Tag Archives: William S. Burroughs

Where Death Shaped the Beats

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Where Death Shaped the Beats

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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.

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a bit of personal history about Dave Christy and my involvement in the small press

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Dave and Ana Christy

http://www.luver.com

http://vimeo.com/24508654

Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
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Doug Holder

This blog consists of reviews, interviews, news, etc…from the world of the Boston area small press/ poetry scene and beyond. Regular contributors are reviewers: Barbara Bialick, Lawrence Kessenich, Lo Galluccio, Zvi Sesling, Irene Koronas, Rene Schwiesow, Dennis Daly, and others. Founder Doug Holder: dougholder@post.harvard.edu. * B A S P P S is listed in the New Pages Index of Alternative Literary Blogs.

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Showing posts with label Dave Christy founder of the Alpha Beat Press Has Passed Away Doug Holder. Show all posts
Monday, February 08, 2010

Dave Christy founder of the Alpha Beat Press Has Passed Away…

I received notice that Dave Christy founder of the Alpha Beat Press has passed away. The press was very prolific and influential in the little magazine and chapbook scene in the 80’s and 90’s. I had my first chap published by Dave Christy: “Poems of Boston and Just Beyond: From the Back Bay to the Back Ward” May he rest in peace.

From the website:

Alpha Beat Press has been publishing Beat Generation, post-Beat Independent and other modern writings since 1986. Alpha Beat Press had its beginnings in a Montreal flat with the idea of keeping the aesthetics and sensibilities of the Beat generation alive. Our first magazine, Alpha Beat Soup was unique, being the only small press magazine publishing original and current Beat writings. In our new magazine Bouillabaisse and in our other poetry publications we have continued in that tradition, publishing a wide variety of writers and styles, from Bukowski to the lesser known poets. Alpha Beat Press is certainly the best of the small press!

Past Contributors include: John Clellan Holmes, Charles Bukowski, Beatrice Wood, Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, Carolyn Cassady, Gary Snyder, Carl Solomon, Ken Kesey, Simon Vinkenoong, Kaviraj George Dowden, John Montgomery, Jack Kerouac, Ken Babbs, Bruce Fearing, Ray Bremser, Al Aronowitz, Ana Christy, Gerald Nicosia, Diane Wakowski, Bob Kaufman, Steve Richmond, Janine Pommy Vega, Antler, Herbert Huncke, Pradip Choudhuri, Jack Micheline, Gregory Corso, Joan Reid, Allen Cohen, Yusuke Keida, Barbara Moraff, A.D.Winans, Tuli Kupferberg, Richard Morris, George Montrgomery, Frank Moore, Erling Friis-Baastad, t.k.splake, ruth weiss, elliott, Ted Berrigan, Neeli Cherkovski, Clayton Eshleman, Gerald Locklin, Joy Walsh, Anne Waldman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Kurt Nimmo, Ron Androla, Graham Cournoyer, Bill Costley, Jan Kerouac, Jeanne Conn, Stephan Ronan, Christine Zwingman, Chris Challis, Lyn Lifshin, Ulvis Alberts, Lorrie Jackson, Tony Seldin, Judson Crews, Steve Allen, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady & Ted Joans.

Posted by Douglas Holder at 2:31 AM 4 comments:

Labels: Dave Christy founder of the Alpha Beat Press Has Passed Away Doug Holder

Review: COKEFISH ing IN ALPHA BEAT SOUP
A Beat-Post Beat Independent Poetry Broadsheet
January 2009

“Cokefish” or “Cokefishing” is a pretty unique publication in that it really is a broadsheet, printed on two sides of a giant piece of paper which arrived at my door (at least) folded in quarters, and set in a variety of types, largely because the type that each poem or letter (it features author letters too) was submitted in seems to have been copied directly onto the broadsheet. And this is a choice the editors Dave and Ana Christy are making: “This broadside is dedicated to the small press and the way it used to be,” reads the legend over the top of the first poems, next, in this issue, to a photocopied picture of the late, much lamented Dave Church, whose passing several poems and letters commemorate.

I like their style here. This is the sort of homemade, no-frills publication which sold me on the romance of the small press in the first place, when Bryn Fortey was doing something similar in Wales, though he folded his sheets in half and stapled them. Bryn introduced me, through his “Outlaw” magazine, to some of the best living poets, including (as he was) Church and t.kilgore splake; and Dave and Ana’s roster includes both of those old greybeard heroes, along with Steve Dalachinsky, whose work I found impossible to format for BEATNIK (sorry Steve) and Gundy, whose name I came across a few years ago and haven’t heard from for a while, during my own weird peregrinations around the literary world and in real unreality. It’s good to know that there are still some places where the way a magazine/ publication looks doesn’t matter and the way it reads does. Lately even Beat-influenced sites have gone for fancy production which has nothing to do with the original spirit of the writing.

You can track “Cokefish (ing)” down via Alpha Beat Press and Dave and Ana Christy at 806 E. Ridge Ave. Sellersville PA 18960 USA. And like I said, it’s a buck an issue, so remunerate the Christys accordingly.

Posted by Bruce Hodder at 2:26 AM

Sell on Amazon

Charles Bukowski and Alpha Beat Press 1988-1994 Paperback – January 1, 1994

by Dave and Ana Christy (Editor)

1 Collectible from $125.00

Can Man Says Goodnight on luver.com an internet weekly radio show

Join Dave & Ana for an hour of good talk, a lot of laughs and a lot of vodka! Reminiscent of the old radio show, THE BICKERSONS – The Christy’s add a special guest poet/musician along with a Country Classic tune and Ana’s “Pick Your Nose” of the week.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Can Man Says Goodnight #81

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Can Man Says Goodnight #80

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Can Man Says Goodnight #79

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Can Man Says Goodnight #78

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BOB KAUFMAN

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Bob Kaufman Photo: Ira Nowinski. Courtesy of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Bob Kaufman: The Enigmatic Beat Poet

Bob Kaufman once declared, “I want to be anonymous . . . my ambition is to be completely forgotten,” as Raymond Foye recalls in his introduction to The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956-1978, a collection of Kaufman’s poetry. A leading figure in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s, Kaufman’s poems, politics, and, perhaps most importantly, his embrace of the oral nature of poetry informed and influenced a generation of poets. However, no definitive study of Kaufman’s work exists, and, given the ambling details of his life, perhaps no complete study may ever be possible.

Remembrances, essays, and tributes by and about the man credited with coining the term “beatnik” are scattershot through Beat histories and memoirs. There are a few volumes of his poems still in print, including Ancient Rain and Cranial Guitar: Selected Poems by Bob Kaufman. Still, much of Kaufman’s alternately ascetic and highly public life remains a mystery. Even what is known about Kaufman is not all certain; he was born into a large family in New Orleans, to a Catholic African American mother and a father of German Orthodox Jewish heritage.

Kaufman left the Merchant Marine in the early 1940s for a brief stay at the New School in New York City, where he met Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. The three left for San Francisco to join Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Kerouac in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, where the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance took root. Kaufman’s work soon became popular in France, where he helped create an audience for the Beats, and was known as “the black American Rimbaud.”

After the assassination of President Kennedy, Kaufman took a legendary vow of silence that ended ten years later, the day the war in Vietnam ended, when he walked into a coffee shop and recited his poem, “All Those Ships That Never Sailed.” His life cycled through periods of poverty, methadone addiction, and extended creative periods until his death in 1986 from emphysema.

Modeled on the rich tones and structures of jazz, Kaufman’s poems were built on melodic assurance and vibrant sonics. He claimed close friendship with many of the pioneering figures of be-bop, including Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Parker (for whom Kaufman named his only son, Parker). Calling Kaufman “the quintessential jazz poet,” Foye pointed to his ability to adapt “the harmonic complexities and spontaneous invention of be-bop to poetic euphony and meter.”

This understanding of jazz, of its adherence to tight compositional structures that made possible freeform improvisation, shaped Kaufman’s essential ideas about poetry, namely that invention and recitation were of supreme importance, and the sound of the poem is as much the subject of the poem as any observation or story it contained. In the short poem “Cocoa Morning,” Kaufman created a pattern that matches words to sounds in a jazz-inspired manner, as in the second stanza:

Drummer, hummer, on the floor,
Dreaming of wild beats, softer still,
Yet free of violent city noise,
Please, sweet morning,
Stay here forever.

This jazz influence sparked the Beat generation in significant ways. Following Kaufman’s example, many of the Beats desired to free the poem from the printed page to bring it directly to the audience. Embracing this bardic tradition of orality, the Beats borrowed from jazz the qualites of improvisation, muscular musicality, and direct transmission. The performance of the poem became the reason for the poem, explaining, in part, the significance attached to the first public readings of Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

Much of the difficulty editors, scholars, and admirers have in putting together Kaufman’s poems and life is that he was an oral poet, and embraced the anonymity of the role. For Kaufman, the public space had no boundaries; he would recite to people stuck in traffic, patrons of restaurants, audiences gathered in one of San Francisco’s hot-spot coffee houses or bars–it didn’t matter. The poem, not the poet, was what mattered. To that end, many of his poems were lost, with the odd fragment often jotted down on a scrap of paper or cocktail napkin. His editor, Foye, recalls discovering manuscripts of Kaufman’s poems in his burned apartment, astonishingly surviving a fire that damaged the building beyond repair. One poem, included in Cranial Guitar, was found on the floor of a North Shore diner Kaufman frequented, a fitting emblem of the poet’s indifference to the trappings of fame.
– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5810#sthash.CbxBMeCr.dpuf

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/…/5810

BOB KAUFMAN POEMS

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Jazz Chick
Music from her breast, vibrating Soundseared into burnished velvet. Silent hips deceiving fools. Rivulets of trickling ecstacy From the alabaster pools of Jazz Where music cools hot souls. Eyes more articulately silent Than Medusa’s thousand tongues. A bridge of eyes, consenting smiles reveal her presence singing Of cool remembrance, happy balls Wrapped in swinging Jazz Her music… Jazz.

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On
On yardbird corners of embryonic hopes, drowned in a heroin tear. On yardbird corners of parkerflights to sound filled pockets in space. On neuro-corners of striped brains & desperate electro-surgeons. On alcohol corners of pointless discussion & historical hangovers. On television corners of cornflakes & rockwells impotent America. On university corners of tailored intellect & greek letter openers. On military corners of megathon deaths & universal anesthesia. On religious corners of theological limericks and On radio corners of century-long records & static events. On advertising corners of filter-tipped ice-cream & instant instants On teen-age corners of comic book seduction and corrupted guitars, On political corners of wamted candidates & ritual lies. On motion picture corners of lassie & other symbols. On intellectual corners of conversational therapy & analyzed fear. On newspaper corners of sexy headlines & scholarly comics. On love divided corners of die now pay later mortuaries. On philosophical corners of semantic desperadoes & idea-mongers. On middle class corners of private school puberty & anatomical revolts On ultra-real corners of love on abandoned roller-coasters On lonely poet corners of low lying leaves & moist prophet eyes.

Online  Source


O-Jazz-O
Where the string At some point, Was umbilical jazz, Or perhaps, In memory, A long lost bloody cross, Buried in some steel cavalry. In what time For whom do we bleed, Lost notes, from some jazzman’s Broken needle. Musical tears from lost Eyes. Broken drumsticks, why? Pitter patter, boom dropping Bombs in the middle Of my emotions My father’s sound My mother’s sound, Is love, Is life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAILER FROM THE MOVIE “”ON THE ROAD”

http://youtu.be/WlZZntvJ8Q4

N.Y. LIBRARY DISCOVERS TIMOTHY LEARY’S STASH OF EXPERIMENTAL VIDEO GAMES

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NY Library Discovers Timothy Leary’s Stash of Experimental Video Games

NY Library Discovers Timothy Leary's Stash of Experimental Video Games

You may not remember that Timothy Leary, the psychologist renowned for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs and a key figure of the 1960s counterculture movement, dabbled in video games development in the 1980s. Now a trove of games discovered inside hundreds of discs in Leary’s archives will be playable at the New York Public Library.P

Leary’s most notable game was 1985’s Mind Mirror (pictured), his lone commercial work, published by no less than The Man, Electronic Arts. As The New York Times mentioned yesterday, it sold about 65,000 copies and “allowed players to create, evaluate and role-play different personalities based on psychometric ideas from his 1950 Ph.D. thesis, ‘The Social Dimensions of Personality.'”P

There are other works on display, thanks to emulation, including a game based on the William Gibson novel “Neuromancer.” The unfinished work was to included images by the photographer Helmut Newton, writing by William S. Burroughs, and music by Devo, who recorded “Whip It.”P

The archivist behind the NYPL’s project warned that “the games were still in development, so they’re buggy,” and the Times cautions that the games “hardly look trippy by today’s standards.” P

Timothy Leary Video Games Unearthed in Archive [The New York Times]P

Aside

The Sexual Revolution

“When you coordinate and liberate and release the sexuality and the minds of youth, and can twist it and change it toward a different goal and direction, via rock ‘n roll, via fucking in the streets, via dope, via action, direct action … then you can maybe push this country and we can rewrite the whole structure, based on the kind of energy released by rock ‘n roll.”
– Ed Sanders

The concept of “Free Love” as expressed by hippies, didn’t just appear overnight. It’s a philosophy with roots deep in human consciousness. It just needs a little encouragement to surface. And that encouragement appeared in the 1960s in the form of new knowledge about human sexuality, “the pill”, psychedelic drugs, and a counter-culture which rejected the conservative ways and embraced individual freedom.

“The only unnatural sexual act is that which you cannot perform.”
– Alfred Kinsey

A new awareness of human sexuality began to spread among Americans starting with the Kinsey Report in 1948. It was a nine year study of human sexuality which opened everyone’s minds to the diversity of sexual behavior. One question in the survey asked whether the person was gay, bi or straight. The results indicating that up to 10% of the entire population is gay, was astonishing at the time. That one stat suddenly put homosexuality into a whole new light for many people. Another stat from the study that blew people away was the fact that nearly everyone masturbates. At last it seems, social science shed new light on sexuality, a once mystifying and taboo subject.

Then in the late ’50s, Masters & Johnson did a series of clinical studies of Human Sexual Response in laboratory settings that explored our physiological functions in every fascinating detail. Their report likewise became a best-seller and people everywhere were now discussing such once forbidden topics as vaginal orgasms and pre-come.

Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love.
– Jefferson Airplane

These two studies set the backdrop for a new generation to explore their sexuality in a free and uninhibited way. Beat poets and writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs wrote popular books that embraced sensuality and sexual experimentation as an essential ingredient to living life to its fullest. Rock ‘n Roll music likewise began to express the adolescent yearnings and forbidden desires that were previously repressed.

Yet it took America with its conservative, Puritan roots awhile to catch on to this new awareness and freedom as we were programmed at an early age to regard sex and marriage as a sacred pair, not to be separated. But the baby boomers, raised with the more liberal philosophy taught in Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care (a phenomenal best seller), were allowed more freedom to explore sex, even as children. Suddenly it was considered “normal” for children to experiment with sex (with other children of course).

“The ’60s are gone, dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock and roll never as great.”
– Abbie Hoffman

So the whole generation growing up in the 1960s, developed a radically different attitude toward sex than their parents. Drugs like marijuana, alcohol, LSD and cocaine loosened inhibitions and sex became just another “turn-on”. Gay men and women started coming out of the closet in the cities.

“If it feels good…do it!”
– unknown

Communal living situations fostered short-lived relationships, and much sexual experimentation. Groups like the Sexual Freedom League popped up, advertising their ongoing orgiastic events. Even the taboo against sex in public was forgotten. In parks, at festivals, in fact almost any hippie gathering was often the occasion for newly formed “couples” to get it on, often in public view. “Free love” meant you could love anyone, anywhere, anytime, without guilt.

But the biggest single event to liberate women from their designated roles as housewife and mother, was the contraceptive pill. This along with the popularization of other forms of birth control, like the IUD and spermicidal creams, allowed women to have sex, without concern about unintended consquences.

Around 1965, fashion went crazy, with a slew of new styles that emphasized women’s sexuality. The mini-skirt took the world by storm, revealing leg, thigh and sometimes more. Plunging necklines, see-thru tops and the rejection of the bra, gave men much more to drool over. Women at last had the power to manifest their latent femininity and sexuality.

Twiggy, set the fashion world on its head by making an icon out of a thin, boyish stick of a girl. Her sexual ambiguity and slim figure revolutionized the way women are portrayed in the media, and the way they look at themselves, and is still an essential part of the fashion scene today.

But not all women saw themselves as sex toys and many refused to let the sexual revolution just turn them into whores…

Sexual Revolution Links

Sex, Love & Hippies
Hippie Fashions & Lifestyles
Love & Sex Forum
Understanding Orgasm (1968)

More to come! 😉


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