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The Herbert Huncke Reader by Herbert Huncke
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The Herbert Huncke Reader

by Herbert Huncke, Benjamin G. Schafer (Editor)

Other authors: William S. Burroghs (Foreword), Raymond Foye (Introduction), Jerome Poynon (Contributor)

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In searching through the writings of the Beat Generation, one generally feels as if they've stumbled onto the obscure when they've found Neal Cassady - and why not? It's fifty years past their heydey and scratching the surface of Keroac, Ginsberg or Burroughs is an accomplishment for anyone.

Huncke was a good friend to Ginsberg and if you read through his writings, you'll find that he was not only a friend to Burroughs, but the likely Tom Doniphon of Junky if we were putting it in terms of Liberty Valance and assuming that Burroughs were Ransom Stoddard. (Go ahead, look it up on Wikipedia if you must, but when the legend becomes fact, let's just say even the 50th Anniversary Edition likes to say that certain things are autobiographical when perhaps they landed in the hands of a far more apt storyteller.) That Junky was written after Huncke had lived with him in Texas and while Huncke was incarcerated for a particularly long stint may just well be coincidence.

There's no doubt that Huncke was an interesting character fortunate to run in circles that would be filled with people destined to take advantage of a changing culture. Not all of his writing was as interesting, but portions of it have occasional sparks of something special. It's perhaps most unfortunate that the most sincere writing concerns Joan Burroughs. It is clear that he cared for her and was concerned that Bill's feelings for her were not wholly sincere...but the writings fall off as one must do when it's clear that there's only so much one can write about the relationship of friends. Huncke also writes amazingly raw passages about the power of his budding sexuality as a runaway. Huncke was no tourist or for pay hustler; Huncke embraced the power of his sexuality and later participated in Kinsey's pioneering studies - something else in the book.

Unfortunately, much of the reader is rather self-indulgent and feels like the writings of someone who clearly was passing time with pen and paper. While I don't doubt that passing time with Herbert telling stories was indeed interesting, reading ramblings led to much skimming.

I do suggest this volume if you've been on a Beat Bender of sorts - you'll recognize a number of the characters before they knew they were really going to be anyone of note. ( )
  stephmo | Nov 30, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Huncke, HerbertAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schafer, Benjamin G.Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Burroghs, William S.Forewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foye, RaymondIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Poynon, JeromeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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IN MEMORY OF LOUIS CARTWRIGHT (1947-1994)
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There remains an indelible image of Herbert Huncke the writer, forever frozen in time: homeless and alone, crouched in a Times Square pay toilet with a notebook on his knees, furtively composing his latest tale from the underground. (Introduction)
Herbert Edwin Huncke was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1915. (Biographical Sketch)
The first collection of Herbert Huncke's writing was published in 1965 by the poet Diane di Prima. (Editor's Note)
Herbert E. Huncke
My name; although I'm known generally as Huncke and by a few as Herbert and in the past as Herbie.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0688163467, Paperback)

Herbert Huncke was the original Beat. A hustler, carny, addict, petty thief, street philosopher, and chronicler of the demimonde, he was the archetype on which a generation modeled itself. In the 1940s, Huncke befriended the young William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, guiding them through New York's underground and introducing them to a world of volatile experience they had never imagined. His extraordinary ability to relate his life story in pared-down, unaffected prose inspired them to create a new type of literature, free of constraint and self-consciousness.

Huncke's work is a vital part of Beat literature, but until now has remained relatively unknown. The Herbert Huncke Reader includes the full texts of Huncke's long out-of-print classics; Huncke's Journal and The Evening Sun Turned Crimson; excerpts from his autobiography, Guilty of Everything; and a wide selection from his unpublished letters and diaries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Herbert Huncke's most enduring contribution to the Beat Generation was not his use of drugs or his easy attitude toward the law. What most captivated the Beats was his extraordinary ability to relate his life story in pared-down, unaffected prose. It inspired them to create a new type of literature, free of constraint and self-consciousness. Huncke's work is a vital part of Beat literature, but until now it has remained relatively unknown. The Herbert Huncke Reader includes the full texts of Huncke's long-out-of-print classics Huncke's Journal and The Evening Sun Turned Crimson, excerpts from his autobiography, Guilty of Everything, and a wide selection from his unpublished letters and diaries.… (more)

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