed reading this! Quite a snapshot of the life and beginnings of the Beats! But boy oh boy were they a bunch of moochers! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | May 3, 2014 |
Written in 1945, And the hippos were boiled in their tanks was not published until 1997. Alternating chapters were written in a collaboration between William S. Burroughs, who wrote the Will Dennison chapters, and the young Jack Kerouac, who wrote the Mike Ryko chapters. It is obvious, that at this early stage in their careers, Burroughs is the better writer of the two co-authors.

To readers who are averse of the style of Burroughs and Kerouac, despite its quirky title, And the hippos were boiled in their tanks is remarkably "normal" and atypical of the two authors' later work. Its main interest lies in the fact that it is an early work by these authors, and is based on a real murder case in lieu of which the authors were arrested as accessories. The novel is a reasonably enjoyable read, if your interest in the authors and the real murder case, are combined with an interest in reading regular crime and detective stories of the 1940s.

The novel begins with the four friends lounching in Dennison's apartment, and the sexy description of Phillip Tourian, seventeen years old, half Turkish and half American, " the kind of boy literary fags write sonnets to, which start out, “O raven-haired Grecian lad . . .” (p.4). The members of the little group hang out discussing poetry, while living a life in semi-poverty. Forty-ish Ramsey Allen follows Phillip around hoping to develop a lasting relationship with the young man, both in love and sexually.

The murder comes relatively late, towards the end of the novel (p.165), and the story barely handles the consequences. Obviously, the lounging lifestyle of the main characters with its subliminal (homo) sexuality is the mainstay of the novel. Relatively little happens in terms of plot, and the overall atmosphere is brooding, as the characters do not seem to know how to shape their lives.

The novel seems mainly of interest to a small readership that is either interested in the origins of the Beat Generation, or the beginnings of gay literature and its setting in Christopher Street in the New York of the mid-1940s.

In the Penguin Modern Classics edition (2008 / 9), the novel is followed by a long and informative afterword by James Grauerholtz. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Dec 1, 2013 |
Given the history of this book --inspired by the murder that gave rise to the Beats-- it would appear hard to take this book at face value. However, the dry and unemotional, unadorned prose fits the restless nihilistic times and subject perfectly. This book is worth reading beyond its historical and biographical significance. It is an honest look at a time and a generation in American history that has been mythologized. ( )
  byebyelibrary | Oct 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Burroughs, William S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kerouac, JackAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Grauerholz, JamesAfterwordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, RayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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2008 ( [1945])
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The bars close at three A.M. on Saturday nights so I got home about 3:45 after eating breakfast at Riker's on the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802144349, Paperback)

In the summer of 1944, a shocking murder rocked the fledgling Beats. William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, both still unknown, we inspired by the crime to collaborate on a novel, a hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and art, obsession and brutality, with scenes and characters drawn from their own lives. Finally published after more than sixty years, this is a captivating read, and incomparable literary artifact, and a window into the lives and art of two of the twentieth century’s most influential writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and obsession, art and violence, that brings to life a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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