Tag Archives: BEAT GENERATION

THE HAUNTED LIFE:THE LOST NOVELLA’ BY JACK KEROUAC

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THE HAUNTED LIFE:THE LOST NOVELLA’ BY JACK KEROUAC

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‘The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella’, by Jack Kerouac

From left, Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Manhattan, c1944-45©Corbis

From left, Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Manhattan, c1944-45

The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella, by Jack Kerouac, Penguin Classics, RRP£20, 208 pages

Jack Kerouac, an author who was barely patient enough to punctuate his sentences, never mind sit still in one place, always claimed that he had lost the manuscript to his early novella The Haunted Life in the back seat of a yellow taxi cab. The truth is less dramatic: he probably forgot it in the closet of a Columbia University dorm room that had belonged to his fellow Beat writer Allen Ginsberg.

Peter Aspden

It resurfaced in a Sotheby’s auction 12 years ago, selling to an unnamed bidder for $95,600. The previous year, Kerouac’s most renowned manuscript, the famous On The Road scroll, had also sold at auction for a whopping $2.4m, which explains the sudden appearance of the earlier work.

Those relative values strike me as well-judged. The Haunted Life, now published for the first time and generously annotated and edited by Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen, is a minor addition to the author’s corpus but not without interest. Kerouac wrote it at the age of 22, in the turbulent year of 1944, during which he was jailed as an accessory to murder, married his first wife Edie Parker to secure bail, and was then released.

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“I should now have material for a fine book . . . love, murder, diabolical conversations, all,” he wrote mischievously, but none of these promising themes finds its way into A Haunted Life. Instead we get a rehearsal for the semi-autobiographical exploration that would form the basis of Kerouac’s first major published work, The Town and the City.

Tietchen, in his introduction to the novella, believes that this early and methodical exposition of the author’s literary intentions is a significant rebuttal of the “public perception of Kerouac as a spontaneous word-slinger whose authorial approach merely complemented his Dionysian approach to life”. He casts the hedonistic writer as an improbable respecter of process, honing his ideas in this brisk workout.

In A Haunted Life, Kerouac’s concerns are refracted through Peter Martin, heading into his sophomore year at Boston College along with his friends Garabed Tourian and Dick Sheffield, based on the author’s real-life buddies Sebastian Sampas and Billy Chandler, both of whom had died in the war by the time Kerouac wrote the novella.

The three young men’s conversations skirt around some of the issues that preoccupied American intellectual life in the 1930s and 1940s: the end of the Great Depression, the US’s entry into the war, the exploitation of the working classes, and the possibility of romantic escape from all of those needling dilemmas.

Garabed and Dick respectively represent the leftist and liberationist ideals that animated those debates. In contrast, Peter’s frosty exchanges with his father Joe – clearly based on Kerouac’s own father Leo – see the young man wrestling with the bigotry of the preceding generation. In the novella’s very first pages, Peter drowns out the beginnings of one of his father’s rants by turning up Benny Goodman on the record player, an early reflection of Kerouac’s belief that jazz music’s freedom of form was the nemesis of sclerotic social views.

This opening feels stagey, as do the opening remarks between Peter and Garabed, clunky in their philosophical intent: “Poor Garabed,” says Peter. “Dostoevsky terrifies you with his Slavic portraits that remind you too much of yourself. You fear ugliness, you chase beauty and embrace it.”

As we focus on Peter’s interior life, touches of the freewheeling Kerouac begin to emerge in passages of existential celebration: “The morning sun, the swift clean smell in the air had called him back to life, called him back for more of the same – which at times held so much wonder that Peter deplored his physical limits. On a morning like this! – to be everywhere, be everyone at the same time, doing everything!”

Kerouac always intended The Haunted Life to become a multi-volume saga on the war, told through the story of the Martin family. “[It] will be a very sad book,” he explains in a note included here. “It can’t be otherwise: youth is shocked by maturity, but war adds to this shock enough to kill youth forever.”

But it is not for this melancholy tone that Kerouac would become best known, and it is clear from his musings that he was already looking ahead at a new America. In an outline for The Town and the City, he emphasises that the book’s ending will treat its characters well. “I write with gravity and gleefulness because I do not feel sceptical and clever about these things, and I believe that this is an American feeling. (No Joyce, no Auden, no Kafka has anything to say to a true American.)”

With that slap at the Old World, Kerouac launched himself to become one of the most exuberant adventurers of a new cultural landscape, whose heroes would include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, characters who were infused with a sense of the limitless. Here, in this small book, are the tentative beginnings of a journey that was always going to lead to the open road.

Peter Aspden is the FT’s arts writer

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I Have Nothing to Offer Anybody-Jack Kerouac

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I Have Nothing to Offer Anybody

Jean-Louis “Jack” Lebris de Kerouac (play /ˈkɛruːæk/ or /ˈkɛrɵæk/; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.  Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. His writings have inspired other writers, including Ken Kesey, Bob Dylan, Eddie Vedder, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Pynchon, Lester Bangs, Tom Robbins and Will Clarke.  Kerouac became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the Hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward it. In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long-standing abuse of alcohol. Since his death Kerouac’s literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody and Big Sur.

Beat Quotes

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Beat Quotes

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Beat Quotes

This is a good sized list of quotes by or pertaining to a beat author. Some of them are very deep, some of them all funny, and some make no sense whatsoever. Enjoy.


“There is no line between the ‘real world’ and ‘world of myth and symbol.’ Objects, sensations, hit with the impact of hallucination.”
-William Burroughs

“I’m running out of everything now. Out of veins, out of money.”
-William Burroughs

“Strip your psyche to the bare bones of spontaneous process, and you give yourself one chance in a thousand to make the Pass.”
-William Burroughs

“The charging restless mute unvoiced road keening in a seizure of tarpaulin power.”
-Jack Kerouac’s favorite line from On The Road

“Rather, I think one should write, as nearly as possible, as if he were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerly putting on paper that which he saw and experienced and loved and lost; what his passing thoughts were and his sorrows and desires.”
-Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac

“Americans should know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.”
-Walt Whitman

“Neal, we’ll be real heroes now in a war between our cocks and time: let’s be the angels of the world’s desire and take the world to bed with us before we die.”
-Allen Ginsberg to Cassady on their sexual relation…lines from the poem The Green Automobile

“If you have a choice of two things and can’t decide, take both.” -Gregory Corso “The stone world came to me, and said Flesh gives you an hour’s life.”
-Gregory Corso

“If you believe you’re a poet, then you’re saved.”
-Gregory Corso

“In such places as Greenwich Village, a menage-a-trois was completed- the bohemian and the juvenile delinquent came face-to-face with the Negro, and the hipster was a fact in American life.”
-Norman Mailer

“Madness is confusion of levels of fact…Madness is not seeing visions but confusing levels.”
-William Burroughs

“I really believe, or want to believe, really I am nuts, otherwise I’ll never be sane.”
-Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac

“Sure I’m old, and I’m evil, and I’m ugly, and I’m tired. But that isn’t it. I’ve been this way for ten years, and I’m all down the main line.”
-Herbert Huncke to Allen GInsberg

“Neal will leave you in the cold anytime it’s in his interest.”
-LuAnne Cassady (the 15 year old bride of Neal Cassady)

“Oh, smell the people!’ yelled Dean with his face out the window, sniffling. ‘Ah, God! Life!'”
-Jack Kerouac, On The Road

“Obviously the ‘purpose’ of the trip is carefully selected to symbolize the basic fact of purposelessness. Neal is, of course, the very soul of the voyage into pure, abstract meaningless motion. He is The Mover, compulsive, dedicated, ready to sacrifice family, friends, even his very car itself to the necessity of moving from one place to another.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg on Neal and his skeptical views of the man and voyage which spurred On The Road

“Love is all.’
-Jack Kerouac

“I went with him for no reason.”
-Jack Kerouac on Neal Cassady

“What’s your road, man? -holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”
-Neal Cassady as Dean Moriarty in On The Road

“Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?”
-Jack Kerouac, on the final gathering/Snyders going away party

“The omlet fell apart, as with such eggs it must.”
-Wilifrid Sheed, on the San Francisco Renaissance Poets

“I am getting so far out one day I won’t come back at all.”
-William Burroughs

“Ginsby boy, he’s all over Oregon like horseshit howling his dirty pome.”
-Jack Kerouac on Allen Ginsberg

“I am beginning to think he is a great saint, a great saint concealed in a veneer of daemonism.”
-Jack Kerouac on Allen Ginsberg

“We are all trying to get the exact style of ouuselves.”
-Michael McClure on the San Francisco Renaissance

“To rebel! That is the immediate objective of poets! We can not wait and will not be held back…The “poetic marvelous” and the unconscious are the true inspirers of rebels and poets.”
-Philip Lamantia

“Around Jack there circulated a palpable aura of fame and death.”
-Gary Snyder on Jack Kerouac

“I want to create wilderness out of empire.”
-Gary Snyder

“I’m beat to the square, and square to the beat, and that’s my vocation.”
-William Everson aka Brother Antoninus

“We had gone beyond a point of no return- and we were ready for it, for a point of no return…We wanted voice and we wanted vision.”
-Michael McClure

“A reading is a kind of communion. The poet articulates the semi-known for the tribe.
-Gary Snyder

“I want your lingual SPONTINEITY or nothing else.”
-Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg after reading Howl

“An army is an army against love.”
-Peter Orlovsky

“At that instant we looked into eachother’s eyes and there was a kind of celestial cold fire that crept over us and blazed up and illuminated the entire cafeteria and made it an eternal place.”
-Allen Ginsberg to William Burroughs on his new lover Peter Orlovsky

“I’ve been getting silly drunk again lately in Remo and discusting myself a la Subterraneans.”
-Jack Kerouac to William Burroughs

Jack Kerouac’s Translations of Buddhist Terms
Dharma: “truth law”
Nirvana: “blown-out-ness”
Tathata: “that which everything is”
Tathagata: “attainer to that which everything is”
Bodhisattva-Manasattvas: “beings of great wisdom”

“Kerouac’s version of Buddha is a dimestore incense burner, glowing and glowering sinisterly in the dark corner of a Beatnik pad and just thrilling the wits out of bad little girls.”
-Kenneth Rexroth

“I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, accute pain. I don’t mean sexually. I mean in connection with my writing.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg

“I did no think I was hooked on him like this. The withdrawl symptoms are worse than the Marker habit. Tell Allen I plead guilty to vampirism and other crimes against life. But I love him and nothing else cancels love.”
-William Burroughs to Jack Kerouac on Ginsberg

“I have a strange feeling here of being outside any social context.”
-William Burroughs in Tangiers

“Not that Irwin wasn’t worthy of him but how on earth could they consumate this great romantic love with vaseline and K.Y.?”
-Jack Kerouac on Ginsberg and Burroughs relationship

“Between incomprehensible and incoherent sits the madhouse. I am not in the madhouse.”
-Jack Kerouac to Carl Solomon.

“I think all writers write for an audience. There is no such thing as writing for yourself.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg

“Usually he selected someone who could not reciprocate so that he was able-cautiously, like one who tests uncertain ice, though in this case the danger was not that the ice give way but that it might hold his weight-to shift the burden of not loving, of being unable to love, onto the partner.”
-Willam Burroughs on himself

“Avoid the world, it’s just a lot of dust and drag and means nothing in the end.”
-Jack Kerouac

“Al, I am a fucking saint, that is I been fucked by the Holy Ghost and knocked up with Immaculate Woid…I’m the third coming, me, and don’t know if I can do it again….so stand by for the Revelation.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg

“Suffice to say I just eat every 12 hours, sleep every 20 hours, masturbate every 8 hours and otherwise just sit on the train and stare ahead without a thought…”
-Neal Cassady

“Wherever I go I see myself in a mirror- it used to be my own selfblood, now it is god’s.”
-Allen Ginsberg

“Never deny the voice- no, never forget it, don’t get lost mentally wandering in other spirit worlds or American or job worlds or advertising worlds or earth worlds.”
-Allen Ginsberg’s vow to himself

“I want to be a saint, a real saint while I am young, for there is so much work to do.”
-Allen Ginsberg to Mark Van Doren

“The apparition of an evil, sick unconscious wild city rose before me in visible semblance, and about the dead buildings in the barren air, the bodies of the soul that built the wonderland shuffled and stalked and stalked and lurched in attitudes of immemorial nightmare all around.”
-Allen Ginsberg (his visions after reading Blake)

“I was so sick that I found myself worrying about the future of man’s soul, my own in paticular.”
-Allen Ginsberg

“Just a little boy who wants to be a novelist.”
-Alan Ansen’s description of Jack Kerouac

“Death hovers over my pencil…”
-Jack Kerouac

Pinned to Jack Kerouac’s wall to inspire his writing: “Art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of this life.”
-Nietzsche

“I am going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”
-Jack Kerouac

“The fact was I had the vision…I think everyone has…what we lack is the method.”
-Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg

“I detest limitations of any kind, and intend to establish my ass some place where I am a virgin on the police blotter.”
-William Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg

“Naturally, I thought the guy was just kiddin.”
-Herbert Huncke, on Burrough’s request for a Viennese waltz

“Shooting is my principal pastime.”
-William Burroughs

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”
-Jack Kerouac to Neal Cassady

“Two piercing eyes glancing into two piercing eyes- the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind.”
-Kerouac on the night Ginsberg and Cassady met

“I really dont know how much I can be be satisfied to love you, I mean bodily, you know, I somehow dislike pricks & men & before you, had conciously forced myself to be homosexual…I dont want to be unconsciously insincere by passing over my non-queerness to please you.”
-Neal Cassady to Allen Ginsberg on their sexual relationship

“Dont you remember how you made me stop trembling in shame and drew me to you? Don’t you know what I felt then, as if you were a saint…?”
-Allen Ginsberg to Neal Cassady

“Neal is awareness, mine is conciousness. The conciousness is shallow, awareness is all embracing.”
-Allen Ginsberg on Neal Cassady

“He came to the door stark naked and it might have been the President knocking for all he cared. He received the world in the raw.”
-Jack Kerouac on Neal Cassady

“I have thought of Neal as being a psychopath for quite some time. To me he is nothing more than a series of incidents.”
-John Clellon Holmes to Ginsberg

“I see no greatness in my self…I’m a simple-minded, child-like, insipid sort of moronic and kind of akward feeling adolescent.”
-Neal Cassady on himself

“I became the unnatural son of a few score of beaten men.”
-Neal Cassady

“For Neal sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life.”
-Jack Kerouac on Neal Cassady

“Cassady was sexually initiated at the age of nine. He accompanied his father to the home of a drinking buddy, whose oldest son led his brother and Neal in sexual intercourse with as many sisters as they could hold down. All boundaries of sexual decorum evaporated. Neal “sneak shared” women with his father, he slept with grandmothers and prepubescent girls in abandoned buildings, barns, and public toilets.”
-Steven Watson, Birth of the Beat Generation

“I alone, as the sharer of their way of life, presented a replica of childhood.”
-Neal Cassady

Email: haesuse@aol.com

In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline

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In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline

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Road Ready

‘The Voice Is All,’ by Joyce Johnson

By  JAMES CAMPBELL
Published: January 18, 2013    

In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline. He had told Allen Ginsberg he planned to marry her — “the finest woman I’ll ever know” — once she had unshackled herself from her truck-driver husband, who, according to Joyce Johnson, was accustomed to “slapping her around to keep her in line.” In the meantime, Kerouac began an affair with Adele Morales (later to become the second Mrs. Norman Mailer). His failure to keep the rendezvous with Pauline, however, had nothing to do with affection for Adele; rather, he had overslept after a night of sex games with Luanne Henderson, whom Jack’s muse Neal Cassady had married when she was 15, and who, according to their friend Hal Chase, was “quite easy to get . . . into bed.” The tryst had been engineered by Cassady, who was hoping to watch, Johnson says, to show Luanne, by then 18, “how little she meant to him.” Two days later, Kerouac called on Ginsberg and found Luanne “covered with bruises from a beating Neal had given her.” Johnson describes Kerouac as “shocked” by the sight; nevertheless, “they all went out to hear bebop,” partly financed by money stolen by Cassady. In response to being jilted, Pauline confessed her affair to her husband, who tried to burn her on the stove. Kerouac described her in his journal as a “whore.” All the while, Ginsberg can be heard in the background: “How did we get here, angels?”

Collection of Allen Ginsberg, via Sotheby’s

Jack Kerouac in his Columbia University football uniform, 1940s.

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THE VOICE IS ALL

The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

By Joyce Johnson

489 pp. Viking. $32.95.

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This is an everyday story of the Beat Generation in late-1940s New York, a tale of crazy mixed-up kids who took a lot of drugs, dabbled in criminality — with two homicides among the statistics — lapsed into madness, were fond of identifying one another as “saints, saints,” but often had the barest notion of what it means to respect the individuality of other human beings. Yet three members of the inner circle, Kerouac, Ginsberg and William Burroughs, created experimental literary works of remarkable originality — in particular, “On the Road,” “Kaddish” and “Naked Lunch” — which read as freshly today as they did 50 years ago; perhaps, in an instance of that trick that the best art sometimes plays on us, more so.

Kerouac certainly makes a good subject, but there already exist about a dozen biographies (by Ann Charters, Barry Miles, Gerald Nicosia, among others), not to mention memoirs, an oral history — the excellent “Jack’s Book” (1978) — and wider surveys of the Beat Generation. In “Minor Characters” (1983), Johnson wrote about her affair with Kerouac at the time of publication of “On the Road.” She now steps back to a period of Kerouac’s life with which she has no direct acquaintance, tracing the story from his origins in a French Canadian family in Lowell, Mass., to New York in 1951, where the book ends with a rare citation from ­Kerouac’s journals: “I’m lost, but my work is found.”

Johnson justifies the retelling of what is in outline a familiar tale by the fact of having gained access to the vast Kerouac archive, “deposited in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library in 2002.” So far, so good. No large-scale Kerouac biography, so far as I am aware (“The Voice Is All” lacks a bibliography), has appeared since that date. Unfortunately, Johnson was apparently refused permission to quote at length from the journals and working drafts among Kerouac’s papers. The result is a life in paraphrase.

The method gives rise to frustration. In 1945, for example, Kerouac began writing a novel called “I Wish I Were You,” a reworking of the story of the killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr in 1944. Together, Kerouac and Burroughs had previously written “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a collaboration on the same subject that eventually saw the light of day in 2008. According to Johnson, “I Wish I Were You” is a different beast: “In two successive drafts of the first 100 pages, Jack put in all the textural detail that had been left out of ‘Hippos’ and even returned with renewed confidence to the lyricism he had abandoned just the year before. It was really quite brilliant, the best prose he had written so far

The Century of William S. Burroughs

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The Century of William S. Burroughs

goodloe-wsb

By Levi Asher on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 11:00 pm

American, Beat Generation, Biography, Fiction, Indie, Internet Culture, La Boheme, Language, Music, Postmodernism, Reading, Transgressive, Tributes
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goodloe-bradley

He was the oldest of the major Beat Generation writers. That’s why William S. Burroughs is today the first Beat writer to celebrate a centennial.

Burroughs was born on February 5, 1914. He arrived on this planet the same year as the First World War.

Some people don’t call Burroughs a Beat writer, because they prefer to think of him as a postmodern experimentalist, or a psychic investigator, or a political activist. He was those things too, but of course he was a Beat writer.

Like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs was a wordsmith of torrential power. He was a great intellectual, and he inspired the other Beat writers to become more intellectual. He impressed young Allen Ginsberg by his deft ability to quote Shakespeare. His best writings sparkle with literary clarity, style and confidence, though many of his texts are also unreadable. Burroughs was erudition on drugs.

One of William’s greatest talents was literary mimicry. He was particularly good at hard-boiled detective noir-speak, which he dropped unpredictably into works like Junky and Naked Lunch. Like T. S. Eliot, his fellow cut-up artist from St. Louis, he do the police in different voices. One of my favorite examples of Burroughs’s private-eye parody is the “Bradley the Buyer” set piece from Naked Lunch, which you can read here.

The master had some highly questionable characteristics. I’m sorry that William S. Burroughs allowed himself to be defined as a happy gun nut. This would be less offensive if he hadn’t once shot his wife to death with a gun. The famous William Tell murder of Joan Vollmer Adams was most likely an accident, but I’ve really never been able to feel comfortable with the fact that Burroughs liked to show off with guns later in life. Well, he was a weird dude.

His essays were great, and when I was a young teenager I read the monthly columns he published in Crawdaddy magazine (Paul Krassner was also a columnist — quite a lineup in the mid-1970s). The first Crawdaddy essay I ever read was “The Great Glut”, which can be read in the superb collection The Adding Machine. The description of pigs fed on shit (the essay presented a horrifying dystopian vision of scatological nutrition) becoming so soft that you could puncture their skin with a fork made a big impression on me.

Burroughs was also part of a fabulous circle of freewheeling counterculture social critics who thrived in the 1960s/70s Summer of Love era, along with R. Buckminster Fuller, Ken Kesey, Hunter Thompson and Marshall McLuhan. His uncompromising libertarian but wistfully communitarian vision would have had great relevance if he were alive today, in the era of the NSA, the drone, Al Qaeda, the mall shooting of the week, Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. I wonder what he would have to say if he were around today.

Happy birthday William S. Burroughs, from all your friends at Literary Kicks!

The painting at the top of the page is by the legendary East Coast strolling artist, writer and guitar strummer Goodloe Byron, who also now runs a newspaper called Stone Bird.

Here’s The Burroughs Centennial Celebration, a Beat Museum event and one of several don’t-miss tribute articles at the website of one of William S. Burroughs’ best friends, the Allen Ginsberg Project (check out the great vintage Burroughs book covers here).

And finally, for old times’ sake, here’s our account of his 1997 funeral: Sliced Bardo.

Litkicks.com

What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and a trailer from the movie “On The Road”

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untitled (42)What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation

A new crop of films portrays their lifestyle as rebellious, adolescent fun. But what made the Beats so influential in the first place was that they were radical, free-thinking adults.
Jordan Larson
Oct 16 2013, 1:54 PM ET
Sony Pictures

John Clellon Holmes, author of the seminal Beat Generation novel Go, wrote in 1952 that for the free-spirited rising stars of American literature known as the Beats, “how to live seems to them much more crucial than why.” In those years, young people in the U.S. were in the process of inheriting both economic prosperity and stifling societal mores from their parents. So for many, the Beat Generation of writers—with their stupendous refusal of social and cultural norms and their way of life governed by the pursuit of pleasure, belief, and truth—was a godsend.

Today’s young people experience problems of a bit of a different ilk. Feeling free and adventurous won’t avail you of your student loan debt, poems penned in the days between drug-fueled nights probably won’t make it into your favorite lit mag—and, if they did, you’d probably be asked to write for free anyway, you know, “for the exposure.” But this hasn’t stopped a veritable resurgence over the last few years of Beat obsession, beginning with the film Howl (2010), and continuing with On the Road (2012) and two new films, Kill Your Darlings, in theaters today, and Big Sur, opening November 1. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—the authors of On the Road and Howl, respectively—have been the focus of two films each.

Given what the Beats meant to young people of the 1950s, perhaps it isn’t so surprising that their culture has been revived for millennial consumption. What teenager or 20-something doesn’t long to drop everything and take a road trip to wherever, with friends and booze and drugs and sex? And in an age when many young people are discovering that young adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, we could use some fun, right? But the current Beat revival arguably goes too far with its re-imagination of the Beat writers’ livelihoods as simple adolescent goofing around—its most prominent writers were, after all, well into their grown-up years when they wrote many of their most notable writings. This crop of films diminishes what was so radical about the Beat Generation in the first place: their iconoclastic approach to life, which extended far beyond their 20s and into adulthood proper.

Conspicuously absent from the latest revival is the third heavyweight of the movement, William S. Burroughs, whose Naked Lunch was adapted into a disturbing and gritty film by David Cronenberg in 1991. The omission perhaps isn’t so surprising: Burroughs credited his awakening as a writer to a 1951 incident in Mexico when he accidentally killed his wife while playing “William Tell,” a bar trick Burroughs invented that involves shooting a glass off someone’s head, so his legacy would likely be a bit harder to spin as one of harmless and youthful adventure.

In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior—both revolutionary and repulsive—as a sort of passing teenage phase.

The exclusion of Burroughs from the Beat revival isn’t the only way the movement has been crafted for optimal consumption, though: Howl and Kill Your Darlings focus on Allen Ginsberg at his most youthful and promising. Kill Your Darlings, in which a baby-faced Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg, tells a little-known tale of murder in the Beats’ group of friends at Columbia University, which ends up bringing the group together. The appeal of the story seems to be that it’s about a set of famous people who may have been involved in a possible murder during their youths, the occurrence of which may or may not explain their genius, or art, or something. In Howl, however, Ginsberg’s collection of poems are the subject of an obscenity trial, and though you’d never guess from James Franco’s youthful appearance as Ginsberg in the film, the author was actually 30 years old when Howl was published.

On the Road, published when Kerouac was 35, seems most susceptible to being reimagined as a series of youthful whims. A recollection of Kerouac’s mid-20s, which he spent traveling with Neal Cassady (known as Dean Moriarty in the book); Neal’s wife, Luanne Henderson; and other Beat figures, On the Road is a paean to recklessness and discovery. Significantly, the film replaces the famous opening line of the book, “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up,” with “I first met Dean not long after my father died,” likely because it interferes with the viewer’s image of carefree and unbridled youth. Scrubbed from the film is any mention of Sal’s age at the time (25) or his stint in the military before attending Columbia. However, the film doesn’t balk at Luanne’s age: characters make numerous references to “Dean’s 16-year-old bride,” known in the book as Marylou.

Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s character in the book, describes Marylou as being “awfully dumb and capable of doing horrible things.” In the morning after Sal’s first all-night meeting with the couple, Dean “decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor.” Shortly after, Dean and Marylou have a fight, and Marylou kicks Dean out of their shared apartment. According to Sal, “Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver—‘the whore!’” This is all within the first three pages. While Marylou’s character in last year’s film adaptation of On the Road, played by Kristen Stewart, is spared some of the nastier epithets, the story’s misogyny largely lives on unchallenged and uncut. Marylou plays a tiny role in the story, mostly as a “dumb little box” whom Dean and Sal trade around until she gets pregnant and they tire of her.

In casting the authors as eternally and fundamentally adolescent, the recent revival tones down their behavior—both revolutionary and repulsive—as a sort of passing teenage phase, something that young people just sort of do. And in that way, the latest cultural reincarnation both nullifies and excuses the behavior of its leaders. In the end, I’m not sure what’s more offensive—the film’s rampant and unapologetic misogyny or Stewart’s interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, in which she claimed that On the Road told her “that you have to use every second in life. You can’t get complacent and let life pass you by,” as if fathering children and abandoning them is just an essential part of what it means to be free, man.

Pretending Kerouac’s life was some sort of consequence-free dream not only does a disservice to viewers, but to the Beats, as well.

Big Sur, it’s worth noting, is remarkably different from the other films. The film, to its great credit, largely avoids the pitfalls of the others by tackling subject matter that’s less inherently glamorous. An adaptation of Kerouac’s 1962 novel, his first after the publication of On the Road, Big Sur shows Kerouac suffering from the burden of fame and lamenting the fact that he’s no longer young. The film opens with a lightly adapted quote from the novel: “All over America high school and college kids thinking ‘Jack Kerouac is 26 years old and on the road all the time hitchhiking’ while there I am almost 40 years old, bored and jaded.” (Jack Kerouac is known as Jack Duluoz in the book.) The film follows Kerouac as he wanders from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Big Sur to San Francisco and back again, usually in the company of several Beats and lady friends. The film crescendos with Kerouac’s alcohol-induced nervous breakdown, accompanied by a sudden epiphany and strangely chipper ending. Though Kerouac behaves much the same way as he did in On the Road, he doesn’t feel the same way: He becomes obsessed with death and drinking, and the narrative seems to comment on the binary of blessed youth and damned old age.

The misogyny of On the Road also figures into Big Sur, and it gets a little harder to stomach as it becomes clear that it’s not just a phase of adolescence, but rather, it’s seemingly central to the life of a Beat writer. A significant portion of the plot revolves around Neal Cassady’s mistress, whom he introduces to Kerouac. Kerouac, in turn, becomes her lover, promises to marry her, and introduces her to Cassady’s wife. He later calls off the marriage, or any form of commitment, leaving his lover to wonder how she’ll take care of herself and her four-year-old son. Unlike in On the Road, these actions finally begin to reflect upon Cassady and Kerouac in negative ways. Their casual womanizing no longer seems like something fun and rebellious to partake in, but like a deep-seated and decidedly unfortunate character flaw.

Overall, while these films are supposed to offer some vintage escapism, their takes ring hollow. Kerouac may have been a tremendous writer, but the enormity of his art is largely left out of the film adaptations. Even for all the dramatic voiceovers of Kerouac’s prose, On the Road and Big Sur are mostly left to work with muddled and problematic plot points. Still, what’s most problematic about these films isn’t their artistry but their authenticity.

Yes, to some extent, the real Kerouac and Cassady will always be remembered as somewhat youthful. Seven years after the publication of Big Sur, Kerouac died of cirrhosis of the liver, nearly 30 years before both Burroughs and Ginsberg died; Cassady died the previous year at the age of 41. But despite the fact that they “died young,” both of them were said to look far older than their years. One could argue that these films are only trying to honor the spirit of the Beat Generation, but can you separate the “essence” of a story or a movement from what its progenitors really said and did, and at what point in their lives? Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac were grown men who were also alcoholics, misogynists, and womanizers who killed themselves with substance abuse. Pretending Kerouac’s life was some sort of consequence-free dream not only does a disservice to viewers, but to the Beats, as well.

Even at its best, the idea of a revelatory and sensual Beat adventure is rather clichéd, but especially so when divorced from the movement’s great and lasting achievements: Their rebelliousness paved the way for the counterculture of the sixties, and artists from Patti Smith to Thomas Pynchon have hailed the Beats’ style of jazz-like improvisation as an influence. The Beats deserve to be celebrated for the way they lived and what they created, not just for how fun and sexy their escapades may have looked.

TRAILER FROM THE MOVIE “”ON THE ROAD”

http://youtu.be/WlZZntvJ8Q4

Aside

WORDS OF ADVICE FROM WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

By on May 16, 2013  in stories  13

BigBurroughs Gun

WSB haunts the entirety of counter-cultural curation like the grey eminence he was often portrayed as, but, it’s important to note that Burroughs rarely portrayed himself this way.

I thought I’d seen every Burroughs documentary, but this one was news to me.

Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs On the Road is  a 1983 documentary that finds the Beat Generation icon touring Scandinavia, signing books and giving readings of works like The Place of Dead Roads in his inimical, laconic snarl. Along the way, he waxes philosophical about cats, Hiroshima, Brion Gysin and the illusion of duality. He’s polite and hilarious throughout.

Here Burroughs bemoans the high cost of death in ancient Egypt:

Watch the full movie at the Snag Films website

Words of Advice from William S. Burroughs

an interview with MIchael McClure

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  • Michael McClure Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist
    Michael McClure Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist
    Michael McClure

  • Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure Photo: City Lights
    Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure Photo: City Lights
    Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure

Michael McClure,

81, might be the most photogenic of all the Beat Generation writers, and maybe the most beautiful of the young male poets who stormed North Beach when City Lights was a bookstore no bigger than the proverbial hole-in-the-wall. Moreover, more than any other Beat poet, he’s been wild about wild beasts, both real and imaginary, as in his illustrated book for children, “The Boobus and the Bunnyduck” and in “For the Death of 100 Whales,” a kind of funeral dirge that he read at the historic Six Gallery poetry jamboree in 1955 that launched the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.

This month, City Lights is republishing his 1964 classic, “Ghost Tantras” (99 pages; $13.95), a collection of 99 poems in which he pushes language to the outer edge of human expression. Written in conversational English and in a guttural “beast language” that he created, “Ghost Tantras” begins rambunctiously and ends on a note of tranquillity. The new edition includes a spirited introduction by McClure in which he takes readers behind the scenes and describes the process of spontaneous creativity that gave birth to the poems. “I have no idea what I’m doing – just writing,” he explains.

All in all, there’s no other book of poetry like “Ghost Tantras” in the annals of Beat literature. Fifty years after he self-published his experiments with language, the world of publishing has finally caught up with the book and the author, now in the midst of a revival as a spirited performer of the spoken word.

With bass player Rob Wasserman and drummer Jay Lane, McClure plays to audiences on college campuses and at venues such as the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Janis Joplin, with whom he co-wrote the hit song “Mercedes Benz,” would not be surprised by the youthful energy that he still exudes as though just arrived fresh from Kansas, an American Shelley ready to shift the shape of reality itself.

When he showed up in San Francisco in 1954, McClure enrolled at San Francisco State and took literature classes. Then he met the bad boys who were remaking American literature: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ever since the Six Gallery reading, he’s fused the spoken word to live music. In the 1960s, he caroused with Bob Dylan. Years later, McClure and keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the Doors took their rock-Beat act around the country and recorded several CDs.

During a morning conversation in the Oakland hills, where he lives with his wife of 27 years, the sculptor Amy Evans-McClure, he talked about his love for the verses of Percy Bysshe Shelley and recited lines from some of his most beloved poets – William Blake, John Keats, Walt Whitman – and his contemporary, Diane di Prima.

Q: Why is City Lights republishing the book after all these years?

A: Of all my works, it’s the one I most wanted to be republished. It draws together everything in my own personal experience from that time in the early 1960s. It also opened doors to the possibilities that followed: my novel; the years as a resident playwright at the Magic Theatre; the work with musicians such as Ray Manzarek of the Doors, who died in May; and all the way to the present day, performing at the Sweetwater with Rob Wasserman and Jay Lane.

Q: You read from “Ghost Tantras” to animals at the San Francisco Zoo.

A: Bruce Conner and I went there to record roosters. We ran into the lion keeper, who was also a poet, and he invited us to see the lions. I read and they roared. We roared together. You can Google it. I also read Chaucer to kangaroos that waved their heads back and forth and to seals that were barking.

Q: I’ve been staring at the cover of the new edition that shows a very wild-looking caveman. What’s the story?

A: That’s me with a lot of makeup on my face – and a lot of hair – that the artist Robert Lavigne applied.

Q: In the best-known photo of you, you’re elbow to elbow with Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan.

A: Allen, Bob and I hung out together in San Francisco, went to parties and shared ideas. One day, Dylan said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us.” Larry Kennan shot us behind City Lights; it’s Jack Kerouac Alley now. Lawrence Ferlinghetti has done a great job renaming so many of the alleys. He has also done more than anyone else around to create the audience that we have for poetry. His “Coney Island of the Mind” has sold more copies than any other book of contemporary poetry except Pablo Neruda, plus he’s published nearly everybody at City Lights.

Q: With the exception of Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, you may be the last major poet standing from that generation of poets who first published in the 1950s.

A: Don’t forget Diane di Prima, who’s still alive and still in San Francisco. She might be the greatest living American poet. I like everything Diane has written.

Q: On the back cover of the new edition, there’s a quote from the actor and director Dennis Hopper – “Without McClure’s roar there would have been no Sixties.” What does that mean to you?

A: That’s praise from a real genius as an actor, director and photographer. We hit it off from the start; we were very close for years; like me, Dennis was from Kansas.

Q: Have you ever thought who you’d be now if you hadn’t left Kansas?

A: That thought has never entered my mind. Everyone I knew wanted to get out of Kansas; most of the people in my circle left. I have hardly ever gone back.

Q: The poems in “Ghost Tantras” seem to me to be love poems.

A: Love is humanity’s greatest invention.

Q: In the new introduction to the book, you write about your “shyness.” Hard to believe.

A: I thought I was the shyest person around until Allen Ginsberg brought Jack Kerouac to my house in San Francisco. Jack had a deep-down shyness – way more than me. I overcame my own shyness when I read at the Six Gallery in 1955 with Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Philip Lamantia – when we all put our toes to the line in the sand. That was a pivotal moment in a life punctuated by pivotal moments.

Q: You’ve always emphasized the political nature of the Beats, especially in your book “Scratching the Beat Surface,” one of the best books about you and your fellow poets.

A: We were definitely not uprooted from politics. We were environmentalists, though there were times when we talked about the environment and audiences booed us.

Q: Why did you write the poems? Do you remember?

A: I wanted to change the shape of the known universe.

Q: Do you remember the city when you arrived on Dec. 31, 1954, and ate with chopsticks for the first time in Chinatown?

A: I remember shacks and goats on Twin Peaks. I remember falling in love with the wildflowers, the beauty of the ocean and Mount Tam, and I remember growing to hate all the wars. Roads were narrower then, traffic was lighter; the natural world seemed so close. Then houses crawled up all the hills, and there were more and more people, more cars, more everything. I belong to a generation that wasn’t trained by the computer. I read a lot of books. I still do.

Jonah Raskin is the author of “American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.” E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

JACK KEROUAC QUOTES

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Jack KerouacJack Kerouac > Quotes

Jack Kerouac quotes (showing 1-30 of 757)

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums
“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
― Jack Kerouac
“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”
― Jack Kerouac
“The only truth is music.”
― Jack Kerouac
“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road: The Original Scroll
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”
― Jack Kerouac
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream”
― Jack Kerouac
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”
― Jack Kerouac
“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk — real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
tags: sex
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”
― Jack Kerouac
tags: poetry
“I don’t know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference.”
― Jack Kerouac
“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
“My witness is the empty sky.”
― Jack Kerouac
“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road
tags: ghostslife
“Will you love me in December as you do in May?”
― Jack Kerouac
“Down on the lake rosy reflections of celestial vapor appeared, and I said, “God, I love you” and looked to the sky and really meant it. “I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of us all, one way or the other.” To the children and the innocent it’s all the same.”
― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums
“It all ends in tears anyway.”
― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums
“I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don’t worry. It’s all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.”
― Jack KerouacThe Portable Jack Kerouac
“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”
― Jack Kerouac
“What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?”
― Jack Kerouac
“beautiful insane
in the rain”
― Jack KerouacThe Subterraneans
“My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.”
― Jack KerouacOn the Road: The Original Scroll
“I’m going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children.”
― Jack Kerouac
“Life must be rich and full of loving–it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.”
― Jack KerouacSelected Letters, 1940-1956
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THE BEAT GENERATION IN THE COUNTERCULTURE HALL OF FAME

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Video: The Beat Generation enters the Counterculture Hall of Fame

The Beat Generation enters the Counterculture Hall of Fame – Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs were inducted into the High Times Counterculture Hall of Fame in 1999.