Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Beat News

Beat News: January 29 1997

by Levi Asher on Wednesday, January 29, 1997 06:33 pm


1. As unbelievable as this may sound, we are about to see a new book by J. D. Salinger. Granted, J. D. Salinger is not a Beat writer, and even trashed the Beats occasionally as crude pretenders (I think he was jealous of their fame, which came a few years after his). But in terms of sensibility and style, I think books like "Catcher in the Rye" and "Franny and Zooey" have an obvious proto-Beat essence. Anyway, Salinger has been practicing utter literary silence for decades, inspired at least in part by his Buddhist beliefs, and the news that he is allowing a new book to be published is extremely surprising. The book will be called "Hapworth 16, 1924," and I understand it is a reworking of a short story the New Yorker published in 1965. According to the Bananafish Home Page, which has an excellent index of all Salinger's stories, this piece does involve Seymour Glass and the Glass family (his recurring characters, from "Franny and Zooey," among many other pieces).

2. I've been writing about the progress (or lack thereof) of the Francis Ford Coppola film of "On The Road" in these pages for two years now. There's still no word, as far as I know, about whether or not this film will ever get made (and in fact that's fine with me, since as I've said before I bet it would suck, despite Coppola's best intentions). Anyway, a different film involving the exploits of real-life "On The Road" character Neal Cassady has just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The Last Time I Committed Suicide stars Keanu Reeves and is based on some famous letters Cassady wrote about his sexual misadventures. I'm not sure if Keanu plays Cassady or not. I hope I'll get to see this film soon -- if anyone else sees it, please send me a report.






Beat News: January 7 1997

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, January 7, 1997 06:27 pm


1. Just in from Rykodisc: the very cool track list for a new Jack Kerouac tribute CD, due to be released March 18. Check out this lineup! The name of the CD will be "KICKS JOY DARKNESS."

Morphine - Kerouac (original piece)
Lydia Lunch - Bowery Blues
Michael Stipe - My Gang
Steven Tyler - Unpublished dream: "Us kids swim off a gray pier..."
Hunter S. Thompson- Ode To Jack (original piece)
Maggie Estep & the Spitters - Skid Row Wine
Richard Lewis - Unpublished essay: America's New Trinity of Love: Dean, Brando, Presley
Lawrence Ferlinghetti & Helium - Unpublished dream: "On a sunny afternoon..."
Jack Kerouac & Joe Strummer - MacDougal Street Blues, Cantos Dos
Allen Ginsberg - Unpublished: Brooklyn Bridge Blues (Choruses 1-9)
Eddie Vedder & Hovercraft - Hymn
William Burroughs & Tomandandy - Old Western Movies
Juliana Hatfield - Silly Goofball Pomes
John Cale - The Moon
Johnny Depp & Come - Visions Of Cody (excerpt): "Madroad driving..."
Robert Hunter - Visions Of Cody (excerpt): "Around the poolhalls of Denver"
Lee Ranaldo & Dana Colley - Letter to John Clellon Holmes
Anna Domino - Pome On Doctor Sax
Hitchhiker - Mexico Rooftop (excerpt)
Patti Smith with Thurston Moore & Lenny Kaye - The Last Hotel
Warren Zevon & Michael Wolff - Running Through - Chinese Poem Song
Jim Carroll with Lee Ranaldo, Lenny Kaye & Anton Sanco - Woman
Matt Dillon - Mexican Loneliness
Inger Lorre & Jeff Buckley - Angel Mine
Eric Andersen - Brooklyn Bridge Blues (Chorus 10)

2. I really feel like a part of Beat history now. Steve Silberman, an editor at HotWired, interviewed Allen Ginsberg online a couple of weeks ago, and after the interview made Allen sit through his first-ever tour of the World Wide Web. Now, I've known for a while that in Allen's personal pantheon computers stand somewhere between Central American CIA operatives and stale bagels with week-old lox ... but I've always wondered how he would react to my site if he saw it. Well, Literary Kicks was the first site Steve took him to, and you can read about the experience in Steve's intro to the transcript of the HotWired chat session.

3. "A Coney Island of the Mind," Lawrence Ferlinghetti's collection of poems, has long been one of the most popular books of Beat writing. Soon, I hear, there will be a follow-up volume, beguilingly titled "A Far Rockaway of the Heart". Since Far Rockaway is in my hometown of Queens, I'm particularly pleased by this ...

4. There are several new Beat Generation sites on the web, and while I'm still struggling with time limitations in terms of checking out and linking to all the worthy sites out there, I've tried to keep a fairly up-to-date list on my Beat Generation page. Some notable links I've added or updated lately: David Eads' How To Speak Hip, Robert Cecil's Beat site, and Christopher Ritter's impressive Bohemian Ink. There's also a new 1997 Dharma Beats roster -- this is part of the Cosmic Baseball Association, one of the more charming and unusual sites on the web. Enjoy ... and happy new year, everybody.






Beat News: December 13 1996

by Levi Asher on Friday, December 13, 1996 06:10 pm


1. Allen Ginsberg will be appearing on a HotWired chat moderated by my cyber-buddy Steve Silberman on Monday, Dec. 16 at 4 pm Pacific Time. Check here for more info. Warning: you MUST have RealAudio installed for HotWired chats. Also, if you miss the chat on Monday, you can listen to the RealAudio file later.

2. Several new Kerouac books are out. "Angelheaded Hipster" by Steve Turner includes many never-before-seen photos. Ken McGoogan's "Kerouac's Ghost" is a fictional treatment of Jack's life, literally narrated by Jack's ghost. I haven't seen this one yet, but I've heard about it and it sounds interestingly odd. There's a fairly scholarly treatment of Jack's fiction by Tim Hunt called "Kerouac's Crooked Road." Finally, Mind In Motion, which made the Kerouac ROMnibus CD-Rom that came out about a year ago, is now selling the CD-Rom directly via the web, and has created a good new website featuring extensive samples from it. Could be a cool Christmas present for someone.

How long will the Beat-book glut continue? I don't know, but I hope we'll continue to see original and ground-breaking treatments, like the "Women of the Beat Generation" book I mentioned several weeks ago (see below), and fewer rehashes of the basic facts. I'm quite certain the "commercialization of Beatness" is now at an all-time high. Oh well ... when the fad passes, I'll still be here.

3. Life's been crazy this month. Which is nothing new. I'm working on a couple of web-fiction-related projects that will hopefully be coming out in the first half of '97 -- one of them a book, and one a CD-Rom. To the many people who've sent me email that I've taken a ridiculously long time to write back to -- sorry I'm so slow, but please don't stop writing. I love getting interesting mails ... I just have trouble sometimes clearing my brain of other stuff enough to compose intelligent replies. And I don't want to just write back with "Thanks for your kind words" like I hear other webmasters sometimes do. So bear with me please ... and if I seem to have lost your mail entirely (this *almost* never happens) please do give me another chance.






Beat News: November 7 1996

by Levi Asher on Thursday, November 7, 1996 06:07 pm


1. Whoa! I just heard Gary Snyder will be reading at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square (17th St. around Park Avenue) here in New York City Friday November 8 at 7:30. I'm really psyched, as I've never seen him read before. To other New Yorkers out there: this is not likely to be often repeated, so don't miss the chance.

2. This is nowhere near as cool as the above announcement, but I've got more details about the Web Writers reading I'll be participating in on November 16th. It's called POISON: WRITERS ON THE WEB and it's at 3:30 pm at the Hudson Park Branch of the New York Public Library (66 Leroy Street, between 7th Ave. and Hudson). This is likely to be often repeated, but I hope some of you can come anyway.






Beat News: November 4 1996

by Levi Asher on Monday, November 4, 1996 06:02 pm


The news organizations have been hounding me, because everybody is dying to find out who Literary Kicks will endorse in the Presidential election. Well, the suspense is about to end.

First, let me say that there is no clear Beat choice here. I know Allen Ginsberg supports Ralph Nader, predicatably, and Nader does seem to be the only candidate without an ego the size of the Goodyear blimp. But nobody even knows he's running -- and if I'm going to support a candidate who nobody's heard of I'd probably go with net personality R. U. Sirius, who has a better website.

But let's talk about Bob Dole. Dole is from Kansas, and being from Kansas gives you instant authenticity in the Beat universe. Remember Kerouac's first trip across America in "On The Road"? He wished he was from Kansas, and damn, I wish I was from Kansas too!

But let's face facts: Bob Dole is a friggin' bore. That's all there is to it. And I can't stand it that he's pulling all this "character" bullshit against Clinton so late in the campaign and pretending it's not a desperation move. You know, I actually like it that Bill Clinton is a regular guy, that he makes mistakes and smokes weed and gets himself into trouble every now and then. He's just trying to have some fun, and if a President of the United States can't have some fun, then what the hell is it all about anyway? Say Kerouac and Cassady had run into Bob Dole in their travels across America in the 40's -- I bet they would have run just as fast in the other direction. Maybe they would have even headed straight back for the East Coast right then and there, and maybe "On The Road" would have never even been written!

Bob Dole is just not a Beat guy. Literary Kicks endorses Bill Clinton for President of the United States of America.






Beat News: October 21 1996

by Levi Asher on Monday, October 21, 1996 03:05 pm


1. There are a ton of new Beat-related books and other publications out there. I mean a TON. I always try to keep my "Beat News" entries short and sweet, but what am I to do? Here's a few highlights:

  • Women of the Beat Generation by Brenda Knight (Conari Press): an excellent, thorough anthology of stories, poems, autobiographical fragments and biographical pieces representing the often-forgotten women who participated in the Beat movement. Included are Anne Waldman, Carolyn Cassady, Jan Kerouac, Joan Vollmer Adams, Diane DiPrima (I need a page on her!), Jay DiFeo and many lesser known but interesting writers, artists and creative people.
  • Mountains and Rivers Without End by Gary Snyder (Counterpoint): This work seems to have some kind of epic importance to Snyder, and he's apparently been working on it for many years. I also heard from a few friends in California that he actually did a reading in public to celebrate the publication. Gary, will you ever come to New York and read here? I know there are no redwood trees or berry bushes or waterfalls. But we have great falafel and good record stores.
  • Ballad of the Skeletons by Allen Ginsberg: Saw the video of this song on MTV last night. The music is pretty strong, not surprisingly as it features Paul McCartney, Philip Glass and the great Lenny Kaye on various guitars and keyboards. Lyrically I don't think this is Ginsberg's most sublime moment; it's more like a rant than like a poem, and goes in for a lot of simple jokey rhymes. It's okay, though. The video, directed by Gus Van Sant, is quite interesting. It features Ginsberg's skull-like face reciting in close-up as black-and-white images reflect the meanings. Other new Ginsberg stuff out there: a book of unusual color illustrations accompanying selected poems, by artist Eric Drooker ("Illuminated Poems," published by Four Walls Eight Windows) and a new entry in Allen's journal series, "Indian Journals."
  • Beat Generation: Glory Days In Greenwich Village by Fred McDarrah and Gloria McDarrah (Schirmer Books): this is a fascinating book of photographs accompanied by text. Lots of shots I'd never seen before. Another photography book is Angels Anarchists and Gods by Christopher Felver (Louisiana State University) including portraits of almost all the surviving Beats, taken in the 80's and 90's, as well as many of their cultural allies in art, publishing and street politics.
2. Here's Phil Chaput's report on the Lowell Kerouac celebration a few weeks ago, originally posted to the BEAT-L mailing list (for info on joining this list, which has been very active and enjoyable lately, see my Beat Generation page).

3. I was recently invited to a showcase reading at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe of a screenplay based on William S. Burroughs' autobiographical novel "Queer." The screenplay was written by David Ohle, and it skillfully showed a human side of the prickly William S. Burroughs that we don't often get to see -- Burroughs as a lonely, confused man, using his twisted sense of humor to attract people only, perhaps, because he had no better lure. I think this would make an excellent movie, probably a far more down-to-earth one than David Cronenberg's expressionistic "Naked Lunch", and if you're a filmmaker who wants to make it, please write to the author.

4. New in Literary Kicks: a page on poet D.A. Levy, contributed by W. Luther Jett.

5. I'll be part of a web-fiction reading on Saturday, November 16th, 3:30-4:30 PM, at the Hudson Park Branch of the New York Public Library (in the West Village). This is being arranged by David Alexander, and among the other readers will be my wife Meg, who is about to announce a great new webzine all her own -- here's a sneak preview. And I hope some of you can make it to the reading!






Beat News: October 1 1996

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, October 1, 1996 03:00 pm


1. Jesse Crumb, the son of the superb underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, has illustrated a pack of Beat trading cards, published by Kitchen Sink Press and available at good bookstores or comic book shops. The cards depict Beat writers, jazz musicians and other personalities, including some unexpected choices like Babs Gonzales, Miles Davis, Tuli Kupferberg and Mort Sahl. Interestingly, Jack Kerouac is not present but only alluded to, as if to proclaim his holy status. The drawings are in the classic Crumb style, and are quite beautiful.

2. There are a LOT of beat festivals and happenings going on. Let's see ... the University of Kansas is hosting "A Festival: William S. Burroughs and the Arts" from late October through Jan 1 1997. There will be some interesting guests; here's the press release. The University of Texas at Austin is running a show called "Beat: The Hip Highways and Bebop Byways of Modern American Letters." A San Francisco/SOMA month-long festival called Re/BEAT looks like a lot of fun -- here's their calendar. The Whitney Museum exhibit "Beat Culture and the New America" is also coming to San Francisco on October 5th. It will be at the M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum through December 29. Allen Ginsberg is doing October readings around the country, including San Francisco and New York. Finally, don't forget the annual Kerouac festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. Featured guests include Ed Sanders and musician Rob Buck, formerly of 10000 Maniacs.

3. Going out on a limb here: 90's writer Douglas Coupland is not a beat writer by any means. And I know about the gag impulse naturally caused by writers who try too hard to "capture a generation" (yuck). Still, I read Coupland's "Microserfs" and I liked it. I don't care whether it captures deep generational truths or not -- it's an enjoyable and poignant story, and the author does have some clue what the life of a software developer is like (believe me, I know). Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that Coupland now has his own website. It's worth a look.

Another somewhat Coupland-esque new site is Carl Steadman's enigmatic Placing, which looks affectionately at the packaged products that define our personal lives more than we often think. I hope Carl doesn't get mad at me for calling him Coupland-esque.

4. I heard there'll be a Kerouac tribute album coming out soon, with a lot of excellent participants including Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Sonic Youth. This is all on the level of rumour right now -- can anyone tell me more?






Beat News: September 5 1996

by Levi Asher on Thursday, September 5, 1996 07:09 pm


I hate it when the summer ends.

1. Have you ever seen the famous 1965 photo of the crowd of Beat writers outside the City Lights bookstore? The photo was taken by Larry Keenan (here he is, with the photo, and his wife Lisa), and I was pleased to receive email from the photographer himself a few months ago. He actually wrote to me to ask me to please stop using his photos without permission, but instead of being nasty about it (as I've heard other copyright-holders sometimes are), he simply asked me to credit him whenever I used one of his pictures, which I was happy to do. We then corresponded a few times, and when I asked him to tell me the story behind his most famous photo he told me this:

To answer your question briefly, Yes I did know what I was doing was important. In fact, this is what I was telling my parents when they did not want me going over to the city to photograph "those dirty beatniks". I had the good fortune to meet Michael McClure at Calif. College of Arts and Crafts where he was/is teaching and I was a student. My friend Dale Smith and I approached McClure about helping us with a project we were doing. During the course of our meeting he said "would you guys like to photograph some of my friends"? We asked "who are your friends"? Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc. We were blown-away. So for the next year or so we went over to his house most Saturdays and hung out for an hour or so and then went over to a Beat's house or apartment and spent the day photographing him or them. It was always a good experience. They were very nice to us. We were nice too, we gave them mounted prints. Pretty soon we were being invited to parties that we were told not to bring any cameras to.

To make a long story short. My parents made me mow the lawn before I could go over to SF and shoot the Last Gathering photo and the McClure, Dylan, Ginsberg photo.

Mowing the lawn ... pretty classic. Anyway, there's a longer interview with Larry Keenan up at The BitWeaver's Loom, an art-oriented site he's involved with. It shows some of Keenan's newer computer-generated artwork as well as a few Beat photographs. Well worth checking out. A book of Keenan's photos will also be out soon, and several will be on display in New York City at Great Modern Pictures, 48 E. 82nd Street from Sept. 12 through Nov. 30.

2. Once again, the folks in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts are putting on a big Kerouac festival in October. Here's what's going on there. An appearance by Ed Sanders will be one of this year's highlights.

3. Allen Ginsberg News: Here's a page about the new State Of The Union double CD, produced by Elliot Sharp. It features a piece by Ginsberg, along with 145 (!) other pieces. Profits go to the National Coalition Against Censorship, which sounds like a pretty good cause to me. Also, there's an interview with Ginsberg here. Finally, the word is out that Ginsberg has recorded a version of his "Ballad Of The Skeletons" with a pretty impressive group of musicians: Paul McCartney, Lenny Kaye, Philip Glass and Marc Ribot. Should be interesting!

4. The new Enterzone is out, and after a nine-month hiatus I'm in it again! It's nice to be back. Still my favorite zine.






Beat News: August 12 1996

by Levi Asher on Monday, August 12, 1996 07:06 pm


1. I've mentioned "Wisdom's Maw" before. It's a novel (and a website) by Todd Brendan Fahey about the same real-life characters Tom Wolfe wrote about in the "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." That book was a work of journalism, but Fahey's book is simply fiction, and this frees him to take us on several interesting tangents. We meet Ken Kesey (here called Franklin Moore) as a young would-be novelist discovering LSD while causing trouble among the snooty writers at Stanford's creative writing program, and we drop in on Big Sur with a sadly out-of-touch Jack Kerouac (who appears under his own name). Much of the book has to do with the mysteries of CIA involvement in early LSD experiments. There may be substance to some of Fahey's ideas about this, but in any case the book wouldn't be worth anything if it weren't an enjoyable reading experience. It is! If you liked "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," check this one out.

2. I saw a really wonderful show last week. Ralph Alphonso, longtime publisher of the beat poetry rag RALPH, did what I've always wanted to do: gathered together a few high-spirited pop/folk/jazz musicians and went on tour. They arrived in New York to play CBGB's Gallery last week (parenthetically, check out the new CBGB's website if you're interested in this legendary punk club), and put on a superb show. Ralph's style is kitschy on the outside but sincere within, and this is the way I like it (as opposed to the reverse: sincere on the outside but kitschy within, like, say, Sting's solo albums). I think the tour is already nearing an end, but please visit Ralph's website, where you can hear samples of his music, order his CD's or subscribe to his one-man zine.

3. A huge poetry/beat renaissance/spoken word festival in New Orleans starts this week. Here's the latest schedule.






Beat News: August 8 1996

by Levi Asher on Thursday, August 8, 1996 06:48 pm


1. I just heard that Herbert Huncke died this morning. Huncke was a close friend of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg during the days of their early adventures together in New York City. He was their prototypical Times Square junkie/hustler connection, the "real thing" that they (especially Burroughs) often tried to emulate. He appeared in On The Road as the character named Elmer Hassel (Sal and Dean are always wondering "Where's Elmer Hassel"), and in Junky as the experienced drug-user Herman. According to Kerouac, who first used the term "beat" to describe his literary generation, it was Huncke who first introduced him to the word.

Like almost all friends of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs, Huncke became a published writer after the beat phemonenon occurred. His story "Elsie John," reprinted in Ann Charters collection "The Beat Reader," is a raw, honest and fascinating piece. He also wrote a full-length autobiography called "Guilty of Everything," as well as a shorter Hanuman book with the same title.

He lived out his last years in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. He was taken to Beth Israel Hospital a few days ago, and that's where he died this morning at 7:15.






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