Monday, March 10, 2014
This week (Wednesday) is Jack Kerouac's birthday. As a warm-up, we present today, a little fugitive item - Allen's "Letter on Kerouac". It appeared in the inaugeral (Spring 1970) issue of the magazine Madrugada
Dear Barry (Gifford) - Thanks for your kind letter made sense - Someone mentioned reading Desolation Angels (not in paperback yet!) [editorial note - it is now!] and I've been thinking about (The) Dharma Bums - those two plus Lonesome Traveller come into focus this decade [the 1970's] as Gary Snyder also comes into focus.
Put all the books side by side and perhaps Vanity of Kerouac (Duluoz) has a kind of proper proportion and sweet wit about it.
I am so appalled by the effort at sticking to writing that I am amazed how much Kerouac has written and how complete it actually is. Big Sur is a powerful and detailed record of physical illness and paranoia as well as Nature and City Scene & Poets etc. Even (F.) Scott Fitzgerald for all his honor & genius & pride & Literary Placement couldn't complete his own Crack Up as Kerouac so energetically did.
This morning I woke up 6 AM & over breakfast read Thomas Wolfe's description of Train Engine pulling into station - (Of) Time and the River - that kind of poesy both neolithic-futuristic visionary power stile [sic]. Guard your Gleam with humour - Best luck - Allen
P.S. I made an early vow - 1956? 1950? - any political or revolutionary situation wherein I'd find myself enemy of Kerouac or people on my side saying "up against the wall Kerouac" I'd know I and the world were mad.
Can't kill lambs. Even that Kerouac's not a lamb as he gnashingly repeats's no excuse to create more horror scenes worse than he already imagined.
& there's late Dostoevsky and Celine and Pound too. Even though Kerouac's a shit and a mean lush. Still Stella (Sampas) keeps the literary feedback from electrifying him to Boredom death.
Barry Gifford, the recipient of this note, is, of course, the respected poet, novelist and screenwriter, (and author, (along with Lawrence Lee), of the invaluable oral history, Jack's Book, in which Allen (necessarily) features as a prominent and illuminating contributor).
from David Wills' 2007 interview with Gifford, in Beatdom
DW: How willing were Kerouac's friends and associates to be interviewed for the Oral Biography?
BG: Everyone we found was willing to be interviewed. Only two asked for money. Gary Snyder and Gregory Corso. Instead of paying Corso, a friend of mine agreed to substitute his own piss for a urine sample of Gregory's so that Gregory could get his methadone in Paris!"
DW: ... finally, could you describe your friendship with Allen Ginsberg?
BG: I first met Allen in 1966 in London. I remained friendly with him until the day he died. He published a book of poems, Sad Dust Glories, with a small press I edited with another guy [Gary Wilkie], and, of course, I edited the book, As Ever - The Collected Correspondence of Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, working on it with Allen. He was always very generous and affectionate with me, as he was with almost everybody".
"My god, it's just like Rashomon - everybody lies and the truth comes out" (Allen's observation on Jack's Book) - Jack Goodstein's review of the book may be read here
Sunday, March 9, 2014
[Brion Gysin with Dreamachine at Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris, 1962 - Photograph by Harold Chapman - © Harold Chapman]
Weekend of The Cut-Ups - Two Brion Gysin movies on the Allen Ginsberg Project this weekend. The first, Nik Sheehan's 2008 Canadian documentary, FLicKeR, (a documentary examining and exploring Gysin's mind-expanding, trance-inducing invention, the dreamachine); the second, from ten years earlier, Joe Ambrose, Frank Rynne and Terry Wilson's record of the 1992 Gysin celebrations in Dublin, Ireland, Destroy All Rational Thought (the latter of particular interest, since it features one of the very last filmed interviews with William Burroughs, alongside previously-unseen vintage footage).
As a bonus, here's more rare footage - Gysin at work
Saturday, March 8, 2014
[William S Burroughs from Towers Open Fire (1963)]
Just because February, the birthday month, is over, it doesn't mean our William Burroughs celebrations, here on the Allen Ginsberg Project are over, far from it! Here for the weekend, a little more from and about El Hombre Invisible. Looking back on his legendary "cut-up" work (with particular reference to his film collaboration(s) with Antony Balch).
[Antony Balch (1937-1980)]
(A new monograph, Guerilla Conditions - Le Cinema d'Antony Balch by French scholar, Adrien Clerc, named after a planned-but-never-completed Balch-Burroughs collaboration, is scheduled to appear shortly). Meanwhile...
To begin with, some preliminaries.
It was Brion Gysin, of course, who was Burroughs' original inspiration (We'll be featuring - and have more on - Brion Gysin tomorrow)
Here are some early (1958) Gysin cut-up recordings.
More Gysin audio here
Burroughs: "Now these experiments started not on tape-recorders but on paper. In 1959 Brion Gysin said that writing is fifty years behind painting and applied the montage technique to words on a page and this technique had already been used at that time in painting for fifty years, it was, in fact, kind of old hat in painting. Brion copied out phrases from newspapers and magazines, then took his scissors and cut these selections into pieces and rearranged the fragments at random and these cut-up experiments appeared in Minutes To Go in 1959. When you experiment with cut-ups over a period of time, you find that some of the cut-ups and rearranged texts seem to refer to future events. I cut up an article on.. written by John Paul Getty and got "it's a bad thing to sue your own father", (this was a rearrangement and wasn't in the original text), and a year later one of his sons did sue him. We had no explanation for this at the time, (perhaps, suggesting that when you cut into the present the future leaks out), but we simply accepted it and continued the experiments...
Here's a key statement by Burroughs on the Cut-Up Method, from 1963, (from The Moderns - An Anthology of New Writing in America)
1963 - same year as the first and most realized of the Burroughs-Balch collaborations, Towers Open Fire
"Kid - what are you doing over there with the niggers and the apes? Why don't you straighten out an act like a white man? After all, they're only human cattle you know that yourself. I hate to see a bright young man fuck up and get off on the wrong track - sure it happens to all of us one time or another. Why the man who went on to invent shitola was sitting right where you're sitting now twenty-five years ago when I was saying the same thing to him - well, he straightened out same as you're going to straighten out. You can't deny your blood kid - you're white, white, white, and you can't walk out on life times change there's just no place to go.
Gentlemen - this was to be expected after all he'd been a medium all his life
Lock them out and bar the door
Lock them out for ever more
Nook and cranny window door
Seal them out for ever more
Curse go back
Curse go back
Back with double pain and lack
Curse go back
Curse go back
Back with double fear and flak
Silver arrow through the night
Silver arrow take they flight
Silver arrow seeks and finds
Cursing heart and cursing mind
Sell at ten-minutte intervals - rac, tel and con-Burroughs B & M - Transvestite Airlines - Molec Caper-United Narcotics-Uranium Limited-Allied Drugs-Lazarus Pharmaceuticals-sell 50,000 units at arbitrary intervals
Dramatic relief from anxiety
Dimethyltriptamine alarming and disagreeable symptoms
Anything that can be done chemically can be done in other ways
The use of opium and/or derivatives
Breaking bounds by flicker-flicker administered under large dosage and repeated later could well lead to overflow of the brain area seeing sounds and even odours that is a categorical characteristic of the consciousness expanding Grey Walter produced many of the phenomenon -
I wrote your fading movie-feed in all the words you think developed, pouring in the resistance message, handcutting dirty films here, hand takes-from vulnerable honesty to org in a leaky lifeboat takes action against time - This is the Mayan caper - Hand takes inexorable feeding board books ripping film flakes - shatter the theatre - the ovens - your two-bit narrative line to Wallgreens - the theme explodes strictly from moochville - poisoned techniques drop - you can take that to the sky, that rebought branch of Italian air - This is your last 'are you serious?' loud and clear. - You Mr D. - you can't smudge two speeds - moving out cutting layout flying flags coloured with contriol thoughts, feelings. cocolaco, junk, and cancer control shit - and you Mr D, who under the name of Hassan i Sabbah feed into the machine on subliminal level unimaginable disaster of Nova we feed in dismantle your miserable shit bodies - TOWERS OPEN FIRE!"
"Towers Under Fire", was, as Rob Bridgett has written, in his definitive essay, in Bright Lights Film Journal - "The Films of William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Antony Balch",
"a collage of the main themes and situations or "routines" that appear in Burroughs' cut-up novels of the period.[notably, Nova Express, The Ticket That Exploded and The Soft Machine]. The soundtrack accompaniment is a mixture of recordings made by Burroughs on a cheap Grundig tape-recorder and resembles many of the cut-up tape experiments achieved [around that time] in collaboration with [his friend] Ian Sommerville. The rest was done in a studio, with some Arab music used. The film depicts society as crumbling in the form of a stock exchange crash, shots of which were purchased from Pathe news. Members of a "board" [look out for the cameo by Alex Trocchi] are dematerialized, and Burroughs plays an omnipresent role in the film (not least as the victim of an "orgasm attack" in which he leaps through a window and shoots family photos with a ping-pong gun!). There are also important scenes using facial projections in which a face has a light mask projected onto it. Also appearing in the film are early Flicker experiments courtesy of (Brion) Gysin's "dream machine"...There is also a scene in which Burroughs' friend, Mikey Portman dances around in a music-hall fashion, and looks up to the sky to see a dancing series of pink and blue dots. These were hand-painted by Balch onto clear leader for each print of the film. An important section...is the actual cut-up sequence. Filmed on a quayside in Paris. this sequence is the first filmic example of the cut-ups and it lasts about thirty seconds..."
The eponymous "Cut Ups", though filmed at essentially the same time, appeared three years later. Bridgett again: "The Cut-Ups" was conventionally edited and then cut into four approximately equal lengths. It was then assembled into its final state by taking one-foot lengths from each of the four sections that were cut together with mathematical precision - 1,2,3,4,1,2.3.4, etc. Variations to this structure occur randomly when a shot change occurs within one of the already edited one-foot lengths....The length of the shots, with the exception of the last, is always the same (apart from the shot changes within the one-foot sections)...The soundtrack was made by Sommerville, Burroughs and Gysin. They asked Balch how long the film was, and they produced permutated phrases to the exact length of twenty minutes and four seconds, including the final "Good, thank you". These permutated phrases are repeated and phased, like a (minimalist) composition. There are four in all - "Yes Hello?" "Look at that picture", "Does it seem to be persisting?" and "Good, thank you"."
The sheer reductive repetition and monotony proved to be too much for the film's original London audience. "It ran for a fortnight and eventually had to be shortened from twenty to twelve minutes because staff and manager couldn't stand running it five times a day". As Bridgett has perceptively observed, in Here To Go, Gysin remarks that "Burroughs pushed Cut-ups so far with variations of his own that he produced texts that were sickeningly painful to read". "The Cut-Ups", Bridgett notes," recreates this in cinema". It too "is almost "sickeningly painful" to watch and try to make sense of". It is an intentional mind-game, a Rimbaldian "dereglement de.. les sens".
Here's another early Burroughs-Balch collaboration, shot in Morocco (or perhaps, as Brion Gysin has suggested, Gibraltar) - "William Buys A Parrot"
and the identity-exchange from 1972, "Bill and Tony"
Jed Birmingham's informative note on the Burroughs- Balch correspondence may be seen here
Taking it right up to the present (and back in the past) - and into the future, Joe Ambrose & A.D.Hitchin's "Cut Up" anthology will be out any day now
Brion Gysin tomorrow.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Published this past Tuesday in the UK by Penguin and this coming Thursday in the US by Da Capo Press, and edited by respected Beat scholar, Todd Tietchen - The Haunted Life - a previously-unpublished, only-recently rediscovered, short (19,ooo word) novella by Jack Kerouac, seventy years after it was written, finally gets to see the light of day.
Written when he was only twenty-two and attending Columbia, lost almost immediately (Kerouac left his only hand-written final draft in a New York taxi-cab), re-surfacing thirteen years later in a Columbia University dormitory, and then in 2002 on the auction block at Sotheby's, post-The Town and the City, pre-On The Road, The Haunted Life has had an unsual (to say the least) progress to publication.
As Penguin publicity proudly declare it - "Now, 70 years after Kerouac wrote it, his second novel will be published for the first time..."
The Haunted Life was originally conceived as part of a longer work (tentatively titled An American Passed Here, the coming-of-age story of (Kerouac-surrogate) "Peter Martin" in the fictional town of "Galloway" (based, recognizeably, on Lowell).
The novella is rounded out, in this edition, by sketches, notes and observations kept during the time of its composition, and with a revealing selection of correspondence between Kerouac and his father, Leo.
[Jack Kerouac with his sister Nin and parents (Gabrielle & Leo), 1944 - New York Public Library Jack Kerouac Archive. Image courtesy John G Sampas]
It's a little ahead of time (his birthday is actually next Wednesday) but, not coincidentally, this weekend sees, once again, the annual Lowell Celebrates Jack Kerouac celebrations, leading off with an event tonight, "Happy Birthday, Jack", at the Zeitgeist Gallery on Market Street (in conjunction with "You Don't Know Jack", a show combining Kerouac and JFK, presently up on their walls). Saturday (tomorrow) is the main day, starting off with a tour of Lowell High School in the morning, and featuring, in the afternoon, "The Millennial Generation Meets the Beat Generation" - a panel discussion with Jay Atkinson, the author of the Kerouac-inspired, updated, American odyssey, Paradise Road, and students of his from Boston University (the focus there will be on Kerouac's relevance - "the enduring appeal of Kerouac and his work among a new generation of readers"). Beat legend, David Amram will be present, as he will be for the rest of the festival, closing down Saturday night's festivities with music and improvisation at The Athenian Corner (also on Market Street).
A fine time, assuredly, will be had by all.
On Thursday, Todd Tietchen will be speaking on The Haunted Life at the LTC Meeting Room, 246 Market Street.
Announcing the digitalization of The Partisan Review. The always-informative Hyperallergic has more on this. Alison Colbert's 1971 interview with Allen can now be read, in its entirety, on line. For more of Allen in its pages see here
"This may seem incredible, but Allen Ginsberg had a magnificent body". The quote is from Inge Feltrinelli, widow of Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, and, prior to that union, (as Inge Schoenthal), noted photographer/photojournalist in her own right.
Here (by way of proof?) her shot (from 1963) of Allen and the poet Edoardo Sanguineti
[Allen Ginsberg and Edoardo Sanguineti - Photograph by Inge Schoenthal-Feltrinelli]
Here's another of Schoenthal-Feltrinelli's Ginsberg-Sanguineti pictures (Allen, clothed this time).
[Allen Ginsberg and Edoardo Sanguineti - Photograph by Inge Schoenthal-Feltrinelli]
For an illuminating interview and recollections from the photographer, see here
We'll conclude with another photograph, Beth Vail's photo of the late Robert LaVigne, taken only last year.
[Robert LaVigne, Seattle,Washington 2013 - Photo by Beth Vail]
and with this heart-felt call to another recently-deceased, Diane Di Prima on the late great Amiri Baraka (" (& don't kid yourself, /Ginsberg/it's all of it/gonna be lost)")