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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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".
Memories of JerryBy John Cassady
August 10, 1995
Dear Mercury News,
My memories of Jerry Garcia are both as a fan and a friend. He was a close associate of my father, Neal, for a few tulmultuous years in the mid-'60s. I was a teen-age hippie/guitarist wanna-be, and I thought Jerry was God. Although I saw him as often as possible in concert, I met him in person less frequently, but he was always kind to me.
I last spoke to him only briefly after a Dead show in Eugene, Oregon, in 1992, which I happened to attend during a visit with friends in Portland. It turned out to be, for me, a fantastic Prankster reunion. Kesey, Ken Babbs, George Walker, Zonker (Steven Lambrecht) and others of Dad's cohorts were there in the new "Further", most of whom I hadn't seen in twenty years. There was a private showing of Babbs' "Multi-media Cassady Tribute" that night at a downtown hotel ballroom, which Jerry and the band also attended. I was flattered that Jerry remembered me and seemed genuinely interested in my welfare after so long. That night he was cheerful and funny. When the management asked us to leave because the Dead's roadies had loaded in their own beer for the function (we were supposed to buy it from the hotel bar), Jerry stood up and announced, "We've been thrown out of better places than this!," and we retreated to Bobby's suite in their own hotel a few miles up the freeway to continue the party. Jerry skipped it and went to bed, and I was always disappointed that I wasn't able to talk to him more that night. Now he's gone and I never will.
Years before I would timidly approach backstage doors to be intimidated by gruff security personnel until Jerry intervened and invited me in to talk backstage and watch the show. He'd be casual; I'd feel awestruck. He was just an extremely nice man. He was also my guitar hero, and directly influenced my own style with his staccato down-beat accents in his solos, the triplet hammer-offs, and the unique way he could play out of key and make it work.
I think his legacy is the remarkable way in which he could bring joy to so many people from different walks of life in so many ways that made one feel he was talking personally just to you. I know he affected me that way.
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!