Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Lenore Kandel

By Levi Asher on Saturday, September 17, 1994 03:38 pm


Lenore Kandel's first appearance in literary history is as a character: the sexy Ramona Swartz, who spends a spooky weekend in a cabin with Jack Duluoz (Jack Kerouac), Dave Wain (Lew Welch), and Duluoz's girlfriend Billie in Kerouac's sad novel 'Big Sur.'

Five years after this eventful weekend with Kerouac and Welch, Lenore Kandel became famous for her book of erotic poetry, 'The Love Book.' Like 'Howl,' this work became a much bigger sensation than it would otherwise have been after somebody tried to censor it. It was 1966, the dawn of the psychedelic age in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Ronald Reagan had just been elected Governor of California on a platform that included harassment of hippies, and so the Psychedelic Shop, the most famous head shop on Haight St. (and perhaps the first head shop in the world) was raided for selling obscene literature, namely, Kandel's book.

I haven't found a copy of this book, but this is what Charles Perry writes in his excellent Summer of Love history book 'The Haight-Ashbury':

Why Kandel's book was singled out as obscene was the subject of much speculation. The poems had already appeared in an anthology called "The Erotic Revolution," which had been sold nationwide without any trouble. Certainly the poems were about sex, but in a rather romantic and high-minded way for all the four-letter words they contained. They read as if Elizabeth Barrett Browning had taken acid and set about to describe the sex act with relish as a cosmic event, identifying the lovers as the Divine Couple of Hindu mythology. It was virtually a celebration of monogamy, and there was far coarser eroticism available on newsstands and in bookstores all over San Francisco.

I do not have knowledge of Lenore Kandel's current whereabouts; if anybody does, please post to the message board below.

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