William S. Burroughs‘ Junkie is written tight and clean, just like I like it. But there is no humor, no black humor, nor any dry humor. The book is dark and hopeless, just as Burroughs’ addiction is. There is no redemption for his narrator; he never changes. But without Burroughs’ strict attention to detail, without his lack of repenting, we would not have the literature we have today. He wrote about gay sex easily without explaining it or making it dirty or salacious. He just wrote about his life. He created a whole new genre—cult culture.
When I was 22 I went on a pilgrimage to Lowell, Massachusetts to visit Jack Kerouac‘s home. It was ill planned, we were walking in the snow, there were no signs, and what was worse, no one had even heard of him! I would have given anything for a map with directions of where to go and what to do. Well, The Beat Museum and The Contemporary Museum (CJM) did just that. They partnered together to create a walking tour based around the history of the Beat Generation in North Beach, San Francisco, in honor of Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg at the CJM. More than fifty years after On the Road and Howl were published, a large group of people gathered to listen to their stories and to see their historical geography.
As you read Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl, it carves out a little pocket in your brain and heart and lives there forever. He is one of those poets you imagine being friends with. His friendships with fellow Beat writers are legendary. Through decades and different countries, his very public relationship with Peter Orlovsky is inspiring.
Written in 1955, this big poem, in this little book changed the course of poetry, literature, and free speech as we know it. Part of City Lights’ Pocket Poets Series, it’s meant to fit into one’s pocket so that one will never be without poetry.
Scott used to invite friends over to read Ginsberg’s poetry as a group.
On the Road is about Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac driving across country, searching for something. It’s about their relationship with each other and the rest of the world. And it’s also about how Jack defines himself in relation to Neal and society. Jack Kerouac consciously creates a mythology through story, thought, and dialogue. Jack writes for a literary audience and to define his place in society. He uses Neal to both reflect and define himself. Jack likes the idea of being seen as a madman, he wants to be perceived as an outsider to society, to be aligned with alcoholic hobos, and defined as a hoodlum. He sees himself as an outsider that is too intelligent and wild to be understood by the common man. Continue reading →