Tag Archives: Burroughs

COOL PEOPLE – Carl Solomon

COOL PEOPLE – Carl Solomon



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Carl Solomon was born March 30, 1928 in the Bronx, New York. His father died in 1939, which depressed him deeply. He graduated high school at the age of fifteen, and enrolled at the City College of New York. In 1943 he dropped out to joined the US Maritime Service. As a seaman, he traveled all over the world, seeing many notable sights such as the surrealist exposition of Andre Breton, Jean Genet’s first play, and hearing Antonin Artaud read poetry. Solomon began reading a lot of Dadaist and Surrealist poetry. Then, after identifying himself with Kafka’s hero, K, Solomon decided that he was insane. Just after his twenty-first birthday, he voluntarily committed himself and recieved shock treatment at the Psychiatric Insitute of New York.

As Solomon was coming up from his shock treatment one day, he mumbled “I’m Kirilov [of Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed].” Allen Ginsberg, sitting in the waiting room replied, “I’m Myshkin.” Indeed, Solomon said many interesting things after regaining post-shock consciousness, much of which Ginsberg put into his famous poem, “Howl,” which was dedicated to Solomon. Solomon at first thought he was a new patient, though Ginsberg was only visiting his mother.

Solomon and Ginsberg soon became friends, which was Solomon’s only real claim to fame. Despite his mental conditions, Solomon was very intelligent, and was able to teach ginsberg a lot about important writers and obscure geniuses.

Solomon’s uncle happened to be A.A. Wyn, the publisher of Ace books. When he wasn’t in the hospital, Solomon did work for his uncle. Ginsberg pleaded with him to try to publish his seemingly un-publishable friends William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Ace books ended up signing Burroughs’ Junky as part of a pulp, two-in-one thriller, but they rejected Kerouac’s 120-foot long single page manuscript of On the Road.

Though Solomon was not a writer himself, pepole always thought he was. He did eventually live up to these expectations in 1996, when his first book, Mishaps, Perhaps was published. It was a collection of quaintly psychotic essays including “Pilgrim State Hospital,” and “Suggestions to improve the Public Image of the Beatnik.” Later, two more of his books were published: More Mishaps in 1968, and Emergency Messages in 1989.

by Carl Solomon

It is most important now to change the smell of the Beatnik. Instead of using, for example, the word “shit” so ofter in their poems, I suggest that they tactfully substitute the word “roses” wherever the other word occurs.

This is a small adjustment.

It is just as AVANT GARDE so art will suffer no loss.

Instead of saying “MERDE” they will be saying “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Just as AVANT GARDE, you see, with considerable improvement in the effect created.

Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

Video of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks


Video  of the Day: A Short Documentary About the Original Beatniks

If the only Beat Generation writers you can name are Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, then it’s time to educate yourself about the rest of the gang. A great place to start is Original Beats, a short documentary by Francois Bernadi that we learned about thanks to Dangerous Minds. The film, shot in the mid-’90s, follows Herbert Huncke and Gregory Corso — the oldest and youngest member, respectively, of the Beat inner circle. In fact, while Corso’s work may be more famous, Huncke was hugely influential to the movement, introducing the major players to (’50s) hipster culture and even coining the term “Beat.” (Sadly, he was also a lifelong junkie who spent his last years in poverty; Jonathan Lethem recently wrote a New Yorker piece about the time he caught Huncke shoplifting at the bookstore where he worked as a high schooler.)

The documentary offers an entertaining look at the origins of the Beat movement, as well as some readings, and a number of epic anecdotes from Huncke and Corso, from Huncke’s first glimpse of Times Square to both men’s stints in prison. One of Corso’s stories, about a time when he and Allen Ginsberg read in Chicago, ends with this wonderful moment: “One of the people in the audience said, ‘Mr. Ginsberg, why is there so much homosexuality in your poetry?’ And Allen said, ‘Because I’m queer, madam!’” Enjoy Original Beats after the jump.




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Lawrence Ferlinghetti wanted to document the 1965 Beat scene in San Francisco in the spirit of the early 20th century classic photographs of the Bohemian artists & writers in Paris.The Beats, front row L to R: Robert LaVigne, Shig Murao, Larry Fagin, Leland Meyezove (lying down), Lew Welch, Peter Orlovsky.

Second row: David Meltzer, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Langton, Steve (friend of Ginsberg), Richard Brautigan, Gary Goodrow, Nemi Frost.

Back row: Stella Levy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Because this is a vertical image about half of the Beats attending are not shown.

Allen Ginsberg, Bob Donlon (Rob Donnelly, Kerouac’s Desolation Angels), Neal Cassady, myself in black corduroy jacket, Bay Area poets’ “Court Painter” Robert La Vigne & poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City Lights Books shop, Broadway & Columbus Avenue North Beach. Donlon worked seasonally as Las Vegas waiter & oft drank with Jack K., Neal looks good in tee shirt, Howl first printing hadn’t arrived from England yet (500 copies), we were just hanging around, Peter Orlovsky stepped back off curb & snapped shot, San Francisco spring 1956, 1956, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/8 x 16 3/4 in. (28.3 x 42.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

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“He looked by that time like his father, red-faced corpulent W.C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror…” Thus reads the inscription of a photo depicting American icon Jack Kerouac and taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1964 — just a few years before the former’s death. Far from the exuberant youth depicted in earlier photos, this portrait offers an entirely different image of Kerouac: that of the aging alcoholic, slumped dejectedly in a battered armchair.

Beat Memories presents an in-depth look at the Beat Generation  as seen through the lens of Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997). Although well known for his poetry, Ginsberg was also an avid photo- grapher, capturing the people and places around him in spontaneous, often intimate snapshots. His black-and-white photographs include portraits of William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and others, along with self-portraits. The images not only are revealing portrayals of celebrated personalities, but also convey the unique lifestyle and spirit of the Beats

The Beat movement, also called Beat Generation, American social and literary movement originating in the 1950s and centred in the bohemian artist communities of San Francisco’s North Beach, Los Angeles’ Venice West, and New York City’s Greenwich Village. Its adherents, self-styled as “beat” (originally meaning “weary,” but later also connoting a musical sense, a “beatific” spirituality, and other meanings) and derisively called “beatniks,” expressed their alienation from conventional, or “square,” society by adopting an almost uniform style of seedy dress, manners, and “hip” vocabulary borrowed from jazz musicians. Generally apolitical and indifferent to social problems, they advocated personal release, purification, and illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that might be induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or the disciplines of Zen Buddhism. Apologists for the Beats, among them Paul Goodman, found the joylessness and purposelessness of modern society sufficient justification for both withdrawal and protest.

Beat poets sought to liberate poetry from academic preciosity and bring it “back to the streets.” They read their poetry, sometimes to the accompaniment of progressive jazz, in such Beat strongholds as the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. The verse was frequently chaotic and liberally sprinkled with obscenities but was sometimes, as in the case of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), ruggedly powerful and moving. Ginsberg and other major figures of the movement, such as the novelist Jack Kerouac, advocated a kind of free, unstructured composition in which the writer put down his thoughts and feelings without plan or revision—to convey the immediacy of experience—an approach that led to the production of much undisciplined and incoherent verbiage on the part of their imitators. By about 1960, when the faddish notoriety of the movement had begun to fade, it had produced a number of interesting and promising writers, including Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder, and had paved the way for acceptance of other unorthodox and previously ignored writers, such as the Black Mountain poets and the novelist William Burroughs.

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

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

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.



The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

By Joyce Johnson

489 pp. Viking. $32.95.


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




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Lucien Carr, a Founder and a Muse of the Beat Generation, Dies at 79

<nyt_byline type=” ” version=”1.0″> By WILBORN HAMPTON  Published: January 30, 2005


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Three of the Beats: Lucien Carr, flanked by the writer William S. Burroughs, left, and the poet Allen Ginsberg in New York City in 1953.

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Lucien Carr, one of the founders – and one of the last survivors – of the Beat Generation of poets and writers, although one who never wrote poetry or novels, died on Friday. He was 79.

Mr. Carr died at George Washington University Hospital after collapsing at his home in Washington, said his son, the writer Caleb Carr. He had suffered from bone cancer in recent years.

A literary lion who never roared, Mr. Carr served as an inspirational muse to a bunch of college chums at Columbia University in the 1940’s: the poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelists William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, writers who a decade later changed the course of American letters in coffeehouses in San Francisco and New York.

It was Mr. Carr, for example, who introduced Ginsberg to the works of Rimbaud, a major influence on Ginsberg’s work, and then introduced Burroughs to Kerouac and Ginsberg. He introduced them all to Neal Cassady, a railway worker with literary ambitions who became part of the Columbia undergraduates’ coterie of “angel-headed hipsters.” Together they formed the nucleus of what became the Beats.

Any practical assistance Mr. Carr gave to the Beat movement came as an encouraging editor, the profession he pursued for nearly half a century at United Press and United Press International. It was Mr. Carr, for example, who gave Kerouac the roll of teletype paper, pilfered from U.P., on which the author wrote “On the Road,” and it was Mr. Carr who was among the first to read the novel and offer advice, which may or may not have been taken. As Ginsberg once said, “Lou was the glue.”

Chroniclers of the era and biographers of its writers have always had as much trouble placing Mr. Carr in the group snapshot of the Beats as they have had in defining the movement. Both defied description. The one episode all seize upon came while Mr. Carr was still at Columbia. In repulsing the homosexual advances of a hanger-on of the Beat crowd, Mr. Carr stabbed his pursuer with a Boy Scout knife and killed him. Mr. Carr served a brief time in prison for manslaughter, but was later pardoned.

Born in New York but raised in St. Louis, Mr. Carr had boyish good looks that were only enhanced by a slouchy physique and sardonic grin hidden under a riverboat gambler mustache. A motorcycle enthusiast, who took up boating on his retirement, Mr. Carr was a great jazz aficionado and an avid reader for whom the greatest joys in life were in simple things like a long riff on a tenor sax or a well-turned dependent clause.

Shortly after leaving Columbia, Mr. Carr, to the consternation of his fellow Beats, took a job with United Press in New York and spent the rest of his career, until his retirement in 1993, with the wire service, mostly as the news editor supervising the agency’s report for morning newspapers. He remained in contact with the Beats, although Kerouac and Cassady died young. Ginsberg remained a close friend until his death in 1997 and often visited Mr. Carr at U.P.I.’s newsroom to lobby for coverage of whatever political cause he was pursuing at the moment.

If he had been more of a midwife to the Beats, Mr. Carr was an extremely vocal mentor to two generations of journalists who came up through the ranks at U.P.I. He was a great champion of brevity. “Why don’t you just start with the second paragraph?” was his frequent advice to young reporters overly fond of their own prose.

He guided U.P.I.’s coverage of the major stories of the second half of the 20th century from the cold war and the Kennedy assassination to Vietnam and the moon landing.

He was married twice, first to the former Francesca von Hartz, with whom he had three sons: Simon, of New York City; Caleb, of Cherry Plain, N.Y.; and Ethan, of Amherst, Mass. His second wife was the former Sheila Johnson. He is survived by all of them as well as by Kathleen Silvassy, his companion for the last several years of his life.

tumblr_lriq42JCfq1qcf3h4o1_500Real Name:

Lucien Carr


Carr was central to the Beat movement. He was the embodiment of Beat – intelligent yet wild, well read but crazy. He introduced Kerouac and Ginsberg. “Lou was the glue,” Ginsberg quipped. He killed David Kammerer and sought refuge with Burroughs and Kerouac.


Big Sur – Julian

Book of Dreams – Julian Love

On The Road – Damion

The Subterraneans – Sam Vedder The Town and the City – Kenneth Wood

Vanity of Duluoz – Claude de Maubris


The Last Beat

A murder in Riverside Park changed the lives of a group of Columbia undergrads. Did it change literature as well?

by David J. Krajicek ’85JRN
Published Winter 2012-13 Comments (0)

© The New York Times, August 18, 1944

They would become legends — their names etched on the syllabuses of literature classes everywhere, their books reprinted and shoved in the back pockets of teenagers ripe with wanderlust, their words devoured, memorized, heeded, imitated.

But before the night of August 14, 1944, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg ’48CC, and William S. Burroughs weren’t the three principals of a literary movement — at least, not one that existed outside their own heads. They were simply roommates, friends, and confidants, who shared books and booze and sometimes beds. And, as history would largely soon forget, there was a fourth.

Lucien Carr was a recent transfer from the University of Chicago who seemed to attract admirers wherever he went. Uncommonly handsome, charismatic, and well-read, he was the force that initially united the group: he bonded with Ginsberg in a Columbia dorm over a shared love of Brahms, befriended Kerouac through his girlfriend at a nighttime painting class, and renewed ties with Burroughs, an old acquaintance from his hometown. Independent friendships formed between members of the quartet, but Carr was always at the center.

While his friends wrote books and became revered cultural and literary figures, ringleaders of the Beat movement, though, Carr lived most of the next sixty years in relative obscurity, quietly building a career and raising a family, and avoiding even the reflected glow from the spotlight on the others. Since his death in 2005, interest in the Beats has grown even more, at last illuminating the lost member.

This past March, Da Capo Press released Jack Kerouac’s previously unpublished first novel, The Sea Is My Brother, written when he was a twenty-year-old merchant mariner the summer before he met Carr. In April, the New York writer Aaron Latham debuted his play Birth of Beats: Murder and the Beat Generation. In September, Joyce Johnson released The Voice Is All, an intimate biography of Kerouac, with whom she had a long romance. A film adaptation of On the Road — the first, despite years of failed attempts — premiered at Cannes in May, with wide release in December. And in 2013, Carr will take center stage as the subject of Kill Your Darlings, a recent entry to the Sundance Film Festival, which was filmed largely on campus last spring and which stars Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg.

Carr was the last of the four to die, and with all of them gone, it seems like the world is finally ready to ask two questions: Had Lucien Carr not killed a man, would he have been the greatest of what we now call the Beat Generation? And, perhaps more important, had he not killed a man, would there even have been a Beat Generation at all?
It was just after midnight when Kerouac got up from his table at the West End, where he’d been drinking with Carr, and went out into the sweltering, sleepless night. With his athletic gait, he quick-stepped across Broadway, through the 116th Street gates, up the Low Library steps, and toward Amsterdam Avenue, on his way to his girlfriend’s apartment, when he saw a familiar figure walking toward him in the dark: a tall, bearded, auburn-haired man named David Kammerer, who asked after Lucien. Kerouac directed Kammerer to the West End.

“And I watch him rush off to his death,” Kerouac later wrote in his autobiographical novel Vanity of Duluoz.
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 »


Published: April 5, 2012

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.

A map of the Columbia University area with key locations involved in David Kammerer’s death. More Photos »

Writings of a Generation (April 6, 2012)

A map of the Columbia University area with key locations involved in David Kammerer’s death.                            More Photos »

Allen Ginsberg/Corbis
Three of the Beats: Lucien Carr, flanked by the writer William S. Burroughs, left, and the poet Allen Ginsberg in New York City in 1953.


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 for the 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.

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.

A version of this article appears in print on April 6, 2012, on page C25 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Death Shaped the Beats.



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



04:44 pmTopics:
William Burroughs


Uncle Bill ‘fesses up about his heroin habit.

This interview from 1977 begins with William Burroughs replying to a question as to whether he had any regrets in using heroin?

A writer can profit from things that maybe just unpleasant or boring to someone else, because he uses those subsequently for material in writing. And I would say that the experience I had, that’s described in Junkie, later led to my subsequent books like Naked Lunch. So I don’t regret it. Incidentally, the damage to health is minimal—no matter what the American Narcotics Department may say.

Burroughs may have been clean at the time, but he returned to using Methadone in later life, which makes parts of this interview rather poignant.

For a fascinating article on Burroughs and the history of heroin, check out the Reality Studio.



Posted by Paul J. Gallagher



Uncle Bill ‘fesses up about his heroin habit.

This interview from 1977 begins with William Burroughs replying to a question as to whether he had any regrets in using heroin?

A writer can profit from things that maybe just unpleasant or boring to someone else, because he uses those subsequently for material in writing. And I would say that the experience I had, that’s described in Junkie, later led to my subsequent books like Naked Lunch. So I don’t regret it. Incidentally, the damage to health is minimal—no matter what the American Narcotics Department may say.

Burroughs may have been clean at the time, but he returned to using Methadone in later life, which makes parts of this interview rather poignant.

For a fascinating article on Burroughs and the history of heroin, check out the Reality Studio.

Posted by Paul J. Gallagher


all about W.S.Burroughs


William Seward Burroughs II was born on February 5, 1914, in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents, Mortimer and Laura Burroughs, lived a comfortable life, complete with a maid, nanny, cook, and gardener. The family fortune came from Burroughs’s grandfather, who had invented and patented the first adding machine in 1888 and later established the lucrative Burroughs Adding Machine Company. Mortimer and Laura maintained a solid, faithful marriage that led to a strong household environment for their children. They enjoyed their bourgeois existence, but never delved too deeply into the city’s snobby and elitist social life. In fact, the WASPs of St. Louis found the Burroughs family to be a bit mangy and uncouth. This was deemed to be true especially of young William, affectionately called Billy as a child. Neighbors considered Billy an odd child and a bad influence, as he had a sickly complexion, unathletic frame, sinus problems, and a sepulchral sense of humor.

While his mother treasured Billy’s funny antics, his schoolmates shunned and feared him. Burroughs thus became introspective, considering himself a young isolated artist. Consequently, Burroughs became extremely close to his Welsh nanny, who taught him occult curses, offensive rhymes, and incantations. His relationship with her was so intimate that he demanded to spend all his time with her, even on her off-days.

Burroughs attended high school at the Los Alamos Ranch School in New Mexico, where he learned to shoot rifles and throw knives. He also began to experiment heavily with drugs. At the age of 16, Burroughs purchased and ingested a bottle of chloral hydrate. He nearly died, and when later asked why he did it, Burroughs replied that he “just wanted to see how it worked.” His homosexual desires developed at Los Alamos, as he became obsessed with sexual fantasies and masturbation. Two months before graduation, his treacherous classmates learned of his infatuation with one of their peers, and Burroughs demanded that his parents remove him from the school. He finished his studies at a college-preparatory high school in Saint Louis and enrolled at Harvard in 1932.

At Harvard, Burroughs became more disenchanted with elitist social scenes and his own sexual inexperience. He lost his virginity during his senior year in college, but up until then lacked even the most rudimentary knowledge of sex. Thus he kept mainly to himself, spending much time in his room playing with a .32 revolver and his pet ferret. Academically, his mind was expanding. He enjoyed reading many of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s and Thomas De Quincey’s opium-induced writings. However, upon graduation, Burroughs was not yet ready to work as a writer, for he worried about the criticism of others. His parents sent him to Europe for a year with a $200 monthly stipend (which would continue for the rest of his life), and there he became interested in psychoanalysis. He decided to settle in Vienna to study medicine, but the Nazi occupation irked him.

In 1937, he returned to the States with a wife on his arm. Much to his and everyone else’s surprise, Burroughs had married a middle-aged Jewish woman named Ilse Klapper, in order for her to emigrate to the United States. Burroughs completed this marriage of convenience wholly out of the kindness of his heart and expected no reward.

For four years, Burroughs continued to study psychology at Harvard and Columbia, but he never completed any of his classes. In 1939, he met his first boyfriend, Jack Anderson. The two had a sado-masochistic relationship, and Anderson did not remain faithful. Through the thin walls separating their apartments, Burroughs could hear the sounds of Anderson’s sexual affairs. Later that year, Burroughs cut the tip of one of his fingers off for Anderson. Soon after, he was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital.

In 1942, Burroughs moved to the North Side of Chicago and finally seemed to find a place to fit in. David Kammerer, Burroughs’s old-time friend from St. Louis, had befriended a young man named Lucien Carr, and the two had moved to Chicago. These two would become very close with Burroughs, and the unstable Carr would later become the object of Burroughs’s fantasies. The three then moved to New York in the spring of 1943. There, Carr introduced Burroughs to Allen Ginsberg, and Kammerer introduced Burroughs to Jack Kerouac. The seeds for the Beat generation were being sown.

In 1945, Burroughs moved in with Joan Vollmer, probably the only woman the Beat crew ever admired. Ginsberg and Kerouac were also living with Vollmer at that time. Soon after Burroughs moved in, he became Vollmer’s lover (against his homosexual urges) and the others’ mentor and psychoanalyst. Burroughs also became more involved in drugs, mainly morphine and heroin, while staying at Vollmer’s apartment. In April 1946, Burroughs was arrested for forging Dilaudid prescriptions and sentenced to live with his parents in St. Louis for four months. While he was away, Vollmer’s addiction to Benzedrine inhalers landed her a stay at Bellevue. In December, Burroughs came to her rescue. They left and took a room in a Times Square hotel, where they conceived William Burroughs III.

For many years, Burroughs lived the life of a nomad with Vollmer, travelling around the world and avoiding the law all along the way. Kerouac said of Burroughs’s and Vollmer’s close and profound relationship, “She loved that man madly, but in a delirious way of some kind.”

In Mexico City, Burroughs appreciated the minimal role of the police, lenient gun rules, and cheap, easy-to-score morphine. Furthermore, his monthly allowance sustained a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, but his drug addictions were straining his relationship with Joan, who was driven into an alcoholic blur.

Burroughs felt little sexual desire for Joan and preferred the company of cheap, young Mexican men instead. Still, the couple held a strong mental connection, which Burroughs respected. In 1951, Burroughs felt an urgent need to leave Mexico City and left for Puyo, Ecuador, with Lewis Marker, a college student he had befriended, in search of a hallucinogen called “yage”. The two did not succeed in finding the miracle drug, but Burroughs’s search for the perfect fix would continue for many years. Burroughs would later recount this adventure in his novel Queer (1953).

In the meantime, Vollmer was quickly falling in love with Lucien Carr, who had been released from the Elmira Reformatory in 1958. The two went on a weeklong drunken spree around the Mexican mountains, but Carr backed off in consideration of his friend Burroughs.

When Burroughs returned, Burroughs and Vollmer drank themselves into oblivion. One drunken night, Burroughs insisted on playing a shooting game with Vollmer. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed her, the bullet landing in her upper left forehead. He was released from jail 13 days later after his lawyer bribed ballistics experts and coached the witnesses so that Burroughs would be cleared of charges. Burroughs left Mexico City with nobody at his side – no lover, no friends.

Once again, he went on a hunt for yage, and this time he succeeded. He described his experiences on the drug as an “insane overwhelming rape of the senses.”

With no partner to talk to, Burroughs resorted to writing letters to Allen Ginsberg. Their relationship slowly transcended from one of teacher and student to one of selfish writer and willing receiver. In 1953 Burroughs returned to New York City with a suitcase full of yage and the intention of sparking a romantic and completely spiritual relationship with Ginsberg. Ginsberg never felt satisfied with their romance, though, and the two separated.

Burroughs sailed across the Atlantic with no destination in mind and ended up in Tangiers, a city he found to be perfectly hedonistic for his tastes. At first, he found the local marijuana harsh and the local men unappealing, so he considered returning to the States. However, he soon met a steady, loyal, cute, yet vapid boyfriend named Kiki. He stayed and quickly became addicted to other drugs, such as Eukodol, and experienced many paranoid hallucinations. Frequently alone in his room, Burroughs wrote voraciously, often laughing hysterically on the floor with his thoughts.

By 1955, Burroughs realized his life was going nowhere, and he checked himself into a clinic. Burroughs was clean of major drugs for the remainder of his life and returned to Tangiers to maintain a strict regimen of exercise, simple foods, and consistent writing. He enjoyed this new life of daily routine. As he wrote, Burroughs would toss the finished pages on the floor, where they were eventually ill-treated. Nonetheless, these pages were the workings for Burroughs’s most famous novel Naked Lunch.

In 1957 Burroughs was beginning to crave his friends’ company. Ginsberg and Kerouac met him in Tangiers to help with the manuscript for Naked Lunch, but they feared Burroughs’s intense, erratic behavior. Kerouac ended up leaving early to settle down once and for all in the States, while Ginsberg stayed with his boyfriend only to satisfy Burroughs and edit what he thought was the beginning of a profound novel.

Ginsberg moved to Paris after the writing of Naked Lunch, and Burroughs followed a year later. They lived in Paris at the Beat Hotel, a dilapidated structure on the Left Bank, living sane, uncomplicated lives. Burroughs had stopped drinking and writing, opting instead to focus on contemplating the meaning of all the traumatic events of his life. When Ginsberg left for New York, Burroughs was deeply saddened. Nonetheless, Ginsberg continued to promote Naked Lunch, which was finally published in full for American audiences in 1962.

For the following 35 years, Burroughs continued to write, publishing novels such as Naked Free LunchThe Soft MachineThe Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express. For these novels, Burroughs used much of the writing that was edited out of Naked Lunch. After exhausting these manuscript pages, Burroughs recycled the same characters and phrases of his earlier works. However, he was not frustrated by this writer’s block, as he viewed it more as a pleasant end.

With the growing success and publicity of Naked Lunch, Burroughs became a notorious literary celebrity, lovingly embraced by young New Wavers as the grandfather of counterculture in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, Burroughs finally settled down in Lawrence, Kansas, into a two-bedroom home furnished with secondhand furniture and a typewriter. Burroughs also became interested in painting at this time, using his shotgun as a brush, along with spray cans.

In 1992, Burroughs attempted to exorcise the Ugly Spirit, his notion of an evil, capitalist force, from his body. Burroughs drove to his childhood home with Ginsberg and five other friends, where they entered a hole with a fire pit in the middle. In this sweat lodge, the group prayed and put hot coals in their mouths in order to swallow the evil spirits. They believed the operation to be a success. Burroughs had reached a blessed level of beatitude. On August 3, 1997, Burroughs died of a sudden heart attack, signaling the end of this crazy and exhilarating generation.

Excerpted from The Birth of the Beat Generation

Copyright 2002-2008 by Steven Watson/Waiting-forthe-Sun.net