Tag Archives: JACK KEROUAC

mother and Jack Kerouac

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 mother and Jack Kerouac

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Reading their love letters from before I was born is an eerie experience.

My mother met Jack Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg. It was January 1957. Kerouac at the time was penniless, 34 years old, burned out from frantic world wandering. My mother, Joyce Johnson, then 21, worked in book publishing as she slowly wrote and revised her first novel. Years later, in his novel “Desolation Angels,” Kerouac called her “an interesting young person, a Jewess, elegant, middleclass sad and looking for something.” He also wrote, “I still love her tonight.”

The correspondence between them, collected in the new book “Door Wide Open,” starts a few months after that first meeting, when Kerouac characteristically splits for Africa, then San Francisco, Mexico City and Florida. As he speeds from place to place, he sometimes asks my mother to join him, then abruptly changes his mind. “I admit I’m flipping and am bugged everywhere I go,” he writes from Berkeley, Calif., distraught as each new place offers no refuge, no vibration, no new vision.

When “On the Road” was published late that year, the Beats quickly went from underground cult to mainstream clichi. But the success of “On the Road” only increased Kerouac’s sense of isolation and despair, hastening his desertion from the cultural revolution he helped to invent. In the letters, he comes across as a mad, ruined genius, swinging between the “starrynight exstasies” of his writing binges and the squalid excesses of his alcoholic binges.

My mother’s letters radiate precocious self-awareness and tenderness. She seeks to lure Kerouac closer without frightening him away with any hint of commitment, and she also tries to dissuade him from his “desperate, gluttonous drinking,” his bitterness and the other demons that threaten to destroy him. “I remember the first party we went to last Fall,” she writes. “You said, ‘Protect me,’ and I wanted to with all my heart, but didn’t do a very good job, having all my old shynesses and especially my strange shyness of you.”

I feel a kind of shyness approaching these documents. My mother’s relationship with Kerouac ended six years before she met my father, painter Peter Pinchbeck, and eight years before my birth. There is something eerie about reading a parent’s early love letters; it gives you a vertiginous glimpse into the accidental processes that led to your own creation. Covering a span of less than two years, the letters not only suggest huge worlds of possibility that my mother could have lived, they also make me aware of the various ways these distant events shaped my own consciousness.

BEATNIK HIWAY- #KEROUAC’S LOWELL MA.

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coverKerouac’s Lowell: A Life on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

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Photographs & Text by John Suiter

Pawtucket Falls from the White Bridge, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Massachusetts, March 1992. © John Suiter.

Pawtucket Falls from the White Bridge, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Massachusetts, March 1992 © John Suiter

From 1918 to ‘20, Kerouac’s parents, Leo and Gabrielle, with their first two children, Gerard and Caroline, lived on the first floor of the building at right—No. 9 Lupine Road, in Lowell’s Centralville section. In 1921 they moved to the second floor, and it was there that Jack was born—Jean Louis Lebris de Kerouac—at five p.m. on Sunday, March 12, 1922.

…..Conjuring his birth many years later in Doctor Sax, Kerouac recalled the afternoon in reds—the red river, red rocks, red rooftops, a red suppertime—and liked to say that one of the first sounds that he heard was the river ice cracking a mile away at the Pawtucket Dam.

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THE FLOWERING OF the Beat Generation

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f9afdcac57a301906e112e180e6402c1THE FLOWERING OF the Beat Generation in the late fifties was the result of a very slow germination process. The four original Beats, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, met in New York in the late forties. More than a decade would pass before Ginsberg’s Howl ignited the explosion that would coalesce the disparate ideas, the sense of lifestyle, and the philosophical musings into a full-fledged literary movement.

The term beat was first used by Jack Kerouac in 1948 while talking to his friend Clellon Holmes: “So I guess you might say we’re a beat generation.” Holmes later wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine, entitled “The Beat Generation,” saying, “It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and, ultimately, of soul, a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness.” Soon Ginsberg and Kerouac were emphasizing the “beatific” qualities of the word, making of it a mystical, transcendental experience. Ginsberg explained, “The point of Beat is that you get beat down to a certain nakedness where you actually are able to see the world in a visionary way, which is the old classical understanding of what happens in the dark night of the soul.” Howl led the way; Kerouac’s On the Road followed with unprecedented media attention; Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, banned and vilified, broke through the barriers of censorship, and a literary movement was born.

Howl and Other Poems

Allen Ginsberg. Howl and Other Poems.
San Francisco: The City Lights Books, 1956.
Marvin Tatum Collection of Contemporary Literature

ORIGINALLY READ FROM the manuscript at the now famous Six Gallery reading of November 22, 1955, Howl was an immediate and resounding success, first among the poets associated with San Francisco’s literati and then throughout the hip community at large. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the City Lights Bookstore, had recently begun publishing avant-garde poetry; he wrote to Ginsberg that night saying, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?” Published in 1956 as Number Four in the Pocket Poets Series, Howl led to the arrest in May 1957 of Ferlinghetti and City Lights bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao on charges of selling obscene material. Against the background of heightened publicity, Judge Clayton W. Horn, a Sunday School bible teacher, found Ferlinghetti and Murao not guilty in October 1957. With a foreword by William Carlos Williams, Howl, often referred to as the “Beat Manifesto,” was the first successful publication of the Beat era, and became one of the most influential books of twentieth century American poetry.

Junkie:  Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict

William Lee. Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict.
New York: Ace Books, 1953.
Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature

JUNKIE, WILLIAM BURROUGHS’ first novel, was published under the author’s sobriquet, William Lee, and chronicled Burroughs’ descent into the underworld drug culture of New York, New Orleans and Mexico City. Burroughs drew from his personal experiences the scenes of a novel Jack Kerouac described as “imitating a kind of anxious Dashiell Hammett of William Lee.” Published as pulp fiction by his friend, Carl Solomon, who worked as an agent for Ace Books, Junkie sold an astonishing 113,170 copies, though most of the readers were not of the literary set that eventually admired Naked Lunch.

AFTER HIS WIFE Joan’s death in Mexico, Burroughs accidentally shot her while playing a drunken game of “William Tell”, and a trip into the Amazon jungles in search of the drug Yage, Burroughs settled in Tangiers where he fell into a state of drug addiction and spiritual lassitude. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to kick his drug habit, Burroughs succeeded with Dr. John Yerbury Dent’s apomorphine treatment in London. Returning to Tangiers, fueled by marijuana and coffee, Burroughs began typing at top speed for six hours a day, letting the pages of yellow foolscap fall to the floor as they were finished. He then called for his friends and in 1957 Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky arrived in Tangiers to help with the manuscript. With the assistance of Alan Ansen, Ginsberg worked six hours a day for two months putting the manuscript in order. Kerouac supplied the title explaining, “the title means exactly what the words say: Naked Lunch –a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.” Fearing censorship due to its graphic depiction of drug use, homosexual acts, cannibalism, and raw language, the novel was offered to Maurice Girodias and the Olympia Press in Paris who eventually brought out the book in 1959. Naked Lunch was banned in the United States, and only after Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was cleared of obscenity charges in 1962 was Naked Lunch published here. Naked Lunch benefitted greatly from the notoriety of its author, his association with the Beat movement and the censorship trials it faced. Though it initially did not garner a single review from the established press, it became one of the most important novels of the Beat era.

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Also included is a typescript of a page from William Burroughs’ memoir of his life in Tripoli, Algiers, and most importantly Tangiers, where he writes of working on Naked Lunch and of visits by Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Kerouac, and Alan Ansen. He also mentions seeing Paul and Jane Bowles.

On the Road

Jack Kerouac. On the Road.
New York: Viking Press, 1957.
Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature

ON THE ROAD, conceived before Kerouac and Neal Cassady began their cross-country excursion in 1951, went through many transformations before it was finally published in 1957. The writing style, drawing inspiration from bebop jazz, modern poetry, and heavy doses of Benzedrine, captured the frenetic, beat-driven lifestyle of the urban socially displaced. Inspired by a letter from Neal Cassady and the in-progress manuscript of William Burroughs’ Junkie, Kerouac taped together rolls of tracing paper, lined up a supply of Benzedrine, cigarettes and coffee, and began a marathon nonstop writing session that lasted three weeks and produced 186,000 words. The manuscript, one long roll of paper, was too chaotic to be published. It was reworked over the next five years and finally published by Viking Press in 1957. The media had begun to look for alternative Beat material after the success of Howl, and On the Road was an immediate hit, staying five weeks on the best seller list. On the Road remains one of the most influential novels of its time and stands as the seminal novel of the Beat period.

The First Third and Other Writings

Neal Cassady. The First Third and Other Writings.
San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1971.
Alderman Library

ALTHOUGH NEAL CASSADY’S literary output was small, he was one of the major figures of the Beat period. He became the bridge between the Beats of the fifties and the fledgling psychedelic movement of the sixties, when he joined Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters in late 1962. Cassady was raised in a condemned flophouse in Denver, Colorado, and by his early twenties he had stolen more than five hundred automobiles, had been arrested ten times, and had spent fifteen months in juvenile detention. In detention, he discovered the prison library and upon his release he continued his self-education at the Denver Public Library. When he headed east in 1946 he had acquired the requisite knowledge to talk literature with the likes of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg fell in love with him, Kerouac found him to be the quintessential modern American, and Burroughs was the first to make use of his soon-to-be-legendary driving skills, when he hired Cassady to drive his marijuana crop from Texas to New York in 1947. Cassady’s cross-country driving trips with Jack Kerouac became the experiences from which On the Road was written –Cassady was Dean Moriarty to Kerouac’s Sal Paradise. Although he was the larger-than-life model for so much of what was written during the Beat period, Cassady at times tried to maintain a middle-class existence –he lived with his wife and three children in suburban California whenever he was not on the road with his soon-to-be famous friends. Published in 1971, three years after his death in Mexico, The First Third and Other Writings is a compilation of excerpts from letters, fragments of writings, and short pieces from the memoir that Kerouac and Ginsberg encouraged him to write.

Bowles

From left to right, Paul Bowles, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and others, early 1950’s

Where Death Shaped the Beats

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Where Death Shaped the Beats

John Cohen/Getty Images

The Beat writers, from left, Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg in 1959. More Photos »

  • THE scene of the crime, Riverside Park at the foot of West 115th Street, is in full spring bloom, carpeted in the butter-colored flowers of lesser celandine. It was here 68 years ago, on a slope descending to the moonlit Hudson River, that Lucien Carr, 19, the Beat Generation’s charismatic, callow swami, buried a knife in the heart of David Kammerer, 33, his besotted, dauntless hometown stalker.
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A map of the Columbia University area with key locations involved in David Kammerer’s death. More Photos »

Carr is often characterized as muse to the Beats, but he was more than that. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were acolytes, captivated by Carr’s profane rants about bourgeois culture and the path to transcendence through pure creative expression — his “New Vision,” after “A Vision” by Yeats.

Carr’s “honor slaying” of Kammerer, as The Daily News called it, served as an emotional fulcrum forthe group a decade before Kerouac, Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs published their seminal works; the violent death in their midst lent credibility to the tortured-soul narrative they yearned for.

Columbia University was critical to that narrative, and its Beaux-Arts campus is featured in a film now in production, “Kill Your Darlings,” starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg. The university stood as a kind of crucible for the Beats, who were emerging “like a wild seed in a city garden,” wrote the Beat historian Bill Morgan. Many of their haunts in Morningside Heights remain (all within a few blocks of the 116th Street subway station on Broadway), including the venerable dorms where they lived — Hartley and what is now Wallach. Any pilgrim’s archeological Beat tour, inspired by the movie or not, must begin with the university itself, a useful antagonist in the iconoclasts’ quest for artistic self-actualization.

“They all loved to feel they were sleeping in the camp of the enemy somehow,” said Ben Marcus, a novelist and associate professor at Columbia’s School of the Arts. “As much as universities should be cauldrons of creativity and breeding grounds for new creative activity, the Beats needed to feel that they were being stifled by forces at the university.”

They seemed to enjoy the idea, he added, “that these forces were straitjacketing them, whether it was true or not.”

“Kill Your Darlings,” from Killer Films, an independent production company, tells a version of the story that can also be found in “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a roman à clef written in 1945 by Kerouac and Burroughs but unpublished until 2008. (The title was derived from an apocryphal story concerning a radio newscast about a zoo fire.) In addition to Mr. Radcliffe, shedding his Harry Potter guise to play Ginsberg, the film stars Michael C. Hall, the agreeable serial killer Dexter on Showtime, as Kammerer; Jack Huston, from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” as Kerouac; and a relative unknown, Dane DeHaan, as Carr.

Kammerer’s pederastic interest in Carr began when Kammerer was Carr’s Boy Scout leader in St. Louis, where both came from privileged backgrounds, according to Mr. Morgan’s “I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg.”

Carr was a boy Aphrodite. In “Hippos” Kerouac called the Carr character “the kind of boy literary fags write sonnets to, which start out, ‘O raven-haired Grecian lad….’ ”

Kammerer, a whiskered redhead, taught physical education and English at Washington University. In about 1940, when Carr was 15, his mother, Marion, discovered a cache of “desperate” letters from the older man, according to James Campbell’s “This Is the Beat Generation.” She sent him to boarding school in Chicago, but Kammerer trailed him there — and then to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.; Bowdoin College in Maine; and, finally, Columbia.

The Beats began to form during Carr’s first semester there. He and Ginsberg, a freshman from New Jersey, lived in an overflow dorm at the nearby Union Theological Seminary. At Christmastime in 1943, according to Mr. Campbell’s book, Ginsberg heard Brahms wafting from Carr’s room and knocked to find out who was listening to the music he loved. Ginsberg was smitten. In his journal, he called Carr his first love and “sweet vision.”

That winter Carr introduced Ginsberg to Kammerer and Burroughs, who had been schoolmates in St. Louis and were neighbors in Greenwich Village.

Kerouac, another Columbian, was ushered in a few months later when he met Carr at the West End, the saloon at 2911 Broadway, a 60-yard dash away from Columbia’s College Walk. (Kerouac initially found Carr to be pretentious and obnoxious, although he used a more vulgar description in “Vanity of Duluoz,” another of Kerouac’s gauzy autobiographical novels.)

By then Ginsberg and Carr were living at Lucien Carr  at 404 West 115th Street (now a parking lot). Kammerer was an occasional visitor, sometimes stealing in through the fire escape to watch Carr sleep, according to an often-repeated anecdote in Beat biographies, including Mr. Morgan’s “Beat Generation in New York: A Walking Tour of Jack Kerouac’s City.” Kerouac stayed with his girlfriend, Edie Parker, in Apartment 62 at 421 West 118th Street, a plaster-frosted walkup off Amsterdam Avenue.

In August 1944 Kerouac and Carr schemed a Merchant Marine adventure to France, where — in the midst of war — they had an irrational plan to retrace the Paris footsteps of the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud, whom Carr regarded as a doppelganger.

The plan fell apart on Aug. 13, when they got drunk and were late getting to their ship, and the men rued their broken dream that night at the West End (now called Havana Central at the West End). Kerouac left Carr at midnight and crossed paths on campus near St. Paul’s Chapel with Kammerer, Carr’s relentless birddog.

Kammerer asked his usual question: “Where’s Lucien?”

Kerouac sent him to the West End.

“And I watch him rush off to his death,” Kerouac wrote in “Duluoz.”

Kammerer and Carr left the bar at 3 a.m. New York was sweltering, and they toddled downhill to Riverside Park for cool air.

An account of the crime in The New York Times at the time explained that Kammerer made “an offensive proposal.” The article continued:

“Carr said that he rejected it indignantly and that a fight ensued. Carr, a slight youth, 5 feet 9 tall and weighing 140 pounds, was no match for the burly former physical education instructor, who was 6 feet tall and weighed about 185 pounds.”

“In desperation,” the account added, “Carr pulled out of his pocket his Boy Scout knife, a relic of his boyhood, and plunged the blade twice in rapid succession into Kammerer’s chest.”

Had Carr run to the police, he probably would have been hailed as a hero against a pervert. But he did something quite different.

He rolled the body to the river’s edge, bound the limbs with shoe laces, stuffed rocks in the pockets, and watched his longtime lurker sink.

Carr hurried to Greenwich Village and reported his deed to Burroughs, who advised him to tell the police he was the victim of a sex fiend. Instead Carr woke Kerouac, who recounted that eye-opener in “Duluoz”:

“Well,” Carr said, “I disposed of the old man last night.”

He didn’t seem nettled. As much as anything, Carr seemed satisfied, by all accounts, that he had finally done something noteworthy. The two men walked up West 118th Street to Morningside Park, where Carr buried Kammerer’s eyeglasses, which he had pocketed as evidence of his feat.

He and Kerouac traipsed about Manhattan, dropping the Boy Scout knife in a subway grate on 125th Street. They visited the Museum of Modern Art, a hot dog stand in Times Square and a cinema where they watched “The Four Feathers.”

Carr finally walked into the district attorney’s office and announced the killing. Prosecutors thought he was crazy — “the imaginings of an overstrained mind,” The Times wrote. Carr sat there reading Yeats, to the bewilderment of police officers and crime reporters.

The police were convinced only when Carr led them to the buried glasses the next day, at about the time Kammerer’s body bobbed up off West 108th Street.

A week after the killing Ginsberg wrote the poem “Hymn to the Virgin,” which hinted at a complex relationship. Written to Carr in Kammerer’s voice, it begins, “Thou who art afraid to have me, lest thou lose me.” (Two months after the death Ginsberg took an apartment at 627 West 115th Street, about a hundred paces from the death site.)

Carr pleaded guilty to manslaughter. A judge had mercy on “young, good-looking Lucien,” as The Times called him, and sent Carr to the Elmira Reformatory, not prison. (Burroughs and Kerouac were confined briefly as accessories. While he was jailed Kerouac was escorted by the police to his courthouse wedding with Parker, and the newlyweds later moved to another Morningside Heights Beat pad, at 419 West 115th Street.)

Carr returned to New York after 18 months away and joined United Press (later United Press International), beginning a 47-year career there. (He had three sons with his first wife, Francesca von Hartz, including the novelist Caleb Carr.) He remained close to Ginsberg and Kerouac, even as he tried to scrub himself from Beat history. He insisted that Ginsberg remove his name from the dedication of “Howl,” and the publication of “Hippos” waited until after Carr died in 2005.

An archive of letters and postcards to Carr at Columbia’s Butler Library shows that Kerouac and Ginsberg continued to solicit his approval long after they became famous writers — Ginsberg in intimate, lyrical letters and Kerouac in wisecracking postcards.

Yet in his journal (published in his “Book of Martyrdom and Artifice”) Ginsberg wrote of Carr: “He must prove that he is a genius. He cannot do so in creative labor — for he has not the patience, says he, nor the time, says he, nor the occasion, says he. None of these reasons is correct. He seems not to have the talent.”

Carr certainly was a talented editor. A 2003 history of United Press International called him “the soul of the news service.” He did not talk about his life among the Beats or his crime, and former colleagues say Carr would have been livid about “Kill Your Darlings.”

Joseph A. Gambardello, a longtime newspaper editor, was a protégé of Carr’s at U.P.I. in the mid-1970s, when the news service was based in the Daily News Building on East 42nd Street.

“When I met him he was a hard-drinking, hardworking journalist,” Mr. Gambardello said. “He did not come across as a pretentious jackass at all.” He added, “The person I had read about with Kerouac and Ginsberg didn’t exist anymore.”

Carr occasionally sent Mr. Gambardello to Louie’s East, an adjacent bar, to fetch a “Lou Carr Special” — a lot of vodka, a little Coke.

He had gotten over Rimbaud.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 11, 2012

An article on Friday about the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by the Beat Generation figure Lucien Carr misspelled the given name of Carr’s mother, who discovered “desperate” letters from Kammerer to her son, according to “This Is the Beat Generation” by James Campbell. She was Marion Gratz Carr, not Marian. And a correction in this space on Saturday misspelled the surname of one of the two authors of a screenplay, “Kill Your Darlings” that is based on the killing. He is John Krokidas, not Krokidis. (Austin Bunn is his co-writer.)

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 7, 2012

An article on Friday about the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by the Beat Generation figure Lucien Carr misidentified the source of a screenplay based on the killing. The screenplay, “Kill Your Darlings,” now in production, was written by John Krokidas and Austin Bunn. They did not adapt it from “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a roman à clef written in 1945 by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs that tells a similar version of the killing.

KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966

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KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966
KEROUAC’S BOOZY BEATITUDES ON ITALIAN TV, 1966
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10.18.2010
10:54 pm

Pivanoimage

Writer, critic and translator Pivano ,interviews Jack Kerouac on BEATITUDES 1966. Kerouac is more than a wee bit shitfaced.

Fabulous live portrait of a freewheeling Kerouac.

Pivano was known for her insightful and freewheeling interviews of American beat writers, including Ginsberg, Corso, Bukowski and Burroughs. She had a knack for getting on the wavelength of writers being one herself. And she enjoyed drinking with them. Her published interviews with Bukowski are worth seeking out. Her longstanding friendship with Hemingway certainly prepared her for dealing with a bunch of drunk poets.

Jazz and the Beat Generation

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Jazz and the Beat Generation

 Legendary_jazz_musicians

Jazz and the Beat Generation

As the Beat movement was getting underway, bebop was already going strong, especially in New York City, where 52nd Street was bustling with activity in jazz clubs up and down its length. Bebop was an innovative style of jazz which saw its heyday in the ’40s, characterized by smaller combos as opposed to big bands and a larger focus on virtuosity.

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Bebop’s renaissance came about in the heart of New York City, where musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis were ushering in a new era for jazz music.

Jazz and the Beat Generation

Jack Kerouac and friends spent much of their time in New York clubs such as the Red Drum, Minton’s, the Open Door and other hangouts, shooting the breeze and digging the music. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis rapidly became what Allen Ginsberg dubbed “Secret Heroes” to this group of aesthetes.

Why did jazz suddenly become such a driving force behind the writings of the Beat authors? What similarities can we find between jazz musicians and the Beats? Perhaps the most obvious comparison we can make is indicated by the very word “beat.”

“The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted”. Kerouac went on to twist the meaning of the term “beat” to serve his own purposes, explaining that it meant “beatitude, not beat up. You feel this. You feel it in a beat, in jazz real cool jazz”.

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The Beat authors borrowed many other terms from the jazz/hipster slang of the ’40s, peppering their works with words such as “square,” “cats,” “nowhere,” and “dig.” But jazz meant much more than just a vocabulary to the Beat writers. To them, jazz was a way of life, a completely different way to approach the creative process. In his book ‘Venice West’, John Arthur Maynard writes:

Jazz served as the ultimate point of reference, even though, or perhaps even because, few among them played it. From it they adopted the mythos of the brooding, tortured, solitary artist, performing with others but always alone. They talked the talk of jazz, built communal rites around using the jazzman’s drugs, and worshipped the dead jazz musicians most fervently. The musician whose music was fatal represented pure spontaneity.

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In his only successful book, ‘Go’, Beat author John Clellon Holmes wrote:

In this modern jazz, they heard something rebel and nameless that spoke for them, and their lives knew a gospel for the first time. It was more than a music; it became an attitude toward life, a way of walking, a language and a costume; and these introverted kids… now felt somewhere at last.

Perhaps the best model to explain the artistic ideals of both the jazz musicians and the Beat writers would be the late 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s attitudes towards the artist’s duty to create was quite similar to that of the jazz musician and the typical Beat poet (though it is likely that the Beat poet would purposefully imitate Rimbaud while the jazz musician would be unaware of any similarities).

Rimbaud drank heavily, wrote poetry at a young age, and “burned out” much like a number of drug-using jazz musicians. Rimbaud’s dedication to his art was so fervent that, around the age of 21, he arrived at the point where he could do no more. Beats claimed Rimbaud as another “Secret Hero,” much like Parker or Davis. The “Rimbaud complex” was an attitude that both the jazz musicians and the Beats shared.

Many Beats used heroin, Benzedrine and other drugs in adulation of the jazz musicians which used them, hoping that the drugs would do for them what they supposedly did for greats like Parker. Kerouac wrote his most famous book On the Road, frequently heralded as the definitive prose work of the Beat era, on a three-day stretch fueled by a Benzedrine binge. William S. Burroughs used his dependency on heroin as an inspiration for books such as Junky and Naked Lunch.

Not only did the Beats foolhardily try to emulate the ways of life of bebop greats, they used the principal ideas of bebop playing and applied it to prose and poetry writing, creating a style sometimes called “bop prosody.” Beat prose, especially that of Jack Kerouac, is characterized by a style submerged in the stream of consciousness, words blurted out in vigorous bursts, rarely revised and often sparsely punctuated for lines and lines. “No periods… but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)” wrote Jack Kerouac in his “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” one of the few pieces he wrote which explained his method of writing. In a 1968 interview with Michael Aldrich, Ginsberg said:

Yeah. Kerouac learned his line from–directly from Charlie Parker, and Gillespie, and Monk. He was listening in ’43 to Symphony Sid and listening to “Night in Tunisia” and all the Bird-flight-noted things which he then adapted to prose line.

One of the governing maxims of the Beat style of writing was expressed by Allen Ginsberg when he paraphrased an old ZenBuddhist philosophy in his words, “First thought, best thought.” Ginsberg called this improvisational technique applied to writing “composing on the tongue,” and it was used in one way or another by many of the Beat writers. Gregory Corso wrote a poem about the sun which was entirely spontaneous. “Sun hypnotic! holy all protracted long and sure! firey goblet! day-babble!”, and so forth.

The rhythm, meter and length of verse was also distinctly more similar to jazz music than it was to traditionally European styles. Ted Joans, a poet and friend of the Beat authors, once said, “I could see that [Ginsberg] was picking up the language and rhythm of jazz, that he wasn’t following the European tradition”. Ginsberg fancied himself a poet in the style of a bebop musician because he lengthened the poetic line to fit the length of his own breath, paused for air, and launched another line, sometimes starting with the same word as the last line. Jazz music is distinct in its stressing of the second and fourth beats, as in traditional African music, as opposed to the stressing of the first and third beats, as in Western music. Beat poetry frequently has a much looser, more syncopated rhythm, similar to jazz.

This technique is perhaps best exemplified in Ginsberg’s classic poem ‘Howl‘, which was to Beat poetry what Kerouac’s ‘On the Road‘ was to Beat prose. “I depended on the word ‘who’ to keep the beat, a base to keep measure, return to and take off again onto another streak of invention,” Ginsberg said in a 1959 essay about his approach to poetry. The verbal technique of ‘Howl’ can easily be compared to a Charlie Parker song, in which Parker plays a series of improvisational phrases upon the same theme, pausing for breath and starting another. But Ginsberg said, “Lester Young, actually, is what I was thinking about… ‘Howl’ is all “Lester Leaps In.” And I got that from Kerouac. Or paid attention to it on account of Kerouac, surely–he made me listen to it”.

Perhaps the Beat who felt the strongest racial empathy with the jazz world was Leroi Jones, who later changed his name to Amiri Baraka. Baraka was a very different sort of Beat poet, and he was never a big part of the previously discussed group of core writers. Baraka was primarly set apart from the other Beats due to his attitudes derived from his African-American heritage. Most of the Beat authors were white. Baraka used his race as the fuel for much of his poetry, and he was very extreme in his political and racial viewpoints.

In his poetry, Baraka achieved levels perhaps closest to the goals of jazz musicians, especially John Coltrane, whom Baraka admired deeply. Baraka even contributed writing to the liner notes of a recent Coltrane anthology, using elements of scat to write lines such as “aggeeewheeeuheageeeee.aeeegeheooouaaaa”. Baraka took note of Coltrane’s “inversions” of tunes written by whites, such as “My Favorite Things,” and their transformations in works such as Jack Kerouac’s ‘Desolation Angels’ or ‘On the Road’.

Kerouac was particularly into the bop scene, even outside of his works. In his book ‘Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis’, Jack Chambers writes:

Kerouac was even booked into the Village Vanguard to “play” regular sets, reading poetry with jazz accompaniment… on his better nights, he dispensed with the poetry and took up scat singing, including a faithful rendering of a Miles Davis solo that… “was entirely accurate and something more than a simple imitation.”

According to Ted Joans, Kerouac “knew lots of jazz musicians”, and befriended musicians such as Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Brue Moore.

As Ginsberg said that ‘Howl’ was all “Lester Leaps In,” Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ was partially inspired by Dexter Gordon’s and Wendell Gray’s “The Hunt”. From ‘On the Road':

[Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) stands] bowed before the big phonograph listening to a wild bop record… “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume.

Kerouac even tackles the role of jazz historian in another part of ‘On the Road’. Triggered by a jazz club performance in Chicago, Kerouac launches into this ambitious paragraph:

Once there was Louis Armstrong blowing his beautiful top in the muds of New Orleans; before him the mad musicians who had paraded on official days and broke up their Sousa marches into ragtime. Then there was swing, and Roy Eldridge, vigorous and virile, blasting the horn for everything it had in waves of power and subtlety–leaning to it with glittering eyes and a lovely smile and sending it out broadcast to rock the jazz world. Then had come Charlie Parker, a kid in his mother’s woodshed in Kansas City, blowing his taped-up alto among the logs, practicing on rainy days, coming out to watch the old swinging Basie and Benny Moten band that had Hot Lips Page and the rest Charlie Parker leaving home and coming to Harlem, and meeting mad Thelonious Monk and madder Gillespie–Charlie Parker in his early days when he was flipped and walked around in a circle while playing. Somewhat younger than Lester Young, also from KC, that gloomy, saintly goof in whom the history of jazz was wrapped; for when he held his horn high and horizontal from his mouth he blew the greatest; and as his hair grew longer and he got lazier and stretched-out, his horn came down halfway; till it finally fell all the way and today as he wears his thick-soled shoes so that he can’t feel the sidewalks of life his horn is held weakly against his chest, and he blows cool and easy getout phrases. Here were the children of the American bop night.

Kerouac was also a poet, and he used his poetic abilities to eulogize Charlie Parker upon his death in his book of poetry Mexico City Blues. Choruses 239 to 241 are dedicated to Parker.

Charlie Parker looked like Buddha
Charlie Parker, who recently died…
“Wail, Wop” Charlie burst
His lungs to reach the speed
Of what the speedsters wanted
And what they wanted
Was his eternal Slowdown.

New York beat Gregory Corso similarly eulogized Bird upon his death in a poem called “Requiem for ‘Bird’ Parker, Musician,” published in his 1955 book ‘The Vestal Lady on Brattle’.

first voicehey, man, BIRD is dead
they got his horn locked up somewhere
put his horn in a corner somewhere
like where’s the horn, man, where?

second voice

screw the horn
like where’s BIRD?

Corso’s 1958 book ‘Gasoline’ also contains a poem entitled “For Miles.”

Poet whose sound is played
lost or recorded
but heard
can you recall that 54 night at the Open Door
when you & bird
wailed five in the morning some wondrous
yet unimaginable score? (Corso, 50)

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But of all the Beats, it is probably John Clellon Holmes who admired jazz musicians the most. He dedicated an entire book to the story of a down-and-out tenor sax player named Edgar Pool, entitled ‘The Horn’. Holmes also extrapolated an incredible amount of meaning from the aforementioned Dexter Gordon song, “The Hunt,” saying “listen there for the anthem in which we jettisoned the intellectual Dixieland of atheism, rationalism, liberalism–and found our group’s rebel streak at last”. Holmes’ ‘Go’ is full of religious imagery linked to jazz; his use of words such as “testament,” “sacrament,” “holy,” “mystery,” “prophecy,” “ritual” and “altar” assign a divine quality to jazz.

All of this is rather ironic when we read a journal entry of Holmes’, written on December 15, 1948:

As far as bop: I have stayed up very late with Jack [Kerouac], listening to Symphony Sid (“the all-night, all-frantic one”), who plays six solid hours of bop “at your request and in our groove.” I’m still puzzled by it as music, although I hear plenty of fine things in Dizzy and Parker, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a…response to this post-war period.

Not only does Holmes seem not to “get it,” he incorrectly dubs bebop a “reaction,” when in fact it slowly evolved from late swing and transition period jazz. Still, Holmes was undeniably influenced by the bebop musicians.

West Coast poets were so influenced by the jazz movement that they made radical strides in synthesizing the two for the sake of live performances. The two primary poets responsible for this movement were Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth, who attempted to liberate poetry from the clutches of the academics “who wouldn’t know poetry if it came up and buggered them in broad daylight” in Ginsberg’s words. Incorporating jazz, they believed, would attract a wider audience and bring poetry down to the level of the average jazz-club patron.

Many of these poems were recited with jazz accompaniment at the Cellar, San Francisco’s foremost jazz club. The results were tape recorded and released on the Fantasy jazz label, with the music of an ensemble comprised of tenor saxophonist Bruce Lippincott, drummer Sonny Wayne, pianist Bill Weisjahns, bassists Jerry Goode and Bob Lewis, and trumpeter Dickie Mills. Rexroth performed his 20-minute poem “Thou Shalt Not Kill” with a free-jazz accompaniment. Ferlinghetti wrote seven poems published in his ‘A Coney Island of the Mind’ with the intention that they be read with jazz. The introduction to the “Oral Messages” section reads:

These seven poems were conceived specifically for jazz accompaniment and as such should be considered as spontaneously spoken “oral messages” rather than as poems written for the printed page. As a result of continued experimental reading with jazz, they are still in a state of change.

With this new wave in performance, jazz musicians also found a new challenge in assimilating to the vocal and emotional element of the reciting poet. “…[I]n the words of Lipppincott… “We… respond with our instruments as emotionally as possible to the words of the poem and also the pre-arranged form. Such as… for this many lines we will have the drums swelling and rolling and the bass will enter at the bottom and play bowed”.

Very few of the Beats were jazz musicians to any extent. Similarly, the jazz musicians of the time did not often have literary aspirations. Thus, the inspirational connection between the Beat authors and the musicians was not exactly a two-way street. There are some exceptions; Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” was occasionally performed with poetic accompaniment, and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” was released with a poem penned by Coltrane himself in the liner notes. There was also a degree of interaction between the two artistic fields; as previously stated, Kerouac interacted with quite a few jazz musicians, including Miles Davis.

Thus, without the Beats, the jazz movement would probably have rolled right along. But, as we have seen, the Beat movement relied heavily upon the genius of great such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis for the inspiration that produced such valuable works like Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ and Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’. How fortunate that the two movements coincided at just the right time.

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The Counterculture

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The Counterculture

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Counterculture is a term describing the values and norms of a cultural group that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day.

 LEARNING OBJECTIVE

  • Apply the concept of counterculture to the rise and collapse of the US Hippie movement

KEY POINTS

  • Examples of countercultures in the U.S. could include the hippie movement of the 1960s, the green movement, polygamists, and feminist groups.
  • A counterculture is a subculture with the addition that some of its beliefs, values, or norms challenge or even contradict those of the main culture of which it is part.
  • Countercultures run counter to dominant cultures and the social mainstream of the day.

TERMS

  • culture

    The beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life.

  • mainstream

    Purchased, used, or accepted broadly rather than by a tiny fraction of a population or market; common, usual, or conventional.

  • counterculture
  • images (10)
  • Any culture whose values and lifestyles are opposed to those of the established mainstream culture, especially to western culture.


EXAMPLES

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  • Modern American Marxist political groups are examples of countercultures — they promote a worldview and set of norms and values that are contrary to the dominant American system.

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FULL TEXT

Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also describe a group whose behavior deviates from the societal norm.

In the United States, the counterculture of the 1960s became identified with the rejection of conventional social norms of the 1950s. Counterculture youth rejected the cultural standards of their parents, especially with respect to racial segregation and initial widespread support for the Vietnam War.

As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, sexual mores, women’s rights, traditional modes of authority, and a materialisticinterpretation of the American Dream. Hippies became the largest countercultural group in the United States. The counterculture also had access to a media eager to present their concerns to a wider public. Demonstrations for social justice created far-reaching changes affecting many aspects of society .

Hippies at an Anti-Vietnam Demonstration, 1967

Hippies at an Anti-Vietnam Demonstration, 1967
A female demonstrator offers a flower to military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration.

The counterculture in the United States lasted from roughly 1964 to 1973 — coinciding with America’s involvement in Vietnam — and reached its peak in 1967, the “Summer of Love. ” The movement divided the country: to some Americans, these attributes reflected American ideals of free speech, equality, world peace, and the pursuit of happiness; to others, the same attributes reflected a self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive assault on America’s traditional moral order.

The counterculture collapsed circa 1973, and many have attributed its collapse to two major reasons: First, the most popular of its political goals — civil rights, civil liberties, gender equality, environmentalism, and the end of the Vietnam War — were accomplished. Second, a decline of idealism and hedonism occurred as many notable counterculture figures died, the rest settled into mainstream society and started their own families, and the “magic economy” of the 1960s gave way to the stagflation of the 1970s.

Source: Boundless. “Countercultures.” Boundless Sociology. Boundless, 03 Jul. 2014. Retrieved 29 Nov. 2014 from https://www.boundless.com/sociology/textbooks/boundless-sociology-textbook/culture-and-socialization-3/culture-worlds-32/countercultures-204-8929/

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Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

JACK KEROUAC’S ON  THE ROAD TURNED INTO GOOGLE DRIVING DIRECTOONS AND PUBLISHED AS A,FREE E BOOK
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http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1vGUFS/:M!q7pNWY:Q-53!U2N/www.openculture.com/2014/02/jack-kerouacs-on-the-road-turned-into-google-driving-directions.html/

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

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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