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William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin were well known for experimenting with the "cut-up technique" to create literary works. The process involves selecting pages of textual material, randomly cutting out words or phrases from the established text, and rearranging the resulting out of context words or phrases to create a new work. The  juxtaposition of these words often resulted in the interpretation of a new truth.


Gysin has been credited with discovering the concept of cut-ups in 1959 while cutting boards to mount some of his drawings. An issue of the New York Herald Tribune, which had been underneath the boards, were also sliced into strips and Gysin noticed that when slices of different articles where placed placed side by side, the resulting combination created  poetic meaning. He further realized that the creation of this lyrical construction served as an extension of the artistic methods used to create surrealistic visual art. Gysin introduced Burroughs to the concept and the two developed new techniques to apply to the method. One such technique was coined "fold-in." The fold-in method involved folding two pages of linear text in half and placing the halves side by side to create new meanings. The cut-up method was eventually extended from literature to recorded speech and music to films


Taking advantage of the cut-up method, Gysin collaborated with Burroughs and others to write the book Minutes to Go, which contained some of the first published works using the cut-up method in a piece entitled "First Cut-Ups." Another work created by the two in this manner was entitled The Third Mind. Sections from The Third Mind had been published in various literary journals as early as 1960. Grove Press originally planned to publish the entire manuscript until their editors determined the project was unfeasible. However, The Third Mind was eventually published in a France language edition in 1977 and in English in 1978, although the 1977 and 1978 editions were edited to such a degree that they bore little resemblance to the original vision.


Burroughs went on to write The Nova Trilogy using the cut-up technique. The trilogy consisted of The Soft Machine, originally published in 1961, The Ticket That Exploded in 1962, and Nova Express in 1964. Burroughs didn't take credit for the innovation and even stated that cut ups had previously been used in part by both T.S. Eliot in his 1922 poem, The Waste Land and by John Dos Passos in his U.S.A. Trilogy published between 1930 and 1936


Although Gysin is credited with discovering these techniques and the Beats are viewed as the first literary school to explore the possibilities that cut-ups offered, the concept had been in existence decades earlier. It could be argued that Gysin rediscovered the method and developed new techniques for the method, but Gysin didn't invent the technique. The first champions of the cut-up technique was the Dadaists in the 1920s. Each generation builds on the innovations of other generations and the Beats were inspired by the past to modify and exploit a technique that had already been developed.


One of the first cases of cut-up poetry was documented in 1929 when Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara challenged himself to write a poem instantaneously by selecting words randomly from a hat and arranging them into lyrics. Cut-up poems had been published several decades before the Beats used similar techniques to create literature. In that respect, Tzara and other Dadaists can be seen as descendants of the Beat Generation.


This fact doesn't diminish the importance of the Beats' influence on the cut-up method as a legitimate art form since the technique had previously been dismissed as a stunt and had never been disseminated to the public as a serious literary approach.  This blog entry simply points out that



I’m currently reading Daniel Cottom’s International Bohemia: Scenes Of Nineteenth Century Life and have come across a chapter on a topic that correlates to a situation that has spanned centuries when it comes to the development of counter-cultural lifestyles. The term “generation gap” was a popular one in the 1960s and 1970s and while it is not widely used today, the friction between young people and their parents which results in rebellious actions still exists.

It existed during the term of the early Bohemians. Cottom notes that “before he became known as the famous chronicler of nineteenth-century bohemia, Henry Murger was a young man rebelling against his father.” The nature of work was changing during the 19th century to the point that a middle class young adult was required either to go to college or to labor as an apprentice to enter a career. The requirement of being ordered to perform tasks was burdensome to those who wanted the time to pursue their art. The arts were not seen as a wholesome enterprise and regardless, parents didn’t see the arts as a career that would provide a lucrative future.

Cottom states that Murger was “a child of the 1830s, the decade that gave rise to the modern meaning of bohemia as the imaginary land occupied by those whose cultural ideals shine through the poverty-stricken conditions in which they must often pursue their unconventional lives.” While many bohemians of that time as well as in contemporary times were poor, many others came from middle class or even upper class backgrounds and were supported by their families to obtain an education or gain experience. As the case of William S. Burroughs, many of these young people received an allowance of sorts while they experimented in bohemia. There were instances in the mid 19th century as well as the mid 20th century where parents assumed the allowances given to their children were being applied to education and later found out that the money was being used to support an alternative lifestyle. In some cases, the allowances were withheld and the children either went back to their studies or reverted to uncomfortable bohemian.

Some of these young adults were sincere in their art interests, while others were looking for a free ride. One of the attributes commonly given to bohemians in the 19th century was laziness or an abhorrence to work. Of course, this stereotype was not usually true. In fact, Cottom refers to the stereotypical character of fictional beatnik Maynard G. Krebs, who was opposed to gainful employment to the point that he couldn’t even pronounce the word “work” as an archetype of the reputed lazy 19th century bohemian.

Cottom continues by stating that ever since Murger’s time period, “bohemia arises when youths rebel against father figures who seem to incarnate all the coarse, materialistic, utilitarian values of a society dominated by business and industry.” I have previously mentioned that the more things change when it comes to counter-cultural society, the more they stay the same. The characteristics described in the development of the 19th century bohemian appear very similar to the 1950s beatnik, the 1960s hippie, the 1980s punk and some youth of today.

Charles Hugo, in his 1859 work, La Bohéme Dorée, sums up the stereotypical bohemian which seem to apply to all future counter-cultural communities as having the qualities of “alienation from the world of work, a carefree nature, eccentricity in relation to respectable society, thriftlessness, sexual and political irresponsibility, reliance on credit and a devil-may-care attitude about the morrow.”


The original 1849 French script of La Vie De Bohème: Pièce En Cinq Actes, by Henry Murger and Theodore Barrière is now available from the Full Text page at http://www.bohemianlit.com/full_text/murger_barriere/boheme_play_french.htm. I have finished the English adaptation but I want to spend some time proofreading it for grammar and continuity before it is uploaded. It will probably take about month before that has been accomplished. Although the libretto for Puccini's La Boheme states that the opera was based on the book by Henri Murger, it appears that the libretto was actually based on the play, although I have no historical documentation to definitively make that declaration. The play was written and performed before the book was published and was very popular in its time and the plot of the play more closely follows the opera's story.


The play lacks detail regarding the Bohemian's characteristics. It is also my guess that the audiences of the time would have recognized the characters to be Bohemian based on their dress and manner which would eliminate the need for further details in the dialogue. Perhaps an analogy could be made to a play about beatniks. An audience in the 1950's seeing characters in stereotypical beatnik garb such as berets and performing stereotypical actions such as using bongo drums and speaking with stereotypical idioms would easily recognize the characters as beatniks without the need for detailed dialogue. I am not satisfied with the English translation because it doesn't appear to bring Bohemian characteristics to life. It might be that the dialogue didn't translate very accurately but I think a large portion of the problem lies with the fact that audiences of the time went to the play with a cultural knowledge of what to expect.


I would love to see this play performed in English if for no other reason than that it spawned the classic opera.. Any nonprofit theater group interested in producing the play can feel free to contact me to receive a preview of the adaptation to determine whether it would be worth their while to stage a production..


On another subject, I had read that in 1960, the publishers of the Random House Dictionary asked Jack Kerouac to write the definition entry for the term "Beat Generation." His definition is now available from the "What Is A Bohemian?" link at the side of this page. An interesting fact I read in Sterling Lord's book Lord of Publishing is that besides The Town And The City, "On The Road became the only manuscript of Jack's that was ever edited. Jack became such an important literary figure that he could and did demand complete control over his words." There was a clause in Kerouac's literary contracts that ensured there would be no outside editing. Lord should know since he was Kerouac's literary agent.



I have mentioned Henri Murger's Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (available in full text at http://www.bohemianlit.com/full_text/murger/contents.htm) once in this blog, but didn't go into much detail. The story in the book is based on real people that Murger knew and lived with as a struggling Bohemian in mid 1800s Paris. The book was based on a series of newspaper columns that Murger penned and then was transformed to a play before the book was published. Although the book was popular at the time of its publication (the first English translation was published in the late 1880s) it is not currently considered to be a significant literary work by most scholars. The book's main claim to fame is that the story inspired Puccini's La Boheme.


Murger wrote approximately a half dozen books about his Bohemian Paris life and friends but none of the other books reached the success of  Bohemians of the Latin Quarter and as far as I can tell, none of his other works have been published in English. I have always felt that Puccini's librettist deleted the best parts of the book and have always been curious whether the play (which Puccini or his librettist had no involvement) followed the same plot as the opera. Unfortunately, I have never found an English translation although I had located the original version in French. I decided to translate the play to satisfy my own curiosity. "Translate" may not be the correct term. Even English texts of the mid to late 1800s have a rather formal style that doesn't impart contemporary natural language. The French of the 1800's likewise employs a style that doesn't always make sense in contemporary times. To compensate for this problem, I believe that I should state that I am adapting the French into modern English. I am currently about half finished with the adaptation and when I have completed the project, I will upload the original French along with the English adaptation. I will let everyone know in this blog when I have uploaded the play.


The last book I read was Joyce Johnson's The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory Of Jack Kerouac. Johnson is certainly qualified to write a biography about Kerouac as she was his girlfriend during a few years prior to the publication of On The Road. She has previously written about her relationship with Kerouac and also published a book about many of the lesser known Beats. One thing that sets this book apart from other Kerouac biographies is that Johnson ends the book at the point shortly after the publication of On The Road. One reason for this is that Johnson feels that the book's success destroyed Kerouac. The facts regarding Kerouac's life tend to agree with this assessment.


Johnson had access to the Kerouac's unpublished material at the New York Public Library collection, including drafts of earlier versions of what eventually became On the Road, but due to copyright restrictions from the Kerouac estate, she generally alludes to or describes this material instead of using extensive quotations from the material. As I read the book, I originally assumed that the book contained no footnotes because Johnson was writing with her intimate knowledge of Kerouac. In fact, there are citation at the back of the book, but no indication in the text which facts have been cited. This is serious problem. The only way to refer to the citations is to wonder if a fact came from a credible source and then check the page number in the back of the book to figure out whether a certain fact came from a certain source. I am not sure why footnotes were not included, but my guess is that it has something to do with e-book formatting concerns. If my guess is correct, it may become difficult to verify sources in future nonfiction e-books.   


What motivates filmmakers to produce movies based on the Beats or on Beat literature? Perhaps these individuals admire the authors and honestly believe that their interpretations and visions for transposing the written word to a visual format will enhance the subject. Perhaps they believe they can transform some of the abstract themes and attract individuals who would not otherwise be drawn to Beat literature. Maybe these filmmakers dream that their films will become big hits and reap huge profits. Whatever the reason, there has been a spike in productions and the films have been inundating major film festivals.


I have yet to see Walter Salles’ production of  On The Road which opened at the Cannes Film Festival last year to mixed reviews. The film has been playing mostly in major markets on the East and West coasts for several months (maybe in order to be eligible for the Oscars) and is now scheduled to be released nationwide in March. It doesn't appear that it will make a big splash based on the reviews and comments I have seen. In fact, it will likely lose money. If the cost of producing the film does soak its investors, it won't be the first Beat film to do so and based on the the potential mainstream appeal of the three other Beat films that are about to be released, it probably won't be the last one to lose money.


The first commercial film adaptation of  Beat literature, Kerouac's The Subterraneans,  released in 1960, lost about a million dollars. The producers of the movie made several major changes from the book, likely in order to satisfy the morals of the mainstream audiences of the time and to take advantage of the public's fascination with "Beatniks." The end result was neither satisfying to the general public or to those familiar with Kerouac. Film producers probably determined that Beat literature would not translate well to movies aimed at the mainstream and took a break from attempting to capitalize from the material. Please note that I consider films such as Pull My Daisy to be a true Beat film and not a commercial adaptation.


Several films about the Beats or based on their literature have since been produced including 1980's Heart Beat, which portrayed the major Beat characters from Carolyn Cassady's perspective; David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch; 1997's The Last Time I Committed Suicide, based on a letter written by Neal Cassady; and several Bukowski titles, among others.


It appears that the filmmakers currently involved in producing pictures about the Beats or based on their literature have an earnest motivation but if they define success as a big box office they will probably be disappointed. In a previous blog, I wrote about Rob Epstein's and Jeffrey Friedman's production of Gensberg's Howl, which opened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. It was a creative and honest portrayal combining live action and animation. The general public didn't seem to be interested and it generated less than a million dollars in gross revenue. Making a profit is not necessarily the parameter for indicating whether a film successfully covers a work of literature. Art for art's sake is not a shameful philosophy. It may be that Beat films are only of interest to a very narrow audience. There is a robust independent film industry that produces complex works without the expectation of big returns. Movies concerning the Beats might successfully fit within this industry.  


Two Beat films are opening at this year's Sundance Film Festival. I previously posted a blog about one of them - John Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings. I will withhold judgement until I see it, but it appears that the biggest mainstream buzz regarding the film is that Daniel Radcliffe has shed his Harry Potter image by taking on the role of Allen Ginsberg. The other film opening at Sundance this year is Kerouac's Big Sur. I have seen the trailer for this film, and while the actors who play Kerouac and Ferlinghetti look similar to the actual people, I couldn't tell whether the film would do justice to the book. I am concerned that the producers decided to portray the characters with their real names rather than with the pseudonyms used in the book.  It is true that Kerouac did use real names in several unpublished versions of On The Road and that the names were changed at his publisher's insistence. It is also true, however, that Kerouac's works were not completely factual accounts of the real people. He used poetic license, as was his creative right. The use of the characters' real names in the movie version may perpetuate myths about these people.


While I look forward to viewing these films, I don't want to be a film critic. My main interest in these films is in how the original literature affected the filmmakers' efforts to create new art.


I have read that a film version of Burroughs' Queer may be completed in time for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. I have no other knowledge about the production, but the film may have a chance as the subject matter is relevant to a contemporary audience other than those interested in Beat literature since Gay rights is an issue of immediate interest. 



Happy New Year! It was been a long time since the last entry and there have been no New Year resolutions made to make more regularly scheduled entries. However there have been a several books that left an impression on me in the past seven months which will be described in this post.


While encyclopedias are usually for reference purposes, there is no reason why one cannot read one from cover to cover. The Encyclopedia of Beat Literature, edited by Kurt Hemmer and published by Facts On File, is useful for the exposure it provides to many authors and poets who might otherwise be overlooked as Beat artists. The classification of Beat writers is expanded to include second and third generation Beats as well as those who influenced  Beats or who were influenced by the Beats.


This encyclopedia establishes 1944 as "the starting point for the birth of the Beat  Generation when Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg were all introduced to each other by mutual friends David Kammerer and Lucien Carr in New York." The editor suggests that 1/14/1967, the date of the Human Be-In, marks the end of the Beat Generation.


Hemmer notes that Beat scholar Jennie Skerl states the influence of Beat Generation works spreading to colleges and suburbs and forming the Hippie movement was "the first time an avant-garde movement became a popular movement." I would assert that the adoption of a counter-culture literary movements and lifestyles by established segments of society has occurred previously. The fashion and lifestyle of the Bohemians of post-revolutionary France or of  the early 20th century Greenwich Village Bohemians were also emulated by popular society of the time.


Hemmer concedes that while a conclusive definition of a Beat cannot definitively be established, he offers the following definition: "Any contemporary of Allen Ginsberg's who was either championed by Ginsberg or influenced by his poetics..." The encyclopedia also points to writers who serve as transitions to or from the Beats. For example, Paul Bowles is described as "in a position between the writings of the Lost Generation and those of the Beat Generation" while Richard Brautigan is described as "a bridge between the Beats and what is being identified as 'counter-culture literature.' " Robert Creeley is described as "a Beat before the Beats." The works of Bob Dylan are seen as being "a lynchpin which connected the work of Beat writers of the 1950s to the literature and culture of the 1960s." Ken Kesey is "best considered a bridge between the Beats and their inheritors, the hippies..." Kesey and his Merry Pranksters' trip on the bus named Furthur is "seen by some as the transition between the Beats and the hippies." Defining literary movements and tracing their evolution is a fine scholarly exercise, but my view is that these labels are simply continuous segments in a long history of counter-culture literature which has existed to some extent as last as far back as the invention of the printing press.


The expansion of the creative output of  the Beats into a commodity to be sold to the consumers of established society is an idea explored in Preston Whaley, Jr.'s Blows Like a Horn: Beat Writing, Jazz, Style and Markets in the Transformation of U.S. Culture. Whaley states that Ginsberg believed "he could use the commercial media to his benefit.... He would stir up a spectacle around his personality in order to sell his uncompromised but accessible work and promote others' work, too." Whaley goes on to state that "Ginsberg not only accepted his complicity with the media, he exploited it. He plotted the shape of his own spectacle. He understood Burroughs' bromide, 'all resisters sell out.' " Whaley describes Ginsberg as "an entrepreneur who sought his own fame and commodification." I seem to remember that this book described how Ginsberg manipulated the packing of shipping boxes containing the newly published copies of Howl and Other Poems to ensure that Postal Inspectors would see the stanzas of Howl considered distasteful to the general public in order to garner publicity. Whaley also states that "the aura of rebel spirituality helped the commercial success of Howl and the works of other Beats."


Ginsberg's public relations role in promoting Beat literature is well known. He influenced his uncle A.A. Wynn to publish Burrough's Junky and served as Kerouac's unofficial agent before On The Road was brought to the attention of publishers. Ed Sanders stated in his book Fug You that in 1956 "Ginsberg raced into the offices of the New York Times demanding it review Howl And Other Poems." Sanders also wrote that Ginsberg taught him to keep a list of journalist contacts and that "during his later years [Ginsberg's] press list was 20 pages long."


The idea of underground movements endeavoring to publicize their works for commercial success did not begin with the Beats. Writing of the French Bohemians of the middle part of the 1800s, Orlo Williams wrote in his 1913 book Vie de Boheme, A Patch of Romantic Paris that "the amusement of Bohemia, as far from being hidden, courts publicity."


Does a definition of a Beat have to be complicated? Simply say that a Beat is a living saint who has been worn out from the demands of contemporary society and expresses this feeling in creative ways.



While reading Jack Kerouac's The Sea Is My Brother, I tried to note the literary tools employed that foreshadowed his later works. While the style is a traditional narrative in the manner of The Town And The City,  there are many allusions that link Kerouac's first novel to his more famous and complex works. Dawn Ward, in her introduction to the book, states that the book presents "us with an introspective view of Jack as a young man played out in two characters."


In fact, the two characters, Wesley Martin and Bill Everhart, seem to predate some of the characteristics of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, although Ward notes that "the majority of Everhart's character is derived from Jack's own experiences." This would indicate that the character of Everhart in the book takes on the role of Kerouac while the character of Martin is more in line with Neal Cassady's or substitute personalities. The contradiction between the two characters also mirror the contradictions between the state of being beat and opposed to the state of beatitude.


While the title of the book might indicate to the reader that the story primary takes place on the water, the story takes more time in describing the origin of the idea and the trip to the Merchant Marine ship Westminster than in describing the details of being on the ocean. Only the last few chapters take place on the sea. Also of note is that the name Martin is also the name of the family in The Town And The City.


The book fits into the Duluoz legend. The story describes Kerouac's experiences in approximately 1943-1944 while Jack served in the Merchant Marines. The book would chronologically fit into the Duluoz legend after Maggie Cassidy, which took place between 1938-1939 and during parts of both The Town And The City and Vanity of Duluoz, which both took place between 1939-1946.


A hitchhiking scene in Chapter 4 seems somewhat like the first hitchhiking scene in On The Road. The process of reaching a location or a state of mind are more detailed then the actual location as in On The Road. While I couldn't find a passage similar to On The Road's "mad to live" description, I did note  the Martin character's statement in Chapter 4 that "Next to the smell of salt water, I'll take the smell of a highway."

The scene in Chapter 6 where Everhart feels as though he has been deserted by Martin also foretells the Paradise's feeling when Moriarty deserts him in On The Road. The title of the book is inconsistent with the descriptions in the book. Rather than the sea being Kerouac's brother, the preparations, formulations of an idea and travels to arrive at the sea with a companion actually appear to be the brother. More accurately, the characters of Martin and Everhart appear to be brothers.



Yet another movie about the Beats is expected to be released in the near future and while I have not seen any previews or read any reviews, I am afraid that this film has the potential to be a fictionalized sensationalist rendition of an event in Beat history that will mislead those who are not familiar with Beats. The film could possibly reinforce negative stereotypes that the Beats were immoral or criminal.


Killer Films is producing "Kill Your Darlings," which is based on the killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr. Carr, who went on to have a long career as a journalist with United Press International, had been associated with Burroughs since they were children in St. Louis. Carr met Kammerer as a teenager when Kammerer was Carr's Boy Scout leader, according to the New York Times. Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee's book Jack's Book,  doesn't specify that Carr was in the Boy Scouts, but states that Carr met Kammerer "in a series of nature hikes that David conducted..." Allen Ginsberg met Carr while the two were students at Columbia University. Carr met Kerouac's then girlfriend Edie Parker while Kerouac was at sea with the Merchant Marines and Parker later introduced Kerouac to Carr. Kerouac met Burroughs through Carr and Allen Ginsberg got to know Burroughs when going with Carr to Kammerer's apartment where Burroughs happened to be visiting.


Kammerer was obsessed with Carr and stalked him by following him from school to school including a boarding school in Chicago, the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachussets, Bowdoin College in Maine and at Columbia University in New York City. Reports indicate that Kammerer made an "indecent proposal" to Carr in New York and Carr stabbed him to death with a Boy Scout knife in defense.


After stabbing Kammerer on April 16, 1944 and dumping his body into the Hudson River, Carr told Burroughs what had happened. According to Jack's Book, Burroughs advised Carr "to tell his family and to get a lawyer." The New York Times states that Burroughs told Carr to go to the police. Instead of taking this advice, Carr went to see Kerouac. Kerouac watched Carr dispose of evidence and then the two saw a movie and went to the New York Museum of Modern Art before Carr turned himself in to the police..


Kerouac, who was to be married to Edie Parker on that very same day, was arrested as a material witness and held on a $5,000 bond which he couldn't afford to post. Parker posted bond, they got married and moved in with Parker's family in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. The marriage was short-lived and Jack was back in New York City by October 1944.


The event was chronicled by the Beats. Details are included in Kerouac's Vanity of Duluoz.  It also was the basis for And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, written by Burroughs and Kerouac in 1945 but not published until 2008, well after Carr's death. Allen Ginsberg also wrote a poem within weeks of the killing entitled Hymn to the Virgin, which was in Kammerer's voice aimed at Carr.


The title of this film is my first area of concern. None of the biographies I have read concluded that Carr and Kammerer were "Darlings," although it is possible they were. I am afraid this film is an attempt to "cash in" should the On The Road movie become successful. The fact that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe is playing the role of Allen Ginsberg also suggests to me that the producers may be trying to aim the film at audiences who have no interest in the Beats but who would like to see the actor in meaty dramatic roles. Time will tell if this movie is released and we will know at that time how true the story is to the facts and whether the movie sheds light on a brief moment in Beat history or whether it was made to capitalize on the Beats' undeserved seedier reputation.



The title of Gerald Nicosia's book One And Only: The Untold Story Of On The Road And Lu Anne Henderson, The Woman Who Started Jack Kerouac And Neal Cassady On Their Journey certainly takes pain to accurately describe the contents of the book.


Lu Anne Henderson is the person who was portrayed as Mary Lou in On The Road. The book includes a transcript of a taped interview between Nicosia and Henderson in the later part of her life as well as a  narrative descriptions of Henderson's, Kerouac's and Cassady's life and her relationship with and insights to Kerouac, Cassady and other beat figures who are represented in On The Road. The narrative descriptions provide facts necessary to understand the particular situations Henderson is discussing during the interview as well as to clarify some of the background.


While many assume that On The Road is a work of non-fiction, there is no claim in the book that On The Road provided a complete accurate picture of Henderson or the adventures described in the book. We really should not be surprised that some fictional accounts are included since Henderson was represented as a character in the book and the adventures served as inspiration for a piece of literary art. Two topics of interest came to mind while reading the book: 1) how factual was On The Road; how much poetic license did Kerouac use when writing about factual events and people and 2) how does each individuals' perceptions shape memories of these events and people.


The book makes it known that Carolyn Cassady's memory of Lu Anne Henderson's relationship with Neal Cassady, as illustrated in her book Off The Road and the movie Heart Beat which was partially based on Off The Road, differ dramatically from Henderson's recollections. For example, One And Only indicates that Carolyn Cassady was manipulative in her desire to keep Henderson away from Neal. Henderson claims that "Carolyn used her pregnancy to force Neal into a marriage he really didn't want." Henderson's recollection is that she and Cassady were always close and might have reunited had it not been for Carolyn. Henderson also reminisces that she and Kerouac had spoken about marrying each other at one point.

Henderson's insight into Neal Cassady might change the views of Neal Cassady's personae and motivation, including what his fictional counterpart in On The Road represents. While many would describe Neal as a visionary traveler, Nicosia maintains that Henderson "shows Neal to be a man for whom decisions of any kind were inordinately hard. Hence we see his endless crisscrossing of the country. . . to be less the intrepid travelings. . . of a new age explorer, and more the futile and endless missteps of a man who could never truly figure out any real direction for himself in life."


Henderson states in the interview that "there were several things, actually lots and lots of little things, that Jack changed or just invented" in On The Road. Some examples she cited were the location where she first met Jack and the description of Neal opening to door in the nude when Jack called on him. She also states that some of the stories in the On The Road trip from Louisiana were "made up." She indicates that these "fabrications" were one of the reasons that Kerouac didn't want Henderson or Jack Cassady to read On The Road when it was first released.


In fact, Henderson revealed that Kerouac apologized about some of these deviations from fact when Neal and Lu Anne first saw the published version of On The Road. She quotes Kerouac as saying when she and Cassady read some of the fictional accounts that, "You gotta understand now, that I was mad at you here. . ." She describes Kerouac as "apologizing to us through the whole book." She also points out that she and Neal didn't have a problem with most of the fictionalized accounts even though Kerouac was concerned about the descriptions he changed.


The fact is that On The Road is a work of fiction based on real events and people. It was the real events and the real people that provided the inspiration for the work of art that is On The Road and the work of art stands by itself regardless of any change of facts. The work of two painters looking at the exact same scene would not be duplicates of each other. The art would reflect the perspective and inspiration that the scene had on the separate minds of each artist. On The Road should be considered in the same manner.


The trailer for the On The Road movie has been released. The one minute, 37 second clip can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttDIcTQpLyQ&feature=player_embedded#!


While the movie can't be judged on a short preview, it appears that the producers have done a good job of presenting the story, although until the movie is released it remains to be seen whether the emotions and symbolism of the book are reflected in the film. The producers did an excellent job of selecting actors and I believe that the actors gave realistic performances. I was able to identify who was being portrayed in the trailer without any overt identifications of the characters.


The making of this movie has a long history. Jack Kerouac himself advocated that the novel be produced as a movie. He sent a letter to Marlon Brando in 1957 asking that Brando be involved in such a project.  Part of Kerouac's letter to Brando reads, "I'm praying that you'll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it. Don't worry about the structure, I know to compress and re-arrange the plot a bit to give a perfectly acceptable movie-type structure: making it into one all-inclusive trip instead of the several voyages coast-to-coast in the book, one vast round trip from New York to Denver to Frisco to Mexico to New Orleans to New York again. I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak. I wanted you to play the part because Dean (as you know) is no dopey hotrodder but a real intelligent (in fact Jesuit) Irishman. You play Dean and I'll play Sal (Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal) and I'll show you how Dean acts in real life." The complete letter can currently be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/06/jack-kerouacs-letter-to-marlon-brando-on-the-road_n_1189591.html


Warner Brothers had proposed buying the rights for the book for $110,000 in the late 1950s but Kerouac's agent felt that the sum was too small. Francis Ford Coppola finally bought the film rights in 1979, wrote the script himself and planned to begin production of a black-and-white version in 1995. Allen Ginsberg attended the auditions, but the original plan failed as Coppola admitted that he had a difficult time writing the script.. Coppola tried again in 2001 by hiring novelist Russell Banks to write a new script. Coppola's American Zoetrope worked with other production companies and filming of the movie that will soon be released began in August 2010 in Canada. Shooting also took place in New Orleans, San Francisco and Mexico.


In preparation for the movie, the cast enrolled in a three week "Beat Boot Camp" which was presented by renowned Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia. The actors were introduced to a wide variety of Beat literature. Nicosia had at one time interviewed Lu Anne Henderson, who is depicted as Neal Cassady's first wife, Marylou in On The Road. Nicosia's book One & Only: The Untold Story of ‘On The Road' includes the transcripts of these interviews as well as commentary. The actors listened to the interview and met Henderson's daughter, who actually plays her mother's body double in the movie. The "Beat Boot Camp" was meant to ensure that the actors understood the true story and the actual people portrayed in On The Road.


The film will reportedly be released in the UK in September. It has also been suggested that since one of the film production companies involved is the French MK2 Productions,  the premiere may actually be in May at the Cannes Film Festival.


Another interesting Kerouac development is the first ever production of Kerouac's  only full-length play, The Beat Generation. The premiere will be produced by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. to honor what would have been Kerouac's 90th birthday. While Kerouac's actual birthday is March 12, 1922, the play will open on October 10 as a staged reading for eight performances as a part of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival. The play was originally written in 1957 which was the same year that On The Road was originally published. As with his original hopes for a movie version of On The Road, Kerouac had once contacted Marlon Brando about appearing in the play.


Additionally, in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of Kerouac's birth, Kerouac's first, but never before published novel, The Sea Is My Brother, has been published. You can purchase a copy from this link. Portions of this book had previously been released but this is reportedly the first time the full length novel has been issued. I have a copy although I haven't read it yet. I think I have previously written about my concerns with estates of artists locating and selling works that were not released in the artists' lifetime as simply profiteering. However, the book will enlighten us on the early development of Kerouac's work even if it turns out that the work itself is of limited quality.



Barney Rosset, former publisher of Grove Press died on February 21. The open distribution of counter-cultural literature in the United States would not have been possible without his efforts.

 

Rosset stood up for the right of free artistic expression by fighting against the United States Post Office Department's former restrictions on the distribution of works which had  been identified as obscene. He launched a fight against the censorship of works through the court system and eventually brought an end to this censorship in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The fight began with the publication of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. The book had been deemed obscene by the Post Office and therefore it was ruled illegal to distribute. Tropic of Cancer was essentially banned in the United States because the Post Office Department considered the work to be obscene and therefore illegal to distribute through the mail. Copies of Tropic of Cancer, published legally in France, included the warning that the book could not be imported into the United States.


The trial over Tropic of Cancer in a Manhattan Federal Court ended in a victorious ruling which stated that the book contained redeeming merit and was not obscene. The book had at one time been banned in 21 states and a 1964 Supreme Court ruling ended all cases against the book. This development opened the way for the publication of a wide range of counter-cultural expressionist works without the the threat of legal actions against the authors, publishers or distributors.

 

Grove Press also released William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch in the U.S. in 1962. A Court in Boston ruled that the book was obscene and ordered it banned. That ruling was overturned by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1966.

 

Rosset also founded the Evergreen Review, a literary journal which introduced the public to Beat and other counter-cultural artists. Evergreen Review which was in circulation from 1957 until 1973 contained Allen Ginsberg's Howl in its second issue. Some of the other authors appearing in Evergreen Review over the years included Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure. Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, LeRoi Jones, Gregory Corso and Richard Brautigan,

 

A 2008 profile of Rosset in Newsweek stated that "Rosset's life is essentially one of creative destruction. He found writers who wanted to break new paths, and then he picked up a sledgehammer to help them whale away at the existing order."

 

Rosset wasn't the only publisher to fight for the freedom to disseminate counter-cultural works (Lawrence Ferlinghetti also had to put his reputation on the line while being tried for distributing pornography in the form of Ginsberg's Howl), but he was a trailblazer who established that the government could not suppress works of art by labeling them as obscene. The literary world owes him a huge debt.



Christmas has come and gone and I wasn't able to find the time to make any more entries regarding the Bohemian Expressionists' activities during the holidays throughout the years. I'll try to remember to continue the stories next Christmas.

It is still early in the new year and there are some interesting thoughts regarding these artists' lives at the start of the year.

One of my first thoughts was to write an entry about the Black Sparrow Press New Year's Greetings (NYG). These small publications included one or two poems and were published from December 1969 until approximately 2002. At one time I had thought that each NYG featured Charles Bukowski, although the poems usually had already been published in another collection. It turns out that Black Sparrow Press published NYGs containing works by other poets and sometimes issued multiple NYGs for the same year containing the work of other writers as well, such as Diane Wakoski and Charles Olson, among others.

I have quite a few of the New Year's Greetings by Bukowski and have come to the conclusion that these editions were issued to maximize profits from fans. The New Year's Greetings were oftentimes released in multiple editions including asigned numbered limited edition in hard-bound boards to be followed by a cheaper version in wraps. Some of the editions were beautifully crafted but others seemed to be marketed as a collectible souvenir or to lure speculators.

I think that my conclusion regarding these editions is validated by the fact that none of the indices to any of the Bukowski biographies I own include mention of these editions. Indices themselves can be tricky. Some contain comprehensive hierarchical subject terms and others appear to be an after thought. However, if these annual editions had substantive importance, I should have been able to easily find references to them in some of the complete indices in the comprehensive biographies.

It appears that the biggest value to these editions are to those who must own every Bukowski publication works or to those people who believe that they are making an investment. Most of the of NYGs that feature Bukowski are not worth much money to collectors with the exception of some of the earliest limited edition signed editions.

My second thought regarding Bukowski and New Year's Eve concerned a poem that I thought I remembered reading in a July 1976 Rolling Stone cover story about Bukowski. My memory was that the poem was highly critical of New Year's revelers. As I recalled it, the poem complained about all the unnecessary celebration over what was essentially just another day that begins a new year and concluded with a line that while all the revelers were making noise, the writer just wanted to stay at home and "jerk off."

I will need to go to a library that has back issues of Rolling Stone, but my Internet searches make me believe that I may have mixed up two different poems.

Bukowski did write a poem entitled Palm Leaves that describes a New Year's Eve celebration at the start of 1974. In the poem, he complains about the noisy celebration as he had gone to bed at 9:00 p.m. He states that these party goers are "amateur drunks" and that "New Year's Eve always terrifies me."

Bukowski wrote another pessimistic poem on the subject of New Year's Eve entitled moving toward the 21st century where he states that it is "another Happy New Year" and he "walked out to face the people."

Writer Michael D. Meloan wrote about a New Year's Eve party that he spent with Bukowski. Meloan writes that Bukowski got upset at someone who wasn't drinking and demanded that all the  party guests leave, stating "I should be upstairs typing. I might die tomorrow and I don't want to spend my last night of earth with this bunch!" The full story is at http:// http://current.com/1vlnm4c. It does appear that New Year's Eve was not one of Bukowski's better moments.

I had also wanted to post an item about the 1948 New Year's Eve party described in both On The Road and John Clellon Holme's Go. If I can't find the time this January, I will save it for New Year 2013.


In our second installment covering the holiday activities of the Beats and Bohemians I am going to concentrate on the Christmas activities of Jack Kerouac's soul brother Neal Cassady. In the compiled 1940-1956 Selected Letters of Jack Kerouac, editor Ann Charters notes a letter that Cassady sent to Kerouac on December 23, 1950  describing Cassady's "Christmas of 1946 Denver." Charters states that the most of the letter did not survive but that it was an attempt on Cassady's part to sketch out scenes for a novel that Ginsberg and Kerouac had been urging him to write. Fragments of the letter are included in a section of what became Cassady's autobiography The First Third.

The description had not been incorporated into the First Third story, but was published in the book as a addendum of materials that might have become part of the novel had Cassady been able to complete the entire book. The description is included under the fragment section entitled, "To have seen a specter isn't anything."

Cassady describes himself spending a great deal of time in December 1946 hanging out in a Denver pool hall. Cassady writes that "on the night before Christmas about 5 PM, a handsome woman near forty comes to the pool hall asking for him." The woman identified herself as a friend of Joan, a close friend of Cassady's who had been hospitalized, and invited him to dinner on Christmas Eve. Neal ate dinner with Joan along with the woman and her husband. As in many of Cassady's descriptions of his insatiable sexual drive, Joan joined Neal in a bathroom and showed him her Caesarian scar. It is obvious that this was to be a prelude to a sexual encounter, but Neal had worn dirty clothes and went with Joan to get clean clothes in order to consummate their friendship. It appears that he got sidetracked and the sexual tension was never released.

Christmas Day 1947 found Cassady at his in-laws house celebrating the holiday with his future wife, the then Carolyn Robinson. In his book, Neal Cassady: The Fast Life Of A Beat Hero," authors David Sandison and Graham Vickers state that Neal was amazed with all the presents that were sent to the family.  He was especially touched that the presents included items for him. While this made Neal feel that he was a part of the Robinson family, he was still trying to annul his previous marriage to Lou Ann Henderson.

Christmas makes an appearance in On The Road. During the mad rush around the country in 1948, Ed Dunkel (Al Hinckle) and Dean Moriarty (Cassady) arrive with Cassady's then fianceé Mary Lou (Lou Ann Henderson) at Kerouac's sister's Rocky Mont, North Carolina home on Christmas Day. Kerouac and his mother were already there celebrating the holidays.

In a letter written on July 28, 1949, Kerouac wrote to Neal stating that he was expecting a $1,000.00 advance from the publisher Harcourt Brace on Christmas and invited Neal to join him on a trip to Italy.

On December 20, 1950, Neal received a Christmas present from one of his many wives, Diana, who wrote him a letter stating that the present was her offer to reduce the amount of time she wanted him to spend with her from 6 months to a few weeks. It is explained in Neal Cassady Collected Letters, 1944-1957, that Diana accused Neal of destroying their relationship and Diana suggested that they end their marriage.

In a letter from December 1951, Neal is in San Francisco writing to his father and offering to provide his father with a free train ticket, as Neal was working as a brakeman for Southern Pacific at the time, if his father would travel to visit him. Neal writes that his father's trip would be free except for the price of food. During the same time, Kerouac was trying to find a job on a ship and showed up at Neal and Carolyn's house on December 17. Kerouac worked on the railroad for a few days while trying to land a ship, but he was unable to do so. Kerouac spent Christmas day with Henry Cru (Remi Boncoeur in On the Road) in San Pedro but moved back with the Cassadys in San Francisco on December 26, 1951.

Neal's womanizing ways continued in Christmas 1952. Sandison and Vickers write that "the 1952 holiday season at the Cassadys proved to be an enjoyable one." Carolyn was concerned however, that Neal's good mood may have been due more to an affair he was involved with in San Francisco than from being with his family at Christmas. Sandsion and Vickers state that there is no evidence that such an affair existed.

Kerouac visited the Cassady home in December 1955 before traveling to spend Christmas with his family in North Carolina and often talked to Carolyn about the fact that he didn't have a permanent home base and the fact that he was restless.


As we approach the Christmas season, I thought that I would search through my collection of biographies and letter compilations to review the activities of the Beats and Bohemians during the holidays. I hope to finish this blog by the week before Christmas. I came up with this idea around Thanksgiving as I recalled the famous Thanksgiving football game described in Kerouac's The Town And The City. At this point I am not sure what I will find, but I suspect that these counter-cultural expressionists' experiences are not all that unusual from those of the established middle classes.

I am going to start with the French Bohemians of the late 1700's. Chapter V of Henri Murger's Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (available in full text at http://www.bohemianlit.com/full_text/murger/contents.htm) contains a description of the preparations for a Christmas party by two poor Bohemians, Rodolphe and Marcel. As with many of the beat novels, this book is based on the lives of real people. You can get some details about the true identities of the characters at the Character Key page from this site.

Rudolphe and Marcel, as well as most of the French Bohemians were constantly in financial distress. Their chances of making a fortune from their art were slim and they survived whenever they were able to sell one of their works or to beg and borrow from others. Instead of being economical when they did receive an income, they tended to use a little of this money to pay parts of their long standing debts and then to use the balance of the funds in celebratory extravagances.

The two friends had planned a Christmas party and extended invitations "among the lower depths of art and literature" before they had the money to host such a party. They first tried to get money by selling some completed paintings with little success. They eventually found a rare coin and some books owned by a friend and pawned these to fund the party. By the end of the party, there was no wood left to keep a fire going and the guests threw their chairs in the fire to stay warm until by one o'clock in the morning, everyone was standing.

Murder describes another Christmas in Chapter X of the book. The Bohemians once again find themselves without money for a Christmas Eve celebration. Nevertheless, they went to a favorite restaurant and ordered champagne and other expensive items. The group ordered from the best items on the menu and when the bill came at the end of the evening, the friends drew lots to determine who was going to inform the owner that they had no money. An argument with the owner began but fortunately, a rich patron of the arts ("a Bohemian wannabe") came to the rescue.

The patron, Monsieur Barbemuche settled the bill. One of the Bohemian group, Schaunard was outraged that they would be in debt to this bourgeois, and offered to settle the score with a bet on a game of billiards. Barbemuche agreed and purposely lost to stay in the good graces of the Bohemians. Schaunard states their dignity has been saved and the group agrees that they can now use this patron for other favors. Barbemuche is eventually "invited" to become one the Bohemians as long as he funds their activities.

Chapter XXII takes place on Christmas Eve one year later. The owner of the restaurant were they had celebrated the previous year had permanently denied the Bohemians credit for any future celebrations. Rodolphe begs money from an acquaintance who has won money gambling. With this sum, Rodolphe and  Marcel are "able to obtain bread, wine, cold meat, tobacco, fire and light." and go to their rooms to celebrate. The celebration is muted by the fact the the friends are no longer with their girlfriends. In order to forget their sorrows, they throw items that remind them of their previous loves into the fire.

Rodolphe's former girlfriend, Mimi visits the two on that night, confessing that she is sick, has no place to live and has nothing to eat on Christmas Eve. The friends invite her to eat with them and arrange for her to stay the night. By the end of the chapter, Mimi has to go to the charity hospital and dies.
 

Jeff Weddles' Bohemian New Orleans is about Jon Edgar and Lou "Gypsy" Webb who founded Loujon Press based in New Orleans for most of its existence. Loujon Press published the little magazine Outsider during the 1960's. The magazine introduced the world to a number of counter-cultural expressionists, some who were already known in literary circles, such as the major Beat writers, and some who were just emerging. Loujon also published fine quality books written by Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller. Weddle notes the title Outsider was significant because it published poets who "were still literary outsiders."

The October 8, 1960 prospectus publicizing the first issue of the Outsider described the magazine as "a vigorous new, no-taboo quarterly... with the newest in poetry and prose...." Weddle stated that the "prospectus listed such contributors as Corso, Ginsberg and Burroughs." The Outsider was to be issued as limited run to be distributed globally. Jon Edgar Webb (referred as Jon throughout the rest of this blog) stated that the magazine would favor fresh and experimental writing over established literary tradition.

I decided to read this book because I spent a few days in New Orleans a few months ago. New Orleans has excellent used bookstores that have a large stock of items dealing with Beat, Bohemian and Counterculture literature. The owners and employees are very informed on the subject. I had many good conversations with the owners and employees. One of the employees told where I could find Bukowski's concrete graffiti.

The Webbs almost single-handedly selected the authors and poets to appear in each issue of the Outsider, performed the typesetting, collated the pages, publicized the magazine, performed accounting duties and requested financial assistance from the rich patrons of the arts. The Webbs did have associations with advisers in Europe to publicize the magazine worldwide. However, the Webbs were constantly having financial struggles each time an issue was being produced. Jon partly financed the operation by selling lifetime subscriptions that didn't cover the cost of such a subscription but provided him with enough money to produce the next issue. The Outsider was also partly sustained by Lou, who would sell her paintings in New Orlean's Jackson Square. To this day, artists set up their work for sale around the gates surrounding the square.

Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Outsider, published in the fall of 1961 included work from a large number of Beat writers including Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Olovsky, Larence Ferlinghetti Michael McClure, Charles Bukowski, Leroi Jones and William S. Burroughs. A poem by Jack Kerouac was included in the Summer 1962 edition. Portions of Burroughs' yet to be published Naked Lunch appeared in the first issue.

Ferlinghetti asked Jon to send him 100 copies of the first issue to be sold at City Lights Books in San Francisco. Bukowski notified Jon that every copy of the first issue had been sold out in Hollywood.

Jon was notorious for editing the work of his contributors. He edited and published one of Kerouac's poems in spite of Kerouac's insistence that the poem not be changed. Kerouac didn't find out about it until several years later. Jon also edited some of Burrough's "cut-up" poems because Jon didn't like the way the words flowed.

Kenneth Patchen made his first contribution in the second issue of the Outsider. In fact, the last issue, which was really a book format combining several issues that had not been earlier published (volume 2, numbers 4-5, dated Winter 1968-1969) contained a tribute to th then ailing Patchen. I was able to buy that last issue for $75.00 when I was in New Orleans although the issue was actually published in Arizona.

Henry Miller wanted to have "a Loujon quality book" published. He made arrangement with Jon (even to the point of partially financing the project) to publish the book entitled, Insomnia,  Or The Devil At Large. The book, as Weddle describes it was "a mixed-media production including a fine-press book, a portfolio of Miller's watercolors, and a hand crafted wooden case to house the material." It was an artistic success in the world of book design and production.

The Webbs, although largely based in New Orleans, had many episodes of packing their printing equipment and moving from place to place. They never seemed satisfied with their temporary locations. The descriptions of the constant moving in Weddle's book reminded me of the descriptions of traveling in On The Road. For example, they moved to Nashville in May 1969, (where they became friendly with Johnny Cash), back to New Orleans in February 1970 and then to Albuquerque a month later. They then moved to Las Vegas and shortly afterward, they moved back to Nashville.

Weddle states that the "Outsider was a major influence that launched Bukowski's career." Loujon published two books of poetry by Bukowski;  the first book, It Catches My Heart In Its Hands, published in 1963 is cited by Weddle as "the first major collection of Bukowski's poems." Kenneth Rexroth wrote in a New York Times review of the book that, "unlike the Beats, he (Bukowski) will never become an allowed clown; he is too old and too wise and too quiet. More power to him." Bukowski's second Loujon book which was entitled Crucifix In A Deathbed was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize..

Bukowski was honored with the first Outsider of the Year Award in the September 1961 issue number 3 of the Outsider.

Bukowski spent some time in New Orleans working with the Webbs on the publication of his books. In the previous post, I mentioned that Bukowski had written his name in wet concrete while visiting New Orleans in 1955. The inscription can still be seen today. It is located near the entrance to the R Bar at 1431 Royal Street, several blocks away from the French Quarter. Here is a picture of the inscription which I photographed during my visit in September 2011:

Bukowski New Orleans Inscription





One additional note to my previous post regarding the differences and similarities between Charles Bukowski and the Beats. Here is a passage from the book I am currently reading, Jeff Weddles' Bohemian New Orleans: "Unlike Ginsberg [and Kenneth Patchen] Bukowski does not blame classes, institutions and the rest for his problems. Bukowski does not know who or what is to blame for his agony."

My collection of media concerning counterculture literature and art now numbers 925 volumes. I started this collection back in 1979 when a friend pulled out a tattered copy of On The Road from his back pocket and told me I would like what the book had to say. After reading it I went to a bookstore and found a paperback copy of Dennis McNally's Desolate Angel. My dog chewed the cover of the book and I pieced it back together with book tape and still have it, but since have bought a mint hard cover version. After looking at the source notes in the book I developed a plan to begin the collection.  I started going to new and used bookstores every few months and buy one or two books associated with the Beats. When I finished reading the books, I would look at the bibliography or footnotes and would develop a list of other books I wanted. I would then go back to another store and see if I could find a book or two from the list. At some point I found a book that concerned itself with bohemians through the years and began collecting materials dealing with a subset of counterculture materials going back to before the French revolution.

Before the advent of the modern Internet, finding the books was a hit or miss proposition. I visited bookstores for the items on my list or would be surprised to find a book not on my list and would make a purchase. This manner of collecting was a slow process. Once books were available for sale on the Internet, I began a concerted effort to locate and purchase what I wanted. The collection began to grow at a faster rate. At some point I saw that audio and visual materials were available for sale on Internet sites. I realized that a book collection didn't provide me with a comprehensive insight to the Beats. I started collecting audio and video titles. I no longer was restricted to reading the authors' work, reading about the authors and the movement but could hear and see the authors read from their material.

Here is where I get on my pulpit. Hard copy books have existed for hundred of years and surprisingly, many of them are still in good condition. I have some books that are over over 100 years old that can still be handled without causing any damage to them. Communication on paper still exists from several thousand years ago. The Declaration of Independence is still legible after 235 years. Several copies of the Gutenberg bible printed in the 1400's still exist. Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written between 200 BC and 68 AD are being pieced together and can be read. Prior to paper communication, hieroglyphs created as far back as 3,000 BC can still be located. While some forms of these communications have been lost and while many of them have yet to be deciphered, the fact is they still exist for study. While it true that some formats of written communication, such as paperback books and newspapers don't wear well, the paper contained in many new hard cover books meet an acid free standard for paper that will last for a long time. Newspapers have been conserved on microfilm which is relatively easy to read.

Books are now being converted to electronic format and here is where I have a concern. Hardware and software have dramatically changed over the years and continue to change at a faster rate. More Ebooks are now sold on Amazon.com than paper books. Ebooks themselves can require different hardware to access because Ereaders can require different formats. Some of these different Ereaders will not be able to compete with the established format and will cease to exist. Ebooks have other restrictions - sharing them is limited and selling them is not allowed. Amazon.com even confiscated one Ebook from users' Kindle when Amazon found out it didn't own the rights to the book. The technology for books in electronic format will continue to change and will require the user to purchase new hardware and software.

Next, let's look at audio formats. The beats often recorded their conversations of reel-to-reel tape. I don't own a reel-to-reel player and I doubt that many people still have them. In fact, I have multiple versions of audio software. I have a collection of 78 rpm records. At one time, turntables contained a separate cartridge and a switch to run the turntable at 78 rpm. I'm not sure if these type of turntables are still being manufactured. I have also have 33 1/3 recordings which also have been issued in a variety of formats as technology advanced: Mono, Stereo and Quadrophonic. Cassette tapes were issued and the worst format ever created, eight track tapes were released. These formats were replaced by CD-ROMs and now MP3s are replacing the CD. Most of these formats require different hardware, some of which are obsolete. While it is true that these recordings can be copied or converted to the modern formats, the quality of each copy is less than the original format and one still has to have the hardware for the old format in order to make a copy or one has to buy another copy in the newest format. Now, Internet subscription services are being established which makes it difficult to make a copy of the recording or video in order to actually own the audio information. My collection contains vinyl records, audio cassettes and CD-ROMs and fortunately, I still have the equipment to play those formats.

The same issue exists with visual media. Different formats of photographic film exist. It can be difficult to locate a store that can still make prints from some of the formats. Polaroid film was discontinued in 2008, leaving over a million owners of Polaroid camera with no way to take pictures. Movie film also has different formats that require different hardware to view. There are 32 mm, 16 mm, 8 mm, and Super 8 mm films. The projectors for some of these film types are no loner being manufactured. Even if one owns these projectors, parts and light bulbs can be difficult to obtain. Next came the advent of magnetic video. Different formats of these types were released and competed against each other until one format became the standard. I was unfortunate to buy a Beta recorder and bought several Beta tapes that I can no longer see because my Beta player finally broke. I do have a large number of VHS tapes and there are many machines that contain both VHS and CD readers which makes it easy to convert the VHS to DVD, but once again the quality of the conversion is not as good as the original. Also, DVDs often contain special extras that aren't available on the VHS requiring a person to buy the DVD to obtain the extra content. Blue Ray DVDs have now been issued, but at least the Blue Rays will play the standard DVDs. Digital motion visual information is now available in mpeg format and like the audio subscription services, it is difficult to download and own these items.

The reason for this discussion is to make two points. One, is that it is difficult to access collections without owning or continuing to purchase new devices and new formats of information. Some material may not be available in the new format. I read somewhere that only a very small percentage of 78 rpm records are available as CDs. I own formats that I can't access such as Beta recordings and have to duplicate materials in my my collection or purchase the items in new formats in order to continue obtaining the information. I already own duplicates of material in Beta, VHS and DVD or audio cassettes and CDs.

The more serious problem is the conservation of our civilization. Time has shown that written communication will withstand the test of time and even if people in the future don't know our language, they will be able to study it and possibly decode it. What will people millenniums from now know what to do with an Ebook reader? The devices will likely no longer work and generations hundreds of years from now may not be able to figure out what is contained on them. What will these people make of digital formats such as DVDs or CDs. It might be difficult to even determine how these items are to be used let alone that they contain information. Computers and the software formats required will undoubtedly change which may make it impossible to access digital data. In fact, since we don't know the direction civilization will take, it is possible that society will backtrack to a time when computers and advanced technology doesn't exist.

Even tangible creations, such as the presidential carvings at Mount Rushmore might be confusing to future generations since there is no record in the stone describing who these peope were. Actually the original plan for Mount Rushmore was to include such a description but the project ran out of money.

The simpler the format the easier it would be for future generations to decipher the information generated in our time.. Those in the future can place a piece of photographic or movie film up to a source of light and view the information.   One can place a sewing needle attached to a paper horn and be able to hear a crude version of the audio. Microfilm can be placed to a light source and with a magnifying glass future generations would be able to read the information.

I am not a Luddite and do appreciate the advantages of the newer technology. It is convenient to be able to carry hundreds of books on a small portable device. It is easier to access specific locations of data in digital format. The newer formats can contain more information than the older formats, but I am still concerned about ensuring the people in the future can access this information. In order to ensure that future generations will have access to these materials, I propose that a limited number of  material in every format should be "backed up" in its simplest form and stored under optimum conditions for preservation based on the idea that future generations would be able to have a better chance to understand what our generation produced. All digital books should be maintained in acid free paper format. Where it is impractical to issue written material on acid free paper, the pages should be microfilmed. All visual material should be maintained in photographic film format. All audio material should be "backed up" on high quality durable 33 1/3 recordings. Saving a few copies of these media types and storing them at multiple locations throughout the world would guarantee that the creative output of our generation would be available to future generations.

It would be a waste if the creative material of our generation ends up like the Sphinx and other antiquities that we don't truly understand. Archeologists have theories about these items, but they can't be certain. I want people who are living a millennium from now to truly understand our culture and the more advanced our store methods become the more difficult it will be for people thousands of years from now to understand us.


I finally finished reading Jean-Francois Duval's Bukowski And The Beats and wanted to share my insights with you. As you may know from a previous post, one of my main interests in the book was determining a way to correlate how Bukowski with the Beats are linked.

If the definition of beat is solely isolated to mean downtrodden, sick and tired or unable to rise from despair, Bukowski could be considered to be the most Beat of all writers. This is because in his work, Bukowski never achieves a revelation in which to reach beatitude. He never rises above the depths of a personal hell as Kerouac does in many of his works. This is a major change from the Beat's ideal of redemption after experiencing the downward spiral of despair. This difference of philosophy in their works provides the biggest proof that Bukowski is not a Beat in the traditional definition. However, the works of both Bukowski and the Beats are similarly counter-cultural in their style compared to traditional poetry and prose. Here is a comparison of some of the similarities and differences between Bukowski and the Beats:

SIMILARITIES

After a meeting with Neal Cassady, Bukowski wrote a description of Cassady which is very similar to Kerouac's description of Dean Moriarty in On The Road. This may be because Cassady's characteristics of being hyperactive, exploratory, life loving and sexual insatiable are extremely notable and only a poor author would be unable to accurately describe his personality.

In a 1951 letter, Kerouac wrote to Cassady stating that he should not leave out any "excruciating details when writing." Duval points out that Bukowski followed this advice when writing Women.

Duval states that Bukowski, like the Beats felt that "a writer must create his art from the world around him, not from others' voices. Bukowski and many of the Beats based their work on autobiographical events and used veiled pseudonyms for the people in their lives.

Kerouac, Ginsberg and other Beats shared Bukowski's interest in Dostoevsky. They also all shared a fascination in French existentialism and with such figures as Sartre and Camus.

Both Kerouac and Bukowski felt uncomfortable reading their works to the public and feeling like actors. They were both usually drunk when reading their works in front of an audience.

Bukowski is quoted as stating that writing is like painting. Kerouac also developed an ethic to paint with words.

Duval refers to critic James Campbell's statement that reading [Bukowski's] works "can provide the same exhilaration as listing to the playing of certain jazz musicians." Creating rhythmic prose to imitate jazz was a conscious goal of Kerouac's. However, Duval disagrees with this assertion stating that while Kerouac's "writings have a rhythmic style" which is not true of Bukowski's major work.

Duval describes Bukowski's attainment of a calm presence in his voice as well as an internal calm. He compares this to a similar attitude of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Snyder, who "were very sensitive early on to this form of mental attitude."

Duval describes Bukowski would start to "type without giving any thought to were his words were going to take him. This is somewhat similar to Kerouac's theory of spontaneous poetics.

During the last years of his life, Bukowski explored the possibilities that Buddhism offered which is a link to Beats such as Kerouac, Gindberg and Snyder.

DIFFERENCES

Duval states that Bukowski felt that he could not "speak on behalf of others" and thus didn't write political literature unlike Beat writer Larence Ferlinghetti.

Bukowski didn't have the "great hopes cherished by the Beats.. such as changing the world.

Bukowski didn't believe in courtly love as described in On The Road between Sal Paradise and Camille. Bukowski saw love as "chaos and randomness."

The Beats felt they were the "bards of a new reality" emanating from God while Bukowski "considered himself a painter of hell and the grotesque."

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I was in New Orleans last week and chose to start reading Jeff Weddle's Bohemian New Orleans which concentrates of a small publisher in New Orleans named Loujon Press. Loujon published unkown, experimental, Beat and bohemian writers. Loujon published two books by Bukowski. Bukowski briefly lived in New Orleans while his books were being published. One day he passed pay some wet concrete that had just been set and using his fingers, wrote "Hank Was Here 1955" in the wet concrete. The concrete graffiti is still visible. I took a pciture of it and will post it here when I start my discussion of Weddle's book.


I passed by New Waverly, Texas a few weeks ago and it reminded me of the brief time the Beats spent in Texas. William S. Burroughs lived near New Waverly between 1947-1948 during an attempt to establish a marijuana farm. New Waverly is about 60 miles north of Houston in the eastern part of the state. In fact, Burrough's son was born in Conroe, Texas which is about 50 miles north of Houston. Burroughs lived in an area close to New Waverly named Pine Valley. While you will find New Waverly on a Texas state highway map, you won't see Pine Valley. It can be located on the Texas Department Of Transportation's Walker County detailed map. I drove past it once in an attempt to find the farm and realized that Pine Valley is just a collection of farms and ranches. There is no marker indicating where Burroughs lived. I have been thinking of going to the Walker County Courthouse to search the property titles in order to determine the exact location of Burroughs' farm.

Chapter 8 of Ted Morgan's book Literary Outlaw: The Life And Times Of William S. Burroughs describes this time period of Burrough's life. Burroughs invited Herbert Huncke to come to Texas and to bring marijuana seeds. Huncke did come to Texas but forgot to bring the seeds. Huncke went to Houston to search for seed. Huncke and Burroughs would go to Houston to buy liquor and Benzedrine inhalers for Burrough's wife Joan, who was addicted to the then legal over the counter medication. Huncke also helped Burroughs fix his farm house.

Burroughs' parents visited William and Joan in Texas after Joan delivered her baby boy. Other visitors to the Burroughs' farmhouse were Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady who had hitchhiked to Texas from Denver. Ginsberg left about a week later to get a merchant job on a boat but not before an image of his trip to Texas stuck in his head. He wrote of a man "who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup." in Howl.

Kerouac recounted Cassady's Texas experiences with Burroughs and Huncke by writing in On The Road, "Now Dean got talking about his Houston days in 1947... 'That mad Hassel (Huncke)! I look for him everywhere I go and never find him. He used to get so hung up in Texas here. We'd drive in with Bull (Burroughs) for groceries and Hassel'd disappear....' "

A few weeks after Ginsberg left, Burroughs and Cassady drove to New York where Burroughs wanted to sell the harvested marijuana. Burroughs didn't know anything about preparing marijuana for smoking. He didn't dry the plants after they were harvested and couldn't sell the pot because it wasn't smokable. Burroughs tried to dry the marijuana by baking it but still had little success in selling it. Burroughs had dreams of making thousands of dollars from his marijuana enterprise but ended up selling his entire crop for $100.

Burroughs went back to his New Waverly farm about five months after arriving in New York. He sold the farm and moved to Pharr in south Texas, along the Mexican border where he owned a vegetable farm. Another book, by Rob Johnson, entitled The Lost Years of William S. Burroughs: Beats in South Texas, provides comprehensive details regarding Burroughs' time in Pharr. On his way from New Waverly to Pharr, Burroughs stopped his car near Beeville, Texas and had sex with Joan on the side of the road. The county sheriff's office found out about the activity and caught up with Burroughs. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated and public indecency.

According to Morgan's book, Burroughs' pleaded guilty and the sheriff testified that Burroughs "was disturbing the peace while tryin' to get a piece." Burroughs spent a night in jail while Joan contacted William's parent to get enough money to pay the fine. As a prt of his guilty plea, Burroughs also had his driver's license suspended for six months. In spite of having a suspended license, Burroughs nevertheless drove the remaining 175 miles from Beeville to Pharr.   
 
It is interesting to note that Burroughs had some of the same issues that continue today regarding the hiring of migrant workers for agricultural work. Burroughs hired illegal immigrants to keep his labor costs low. Morgan states that the migrant workers were smuggled into Texas and labored for 12 hours a day,  receiving a salary of  $2.00 for their day. At times, they were even forced to work by being threatened with a gun. Burroughs felt that his involvement in this kind of a agricultural business was more immoral than his drug selling activities.

Jack Kerouac also described some of his Texas travels in On The Road. Kerouac's 1949 round trip to and from New York included stops in Houston and El Paso. Nine pages in chapter 8 of On The Road describe his Texas experiences during the 1949 trip. Kerouac noted of Houston, "In the empty Houston streets of four o'clock in the morning a motorcycle kid suddenly roared through... a Texas poet of the night, girl gripped on his back like a papoose, hair flying, onward going singing, 'Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, and sometimes old Antone... ah-haaaaa!' They pinpointed out of sight."

In 1950, Kerouac also stopped in the Texas cities of Amarillo, Dallas, San Antonio and Laredo on his way to Mexico City. He described his entering San Antonio, "Suddenly we were in absolutely tropical heat at the bottom of a five-mile-long hill and up ahead we saw the lights of old San Antonio. You had the feeling all of this used to be Mexican territory." Three pages in Chapter 4 of On The Road cover his 1950 trip experiences in Texas.

Kerouac wrote in On That Road that "With amazement, we saw great structures of light ahead of us, 'Texas, it's Texas!' " He also wrote that Neal (Jack Cassady) sighed "the end of Texas, the end of America, we don't know no more."


Penguin has released an app for the iPad entitled "On The Road." In addition to the full text of the book it contains a lot of additonal features. Here is a list of those features:

» Hyperlinks in the book that  reveal the true names of the pseudonyms used in the book provide along with photos and brief biographies of the actual people and details regarding fictitious places
» A biography of Kerouac entitled Life and Times
» Photos of Kerouac, his family and friends including pictures of him playing football at Lowell High School and Horace Mann School
» A selection from Jack Kerouac's Essay On Belief And Technique For Modern Prose
» An article about the Beat Generation
» Audios of Kerouac reading from selections of On The Road
» Audios of Carolyn Cassady and Lawrence Ferlinghetti discussing their impressions of Kerouac
» A Bibliography
» Descriptions and maps drawn by Kerouac concerning his trips in 1947, 1949 and 1950
» A 78 page essay about Kerouac and the publication of On The Road
» Quotations from critics at the time On The Road was published
» Memos and letters prior to the publication of the book including correspondence to and from Kerouac's editor about concerns regarding content of the book
» A comparison between the original scroll and the final published version of the book
» A collection of On The Road book covers from around the world

I especially found the three images of pages written prior to the book's publication interesting. It seems to me that I read that the original scroll was written in one paragraph without any punctuation or revisions. While only one image of the scroll is provided, there were some punctuation and some handwritten revisions. The two other images of later versions of On The Road contain heavy revisions.

While all of this information is available from other sources, it is convenient to have the data available from a portable device. Priced at $16.99 the app is much cheaper than buying all the source material. However the app is only available for the iPad and iPhone. You are out of luck if you don't have one of them.


After reviewing my last post, I think I mis-characterized Ferlinghetti's protest literature by stating that over time the works became an irrelevant historical document. In fact, I overlooked the impact that his literature had when it was published. Ferlinghetti made a brave stand against governments and other institutions in an effort to cause societal changes and in combination with other forms of protest art, the mediums were often successful in revising popular opinion and reversing government actions.

A gentleman from Minsk Belorussia contacted me recently and asked if I would give him permission to translate the Key To Chracters In Beat And Bohemian Literature from my website into Belorussian. I was happy to give him permission. For those of you who read Belorussian or just want to see the Belorussian language, click on the following link: http://webhostinggeeks.com/science/charkey-be

I have started reading Jean-François Duval's book entitled Bukowski And The Beats because I never understood why Charles Bukowski was associated with the Beats. Many websites devoted to the Beats include profiles on Bukowski. Many bookstores specializing in Beat literature also sell Bukowski's works. Even City Lights Books has published some of Bukowski's works. I rarely see a mention of Bukowski in books dealing with the Beats. Bukowski's association with the Beats confused me.

The fact is Bukowski is not a Beat. He does fit into a broader category that includes the Beats - counterculture literature. Duval states that Bukowski said that he felt closer to the punks than to the beatniks.and said "I'm not interested in this bohemia...bullshit...that's all romantic claptrap." Perhaps I should change the name of the Institute to the Institute for the Study of Counter-cultural Literature. Duval points out that Timothy Leary developed an evolution from the Beats forward. The evolution follows this linkage:

1) the Beats from 1944-1959
2) the Beatniks from 1959-1975 ( I think I would have included the Hippies during part of this point in time)
3) the Punks from 1975-1990
4) the Cybernauts from 1990-2005

I may describe these counter-cultural groups in more detail later. I have studied the Beats' ancestors but had never considered their predecessors. The Beats' ancestors go at least as far back as the pre-revolutionary French writers from the 1770's to 1789. These authors published illegal underground books and pamphlets slandering the King of France and other royal figures. Some of these authors were imprisoned, some fled to other countries and some were even bribed by royal authorities to cancel publication of their literature. The Beats' predecessors may go as far back as Shakespeare's time. I will have to study this point and will elaborate later.


As publisher of City Lights Books,  Lawrence Ferlinghetti has been influential in promoting and raising consciousness of Beat Literature and Art. He has shown courage for standing up to Puritan governments by releasing material deemed dangerous or pornographic by the authorities and  therefore winning the freedoms that writers and artitsts enjoy today.

I finished reading Michael Skau's "Constantly Risking Authority:" The Writings Of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and will share the notes I took when reading the book. On page 1 Shau states that "while many of the Beat writers prided themselves in their refusal to encourage any form of political involvement, Ferlinghetti is among the most avowedly political in subject matter." He did recognized that there was an inherent problem with writing political protest works: the work can become outdated and in some cases irrelevant to contemporary society. How many people, for example, would relate to a poem, if one exists, addressing the Teapot Dome Scandal? My guess is that most people today don't have any knowledge about the event.

My favorite Ferlinghetti political protest poem is Tyrannus Nix? which begins with the line "Nixon, Nixon, bush league president..." Those of us who lived through the Watergate fiasco can certainly appreciate the poem, but as time goes by, the poem becomes a historical document rather than a form of protest and is now mostly irrelevant. I do supposes the poem could still relate to current political corruption although the reader would have to have some knowledge of the historical event.

Ferlinghetti is also a fiction writer and a playwright. Most of his plays are experimental in nature. Skau states that in his plays, "he uses symbols designed to jar the audience out of comfortable, conventional patterns." Much of Ferlinghetti's other forms accomplish the same mission.

Skau states that Ferlinghetti's poems created a new type of literature "as a rebuke to what the Beats considered to be the sensibility of academic poetry." He also discusses the importance of jazz-poetry experiments. This approach was used by other Beats as well. Kerouac was recorded reading some of his works against the background and within the rhythm of jazz.  Skau continues that "Beats were condemning traditional poetry as 'square'... Jazz suggested a new direction, one of its most attractive features being its improvisational quality." He states that "The Beats saw jazz as a predominately colloquial medium, its spontaneity and improvisation suggesting personal freedom rather than formal confinement, and their poetry modeled on jazz attempts to project the same qualities."

Poetry is a medium that is most effective when read aloud. The rhymes and rhythms  of poetry can best best be appreciated orally. Poetry, music and stories all derived from an oral tradition. Skau explains that Ferlinghetti's "typographical delineation manages to covey musical structure, as the patterns of the lines on  the printed page reflect the swing of the rhythm..."  Some of his poems include splitting lines of poems in an unconventional manner to mimic speech patterns. The use of multi-syllabic words, grammar and capitalization also allow the reader to perceive the rhythm of the poem.

Skau criticizes Ferlinghetti for "being unnecessarily didactic to present his material" and therefore "distrusts the ability of the reader to understand his images." This brings up the arguments regarding literal and abstract art forms. Should the viewer or reader be allowed to interpret the meaning of words and images or should the artist make his intentions clear to the audience?

I have read poems in college anthologies that include innumerable footnotes throughout a work in an attempt to explain to the reader the meaning of a  particular phrase or illusion. If the reader can't understand the illusion, how can the writer make his point clear? Skau includes several examples of Ferlinghetti's work to illustrate his belief that Ferlinghetti is overly didactic. One example is:

"thru the enormous meadow
                        which is the meadow of the world..."

Skau seems to indicate that is is unnecessary to state in the poem that the meadow is an illusion to the world. Some readers may be able to interpret "enormous meadow" as a reference to the world but I appreciate that Ferlinghetti explains the illusion to his audience. Why should the poet take the chance that the poem will be wrongly interpreted?

I once had a poetry professor who criticized my poems for explaining my intent. The professor believed that true art allows the reader to come to his own conclusions and by supplying the facts, the work becomes a newspaper story. While this is a common school of thought, I appreciate an artist who makes his intentions clear to the reader. This technique is a more effective means of communication.

 
Whether in the 1800's of Paris or in the 21st century in the United States, bohemians have shared the hope for recognition that their work is deemed exceptional and that fame and fortune will soon be in their hands. These bohemians from different centuries strive for similar results. For example in the chapter entitled "Taking Pictures To The Salon," from W.C. Morrow's 1899 book Bohemian Paris Of Today, bohemian artists compete to have their paintings accepted in the Paris Salon where their artwork will be displayed to the public and perhaps the artist will gain notice from famous painters or dealers. Morrow describes the competing art students as "there to await the merciless decision of the judges ... composed of a jury of France's greatest masters." He writes that "year after year the same artists strive for recognition at the salon" and that if their painting is accepted there is great happiness but if the work is not accepted there is a feeling of despair.

A songwriter by the name of Randy Brown wrote an article entitled "I'm A Loser" in the June 2010 issue of Piney Woods Live. He wrote about songwriting competitions in the column. He states that he enters a variety of important contests every year and he dreads the notification that the competition was tough and the judges had trouble determining which songs should win but that he should be proud to have entered the contest. He is then notified that he was not selected as a finalist. He states that when he receives this notification he feels as if he is a loser and he walks "around in a funk for days, amazed and embarrassed to think that I had the nerve to enter the crap I entered in the contests this year."

I also read about an art school that has a competition where students display their work for other students to judge. If the students don't like the work it is immediately destroyed in front of the artist and the other students. There are also poetry slams where the public is welcomed to boo the poet while he/she is reading their work. My guess is those poets are also embarrassed that their work was judged to be bad poetry. The life of the bohemian has remained constant throughout throughout the centuries.


In Carl Solomon's Emergency Messages Solomon stated that he had read Regina Weinreich's book The Spontaneous Poetics Of Jack Kerouac and found it to be "a critical work on Kerouac's method of creation that is without peer." I have the book in my collection but had never read it and I chose it to be my next book to read.

The book provided me with some revealing thoughts about the definition of "Beat." I am going to write here about my impressions of the book. In my last blog, I pointed out several definitions of the concept of  "Beat" (other than Ginsberg's alleged statement that there was no Beat Generation). One explanation from Herbert Huncke is that the word "beat" referred to being broken down; to be tired of life; to be at the ebb of existence; to be down and out. The other definition, derived from Kerouac and Ginsberg is that "Beat" is seen as beatitude; as saintly; as reaching the highest peak of ecstasy.

Weinreich argues that Kerouc's work contains both concepts that run in a continuous cycle of reaching great heights and then falling to the lowest disappointments. She writes that his works "show an oscillation of Beat/Beatitude; dream/reality; racing up and down; comedy/tragedy; raging action and folly/gentle sweetness; or lost bliss/bliss achieved."

In Desolate Angels, Kerouac states that "life is neither sweet or bitter, it just is" and my initial impression was that this statement negated the concept of any duality and thus the explanations of the "Beat Generation" were invalid and would justify Ginsberg's alleged statement that there is no "Beat Generation." After digesting Weinreich's book, I'm inclined to believe that the Beats did indeed believe life was an endless cycle of beat and beatitude.

The juxtaposition of these cycles, as Weinreich seems to point out, also relates to Kerouac's fascination with jazz. Jazz generally also contains a cycle of ups and downs. Traditional jazz music generally begins with a familiar song and changes as the various instrumentalists begin to improvise, ad-libbing from the original song by moving up into a higher plane using the chords of the song as a guide as they personalize and define themselves. The song then falls back down to the original melody. The descriptions of jazz imagery in many of Kerouac's books mimics the description of "Beat" as the beat/beatitude circle.

One brief point made in the book agrees with my definition of Bohemians in general. I have stated that Bohemians are interested in art for art's sake and if their work becomes successful it is all the better. The important struggle is the creative process whether or not it is profitable. Weinreich writes that On The Road was not written with any promise of being published.  Kerouac should have known that his  original version, written as a stream of consciousness in a single paragraph and without any punctuation would not be a commercial success. While he wasn't completely pleased with the large amount of editing performed to make the book publishable, the editing process transformed the book as readable to a mass audience.

The Kerouac's books that maintain his spontaneous bop prosody are popular with Kerouac fans but not widely received by the general public. However, all his books maintain the juxtaposition of a never endless circle  moving from beat to beatitude and back again as life continues. This style justifies the opposing definitions of "Beat." Let me know what you think at BohemianLit.com.


What answer to a question has made me re-evaluate my definition of Beat? The question asked of the actor portraying Allen Ginsberg in the film Howl (remember that at the start of the film a caption stated that "every word in the film was spoken by the actual person portrayed.") was "What is the beat generation?" His answer was "There's no beat genaration; just a bunch of guys trying to get published." That answer probably also applies to Bohemians in general. This group, which includes not only writers, but anyone in the creative arts, worked at their art in the hopes of being known to the world. Some had talent and some didn't. While working at their art was more important than fame, some of talented people did become well known and some were never discovered. They worked at their art until they either became known, or they gave up and moved to a more conventional lifestyle, or they died trying to become known. If they became famous, they generally discarded their true Bohemian lifestyle and concentrated on making money.

This definition belies conventional thinking about the beat generation. In Steven Watson's book, The Birth of the Beat Generation, as excerpted at http://archives.waiting-forthe-sun.net/Pages/ArtisticInfluences/Beats/BeatStory/meaning_of_beat.html, The Meaning Of Beat, Watson states that Herbert Huncke was exposed to the term "beat" from his show business friends in Chicago in 1945 and introduced the word to William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He intended the term to be negative as if he was beaten and the world was against him.

John Clellon Holmes, after a conversation with Jack Kerouac, wrote an article which appeared in the New York times in November 1942.  In the article, entitled This Is The Beat Generation, Holmes stated that the term Beat "involves a sort of nakedness of mind and of soul. He further stated that is was a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness."

"By the early 1950's, Kerouac and Ginsberg had begun to emphasize the 'beatific” quality of “beat,” investing the viewpoint of the defeated with mystical perspective. “The point of beat is that you get beaten down to a certain nakedness where you are actually able to see the world in a visionary way,' wrote Ginsberg."

Jack Kerouac, provided a definition of the Beat Generation for the Random House Dictionary as
“Members of the generation that came of age after World War II, who supposedly, as a result of disillusionment stemming from the cold war, espouse mystical detachment, and relaxation of social and sexual tensions.”

While all of these definitions comprise the philosophies of this group of artists, I prefer Ginsberg's assertion that there was no Beat Generation at all. You can feel free to make your comments at info@BohemianLit.com. I made a mistake in earlier postings of this blog which made it impossible to send any email. It has now been corrected in all postings. If you make a comment, let me know if I can include it in this blog.


Oscilloscope Laboratories produced a film version of Howl in 2010. The film was in very limited release in theaters around the country and I didn't get a chance to see it. The film is now available on DVD and after watching it twice and rewinding and fast forwarding parts if it several times, I am now prepared to write about it. Before the film even begins, a caption appears that states "every word in the film was spoken by the actual person portrayed." I am taking the producer's word for that. The DVD also has extra features including a reading of Howl by Allen Ginsberg in 1995. While the reading isn't as vivid as some of his earlier readings, it is still captivating to see him read it.

The film itself is a non-linear integration of five parts. The parts, in no particular order are 1) The actor portraying Ginsberg talking about his life, his relationships and the writing of Howl in an interview that is being tape recorded although the interviewer is not identified;. 2) Scenes of the actor portraying Ginsberg debuting Howl to the crowd at the Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1957; 3) Live action recreated film of Ginsberg's life with narrative by the actor portraying him; 4) Readings of parts of Howl accompanied by the animation of Eric Drooker in collaboration with Ginsberg based on the illustrations in Howl: A Graphic Novel; and 5) the recreated drama of the trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti who was accused of selling obscene literature when he sold Howl at his City Lights Bookstore.

The animation matched the surrealism of the poem and enhanced the understanding of the poem. In the film the actor playing Ginsberg says that Howl is about Carl Solomon, whom he met in a mental institution and to whom the poem is dedicated but he also says that he wrote the poem for Jack Kerouac. The trial scenes were captivating, especially in our day when it is almost unimaginable that literature of any kind would be considered obscene when every kind of actual sexual acts can be found on the Internet. During the course of the trial various literary experts testify on the literary merits of Howl and whether it is indeed obscene. It is important to point out that Ginsberg was not on trial although his work was since if Ferlinghetti was found guilty, not only would Howl be banned but Ferlinghetti could possibly go to jail. A newspaper literary critic on the witness stated, when asked if Howl would stand the test of time (as if this somehow proved whether it had literary value), stated that the trial would make Howl more widely read than it otherwise would have been and the publicity of the trial might have the result of making Howl stand the test of time.

One professor on the witness stand stated that Howl was mostly a copy of the form of Leaves of Grass and therefore had no literary value since Ginsberg simply copied the form of Walt Whitman's poem He stated that Solomon was a "Dadaist drifter" and since the poem is about him, there is some validity to the poem on that point. The professor further stated that literature is created by form, theme and opportunity and while he insinuates that since the form is copied it has no literary value, he actually validates the poem since the theme and opportunity were different from Leaves of Grass.

The prosecutor sums up his case by stating that if Howl was limited to literary scholars and critics the poem would not be considered obscene but when the average person reads the poem and its references to sex,it should be considered obscene. The defense attorney sums up his case by asking whether the words used in Howl were relevant to Ginsberg's creative intent or whether were the words were just included to be "dirty." He states that the words are used to express what Ginsberg is trying to say and it is not for the government to determine or censor these words.

The judge's opinion was that  some words are vulgar to parts of the community and those same words are not vulgar to other parts of the community and that everyone in a community does not have the same pattern of values. He states that an author should be real and express his subject in his own words, not in the words that would pacify sensitive ears and finds Ferlinghetti not guilty.

In a portrayed interview after the trial ends, Ginsberg tells the interviewer that Howl is misidentified as a promotion of homosexuality but it is actual the promotion of frankness on any subject. If you want to buy a copy of the DVD, you can order it here.

During the portrayed interview, one question and answer is causing me to re-evaluate my description of Bohemians in general and Beats in particular. The question posed to Ginsberg was "What is the Beat Generation?" My next post will discuss Ginsberg's answer and elaborate on the definition of these people.


I am always interested in tracing the lineage of Bohemianism. In the introduction to the recently translated into English from French 1790 book Les Bohémians by Anne Gédéon LaFitte, Marquis de Pelleport, Harvard scholar states that "in the eighteenth century, the term Bohémiens. . . had begun to acquire a figurative meaning, which denoted drifters who lived by their wits. Many pretended to be men of letters."

I am currently preparing F. Berkeley Smith's 1901 book The Real Latin Quarter for inclusion in the full text section of BohemianLit.com. While working on chapter 3, I came upon a piece of history that reminded me of what is currently going on in the Middle East countries where students are demonstrating for their freedom. The book states that in "June 1893, a serious demonstration by the students occurred...." The book goes on to state that the "police were in force to stop any disturbance." Sometime after 10:00 p.m., according to the book, "the police became rough" and before long a full military force entered the fray and "the students melted away like a handful of snow in the sun." The full text of this book should be available in the full text section of BohemianLit.com within about a month of this post.


I had originally wanted to add at least one blog entry each month but I have seemed to have lost track of time. One thought I have had recently is the concept of the "Bohemian neighborhood." I don't want to police what is a true Bohemian, but many areas that are described as being Bohemian parts of a community are in reality the trendy locales where people who fit my definition of Bohemian don't live at all. In fact, Bohemians couldn't afford to live in these areas. History has shown that those struggling in the arts often band together in low rent districts. The attention given to these districts by word of mouth and through the media draw in more well-to-do people who like the idea of pretending to be Bohemian. This sometimes begins as curious people taking tours of Bohemian areas. Once this wealthier group begins to move in to the district rents and home prices increase forcing Bohemians to leave. The neighborhood however, maintains the label of Bohemian. This has historically happened in areas such as Greenwich Village and the Southwest artist communities of the United States. I have nothing against the middle class making these areas their homes and history has also shown that many wealthier people like to pretend to be Bohemians when they are not at work. During the Beat Era, wealthier people would rent a poet for a party and books such as Bohemians of the Latin Quarter describe wealthier people who are duped to pay for the struggling artists parties as an "initiation" to join in the Bohemian lifestyle. This trend of low rent districts becoming wealthy districts is not limited to Bohemians. Many cities have areas where properties were once cheap and then draw in those poeple who can afford to buy real estate at bargain rates and rehabilitate them into middle class neighborhoods. The struggling Bohemian has no choice but to move on with their comrades to different areas where housing is low cost and form new Bohemian communities.


My original studies have covered the history of Bohemianism starting with the Beat Generation and going backwards into history. I have just recently started to consider who constitute the current Bohemians. I had always considered the so-called Hippie Generation as the the next generation of Bohemians after the Beats. After all, Allen Ginsberg and some of his associates were involved in the San Francisco Summer of Love and Neal Cassady drove Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' bus. I am sure that other generations of Bohemians emanated from the so-called Hippie movement but I am currently unable to identify them either as a movement or as individuals. Part of this problem is due to the fact that I don't pay much attention to the current arts movement. I suppose that the Punk Movement could be considered Bohemianism and that the great masses of those who want to be famous hip-hop stars fall into the category of Bohemians. When I see a street musician or performance artist performing for tips I think that Bohemianism is alive and well.  I do think that it is far easier to be a Bohemian in the United States today than it was in the past. Bohemians in France in the 1800's had three fates. They either (1) become popular in the mainstream and were able to support themselves if not in great wealth, at least in comfort; (2) they realized that they were never going to succeed in their chosen art regardless of their talent or lack thereof and returned to a mainstream lifestyle; or (3) they died of malnutrition or from some other ailment due to poor living conditions. The 1800's Bohemians did not often have the luxury of government support although some did have patrons who provided funds as a way of living vicariously through their Bohemian. Today in the United States, those who live a Bohemian lifestyle may have a chance to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts or the Humanities or may receive support from some non-profit art group. They might receive some other kind of government support. Today, there is more acceptance of those who live alternative lifestyles. At one time, even earning a living as an artist or an actor was considered to be an unacceptable position. While it may easier in the U.S. and in some other countries to live life as a Bohemian, it is still difficult in many parts of the world. None of this makes it any easier for me to identify contemporary Bohemians. Perhaps you have some idea. Let me know at info@BohemianLit.com.


I had originally started a website in the mid 1990's devoted to information about Beats and Bohemians. I didn't change the original web page design until 2009. by the early 200's, my daughter joked that it looked like it had been designed in the early 1990's but the design elements of the site had never been of importance to me. I think that I was the first person to make Henri Merger's "Bohemians Of The Latin Quarter" available on the web. I bought what is supposed to be the first English edition published in 1888 and, because the book was not in good condition, I keyed in the entire book over a period of about one year. I couldn't scan it because I didn't have a scanner at the time and I was afraid that if I pressed each page down onto a flatbed scanner, the book would fall apart. My version of this book is now available from Project Gutenberg and since then, many books about the French Bohemians are available on the web. I have since included additional books on the BohemianLit.com site in an effort to make books on the subject available from one location.

My interest in the Bohemians actually began when I read Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" back in the early 1970's. As I began reading about the Beats, I realized that there was an historical derivation that went back to France in the late 1700's. The concept of people who were more interested in the arts than in maintaining what might be considered to be a conventional lifestyle likely goes back much further than that. The first book that I have identified that refers to these Bohemians is Anne Gédéon Lafitte's (the Marquis de Pelleport) "Les Bohemians," originally published in French in 1790. There may be earlier references that I haven't located.

I had tried to devote my original webpage to the Beat Generation, but since there are many excellent sites devoted to those writers and artists, and since all the works of the Beat Generation are still covered under copyright laws, I have decided to concentrate on the earlier Bohemians.

From time to time I will illustrate how the earliest Bohemians relate to the Beats and provide my analysis on Bohemianism. Eventually, I will build a page that will allow for feedback. But in the meantime, anyone interested in making a comment can email me at info@BohemianLit.com. Let me know if you would like your comments to be included in this blog and I will be happy to include the comment.

  
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Last Updated: 08/04/2016