“beat” refers to beatific
October 21, 2019 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Allen Ginsberg on the day after Kerouac died, and on the day of his funeral. Bill Tremblay's poem on the funeral. Jack Kerouac, gone fifty years ago today.
posted by Capt. Renault (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
thanks for this. They got a lot wrong, I'm sure, but damn if the Beats didn't set us all at least a little more free.

Patti Smith: The Spell
posted by philip-random at 6:02 PM on October 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've been reading him for 30 years, since I was 16. They're super problematic in 1,000 different ways, and Kerouac died a terribly alcoholic Republican with mommy issues, but damn if I didn't learn a ton about how to find the beauty in some of the most mundane things. Of all the latter-day instances of fighting with myself about separating the art from the artist, Kerouac is very much at the top of that list.
posted by nevercalm at 7:06 PM on October 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

a terribly alcoholic Republican with mommy issues,

did he write-in vote for Nancy Reagan or something?
posted by thelonius at 7:41 PM on October 21, 2019

In 1985 or 1986 I was present for the Canadian premiere of a documentary by director John Antonelli called Kerouac: The Movie. It was held in my hometown of Hamilton ON, then a dying industrial city.

Antonelli introduced the movie and mentioned that he was visiting Hamilton for the first time and that it reminded him strongly of Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, MA. A journalist sitting behind me muttered, “No wonder he left.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 PM on October 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

I’m not unaware of the problems with the beats, and Kerouac in general, but I still believe, deep down, that On the Road has a claim on being the great American novel, mostly because of its flaws.

That said, the ending of the Ginsberg poem pretty much captures it all, as poetry is meant to do:

Well, while I’m here I’ll do the work—
and what’s the work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else,
drunken dumbshow.

posted by Ghidorah at 9:08 PM on October 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

This poem is beautiful and I'm grateful for the annotations although I started ignoring them after a while in search of the language, Ginsberg's glorious language... man he does things.....*shakes head*

I hadn't read this piece before, but I've read it three times now. And thank you.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

“No wonder he left.”

There's not a lot of love lost between Lowell and Kerouac, although there are periodic attempts to claim him as a native son.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:45 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

After the rescue
posted by kliuless at 4:59 AM on October 22, 2019

a terribly alcoholic Republican with mommy issues

When I can write better than Kerouac and make a greater contribution to the world's fund of literary beauty, then I'll criticize Kerouac's politics and psychological problems. Till then, I'll respect them.
posted by Modest House at 9:36 AM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’m not unaware of the problems with the beats, and Kerouac in general,

other than being mostly white, mostly male, mostly indulgent punks (not my critique -- I think it's pretty sloppy, showing no grasp of their cultural-historical milieu), the principal dig against the Beats seems to come from their origins -- specifically the "murder"* of David Kammerer by the hand of Lucien Carr (who probably did more to bring all the various original Beats together than any other individual), and how Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs all got involved in a coverup (disposing of evidence etc). And then there's what happened to Joan Vollmer in Mexico a few years later. These people may not have been murderers, but they were certainly living dangerously.

* I put quotes on murder because the jury seems to be still out on what really happened, the only actual witness being Carr. The movie Kill Your Darlings covers it with a fair amount of detail, but it's proven controversial -- certainly to Carr's son, the novelist Caleb Carr.
posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

... and ummm, wow. Just read the entirety of Caleb Carr's letter to journalist Mark Judge that shows up in that link above. The plot definitely thickens. Here's the link again:

Son of famous Beat murderer Lucien Carr disputes ‘Kill Your Darlings’ film’s version of events

The letter starts several paragraphs in and doesn't hold much back.
posted by philip-random at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

certainly to Carr's son, the novelist Caleb Carr.

wow I did not know that
posted by thelonius at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2019

There was a previously about Kerouac as drunken guest on a WF Buckley TV talk show. (I commented then that he got some zingers in thru his drunken haze.)

Kerouac was not a nice decent upstanding citizen, he didn't want to be a hipster role model, and he hated being slotted into that role by popular media, and fame messed him up. The thing about Kerouac is that beyond his most famous popular novel, his other writings reflect more diverse perspectives.

(If you play that sort of Scrabble that allows the names of writers, he's got the vowels)
posted by ovvl at 5:54 PM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

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