Tag Archives: William Burroughs

From The Beat Cookie Jar ~ Re-Beat When Necessary

     Readers, One and All,

     When was the last time you read a piece of Beat literature?  I bet it depends on your age, to a great degree.  I had not read any real Beat lit for close to forty years, until yesterday.  This may sound strange, being as Your Humble Narrator is the assistant editor of the Beat lit journal, Beatdom.

     In the 1970s, reading the Beats was a true rite of passage, just as sure as smoking your first cigarette was.  We found everything we could find and read it and re-read it.  At the time, pre-information-highway, there were two remaining books to be consumed to complete the whole Beat bookshelf.  They were Jan Kerouac’s Trainsong and Neal Cassady’s The First Third.  It seems like the latter two books were published in the 1980s, the early 1980s.

     And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, the chapter-for-chapter collaboration written by Jack Kerouac and Williams S. Burroughs in 1945 still remains outstanding on the reading list but that is only because it was not published until much more recently.  Since we enjoy Burroughs’ ‘straight’ writing best, this looks like a long lost treat.  This is the next book to the ‘to read’ list.

     The trouble with reading all of the Beats when you are young, say from age thriteen to age seventeen, is that you do not have the life experience to truly appreciate the events and lifestyles depicted in these novels and poems.  It can even be a little confounding.  Also questionable is my grasp of Edgar Allen Poe.  These were some heavy stories and I read all of them before I got out of the eighth grade.  I remember the stories and the morals but there must be something in those books that goes over the head of an eleven-year-old reader.  Those will need to be revisited, as well.  The closest I have come to returning to Poe occurred on a visit to the Poe House and Museum in Philadelphia, the house where he lived when he wrote the great, epic poem,  Annabelle Lee.

     Sticking to the rear of the tour due to my height, the end of the line drew close to the door of a small closet.  Nobody was looking, so entering the tiny, dark space,  I closed the door and sat in the dark, thinking ‘who else but Poe would have sat in here’ and as a souvenier of my intrepid sidestep, peeled off a tiny piece of wallpaper.  For years, ‘Edgar Allen Poe’s Wallpaper’ went everywhere I did, stuck in my wallet and often shown to those with literary interests, until it crumbled and disappeared sometime in the 1980s.

     Yesterday, while waiting for my dope at the doctor’s office,  I had a copy of Ann Charters’ wonderful The Portable Jack Kerouac on hand to amuse myself and slaked my thirst on the waters of Beat for the first time in years.  The section on spontaneous prose was where I started sucking up the Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, Belief & Technique For Modern Prose and Are Writers Made Or Born.  These were revelatory, as was The First Word: Jack Kerouac Takes A Fresh Look At Jack Kerouac.  This was all interesting, as well as ‘heavy reading’ so something lighter was in order and that choice was The Three Stooges from Visions of Cody.  Most endearing was his description of Stooge Larry Fine,  pictured below on a mural in Philadelphia, (yes, there is a lot to see in Philly) who was given the most Beatific take as “meaningless goof (though somewhat mysterious as though he was a saint in disguise, a masquerading super-duper witch doctor with good intentions actually)…”

     They are all on a comeback lately, with dvds and films about the Beats, the Stooges and even a rumored HBO Beat-themed series.  There are a few books that deserved several readings in my life, like Steinbeck’s Cannery Row  and East of Eden, and Rimbaud’s Illuminations.  Now, it is time to return to the books of my teenage years and see if they are more fun as an adult.  If you are 50 or over, maybe you ought to do the same.  You may even enjoy yourself!



Filed under essays, fiction, related subjects

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg

     Readers, Speeders and Bottomfeeders, welcome All to another day in the Land of the Blog.  Today, we are fortunate in that we do not have to think of a subject for the blog. It arrived by post yesterday, courtesy of Academy Award Nominated Director Jerry Aronson. It is the new release, rather the new incarnation, of his 2006 documentary, The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg, now released on DVD as a director’s cut with newly updated, unseen footage. It is an excellent package!

     We are psyched!

     Mr. Aronson spent over 25 years collecting and creating 120 hours of film on Mr. Ginsberg, which was distilled into this great flick. It begins 60 years ago with the forming of the firmament of the Beat movement/era of writing, following the Beats from the last century to the influence still wielded by their words in this, still new, 21st Century. Writing that was sort of like thinking of the mission statement of Beatdom, the international Beat journal, published by David S. Wills, who was kind enough to introduce me to Mr. Aronson.

     Along with the biographical and historical material, the film is chockful of treats, like Ginsberg reading selected poems, the film record of Bob Dylan and Ginsberg’s famed visit to the grave of Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg interacting with Neal Cassady and William S. Burroughs, the making of the music video The Ballad of the Skeletons and many other wonderful features.     

     The exclusive interviews are one part we especially look forward to…interviews with Joan Baez, Beck, Bono, William Burroughs, Johnny Depp, Philip Glass, Abbie Hoffman, Jack Johnson, Ken Kesy, Timothy Leary, Paul McCartney (?), Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Ed Sanders, Patti Smith, Hunter S. Thompson and more!!! That is enough to make anybody want to go out and buy it right there.

     The work of Allen Ginsberg is especially important in today’s shadowy, spy world of Amerika. His investigations into the drug trafficking by the CIA under the auspices of our own government should have woken more people up back when he was doing his research but it is especially important today, that we keep an eye on the creeps (as opposed to the CREEP of Nixon) who are sabotaging the integrity of our very way of life through dirty tricks and nasty treatment of good people.

     This film should be of important interest to anyone who considers themself to be an activist or is involved in trying to change some archaic laws which are hobbling this country into last place on the list of free countries. Those who are trying to legalize marijuana should learn a lesson from the Poet, as well as gain insight into just how screwed up the government has gotten our collective states of affairs.

     Howl, the seminal work he is best known for, opened a crack, a schism in the the collective consciousness which led to repeal of laws barring publications dealing with sex, drugs and other fun, but sordid, topics. If not for Howl,  Naked Lunch  by William S. Burroughs and the trials of Lenny Bruce, we would not enjoy things we have today, things which we do not always consider when thinking about freedom of speech…like the burdgeoning comedy scene of the past four decades and current truthtellers like Lewis Black, Sarah Silverman, the late George Carlin and anybody else, from Lisa Simpson to Tony Soprano, who never would have seen the light of day before theesse draconian laws were changed.

     As draconian as the pot laws are today, free speech was even a bigger hurdle and the bravery and selflessness of the Americans who fought for that right, against their own government, deserves a monument just as large as the one which celebrates our ‘taking’ of Iwo Jima.   

    This is a must-see for anybody who is interested in poetics, history and getting the heavy foot of Uncle Sam off of our backs!!!

     Go buy it on Amazon!


Filed under essays, news, poetry, Uncategorized