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' first novels; ' and 2. Is it or should it even be seen as a " Beat " novel at all, or rather a proto-Beat novel in its own right and be included in the ' Beat Canon " whatever that is. Full disclosure: this scribbler has yet to read the recently published ATHWBITT but looks forward to doing so at my earliest possible convenience, but then again, I've yet to read the full scroll version of OTR published in its entirety a couple've years ago by the Kerouac estate, so I guess I better shut up until I can comment with any real or imagined opinion on the above mentioned work.
Just trying to get this dead and dormant Librarything group back up and running, back from the dead....Responses, Questions, comments, concerns, arguments, statements, manifestoes, letters; all and any would be welcome on this or any other ' Beat ' topic of interest from anyone out there in Librarythingland. I can't cite it just now, but I remember once reading somewhere that Burroughs never considered himself to be a ' Beat ' writer in the first place and The Beat Generation itself, according to one Charles Plymell, was nothing more than a figment of advertising man, Ginsberg's imagination.
AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS
By Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs
214 pages. Grove Press. $24.
Times Topics: Jack KerouacThe novel itself, a sort of murder mystery written in 1945 when the authors were unpublished and unknown, is a flimsy piece of work — repetitious, flat-footed and quite devoid of any of the distinctive gifts each writer would go on to develop on his own.
The two authors take turns telling their story in alternating chapters. Kerouac, writing in the persona of Mike Ryko, tends to sound like ersatz Henry Miller without the sex or fake Hemingway without a war (“There was a long orange slant in the street and Central Park was all fragrant and cool and green-dark”); his chapters possess none of the electric spontaneity of “On the Road,” none of the stream-of-consciousness immediacy of his later work.
Burroughs, writing as Will Dennison, serves up passages that feel more like imitation Cain or Spillane: semi-hardboiled prose with flashes of Burroughs’s famous nihilism but none of the experimental discontinuities and jump-cuts of “Naked Lunch.” In fact, both writers lean toward a plodding, highly linear, blow-by-blow style here that reads like elaborate stage directions: they describe every tiny little thing their characters do, from pouring a drink to walking out of a room to climbing some stairs, from ordering eggs in a restaurant to sending them back for being underdone to eating the new ones delivered by the waitress.
The plot of “Hippos” stems from a much discussed real-life killing involving two men who were friends of both Burroughs and Kerouac. As James W. Grauerholz, Burroughs’s literary executor, explains in an afterword: “The enmeshed relationship between Lucien Carr IV and David Eames Kammerer began in St. Louis, Mo., in 1936, when Lucien was 11 and Dave was 25. Eight years, five states, four prep schools and two colleges later, that connection was grown too intense, those emotions too feverish.”
In the predawn hours of Aug. 14, 1944, in Riverside Park in Manhattan, Carr stabbed Kammerer with his Boy Scout knife, then rolled his body into the Hudson River. Burroughs and Kerouac were among the first people Carr confessed to; he later turned himself in and was charged with second degree murder.
As described by Mr. Grauerholz, Carr’s lawyers painted a picture of an older homosexual harassing a younger man, who had to “defend his honor” with violence. The Carr-Kammerer story fascinated the writers’ circle, and several contemporaries, including Allen Ginsberg, would try their hand at telling the story.
In “Hippos” Burroughs and Kerouac lay out a fictionalized account of the days and weeks leading up to the killing. Carr is called Phillip Tourian here, and Kammerer is Ramsay Allen. While Allen drones on and on to Dennison about Tourian, Tourian tells Ryko that he wants to escape from the suffocating Allen and suggests that he and Ryko ship out with the merchant marine. They make several efforts to get on a boat to France but are repeatedly thwarted for a variety of reasons, like not having the right stamp on their union cards or getting into an argument with another sailor.
Meanwhile, all the characters spend a lot of time hanging out in bars and restaurants and friends’ apartments, complaining about their lack of money and putting on artistic airs, as if they were a bunch of French existentialists. Tourian does stupid party tricks like taking a bite out of a cocktail glass, chewing it up and washing it down with some water. Allen tries to spy on the object of his affection while he is sleeping. Ryko fights and makes up with his girlfriend, Janie, who wants to get married. And Dennison shoots himself up with morphine.
None of these one-dimensional slackers are remotely interesting as individuals, but together they give the reader a sense of the seedy, artsy world Kerouac and Burroughs inhabited in New York during the war years. And so these, really, are the only reasons to read this undistinguished book: for the period picture it provides of the city — think of Billy Wilder’s “Lost Weekend” crossed with Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” — and for the semi-autobiographical glimpses it offers of the two writers before they found their voices and became bohemian brand names.
I too am a big Blackburn fan, though I don't own, The Dissolving
Fabric. Wish I did. I do have a few other Blackburn things that are nice though: Sing-Song, wch is the fourth Caterpillar, a series of publications edited by Clayton Eshleman. Very cool, from December 1966. I've always considered Blackburn extremely important and have collected what I can of his for years.
Thanks for the tip on The Bohemian Register by Morgan Hickey. I'll have to check it out.
( whatever that is ? ) and I for one don't want to go there...Blackburn. Yeah.
He was included in the Allen Anthology and appeared in various other publications that were known for publishing ' Beat ' writers; Evergreen Review and Black Mountain Review come immediately to mind, but I'd have to check and see if he was published in any of the other small press/mimeo Beat journals and magazines of the time like Yugen, Floating Bear, or Measure. My guess wd be yes. I'm sure he made at least a few appearances in any number of those rags, as well as probably dozens of others over the years. I've never seen a bibliography of his work and don't known if one exists, but it wd be fascinating to see where he was published. My sense is that he's a poet's poet and his importance to Post WWII North American ( New American Poetry ) cannot be underestimated. That he's neglected in the mainstream is shameful, but then again I can name another dozen poets whose work is not as well-known as it should be. Not being in academic circles myself, I cdn't say if his work is taught at university, but I wd like to think that it is. At least somewhere! As for Stanley Kunitz from Worcester and his comment to you re Blackburn. If' he's mainly a technician, then he's probably the most important ' technician ' since Pound. That he's a New York Poet is indisputable and in this regard he probably has more affinities with Frank O'Hara and the New Youk School than he does with the Beats. In On Or About The Premises is amazing and one of my favorites from 1968 though I don't dare touch it too often as it's a delicate thing from Grossman Publications; I guess there was a simultaneous British edition of it as well from Cape Goliard Press, London. The Cities from the previous year ( 1967 ) is a much larger collection of his work and my copy is an Evergreen Original trade paperback and my copy is an ex-library edition, a much-thumbed-through-and-carried-around-with-me-copy that I've had for years. Here's the first paragraph of his opening ' Author's Note ' to that volume: " Well, here it is. And it turns out to be cities, or, I've held it to that. The Cities. Every man's stand be his own. Finally, it is a construct, out of my own isolations, eyes, ears, nose, and breath, my recognitions of those constructs not my own that I can live in. The Cities. " Isn't that just beautiful!
Michael & Paul appear to represent different aspects of Kerouac's own character.
Arthur = William Burroughs
Leo = Allen Ginsberg
Claude = Lucien Carr
I recently picked up a HC copy of Herbert Huncke's autobiography, Guilty of Everything, from Paragon House 1990. Nice to find in a sidewalk sale right in my own neighborhood for $2. Can't complain as I didn't own it before last week and the price was right. I have an old trade paperback of his The Evening Sun Turned Crimson from Cherry Valley Editions 1980. The only truly collectible thing of his I would love to get my hands on would be Huncke's Journal from Dianne DiPrima's Poet's Press from, if I remember correctly, 1968. I passed on the one opportunity I had to grab that book years ago in Vermont and have kicked myself ever since.
You also may want to read Women of the Beat Generation, The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution by Brenda Knight. ( MJF Books ) 1996.
Also a great read!