I awoke with Alan Ginsberg as my companion today; the hard rapture of the shaman rising up though my sleep: “…incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping towards poles of Canada & Patterson, illuminating all the motionless world of time between..” These lines followed me like a heartbeat; echoed again in the bullets of hail preceding a nasty little thunderstorm in the later hours of the morning, and are with me still. They inform the direction I want to give you. It points toward the raucous, rapturous and untamed lives of the Beats.
Everybody knows Kerouac’s On The Road, and as important as this work is to my youth, I consider Dharma Bums to be his best. Some say it’s an Americanization of the principles of Buddhism. Some call it patronizing self-indulgence. I call it a no-holds-barred attempt at self-understanding. Does Kerouac make it to self-realization? No. Is it monolithic literature? No. It’s a fine weaving of syntax, and a way to understand someone willing to stand revealed in their existential confusion.
William Burroughs broke every boundary he could reach with his mind and body, including the cut-up narrative style of fiction as represented in The Nova Trilogy( The Nova Express,The Soft Machine, and The Ticket That Exploded),but his best work is The Wild Boys: Book of the Dead. It’s graphic, frightening and, to my mind, a refined use of Burrough’s cut-up technique as an aid to the scope and power of the work. Burroughs was, above all, a satirist, and this book satirizes everything. Burroughs could shock, repel and ,above all, rebel.
There were so many names to the Beats; so many who threw everything to abandon in the pursuit of understanding. Maybe, on another day, I will wake with the lines of Ginsberg, or Corso, or Ferlinghetti pounding their way up from sleep and the past, and talk about some of the words that shaped my youth. For today,I leave you with this quote from Footnote to Howl:
“Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!”
-Alan Ginsberg, Berkely,1955