Monday, November 29, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A man who knew Jack Kerouac

Click here to read about a group of men who routinely gather at Noel's Restaurant & Bakery in Kittery, ME. One of the group, Albert Farrah, is a Lowell native who says he knew Jack. I may have to grab breakfast in Kittery some morning!

That would make four people I've met who knew Jack. The other three: David Amram (in person), Helen Weaver (via e-mail), and Phil from Lowell (click here for that story).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: Peter Conners' White Hand Society

A couple of weeks ago I received a review copy of Peter Conners' White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, recently published (2010) by City Lights Books in San Francisco. I just finished reading it cover-to-cover, and it was an enjoyable read.

Conners' prose is clear and engaging. Chapter 1, "Blakean Vision in Harlem," starts thus:
July 1948. Allen Ginsberg lay in bed reading William Blake. He was 23 years old, heartbroken and lonely (p. 11).

That concise paragraph puts forth quite a lot of detail, and, combined with the chapter title, helps the reader predict exactly where the author is headed: a look into Ginsberg's vision he believes he received directly from William Blake and which launched Ginsberg on the spiritual/poetic path we beat generation aficionados know so well. Ginsberg vowed that day to honor his vision throughout his entire life, and his eventual experimentation with hallucinogens likely assisted him in meeting that pledge.

Chapter 2, "A New Game," introduces us to 35-year-old Timothy Leary, living in Spain with his two children and trying to "put two marriages and an increasingly uncomfortable social and professional life behind him" (p. 22). Already fighting clinical depression, Leary experienced a day of intense physical symptoms - burning scalp, swollen face, water blisters on his face, etc. - which led to a psychological transformation he described as his "entire identity melting away" (p. 24). Two years later he took his first dose of hallucinogens, picking up where his first brush with transformative experience left him.

Starting from those parallel consciousness-raising experiences, Conners then weaves his way through the history of hallucinogenic drugs (especially LSD and psilocybin), their creators/makers (e.g., Albert Hofmann, Owsley Stanley), their proponents (e.g., Ken Kesey), and the evolving but sometimes strained relationship between Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. Along the way are stories involving Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs, and other beat generation characters. We get to see the text of relevant letters written by Leary and Ginsberg, including a gem by Leary to musician Thelonius Monk in 1961 asking him to participate in his psychedelic mushroom research. We also get the background story of Leary's exciting escape from prison, aided by none other than the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers.

Throughout the book, Conners provides extensive details, but never to the expense of comprehension or reading enjoyment. One particularly important detail is the inclusion of the actual transcript from "The Houseboat Summit," an exchange between facilitator Alan Watts (on his boat the S.S. Vallejo), Leary, Ginsberg, and beat poet Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums). It's a prescient interchange of ideas about Leary's notion of "dropping out," with some of the best insights coming from Snyder's ecologically-focused perspective. (You can read it on-line here.)

This is an important addition to the literature on the beat generation, documenting the collaboration between two remarkable visionaries who took America on the ride of her life. If you're a beat generation fan, a hippie, a child of the 60s, or a fan of biographies, you'll be turned on by White Hand Society.

Click here to buy the book directly from City Lights.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Kerouaction" is officially a word

You already know that I invented the word Kerouaction. It's the subtitle of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions. Now it's an official word according to Urban Dictionary!

Far out, huh?

To celebrate this achievement, feel free to click here and order some copies of The Beat Handbook as Christmas presents! Or birthday presents! Or any-old-reason presents!

Happy Thanksgiving

It's been over two years since publishing The Beat Handbook and starting this blog, and I'm thankful today for all the amazing experiences I've had along the way, from trading books with David Amram to shipping books as far away as India to hanging out in Lowell to meeting folks like the Bootch to having City Lights send me books to review to learning more about Jack Kerouac than I ever imagined possible.

Here's some Kerouac Thanksgiving Day trivia for you:

"Strong and athletic, Kerouac was a talented football player. In the Thanksgiving Day football game during his senior year, he scored the game-winning touchdown. The ball was tipped, he stretched out and grabbed it just inches from the ground, and he bulled his way into the end zone. The fans went crazy, and several college scouts in the stadium couldn't help but be impressed. Kerouac accepted an athletic scholarship to Columbia University, where he met William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg." (Source: American Society of Authors and Writers)

If it weren't for football and Thanksgiving, would there even have been a Jack Kerouac as we know him?

Now, the Kerouaction for today is to go eat too much turkey.

P.S. For a previous and similar post, click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

William S. Burroughs documentary

Check this out: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within.

As Daily Beat readers know, Burroughs was one of the core beat generation figures, influencing both Kerouac and Ginsberg in ways literary and otherwise. He was represented in several of Jack's books as follows:

Book of Dreams - Bull Hubbard
Desolation Angels - Bull Hubbard
On the Road - Old Bull Lee
The Subterraneans - Frank Carmody
The Town and the City - Will Dennison
Vanity of Duluoz - Will Hubbard

Not too long ago I read Burroughs' Junky, and Naked Lunch is on my list.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Another new book from City Lights to review

City Lights just sent me another book to review: Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960: Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition by Allen Ginsberg.

Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, November 19, 2010

For the "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" file

This was just sent to me from my friend, Kerri, who is visiting Colorado. Nice.

I think I know what my next personalized plate in Maine is going to be (if it's available).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg: Upcoming Review

Out of the clear blue California sky, a package arrived this past week. It was a book-sized package, and the return address was City Lights in San Francisco, which readers of The Daily Beat know is the premier beat generation bookstore on the planet. I had not ordered anything from City Lights, which could only mean one thing: they had again, as with Helen Weaver's book (see link on the right and my review here) The Awakener, entrusted me with a review copy of a new publication.

Indeed, I am now in possession of White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg by Peter Conners. I have promised my contact at City Lights - who e-mailed me subsequently - a review, so stay tuned.

With chapter titles like "Enter LSD, Exit Harvard" and "Human Be-In," it promises to be an interesting read.

Monday, November 8, 2010

On The Bro'd?

I am speechless that 1) someone would write something so blatantly stupid as On The Bro'd: Every Sentence of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, Retold for Bros.", and 2) that New York Press would review this drivel.

Talk about trying to capitalize on Jack's fame, which I've been accused of, but at least my book was an homage to Jack, albeit tongue-in-cheek in part.

Here's a sample from On The Bro'd:
But then they strutted down the streets like total pimps, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after bros who interest me, because the only bros for me are the awesome ones, the ones who are mad to chug, mad to party, mad to bone, mad to get hammered, desirous of all the chicks at Buffalo Wild Wings, the ones who never turn down a Bud Light Lime, but chug, chug, chug like fucking awesome players exploding like spiders across an Ed Hardy shirt and in the middle you see the silver skull pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

In case you don't know what a "bro" is, here you go: Urban Dictionary.

Connecting the beats with bros is a travesty of the first order. Jack is rolling in his grave, and I am wondering what it would take to get the New York Press to review The Beat Handbook. Oh, wait. I forgot. It's not nearly stupid enough.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

6 Degrees of Jack Kerouac

We haven't played 6 Degrees of Jack Kerouac lately, and this isn't exactly that, but I do have an interesting connection to make.

My great friend, Keith, introduced me to Jack Kerouac's writing around 2002 or so. As you no doubt have ascertained by now, I became a bit obsessed with Jack, evidenced by my having written a book as an homage to him, not to mention my maintaining this Kerouac-focused blog, attending Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, visiting Kerouac destinations (his grave, San Francisco, Big Sur), etc.

Another hero of Keith's is Aron Ralston, the guy who got his arm trapped under a boulder out west and cut it off (his arm, not the boulder) in order to free himself. Aron's grim adventure is detailed in a new movie, 127 Hours.

127 Hours was reviewed by Regina Weinreich on The Huffington Post on Nov. 5. In that same article - available here - she mentions a new documentary, Practice of the Wild, which features Gary Snyder, who was the inspiration for the characters Japhy Ryder in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums.

So, Keith, Ms. Weinreich mentioned Jack Kerouac and Aron Ralston in the same article. How's that for connections?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perpetuating the On The Road myth

This article from The Independent - which made signing in to leave a comment quite painful - perpetuates the myth that Jack wrote On The Road in 3 weeks. Indeed, he typed it in 3 weeks, but he was writing it for years.

See my December 9, 2008 post for some pretty strong evidence supporting my position. Indeed, as The Independent article states, he kept copious notes, but he also began writing sections of it long before his famous 3-week caffeine-fueled scroll typing session.