Tag Archives: Lucien Carr

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.

LUCIEN CARR ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE BEAT GENERATION

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LUCIEN CARR ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE BEAT GENERATION
 

 

<nyt_headline type=” ” version=”1.0″>

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

Bio:

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.

Aliases:

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

FEATURE

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
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John Cohen/Getty Images

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

By DAVID J. KRAJICEK

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.

30carr184

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.

all about W.S.Burroughs

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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

 

THE BEATS -LUCIEN CARR

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Lucien Carr

By Levi Asher on Tuesday, November 8, 1994 08:43 am
Lucien Carr was one of several fascinating real-life characters, like Neal CassadyCarl Solomon, and Herbert Huncke, who became legendary through their association with the Beat writers. Lucien holds a special position here: he introduced Jack KerouacAllen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs to each other.

An extraordinarily bright and adventuresome tousled-blond intellectual from St. Louis, he enrolled at Columbia University in the early 1940’s. Living in the dorms at the Union Theological Seminary, he put on a Brahms record one day, thus earning a knock on the door from another eager young intellectual, Allen Ginsberg. They became close friends, and Carr introduced Ginsberg to the brewing Bohemian universe of 1940’sGreenwich Village. Lucien had a female friend, Columbia student Edie Parker, who was dating the recently-expelled Jack Kerouac. Lucien and Edie decided to introduce Kerouac and Ginsberg, figuring (quite correctly) that the two would find much in common.

Carr was heterosexual but prone to adoration from men, and an older man from St. Louis, David Kammerer, had come to New York to pursue him. One day Kammerer introduced Carr and Ginsberg to another visitor from St. Louis, William S. Burroughs. Burroughs and Kerouac and Ginsberg had finally found each other, and began the weird escapades that would soon exhaust even Lucien Carr’s energy and interest. Carr had his own problems, too. David Kammerer’s obsessive pursuit of him had become so overbearing it was ruining his life, and Kammerer had begun to physically threaten Carr. One day Carr impulsively stabbed Kammerer to death by the Hudson River in Riverside Park, near the Columbia campus.

Terrified, he enlisted Burroughs and Kerouac to help him evade the law, and then after consulting his family turned himself in to the police. The episode disgraced Columbia University, and Keroauc and Ginsberg would both suffer for their association with the crime (Burroughs had already been associated with enough crimes for this to have much less impact on him). Kerouac would write about this episode in both his first novel, ‘The Town and the City‘ and his last, ‘Vanity of Duluoz.’

Carr served two years in jail, and afterwards did something that completely violated Beat ethics and disgusted his friends. He got a job. He joined the United Press wire service as a reporter and remained with them through his life, advancing over time to increasingly senior positions. It is believed to have been a roll of Lucien’s teletype paper from the United Press that Kerouac used to type his legendary unbroken-sheet early draft of ‘On The Road‘ (although other accounts say it was a roll of wallpaper).

Lucien never sought a public identity as a literary figure, though he was extremely well-read and had introduced many of his Columbia friends to the works of Rimbaud. Carr stayed in touch with Kerouac and Ginsberg, but did not like it when they wrote about him or included his name in dedications.

Lucien Carr died of bone cancer in Washington D.C. on January 25, 2005, having outlived virtually all the members of the New York circle of Beat writers he had befriended decades earlier.

Lucien’s son Caleb Carr is the author of the acclaimed murder mystery ‘The Alienist.’ Caleb Carr met many of the Beats as a young man, though he claims to have received no literary inspiration from them or from his father. There may be more to this than meets the eye, however; ‘The Alienist’ is about a series of murders that take place on Manhattan’s waterfront in the distant past.

by John Weir on Sunday, February 3, 2008 04:53 pm

It’s not true that Kerouac wrote *On the Road* on a roll of Western Union typing paper that he got from Lucien Carr. My source here is Isaac Gerwitz’s *Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road*, published by Scala Publishers in London and essentially the catalogue for an exhibit currently at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library (the exhibit is there until March 2008). According to Gerwitz, Kerouac found rolls of architectural tracing paper in the apartment he and his new (second) wife Joan Haverty moved into shortly before Kerouac began writing the 1951 “scroll” version of *On the Road*. Kerouac cut the paper to size and scotch-taped together 12 pieces to make his 120-foot-long scroll. The Western Union myth makes a nice story, but it seems not to be true.

Plus, I would like to dispute this passage in your text:

“David Kammerer’s obsessive pursuit of [Lucien Carr] had become so overbearing it was ruining [Carr’s] life, and Kammerer had begun to physically threaten Carr. One day Carr impulsively stabbed Kammerer to death by the Hudson River in Riverside Park, near the Columbia campus.”

First off, we don’t know, and never will know, exactly what happened between Carr and Kammerer that day in the late summer of 1944 when Carr stabbed Kammerer to death and dumped his body in the Hudson River. Carr later claimed he didn’t remember anything. This much is clear, though: Kammerer was pals with all the “beats,” with Kerouac and Burroughs and Ginsberg and Carr and Edie Parker and etc. They hung around together. It wasn’t as if Kammerer showed up from St. Louis only in order to stalk Carr. He wasn’t exactly a stalker, he was a member of the gang, and though he was 10 – 12 years older than most of them, they included him in their fun and games. It’s not like he was this weird guy following 20 feet behind them at all times in order to track Carr and never speaking to anyone. He was himself on of the “beats,” if by “beat” we mean everybody in that group who hung out in Edie Parker’s and Joan Vollmer’s Upper West Side apartment. And so when Carr killed Kammerer, it was as if one member of your gang of friends had murdered the other. It was very weird for everybody, and I’m not sure any of them got over it – especially Kerouac, who was still writing about it in his last book, published a year before he died.

 

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