Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Beat News

Beat News: July 23 1996

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, July 23, 1996 06:45 pm

1. The Poetry Project has been a positive force in the New York/downtown lit scene for as long as I can remember. The Project runs readings at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery, a beautiful old church that dates back to the days when the East Village was mostly farmland. If you're visiting New York, I'd recommend trying to catch one of these events. How will you know the schedule, you ask? Just check the new Poetry Project website!

2. The Goblin webzine has a lot of interesting beat-related material, like an interview with Ed Sanders and, in the latest issue, a Neal Cassady reminiscence by Charles Plymell. I also like the current cover story about the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, my fave underground comix when I was a kid.

3. Here's a reprint of an interview with Williams S. Burroughs conducted by Ron Whitehead, whose poem "Calling All Toads" also concludes the piece. One of the things they discuss is a huge New Orleans poetry fest Ron is putting together in August. Should be a blast -- I'd go if I had the money (dammit). See below for more info on this.

4. Thought I'd point you to a new site I like a lot. The Posi-Web is a constantly changing series of simple, quickly generated personal pages by a growing list of web people. Lots of interesting pictures and thoughts. Just for fun. There's no one starting point (each contributor maintains his or her own pages) but the above link goes to Jef'n'Gael's page -- they started this whole thing.

5. Also ... check out this nightmare image from some strange alternate universe where real estate and poetry are reversed. What a bad trip! (Thanks to Steve for finding me this).

6. Hey! Literary Kicks is two years old today.

Beat News: June 27 1996

by Levi Asher on Thursday, June 27, 1996 06:30 pm

1. The Spoken Word Network is an interesting web space devoted to poets, storytellers and performance artists. Their newsletter, Shout!, is running an original interview with Allen Ginsberg. Worth checking out.

2. The LOWELL CELEBRATES KEROUAC gang (Lowell was Kerouac's hometown) is soliciting entries for the annual Jack Kerouac Literary Prize. They will accept typed, double-spaced manuscripts containing stories (no more than three) up to thirty pages, or poems (no more than eight) up to fifteen pages. Entries must be received by August 1, must be accompanied by a 3x5 index card containing the author's name, address, telephone number and manuscript title (the author's name may not appear on the manuscript), and must also be accompanied by $5 checks made out to LOWELL CELEBRATES KEROUAC. Submit all manuscripts to The Jack Kerouac Literary Prize, P.O. Box 8788, Lowell, MA 01853-8788, or write to this address for further details. The winner will be part of the annual Kerouac celebration that takes place this year on October 3-6.

3. Wisdom's Maw, Todd Brendan Fahey's novel about some semi-imagined strange activities involving the CIA, LSD experiments and several well-known Beat figures in the 1960's, has been available in a web version for some time now. Fahey recently found a publisher for the book -- get the details here.

4. Wow, there are so many things I have to announce! Here's another: Ron Whitehead, who runs a publishing/happenings organization called RANT For The Literary Renaissance, is producing an event in New Orleans on August 16-18. The RANT eats New Orleans 48-Hour Non-Stop Music & Poetry INSOMNIACATHON at The Howlin Wolf Club will feature Douglas Brinkley & The Majic Bus, Diane di Prima, David Amram, Ed Sanders, Hunter S. Thompson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and others.

5. There's a very insightful article about Gregory Corso in the June 6 issue of the London Review of Books. It's written by Iain Sinclair, and the first sentence is: "There may be only two writers, currently at work in America, who can bring themselves, unblushing, to use the phrase 'drinky poo'" (The other, if you were wondering, is Carl Hiaasen). If, like most of us, you do not live in London: check your library, they probably have a copy.

6. One new thing in LitKicks this month: Andrew Burnett's passionate and well-researched exploration of Neal Cassady's historic Denver. It's put together in the form of a "Beat Baedeker"including three separate guided tours, and if you're interested in Neal Cassady you'll definitely discover interesting things here, in Neal's Denver.

While we're on the subject of Neal, I should mention Tom Christopher's exhaustive new publication, "Neal Cassady." This is the first of what will be several volumes documenting Neal's mysterious life in groundbreaking detail. This first publication is about Neal's early days and includes many reproductions of school documents and city records. It's looks more like a zine than a book, and can be found in most Beat-conscious bookstores (like, for instance, City Lights in San Francisco or Water Row in Massachusetts)

7. Enterzone, now in its second year as a great non-profit webzine for experimental/underground art and fiction, has moved to a new URL (see link above). You can also now enter the Zone at a different level by going to the base URL, where you see the wider, universe that surrounds this zine.

Enterzone was favorably reviewed in The New Yorker last week, in their Summer Fiction Issue (June 24/July 1, p. 26), and a piece I contributed to Enterzone with a friend was also mentioned in the review. Kind of cool that us indie web writers and artists are finally being noticed by the world out there. Still, though, to paraphrase Kurt Cobain -- snooty literary magazines still suck! (Okay, I feel better now that I've said that.)

Beat News: June 7 1996

by Levi Asher on Friday, June 7, 1996 06:23 pm

Jan Kerouac, the only child of her father Jack, has died at the age of 44. She had been very ill with kidney disease for a long time, and was in an Albuquerque hospital recovering from an operation on her spleen when she died.

Jan lived a difficult life. She rarely met her father, who spent most of his life denying that she was his. A promising career as a writer (her first book, Baby Driver, was liked by many people) was derailed by her illness, personal problems and an ugly, obsessive public feud with the holders of the Kerouac estate, which seemed to be consuming her entirely in her final years.

I never met or spoke to Jan, but through an intermediary I was given the opportunity to publish an excerpt from her novel in progress, Parrot Fever which deals with the death of her mother, among other things. Jan's friend Gerald Nicosia (a Kerouac biographer) is going to try to arrange for posthumous publication of this book, which would be her third. The excerpt is here.

Beat News: June 3 1996

by Levi Asher on Monday, June 3, 1996 06:20 pm

1. Happy 70th birthday Allen Ginsberg!

2. Allen is probably bummed, though, about Timothy Leary's death this past weekend. An interesting piece of info here: one of Leary's last phone calls, a few hours before he died, was to William S. Burroughs. Leary told Burroughs: "I hope someday I'll be as funny as you are."

3. This is way overdue: I'm going to spend the next few months reviewing and updating all the pages in LitKicks. Some of the info is out of date, and some areas need work -- hopefully things will start shaping up real soon. I'm keeping the basic design the same, though (I think). I never liked the look of frames, and even though I do know Java and Shockwave, I just don't see that stuff fitting in here. If anyone has thoughts on this, though, send them along.

4. Coming soon: a pretty impressive photo-essay/walking-tour of Neal Cassady's Denver, contributed by Andrew Burnett.

Beat News: May 7 1996

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, May 7, 1996 06:16 pm

1. Francis Ford Coppola, according to recent reports, still has vague plans to direct a film version of "On The Road." He'd better hurry, though -- others are moving in on his territory. A movie about an incident in the life of Neal Cassady, for instance, is now in the works. It's based on a letter Neal wrote to Jack Kerouac about some sexual escapades involving a girl named Joan Anderson, and it might be called "The Last Time I Committed Suicide" (a phrase found on the well-known recording of Neal onstage at a Grateful Dead show in the 60's). A guy named Stephen Kay is the writer/director, and Keanu Reeves, a friend of Stephen's, will play a friend of Neal's. Neal will be played by an actor named Thomas Jane. The filmmakers have also enlisted the help of Carolyn Cassady -- and I'd like to thank Carolyn for giving me this scoop!

2. I insist that Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter is a beatnik in the truest and best sense of the word. Not just because Neal Cassady rapped onstage with the Dead (see above) but also because of the deep and raw beatness of the characters in many of Hunter's songs, from "Brown Eyed Woman" to "Jack Straw" to "Wharf Rat" to "Dire Wolf" to "Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo" and "Cumberland Blues." I bet Kerouac would have even liked "Workingman's Dead" (he died about two years too soon, so we'll never know). Anyway, the reason I mention this is that Robert Hunter is now on the web! His site is huge and highly personal, and he's doing all the techie work himself (using PageMill, I understand). A novel in progress, "Giant's Harp," is part of the site, along with journal entries, lyrics, e-mail and lots of other stuff. Check this place out!

Beat News: April 16 1996

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, April 16, 1996 06:12 pm

1. A couple of friends (Christian Crumlish and Briggs Nisbet, editors of Enterzone) went to the San Francisco poetry reading I mentioned below, featuring Gary Snyder, Michael McClure and others, and also attended a similar indoor reading the next day. They wrote a pretty cool report on these events; check it out.

2. I recently heard from a friend of the important counter-culture journalist Al Aronowitz, who was a part of the Beat/hippie scene that flourished decades ago. Aronowitz has suffered health problems recently, but he's also put together his own web site, including several Beat-related articles: here it is.

3. If you haven't seen Timothy Leary's website yet, it's worth a look. Though Leary is not generally thought of as part of the Beat world, it was Allen Ginsberg's enthusiastic endorsement of Leary and his ideas about LSD that set him on the path to fame in the early 60's. Leary is now seriously ill with cancer, and has set out to explore the fact of his impending death in an optimistic and highly public way. I have mixed feelings about many of the things Leary has done and said in his life, but his approach towards death is proving to be one of his more authentic moments.

Beat News: April 5 1996

by Levi Asher on Friday, April 5, 1996 06:06 pm

1. I found Anne Waldman's new collection of Beat writings, "The Beat Book," in a bookstore recently. It covers many of the same writers as the other well-known Beat anthology (Ann Charters' "Beat Reader") but with less expository material and a few writers (Joanne Kyger, for instance) who were not included in the Charters book. Seems like an excellent introductory volume.

2. I'm happily noticing that Bob Kaufman is getting more attention lately. I get a significant amount of e-mail about this enigmatic and complicated jazz poet, and there's also going to be a special evening of readings dedicated to his works at St. Mark's Church in New York on April 17. Readers will include Cecil Taylor, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Ted Joans.

Meanwhile on the West Coast: Michael McClure and Gary Snyder are appearing tomorrow at a reading in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Sorry for the late notice ... I also don't know much about this event. It's good to know that Gary Snyder is making appearances though. I hope he'll show up sometime in New York.

3. Remember a few weeks ago in this space when I complained that nobody would buy the Voyager/Red Hot "Beat Experience" CD-Rom for forty dollars? Well, I just found out the price has been reduced to a MUCH more reasonable $25.99. YES! I wonder ... did I have anything to do with this?

4. Speaking of egotistical notions ... the New York Times Website wrote an incredibly nice article about me and my own web works, particularly my Queensboro Ballads project. I sent copies to all my relatives -- many of whom still don't understand what the Web is, but if the New York Times likes me, even my family may have to give in. Anyway, the article is here. Also, I "remastered" some of the larger graphics files on Queensboro Ballads for better quality and smaller size (I finally have a copy of Photoshop, as you may have already noticed), so if you got frustrated with it in the past due to large download times, please give it another try.

5. Here's a bizarre find: William S. Burroughs appears on a new X-Files soundtrack album, reciting "Star Me Kitten" as REM plays in the background. I want to believe.

Beat News: March 15 1996

by Levi Asher on Friday, March 15, 1996 12:56 pm

Wow, I've been away a while. Still recovering from the ordeal of organizing a fiction/poetry reading last month -- it went *great*, by the way, and we're already thinking of doing it again. Here's a bunch of pictures from the event. (I even centered my text on this page, style, just because I've been in a wacky mood and it looks kinda cool.)

Lots of good new Beat stuff out there. Let's see ...

1. I recently stumbled across the new William S. Burroughs book, "Ghost of Chance" -- I don't know if it's any good, but it has a beautiful cover design. A very WIRED look, in fact. It goes well with Burroughs style.

2. Red Hot Organization, which did the Beat Generation CD-ROM I wrote about last month, also just released a tribute album, OffBeat, containing contributions from musicians like David Byrne and DJ Spooky. Red Hot Organization is a good cause (against AIDS) so if you're thinking of buying this CD: ahh, just go do it.

3. Still no news on the proposed "On The Road" movie. I recently found and read a bootleg copy of the screenplay, though. It could have been worse -- they stuck pretty close to the story, except they put the Mexican Girl scene at the end of the second trip instead of the first. WHAT ARE THEY -- INSANE???? You can't mess with this stuff. It's sacred. But the screenplay was fairly true to the book. Dean is by far the most prominent character in this treatment, and some aspects of the book seem to take a back-seat (so to speak) to the Dean Moriarty story. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, there's still no word that the movie will ever be made at all.

4. I'm sick of reading articles about the dumb fights between Jan Kerouac and the Sampas family over the Kerouac estate. Apparently Jan wanted to have his grave moved to New Hampshire from Lowell. A lot of people have written asking why I don't cover these issues in Literary Kicks -- I don't because I think legal battles are depressing and boring. I still think Jan Kerouac is a good writer.

5. New stuff here, mostly from contributors: a couple of personal memoirs (on John Montgomery and Allen Ginsberg), a Jack Micheline page, and some additions to my already ridiculously lengthy Beats in Rock Music) page. Coming soon: stuff on Ed Sanders, the Fugs, Harry Smith.

I'll try not to stay away so long next time.

Beat News: February 7 1996

by Levi Asher on Wednesday, February 7, 1996 12:48 pm

1. If anybody can make it to downtown New York on February 14 (Valentine's Day), my wife Meg and I are arranging a fiction/poetry reading featuring writers who write on the Web. It's at Biblio's, a bookstore/cafe at 317 Church St. (just south of Canal) from 8 to 10 pm. Here's the full list of participants:

Please come! It's free, Biblio's has good coffee, and it should all be a lot of fun.

2. Here are two brief excursions into the meaning of Allen Ginsberg in the universe. One is a fairly angry parody of 'Howl' written by Karney Hatch that expresses how many people (myself included, sometimes) feel when Beat poets try too hard to succeed in the world of mainstream literary academia and commercial publishing. The other link is a small positive note, a few wise words by Ginsberg that are a part of Deadhead-chronicler-extraordinaire (and HotWired editor) Steve Silberman's Digaland web page.

3. Voyager is releasing a new CD-Rom, "The Beat Experience." Unlike the informative, no-nonsense recent Kerouac CD-Rom (which I wrote about below), this is a totally experimental freeform production. It's laid out in the form of a "Beat Pad" where everything is clickable. The best news is that one of the contributing artists is Gary Panter, who was responsible for the excellent visuals on the horribly unappreciated "Pee Wee Herman Show" several years back. Yes, a direct connection now exists between Pee Wee Herman and the Beats -- I'd always felt there had to be one.

The project will benefit the Red Hot Organization, which has previously made several good compilation CD's (like NO ALTERNATIVE) to fund their AIDS relief work. However, I doubt they'll earn as much from this CD-ROM, since it sticks to the archaic practice of charging an unrealistic price -- $39.99 -- for a product that should cost no more than a music CD. Why do companies like Voyager make their products so expensive? I don't wanna hear any bullshit about "recouping huge multimedia costs" -- hey, playing with a Mac is fun, and it's not that hard. Until literary/artsy CD-Rom's are available at humane prices, they will remain what they are now -- not works for the people, but trinkets for the wealthy.

Enough editorializing. See you at Biblio's?

Beat News: January 16 1996

by Levi Asher on Tuesday, January 16, 1996 12:39 pm

1. A Gathering of the Tribes is the online presence of a Lower East Side organization comprising an art gallery, poetry magazine and theatre workshop, among other things. This organization has been a constructive independent force in the downtown arts scene for several years, but the person who founded it, Steve Cannon, may be about to lose the East 3rd Street building that houses the operation. This building is Steve's home as well, and the word is going out around New York that somebody who has given much help to others is now in need of help himself. Several benefits will be taking place in the near future; visit the web site or send email to Tribes for more info.

2. Please watch this space for info on a Valentine's Day reading of web-related authors I'm helping to put together somewhere in New York. We're not exactly sure yet what shape this thing is going to take, but if anybody out there is interested in performing or attending please drop me a note. More on this soon ...


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