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beat-generation photos
April 20, 2004 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Still romanticizin' the beat generation? Lovely shots from the Venice West Picture Essay - a photo chronicle of the beat generation in venice west, california circa 1958….from the out-of-print "the holy barbarians" by lawrence lipton
posted by lilboo (21 comments total)

 
While I enjoyed some of Kerouac's writing, I can honestly say I never felt any great attraction to or fondness for the beats. These photographs do nothing to change that.
posted by tommasz at 3:19 PM on April 20, 2004


i like them...they made a lot of good work--in poetry and lit and music, and paved the way for the whole 60s thing (i think so, at least--sort of like how the oldest brother or sister has to do everything first, so that when it's your turn, it's not such a problem--they were the older brothers and sisters to hippies and flower children)
posted by amberglow at 3:27 PM on April 20, 2004


darn it. I got to look at two pages before the bandwidth limit was exceeded.
posted by trbrts at 3:47 PM on April 20, 2004


i like them...they made a lot of good work--

That they did, but for all his brilliance and time on the road, it worth noting that Kerouac (who was my idol as a teenager) ended up a young booze-soaked corpse on his mother's couch.

Food for thought.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on April 20, 2004


but then look at Ginsburg, jon--who lived and loved to a ripe old age. : >
posted by amberglow at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2004


Bandwidth limit. Let's hope they don't lump Bukowski in w/ the Beats again. Different creatures.
posted by Zoyd Wheeler at 5:59 PM on April 20, 2004


I swore of Ginsberg after I found out he was not only a NAMBLA apologist but a member as well. Screw the perverted bastard.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on April 20, 2004


was he? ewwwwww...I didn't know. feh. (i'm hoping it was just a political move, and not a real lust for kids)
posted by amberglow at 6:57 PM on April 20, 2004


Either way, it's enough for me to not want anything to do with him.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on April 20, 2004


I once threw Ginsburg out of my radio studio. He came in to do a poetry show which followed my world music show. He wandered into the studio while I was on air with a herd of fawning young poets and started asking me to play his choice of tunes... so I kicked him out. Apart from his role in American poetry, he was just an annoying old fart.

I also kicked Tracey Chapman out of my studio...
posted by zaelic at 1:22 AM on April 21, 2004 [1 favorite]


jonmc: And how many of our favorite rock 'n' rollers choked on their own vomit, or someone else's vomit? I love the music of Miles Davis, and a 1959 poster of him sits prominently - as in, right at the center - of my living area. But Miles was, from what I've read, a world-class asshole from, oh, time to time. If you find domestic violence or sexism abhorrent, you shouldn't listen to James Brown or read Hemingway either, if you won't have anything to do with Ginsberg because he joined an organization for largely free speech-oriented reasons. (What are we to think otherwise? He was never charged with child molestation, nor was he ever accused of it, to my knowledge.)
posted by raysmj at 10:04 AM on April 21, 2004


And how many of our favorite rock 'n' rollers choked on their own vomit, or someone else's vomit? I love the music of Miles Davis, and a 1959 poster of him sits prominently - as in, right at the center - of my living area. But Miles was, from what I've read, a world-class asshole from, oh, time to time. If you find domestic violence or sexism abhorrent,

Big leap from that to condoning kiddy-diddling.
posted by jonmc at 12:34 PM on April 21, 2004


There wasn't kidding-diddling that you can prove, which was another part of my point.

And, I dunno, something about a Sin Index seems rather subjective to me anyhow. You can authoritatively rank evil now? Can you, really? Even when the only sins or evils committed were ones involving thought and perceived promotion of certain crimes, and not proven action? You're in hyper-murky territory here. If you're going to start saying that certain authors or musicians should be avoided because of certain life choices, you're going to be shutting out plenty of works of art. Is reading Ezra Pound unacceptable for his blantant support of of Italian fascism? And Miles really was an asshole. He was stylish and soulful, but still a mega-asshole. If you think violence against women in shameful, and a huge societeal problem and you ban artists from your life for that reason, you shouldn't ever listen to him.

Where do you draw your own personal line? Do you draw it at what the conventional wisdom now has it is The Worst Thing You Can Do? And Ginberg did not, to your knowledge, even do that. He, instead, gave his endorsement to an organization that wanted the age of consent abolished. It's weird, but Ginsberg has his defenders here, including Camille Paglia.
posted by raysmj at 1:57 PM on April 21, 2004


Where do you draw your own personal line?

Read anything you want. I'm saying what I won't support. The guy pledged his support and endorsement to these assholes. He loses my support. I'm not accusing anyone who does buy his books of endorsing these actions, just stating what I do.
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on April 21, 2004


addendum: plenty of people I know have boycotted artists for far less, or for merely political reasons, how is my swearing off Ginsberg any different? Maybe he's some kinda icon, but as far as I'm concerned icons need to be smashed sometimes.
posted by jonmc at 6:06 PM on April 21, 2004


You're coming at the whole Beats discussion with this "cautionary tale" and judmental attitude just kinda turned me off, is all. Holy crap. What literary movement or musical movement or whatever couldn't you say the same thing about, even if the Beats were more conciously pushing things as far as they could? "Food for thought" and all, you can say that about a zillion artists. And Keroac's political beliefs were actually turning more conservative before he died, even if died on mom's couch. What does that say? You turn conservative as you get older, then you die on mom's couch?

You don't have to like Ginsberg, but if you're definitely working out a moral hierarchy of sins here. If you'd lived in another era, maybe you'd have felt differently. I'm more in favor of judging a person's work from an artistic standpoint. The reason Miles stays on my wall? For all his many failings and bad deeds, he's a symbol of something to me, of a certain sort of aesthetic and creative freedom, one that transcends his own life. And Ginsberg, for all his faults, was highly influential and important figure in American life of the mid-to-late 20th Century, despite his life choices. I won't get rid of my autographed copy of "Howl" for that very reason.
posted by raysmj at 8:42 PM on April 21, 2004


You're coming at the whole Beats discussion with this "cautionary tale" and judmental attitude just kinda turned me off, is all.

The original title of the post was "Still romanticizin' the Beat Generation?" My comments answered "no."

Kerouac's reputation was built around his been-everywhere-done-it-all on-the-road persona. And he ended up a prematurely dead corpse in mom's house. Ginsberg prattled on in "Howl" about how his butthole was "holy." Maybe he was merely trying to justify lusting after the kids in the nursery school playground.

How talented they might have been is not the point here. Overblown mythology begs to be deflated, I'm here to oblige.
posted by jonmc at 9:35 PM on April 21, 2004


Well, your response included this fairly easy to understand quote: " I like them...they made a lot of good work."

In any case, Kerouac was pals with William F. Buckley, Jr. by the time he died, despite his image. The message of his death is not, "Being freewheeling necessarily leads to death." It certainly can, but I think it's pretty clear that Kerouac had deeper and far more complex problems than that equation suggests.
posted by raysmj at 10:47 PM on April 21, 2004


From the NY Times Book Review, Dec. 1979.

It must be remembered, however, that in 1957, when Kerouac entered the public consciousness, the man was already 35 years old. He had become a myth--a myth that endures even today-- but his mythical boldness bore little resemblance to Kerouac's tentative, almost timid character. He was being toasted and roasted for a book he had written six years earlier about events dating from years before that. He had lost the elasticity that had enabled him to stretch and match strides with Cassady. While Neal plunged headlong into the 60's, teaming up with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters (whose LSD-inspired adventures are chronicled in Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"), Kerouac withdrew into paranoia and alcoholism. In short, he regressed to a parody of Leo. (Just one example: He told a friend that Senator Joseph McCarthy had "all the dope on the Jews and the fairies.")

Worse still, people confused him with the intrepid Dean Moriarty, the Cassady character in "On The Road." Kids appeared in front of his house on Long Island and pressed him to join them on joy rides, then were mystified when he cowered in fear beneath the dashboard. His fans failed to recognize that, in his books, Kerouac was always the camp follower, the diffident groupie. He was the narrator of "Tristessa," the pathetic celibate helplessly revering the junk-wasted Mexican girl. He was Ray Smith in "The Dharma Bums," frozen with terror in his protective nook on the side of the mountain while the Gary Synder character danced on the summit.

posted by raysmj at 10:53 PM on April 21, 2004


Well, your response included this fairly easy to understand quote: " I like them...they made a lot of good work."
That was me, ray--not jonmc.
posted by amberglow at 5:43 AM on April 22, 2004


Yes, he was responding to your quote, and not the romanticizing part per se, or so it seemed - which was what I was trying to say. And the deromantizing was off-base anyhow, particularly in the case of Jack K.
posted by raysmj at 7:17 AM on April 22, 2004


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