Beat News

1. I'm happy to kick off the new year with 'A Note From Los Gatos' an interview with John Cassady, a resident of Northern California who happens to be the son of Neal Cassady.

2. J. D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac had a lot in common -- both went to prep school in New York and spent the 1950's writing poignant novels and discovering Buddhism -- but I understand that they never liked each other. I think Holden Caulfield and Sal Paradise would have been great friends, though. Anyway, I recently came across The Holden Server, a cool little site that delivers a new quote from The Catcher in the Rye every time you visit it.

view /BeatNews19960103
Wednesday, January 3, 1996 12:44 pm
Levi Asher
1. HotWired is running a series of pastel artworks by Francesco Clemente annotated by Allen Ginsberg. The series is called 'Pastel Sentences.'

2. "Poetry in Motion" and "Poetry in Motion II", two new CD-Roms from Voyager, are pretty good. They feature spoken word and musical performances by poets and writers like Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima, Jim Carroll, Anne Waldman, Gary Snyder, William S. Burroughs and Ed Sanders. The interface is clean and unpretentious, and the poetry readings are presented in short, pleasurable bursts, none longer than a few minutes. Diane DiPrima's "Light," accompanied by a hypnotic tingly piano and flashes of colored lights, is one of my favorite pieces. Overall rating: excellent Xmas present!

3. Check this out: a few months ago I received an e-mail from a Norweigan translator named Dag Heyerdahl Larsen who was working on the first Norwegian edition of Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." He needed help with some Americanisms (like"Shazam" and "Baskin-Robbins") and I had fun trying to answer his questions (though many of Tom Wolfe's references make no sense no matter how well you know the language). The book is now out in Norway, and it's called "Syreproven," which means "Acid Test" -- Dag explained to me that the best direct translation of the full title would have meant "The Acid Test Based On Electric Kool-Aid." I agreed with him that this just didn't have that 'ring.' He also told me that nobody in Norway knows what Kool-Aid is.

Dag mailed me a copy, and it was fun to see my name in the appendix, surrounded by all kinds of strange Norwegian text. I wonder what he said about me?

4. I've been wanting to write an update on the much-talked-about Francis Ford Coppola film of "On The Road," but unfortunately I have no hard information to present. I've heard many things -- it's on, it's off, it's on again but Coppola's son will direct ... I heard from one very good source that Woody Harrelson was actually signed to play Dean Moriarty, which is what I recommended in the very first Beat News entry. But now that I've thought about this, I don't even know if I agree with myself that this would be good, and anyway I heard from others that it's not even true.

Other Beat-related film projects are also in discussion stages, including some involving Jack Kerouac and/or Neal Cassady (the two real-life principals in "On The Road.") Nothing, I understand, is definite. At this point, I'd be just as happy to hear that none of these films will be made. There's too much Beat hype lately anyway, and we're all getting sick of it.

5. Speaking of Beat hype: when I started Literary Kicks in the summer of '94 almost nobody was talking about the Beats. What happened? Back then, I didn't even start a Beat News page for the first few months, because there was no Beat News. Now ... forget it. I knew it was getting out of hand when Literary Kicks got mentioned in a fairly brain-dead article about the Beat phenomenon in Vogue magazine. According to Vogue, the Beat Generation was all about clothing! Well well, I learn something new every day ...

Anyway, I used to try to capture every Beat-related URL on the Web somewhere in these pages, but this has recently become impossible. There's just too much stuff out there. I will continue to put stuff I consider particularly interesting in this page, but if anyone else wants to create and maintain a more comprehensive page of Beat listings and links, I will happily make it a part of Literary Kicks. I wish I had time myself, but I honestly don't. Any volunteers?

Coming soon: my e-mail interview with John Cassady, Neal's son.

view /BeatNews19951214
Friday, December 15, 1995 12:29 am
Levi Asher
1. I'm proud to present in these pages an original work of fiction by Jan Kerouac. This is an excerpt from Jan's newest and not-yet-published novel Parrot Fever, and the reason I'm proud to present it is not that she's Jack's daughter, but rather that I like the story very much. I hadn't read any of Jan's fiction before, and was surprised and pleased by this clever and gently hopeful piece. Here it is.

2. The Beat exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York is now open. This is a very thorough and well planned survey of the universe of Beat-related art and culture, focusing heavily on the works of several not-especially-well-known artists of the 50's and 60's, such as Wallace Berman, Jay Defeo, and Bruce Conner, as well as some better known names like Larry Rivers and Robert Rauschenberg. The exhibit is organized into rooms representing Beat locales, like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. There are many artifacts and literary collectibles on exhibit as well, including the original scroll manuscripts (behind glass) of 'On The Road' and 'Dharma Bums,' as well as the original typewritten 'Howl.'

My impression? I liked it more than I thought I would. I hadn't expected such a comprehensive, sweeping presentation. Most of the actual artworks were dark, sardonic and depressing, as befits the era of cultural repression and nuclear fear. However the work I liked best was probably a small and lovingly wrought collage of cut-out church steeples put together by poet Gregory Corso, who is not generally thought of as a visual artist.

The Whitney gift shop also has lots of new Beat-related goodies, and I was unable to leave there without getting mugged for $150. The good news: I now finally own, along with lots of pretty-colored stuff I don't need, the video of "Pull My Daisy," which I'll write up here as soon as I find the time.

3. Daniel Pinchbeck, the son of Beat chronicler (and Jack Kerouac's former lover) Joyce Johnson, wrote an article on "Children of the Beats" for last Sunday's New York Times Magazine (Nov. 5). He interviewed Jan Kerouac, Parker Kaufman (son of poet Bob Kaufman), Village Voice writer Lisa Jones (daughter of Amiri Baraka and Hettie Jones), John Cassady, Neal's other son Curt Hansen and others. Several of the interviews focused on the horrible parenting skills of the Beats, and the Kerouac and Kaufman sections in particular seemed to show hopeless lives in the process of self-destruction.

Without a doubt Kerouac and Kaufman were not father-of-the-year material, but the article struck me and others I spoke to as overly dark. Even the excerpt from Jan Kerouac's novel that I mentioned above shows a bright side that this article does not portray. And as someone in the BEAT-L mailing list asked, why weren't the successful grown children of Michael McClure and Gary Snyder included? In any event, the Jones and Cassady/Hansen interviews avoided tragic overtones, and the article was definitely interesting and provocative.

The New York Times also gave the Whitney exhibit (see above) a shitty review the day after the opening.

4. This is late notice, but Jim Carroll is appearing in an online chat at Sonic Net tomorrow (Nov. 15) at 7 pm. You might also want to check out Sonic Net's "Shows" section to catch Allen Ginsberg (of all people) interviewing Beck and members of Hole at this summer's Lollapolooza.

view /BeatNews19951114
Wednesday, November 15, 1995 12:10 am
Levi Asher
1. According to the New York Times, the writer Terry Southern has died. I've been meaning to write a page on him anyway, so here it is.

2. The new Jack Kerouac CD-ROM is finally out. There is a lot of fascinating material here -- photos never before seen, many letters and manuscripts, the complete annotated text of 'The Dharma Bums.' I think all devoted Kerouac readers will find it valuable. Viking Penguin and author Ralph Lombreglia (who oversaw the project) should be commended for putting together a dignified and solid presentation. And it only crashes my PC about once every two hours, perhaps a duration record for a CD-ROM.

Only one negative note: with hundreds of photos, including many distantly related family members, why no picture or mention of estranged daughter Jan Kerouac? A good tribute like this is meant to last for the ages, and should strive to rise above family squabbles.

3. Literary Kicks was chosen by GNN as one of the nominees for Best of the Net 1995. I'm also psyched that my friends who run Enterzone were chosen as well.

Best of the Net is nice, but New York Press selected Literary Kicks as "Best Web Site Run By A New Yorker" in their annual Best-of issue, and that gives me special bragging rights here on the Manhattan streets. Thanks to everybody for giving me such positive feedback -- I can't pretend I don't love it!

view /BeatNews19951031
Wednesday, November 1, 1995 12:00 am
Levi Asher
1. Forty years ago today, a group of unknown poets based in San Francisco and Berkeley gathered for a poetry reading in a small art space called the Six Gallery. Nobody had heard of Allen Ginsberg or Gary Snyder before; after this seminal event (attended by only about 150 people) the whole world seemed to begin to listen to them. I've updated my Six Gallery page to include a description of the building where it took place, sent by Tony Willard. I also just finished typing in one of the poems Michael McClure read that day, a poem I like a lot called Point Lobos: Animism.

2. I finally have a Charles Bukowski page This entire section was written by a cyber-buddy of mine, the legendary "Mountain Bike Mike" McCullough (of Michael's Music Links).

3. Rob Hardin's Paralyzed Paradise/Matterland is a pretty fascinating literary experiment, and it's hypertext to the max.

I've sometimes seen Rob Hardin hanging around with the Unbearables, a very original group of downtown New York writers who've recently published an eponymous book I'm now reading. I think my favorite member of this pack is Ron Kolm, who writes complicated little urban dramas about hapless used-magazine vendors, cunnilingus fanatics and the like. A strange and compelling sense of karma hangs over these short and funny tales.

I find much modern "neo-Beat" literature impenetrable; it's too much of the same old Burroughs-inspired perverse obscurity, without clear message or plot or purpose. Too many of these writers seem happy to remain where Burroughs left them, and to aspire only to be as offensive, illogical and inaccessible as they possibly can be. But in writers like Ron Kolm I see signs of a more human literature, a return to the territories Richard Brautigan, Gregory Corso, Ed Sanders and even Kerouac explored. Anyway, "The Unbearables" is definitely worth picking up if you see it, as well as other Unbearable-related (I think) zines and publications like "Sensitive Skin", "Rant" and "Redtape".

view /BeatNews19951007
Saturday, October 7, 1995 08:39 pm
Levi Asher
1. Gary Snyder has published a new book of essays. It's called "A Place In Space" and it's published by Counterpoint.

2. Lincoln Center and the New School are presenting a series celebrating the musical works of Paul Bowles, who was a respected composer (among many other things) before he left the United States to live in Tangier and became a novelist. Bowles is currently in New York to attend these events, and this is a big deal because he has not been to New York (where he was born 84 years ago, in Jamaica, Queens) since 1969.

3. The two sections of Literary Kicks run by contributors have both been updated. Sherri's Beat Bibliography now includes an extensive list of writings about Allen Ginsberg, and Inside the Kerouac Legacy is publishing a contribution by Jan Kerouac, an open letter to New York University regarding her exclusion from the recent Kerouac conference sponsored by the University.

4. Happy 60th Birthday to Ken Kesey!

view /BeatNews19950917
Sunday, September 17, 1995 08:28 pm
Levi Asher
1. According to an article in the current Addicted To Noise, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth has been delving into some unreleased and previously unknown recordings by Kerouac, and is making plans with Geffen to release the material. Cool! Ranaldo has been known to write some good neo-beat stuff himself, in fact.

2. I have a bunch of literary links to tell you about today:

I wouldn't expect to find myself plugging a website that bills itself as the "Harbor of the Western Soul and the Conservative Intellectual." A conservative intellectual is one thing I most decidely am NOT -- but somehow I like the Beaconway Press website anyway. These guys have a sense of fun, and I always like people who have the nerve to state their opinions clearly, even when their opinions are WRONG. But seriously ... these guys seem pretty cool, they know their western lit as well as anyone, and they hate the mainstream literary establishment as much as I do (of course they think it's too liberal; I just think it's too damn boring!). But, whatever ... drop by and see what you think.

Back on safer turf, the 4th episode of Enterzone is out. I first heard of Enterzone a year ago, when one of the founders sent me e-mail asking for a contribution to their first issue. Since then they've become my closest literary comrades on the web, and I think the stuff they're publishing is tremendously original.

I'm also very enthusiastic about a new novel that Enterzone fiction editor Martha Conway has begun serializing on the Web. Martha is a serious writer who's been published in many literary journals, and I think it's cool of her to take a chance on publishing this novel online, as I imagine she could have easily published it through more traditional means instead. It's called In Some Unrelated Land, and it's about a 22-year-old lost soul drifting through Berkeley, California after the sudden death of her parents.

Finally, I just discovered the Cosmic Baseball Association which is some sort of fabulously eclectic rotisserie baseball league where the players are chosen from among the historical luminaries of arts and culture. One of the teams is called the Dharma Beats and you've got to see this lineup. I can't quite figure this website out, which is why I think I like it so much.

The web is really exploding with originality and creativity lately, I think. All of the above sites are efforts by individuals or small groups of people, without a lot of money, and probably without a lot of technological resources either. All it takes is a little courage, and a lot of time.

3. The Whitney Museum in New York will be presenting a major exhibit of Beat-related artwork and artifacts beginning November 9. I'll write more about this after it opens.

view /BeatNews19950912
Tuesday, September 12, 1995 08:23 pm
Levi Asher
1. The 8th Annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Festival will be held on 4-9 October in Lowell, Massachusetts. Featured events will include a rare performance by Patti Smith with Herbert Huncke and Willie Alexander, a variety of walking tours (including several that focus on Kerouac's novel "Dr. Sax"), a tribute to Charlie Parker, a visit to nearby Walden Pond, a number of symposiums, an interpretive dance called "Weird Scenes from the Gold Mine," and a memorial mass for Kerouac. For more info, write Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, Box 1111, Lowell, MA 01853 or call the Lowell National Historical Park at (508) 970-5000.

2. I recently purchased the "Haight-Ashbury" CD-Rom (produced by Rockument) and found a ton of OBC (Official Beat Content) within. The project was led by Allen Cohen, who edited San Francisco's psychedelic newspaper The Oracle during the sixties, and much original material from this paper is here, including articles by Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lew Welch, Lenore Kandel and even William S. Burroughs. Maybe I bought this one because I'm so tired of waiting for the Jack Kerouac CD-Rom (produced by Viking Penguin) to finally show up. The word from Viking Penguin is that it will hit the shelves very soon, hopefully in the next few weeks.

3. To my surprise, Literary Kicks was chosen as one of the Top 10 Web Sites by Point Surveys. I showed up as #7 on the Best Overall list for the week of August 21, and again as #9 (hey! what's the problem here?) for the week of August 28. I'm especially proud to be one of the only non-corporate sites on the list, and also one of the only ones maintained by a single individual instead of a team. I was told by Point Communications that I'm now on their Top 5% of All Websites list, and so I get to wear this badge:

view /BeatNews19950903
Sunday, September 3, 1995 08:13 pm
Levi Asher
1. Viking Penguin has been releasing several new Kerouac publications. The only one I've seen so far is Book of Blues, a wonderful collection of mostly-unpublished Kerouac poems, written in the same jazz-inspired 'Chorus' form he used for Mexico City Blues and other poetic works. As in these other works, most of the poems are named after the place they were written, and now we even have a couple of poems originating from my own beloved borough of Queens, New York (where Kerouac lived as a young man): "Ozone Park Blues" and "Richmond Hill Blues." I love it!

2. An exhibit of Allen Ginsberg's photographs will be at the Tibor De Nagy Gallery on 57th Street in New York City starting September 7. Call (212) 421-3780 for more info.

3. What can I say about Jerry Garcia that hasn't already been said? Nothing, I guess. But I recently got a very nice note from John Cassady, Neal's son, and among other things he sent me the text of a letter he wrote to the San Jose Mercury News about his own memories of Jerry. Here it is.

4. I've mostly avoided discussing the hot dispute that has been raging over the ownership of Kerouac's estate. This topic has been so much in the news lately, though, that it seemed almost necessary for me to touch upon it in these pages. A great opportunity to do so arose recently when a Beat aficianado named Ralph Virgo offered to create a special section within Literary Kicks devoted specially to original writings from people who knew Kerouac or have particular expertise regarding his life or work. The first installment of Inside the Kerouac Legacy features an original article by Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, who (as many of you may know) has been one of the key figures in the recent disputes over Kerouac's estate. This whole section is Ralph Virgo's gig -- I'm staying out of it myself ...

Other articles will hopefully follow in this series, focusing on a broad range of areas, and not just the matter of the estate.

5. Tricycle, a popular Buddhist journal, has dedicated a large part of its latest issue to "Buddhism and the Beat Generation." They'll also be publishing a book on the subject, "Big Sky Mind," with writings by Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Ginsberg, Joanne Kyger and others. Tricycle also has a new web page.

6. There's a new Ken Kesey home page here.

view /BeatNews19950826
Saturday, August 26, 1995 08:00 pm
Levi Asher
Do you like my new Netscape color scheme? It's not too radical -- although I've been doing some experimenting in the past couple of weeks, and some of you may have seen some pretty ugly pages flying by. I finally settled on a simple blue/green against a white or black background, blue to match the Paul Verlaine graphic at the top of my front page, and green for the glass of absinthe Verlaine is drinking in that picture, and also in honor of Michael McClure's statement that "the Beat writers are the literary arm of the ecological movement."

I must admit, though, that I am color-blind (red-green color blind, to be exact, which means I see colors, but slightly differently). So if anyone really HATES my colors let me know -- I'm trying to be correct here, but this is kind of like putting on a shirt and a tie for me -- I think it's right, but I'm not exactly sure.

Anyway, I've been working hard on LitKicks lately, and there are several new things here. Probably the two I'm most pleased with are the extensive new bibliographies of published writings about Kerouac and Kesey, both of which were created specially for LitKicks by contributors. There's amazing stuff here -- I never knew, for instance, that John Updike actually stooped so low as to make fun of Kerouac in The New Yorker (man, I hate that guy.) There's a chronological list of reviews of Kerouac's books, and it's fascinating to observe the ebb and flow of mainstream literary interest in his works over the years. The Kesey bibliography also contains fascinating entries I'd never known about. Thanks to Sherri and Martin Blank for sending these to me!

view /BeatNews19950804
Friday, August 4, 1995 07:55 pm
Levi Asher