Beat Lit.

TalkBeat Literature

Join LibraryThing to post.

Beat Lit.

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: Mar 1, 2008, 10:46 pm

Let's start with some of the most familiar Beat authors: Kerouac; Ginsberg; Burroughs; Corso. Anybody collect any of these or other Beat authors? Drop a line if you're interested in talking about any aspect of Beat Lit and/or specific Beat poets/authors.

Mar 4, 2008, 11:40 pm

Welcome SabinaAyse. Hope to hear from you. Let me know what Beat books/authors you'd like to talk about.

Mar 19, 2008, 11:52 am

Welcome bferran. Hope to hear from you.

Edited: Mar 23, 2008, 9:49 pm

Welcome CharlesTatumJr.,
Hope to hear from you.

Dec 11, 2008, 8:10 pm

Here's the recent NYT's review of the ' new ' Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs novel, AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS. An early ' lost ' collaboration by Kerouac and Burroughs that never saw the light of day, ATHWBITT was witheld from publication by Burrough's literary executor, James Grauerholz, until after the death of Lucien Carr, the real life character upon which the fictional Phillip Tourian in the novel is based. Readers of Kerouac and Burroughs' biographies will be familiar with the details of the story related in this recently published work, so I won't go into the details of the novel as the attached review does so more than adequately. My interest in this work finally being published is, I guess, two-fold: 1. Should it be seen as a ' new ' Kerouac work or is does it more rightfully belong in the Burrough's canon. Or is it simply what it has thus far been portrayed as: a juvenile collaboration between two young writers, ( a literary lark that happens to portray some fairly gruesome real life events ) who some few years later would become internationally famous with their own respective
' first novels; ' and 2. Is it or should it even be seen as a " Beat " novel at all, or rather a proto-Beat novel in its own right and be included in the ' Beat Canon " whatever that is. Full disclosure: this scribbler has yet to read the recently published ATHWBITT but looks forward to doing so at my earliest possible convenience, but then again, I've yet to read the full scroll version of OTR published in its entirety a couple've years ago by the Kerouac estate, so I guess I better shut up until I can comment with any real or imagined opinion on the above mentioned work.

Just trying to get this dead and dormant Librarything group back up and running, back from the dead....Responses, Questions, comments, concerns, arguments, statements, manifestoes, letters; all and any would be welcome on this or any other ' Beat ' topic of interest from anyone out there in Librarythingland. I can't cite it just now, but I remember once reading somewhere that Burroughs never considered himself to be a ' Beat ' writer in the first place and The Beat Generation itself, according to one Charles Plymell, was nothing more than a figment of advertising man, Ginsberg's imagination.


By Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

214 pages. Grove Press. $24.

Times Topics: Jack KerouacThe novel itself, a sort of murder mystery written in 1945 when the authors were unpublished and unknown, is a flimsy piece of work — repetitious, flat-footed and quite devoid of any of the distinctive gifts each writer would go on to develop on his own.

The two authors take turns telling their story in alternating chapters. Kerouac, writing in the persona of Mike Ryko, tends to sound like ersatz Henry Miller without the sex or fake Hemingway without a war (“There was a long orange slant in the street and Central Park was all fragrant and cool and green-dark”); his chapters possess none of the electric spontaneity of “On the Road,” none of the stream-of-consciousness immediacy of his later work.

Burroughs, writing as Will Dennison, serves up passages that feel more like imitation Cain or Spillane: semi-hardboiled prose with flashes of Burroughs’s famous nihilism but none of the experimental discontinuities and jump-cuts of “Naked Lunch.” In fact, both writers lean toward a plodding, highly linear, blow-by-blow style here that reads like elaborate stage directions: they describe every tiny little thing their characters do, from pouring a drink to walking out of a room to climbing some stairs, from ordering eggs in a restaurant to sending them back for being underdone to eating the new ones delivered by the waitress.

The plot of “Hippos” stems from a much discussed real-life killing involving two men who were friends of both Burroughs and Kerouac. As James W. Grauerholz, Burroughs’s literary executor, explains in an afterword: “The enmeshed relationship between Lucien Carr IV and David Eames Kammerer began in St. Louis, Mo., in 1936, when Lucien was 11 and Dave was 25. Eight years, five states, four prep schools and two colleges later, that connection was grown too intense, those emotions too feverish.”

In the predawn hours of Aug. 14, 1944, in Riverside Park in Manhattan, Carr stabbed Kammerer with his Boy Scout knife, then rolled his body into the Hudson River. Burroughs and Kerouac were among the first people Carr confessed to; he later turned himself in and was charged with second degree murder.

As described by Mr. Grauerholz, Carr’s lawyers painted a picture of an older homosexual harassing a younger man, who had to “defend his honor” with violence. The Carr-Kammerer story fascinated the writers’ circle, and several contemporaries, including Allen Ginsberg, would try their hand at telling the story.

In “Hippos” Burroughs and Kerouac lay out a fictionalized account of the days and weeks leading up to the killing. Carr is called Phillip Tourian here, and Kammerer is Ramsay Allen. While Allen drones on and on to Dennison about Tourian, Tourian tells Ryko that he wants to escape from the suffocating Allen and suggests that he and Ryko ship out with the merchant marine. They make several efforts to get on a boat to France but are repeatedly thwarted for a variety of reasons, like not having the right stamp on their union cards or getting into an argument with another sailor.

Meanwhile, all the characters spend a lot of time hanging out in bars and restaurants and friends’ apartments, complaining about their lack of money and putting on artistic airs, as if they were a bunch of French existentialists. Tourian does stupid party tricks like taking a bite out of a cocktail glass, chewing it up and washing it down with some water. Allen tries to spy on the object of his affection while he is sleeping. Ryko fights and makes up with his girlfriend, Janie, who wants to get married. And Dennison shoots himself up with morphine.

None of these one-dimensional slackers are remotely interesting as individuals, but together they give the reader a sense of the seedy, artsy world Kerouac and Burroughs inhabited in New York during the war years. And so these, really, are the only reasons to read this undistinguished book: for the period picture it provides of the city — think of Billy Wilder’s “Lost Weekend” crossed with Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” — and for the semi-autobiographical glimpses it offers of the two writers before they found their voices and became bohemian brand names.

Jun 1, 2009, 4:05 pm

Hey all, I collect Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes. I've started with first edition paperbacks of Kerouac.

Jun 9, 2009, 9:49 pm

Welcome Msbjr6. That's great yr're beginning to collect all of the 1st edition paperback Kerouacs. They're out there, so long as you have the time and patience to track them down. Best of luck. I may have a few doubles of old Kerouac editions - not necessarily firsts, just older paperback editions - but you might be interested if you don't own any of them. I see you live in-town Boston. Write me at my regular email address if you like and I'll let you know what I have doubles of that you may be interested in.

Aug 6, 2009, 7:05 pm

I started collect Beat generation material, but do not have a large collection. Recently picked up Newspoems by Tuli Kupferbert and Tentative Description of a Dinner Given to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower by Ferlinghetti.

Sep 5, 2009, 12:34 am

Welcomer drChartier. Hope to hear more from you. The Tuli Kupferberg, Newspoems, sounds interesting.

Sep 18, 2009, 12:46 am

The Newspoems of Kupferberg are some pretty hard-hitting and timely anti-war stuff. It printed on newsprint and very fragile. Great stuff.

Sep 18, 2009, 3:44 pm

The only thing I own by Tuli Kupferberg is an old mass market paperback, 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft, published by Grove Press in their Evergreen Black Cat Book series in 1967. It's really hilarious reading some of the ways he lists to beat the draft: # 402 for example reads: " Admit you are Jack the Ripper but refuse appointment except as a captain. " or # 587: " Bring a box of dead rats with you. Offer to sell one to the psychiatrist cheap. " 999 more!

Sep 20, 2009, 7:45 pm

The Newspoems by Kupferberg are anti-war poems. Interesting reading in light of where we find ourselves today. Just bought a first of The Dissolving Fabric by Paul Blackburn. It's the most I've ever paid for a book, but I'm a big Blackburn fan.

Sep 20, 2009, 11:54 pm

Guess I kinda repeated myself with that last message. I suppose I should re-read my messages first. Anyway, I have a book to recommend to the group if you are interested in collected Beat literature: The Bohemian Register: An Annotated Bibliography of the Beat Literary Movement, by Morgen Hickey.

Sep 22, 2009, 12:25 am

I too am a big Blackburn fan, though I don't own, The Dissolving
Fabric. Wish I did. I do have a few other Blackburn things that are nice though: Sing-Song, wch is the fourth Caterpillar, a series of publications edited by Clayton Eshleman. Very cool, from December 1966. I've always considered Blackburn extremely important and have collected what I can of his for years.

Thanks for the tip on The Bohemian Register by Morgan Hickey. I'll have to check it out.

Sep 24, 2009, 12:06 am

I'm not sure that I really think of Blackburn as a Beat poet, though he seems to be in spirit with them. I once asked Stanley Kunitz about Blackburn, and his response made me think of Kunitz in an altogether different light (not a flattering one). He said that Blackburn was mainly a technician. I used to like Kunitz. I was a poetry student in NY in the mid 80s in the Columbia MFA program. Kutnitz told me that my poetry was "merely" anectdotal. After discovering Blackburn, I was transformed. I wanted to know everything about him. I visited the bars he wrote about. I rode the subways in his poems. I think that in many ways he was intellectually heads and tails above most of the beat poets, but just as genuine and honest. While in NY I got to know Ginsberg pretty well, and had a casual acquaintace with Joyce Johnson and Amriri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). John, I believe I read in your profile that you are from Worcester. I am from Ware, though I now live in Colorado. Good to meet someone interested in the same ideas as I am from the same place. Look forward to more conversation.


Edited: Oct 10, 2009, 10:39 pm

Yeah, David, isn't, The Dissolving Fabric, his first publication from like 1955? You were fortunate to get your hands on a copy even though it was pricey. I own a few Blackburn pieces and wd like to acquire more at some point, but will have to settle for The Selected Poems for now and the few other small press items that I own of his. There was a Collected Blackburn published in 1985 that I need to get my hands on now that you have reignited my interest in his work. Like yourself, I'm not really sure that I ever regarded Blackburn as a Beat poet, though he was certainly a contemporary of many of them and like you say, ' he seems to be in spirit with them. ' I guess we'd have to get into a discussion of what constitutes ' Beat ' poetry before we decided whether Blackburn ' fit ' the criteria or parameters of the ' Beat Poet ' and whether his work should be included in the ' Beat Canon '
( whatever that is ? ) and I for one don't want to go there...Blackburn. Yeah.
He was included in the Allen Anthology and appeared in various other publications that were known for publishing ' Beat ' writers; Evergreen Review and Black Mountain Review come immediately to mind, but I'd have to check and see if he was published in any of the other small press/mimeo Beat journals and magazines of the time like Yugen, Floating Bear, or Measure. My guess wd be yes. I'm sure he made at least a few appearances in any number of those rags, as well as probably dozens of others over the years. I've never seen a bibliography of his work and don't known if one exists, but it wd be fascinating to see where he was published. My sense is that he's a poet's poet and his importance to Post WWII North American ( New American Poetry ) cannot be underestimated. That he's neglected in the mainstream is shameful, but then again I can name another dozen poets whose work is not as well-known as it should be. Not being in academic circles myself, I cdn't say if his work is taught at university, but I wd like to think that it is. At least somewhere! As for Stanley Kunitz from Worcester and his comment to you re Blackburn. If' he's mainly a technician, then he's probably the most important ' technician ' since Pound. That he's a New York Poet is indisputable and in this regard he probably has more affinities with Frank O'Hara and the New Youk School than he does with the Beats. In On Or About The Premises is amazing and one of my favorites from 1968 though I don't dare touch it too often as it's a delicate thing from Grossman Publications; I guess there was a simultaneous British edition of it as well from Cape Goliard Press, London. The Cities from the previous year ( 1967 ) is a much larger collection of his work and my copy is an Evergreen Original trade paperback and my copy is an ex-library edition, a much-thumbed-through-and-carried-around-with-me-copy that I've had for years. Here's the first paragraph of his opening ' Author's Note ' to that volume: " Well, here it is. And it turns out to be cities, or, I've held it to that. The Cities. Every man's stand be his own. Finally, it is a construct, out of my own isolations, eyes, ears, nose, and breath, my recognitions of those constructs not my own that I can live in. The Cities. " Isn't that just beautiful!

Blackburn. Yeah.


Edited: Oct 2, 2009, 12:08 am

I think Blackburn is generally thought of as a Black Mountain poet. I have a very limited bibliography of his small magazine publications, and do not see anything in the journals you mention. He seems to have published in some of the more mainstream journals. Besides The Dissolving Fabric, I have a couple really nice Perishable Press editions that were printed posthumously, one of which is Gin, and the other I'm not sure about because I can't find either of them at the moment. I bought them about fifteen years ago when they were still at least somewhat affordable. I'll get back to you soon on your offline message.


Oct 20, 2009, 11:15 pm

Welcome RSHabroptilus. Thanks for joining.

Mar 22, 2010, 3:10 am

Just about halfway through Orpheus Emerged by Kerouac... I am unsure who the characters are in "real life" Anyone know?

Mar 22, 2010, 4:30 pm

Not absolutely certain, but:

Michael & Paul appear to represent different aspects of Kerouac's own character.

Arthur = William Burroughs
Leo = Allen Ginsberg
Claude = Lucien Carr

Mar 24, 2010, 12:08 am

Thanks, Pitoucat. I haven't gotten to the Claude character yet. That makes sense though, Lucien was Claude in And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks as well.

Mar 24, 2010, 9:24 am

Yes, and Lucien was also Claude in As Ever: The Collected Correspondence of Allen Ginsberg & Neal Cassady, which is unusual for a non-fiction work, but it seems that Lucien had requested 'no publicity.'

Mar 28, 2010, 11:02 pm

Welcome JennCadd and thank-you Pitoucat for responding and offering the answers to JennCadd's questions about the characters in Orpheus Emerged and Hippos. I haven't gotten around to reading either of these recent Kerouac publications.

I recently picked up a HC copy of Herbert Huncke's autobiography, Guilty of Everything, from Paragon House 1990. Nice to find in a sidewalk sale right in my own neighborhood for $2. Can't complain as I didn't own it before last week and the price was right. I have an old trade paperback of his The Evening Sun Turned Crimson from Cherry Valley Editions 1980. The only truly collectible thing of his I would love to get my hands on would be Huncke's Journal from Dianne DiPrima's Poet's Press from, if I remember correctly, 1968. I passed on the one opportunity I had to grab that book years ago in Vermont and have kicked myself ever since.


Mar 29, 2010, 1:37 am

I recently got into DiPrima last year and I love her writing style. Keeping with female beats, I just started Missing Men by Joyce Johnson. So far I am digging it.

Mar 30, 2010, 2:01 pm

JennCadd, If you haven't already and you like Dianne DiPima, you definitely want to read her memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years. It's an incredible document and well worth the read. I've been waiting ever since for the next volume of her memoirs to appear which will hopefully pick-up where the first left off and continue with her life and times on the west coast.

You also may want to read Women of the Beat Generation, The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution by Brenda Knight. ( MJF Books ) 1996.
Also a great read!

Aug 19, 2010, 11:54 pm

A great way to get into Naked Lunch -- seen as too difficult by some readers -- is via audibook, which helps capture the humor of Burroughs, whom I had the privilege of seeing read from his work live...

Aug 19, 2010, 11:55 pm

A useful Beat primer that can inspire people to learn about people Dianne DiPima and affiliated poets and writers is the graphic novel, The Beats co-authored by Harvey Pekar.