Ginsberg's Celestial Homework
May 21, 2004 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Ginsberg's Celestial Homework is the reading list Ginsberg handed out on the first day at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics as "suggestions for a quick check-out & taste of ancient scriveners whose works were reflected in Beat literary style..." Founded in 1974, Ginsberg taught at the school until his death in 1997.
posted by Satapher (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nella Grebsnig
posted by Satapher at 11:30 AM on May 21, 2004

Yep. Found this goodness on BoingBoing this morning. Blake and Eliot and Burroughs and Yeats. I can only imagine the class discussion. And it will form the basis of my summer reading, I do believe.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2004

"quick checkout"?

That's a nice list. But it looks long to me.
posted by bukvich at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2004

I'm kind of suprised Melville is on the list.
posted by drezdn at 11:48 AM on May 21, 2004

great stuff, love it.

drezdn, why are you surprised by Melville?
posted by chaz at 12:13 PM on May 21, 2004

I'm certainly not surprised by Melville.

By the way, thanks everyone, and thanks to satapher for the post! This site was a labor of love by me and two wonderfully creative friends of mine, Eric Botticelli and Jordan Matheny, with some important help from Derek Powazek of the illustrious personal storytelling site

I'm glad you guys are enjoying this.
posted by digaman at 12:27 PM on May 21, 2004

that's a great list, and i'm also not surprised by Melville being there--he's so much more than Moby Dick.
posted by amberglow at 12:45 PM on May 21, 2004

he's so much more than Moby Dick.

His style just doesn't seem very "Beat"- well, not too me at least.
posted by drezdn at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2004

The whole point of Ginsberg's original list, and this site, is to enlarge the view of what Beat is. So that's a good thing!
posted by digaman at 1:20 PM on May 21, 2004

Bartleby is very beat, and Billy Budd is queer, and i'm sure there are other things by him that fit... : >

Loved seeing Cocteau and Gide there.
posted by amberglow at 1:31 PM on May 21, 2004

Melville not "beat?" His "Typee" and "Omoo" are prototypical "road" books. "Mardi" is a wacked out spiritual allegory (very rarely read -- and for good reason). "Moby Dick" -- well, jeez, the prose riffing that goes on there is beyond beat. Finally, there's his New York City novel (dang, the title slips my mind, the one right after "Moby Dick") which is nothing less than a tale of proto-beat bohemians in New York City and the messes they make of their lives.
To me the weird thing on this list is the following:
Thomas Wolfe
First pages of Look Homeward Angel and You Can't Go Home Again

Why just the first pages? Go deep into Thomas Wolfe. Kerouac sure did. He learned everything he ever knew from Thomas Wolfe -- and said so, too, on many occasions.
posted by Faze at 1:40 PM on May 21, 2004


And about Gide, I interviewed Allen a couple of times for print and told him that reading "Kaddish" and "Howl" in highschool changed my life. He replied that it was too bad I hadn't been reading Gide and Genet.

And "Moby Dick" is pretty queer itself. Paging Dr. Freud...

"While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed
in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm;
and when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully
manipulated ere going to the try-works, of which anon.

It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with
several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's bath of it, I
found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about
in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back
into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times
this sperm was such a favourite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a
sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious molifier! After
having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like
eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralise.

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter
exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under
indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands
among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven
almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and
discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as
I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma,--literally and truly, like
the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I
lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in
that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I
almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is
of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger; while bathing in that
bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulance, or
malice, of any sort whatsoever.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that
sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till
a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself
unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their
hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate,
friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was
continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes
sentimentally; as much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why
should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest
ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us
all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves
universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever!"
posted by digaman at 1:47 PM on May 21, 2004

The Town and the City is Keroauc's most Wolfeian novel, being his first -- he definately came into his own afterwards. Every artist's output is a scattered summation of their inputs.
posted by Satapher at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2004

Even the title "The Town and the City" is Wolfean, and when Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and others were inventing the Beat Generation in NYC, they used to get high and joke around separating their friends into the "Wolfeans" and the "non-Wolfeans." (Jack, because athletic, heroic, handsome etc. was Wolfean, while Allen, because gay, dorky, Jewish worrier-poet, was non-Wolfean.)
posted by digaman at 5:55 PM on May 21, 2004

Well I never interviewed him but I did meet him and had a copy of Howl signed. He had a way of saying things to throw you off guard and make you think even in the most basic conversation, he was operating on another level of consciousness.
posted by stbalbach at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2004

Odd coincidence but the Mercury News this morning had a review of the SJ Museum of Art's exhibition of art by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Runs through July 25 and admission is free.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2004

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