Advance copies of Ellen Pearlman‘s Nothing and Everything have just arrived – her definitive history of “The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant-Garde 1942-1962”. A revealing sample chapter can be read here. She quotes Allen (“Gelek Rimpoche told me you people, Burroughs, you, Kerouac, will all go to heaven for introducing the dharma to this country.”)
and Gary Snyder (“I think American Buddhism is in great debt to the Beat Generation”).
Indeed it is.
The key figure, or certainly one of the key figures, is, undoubtedly, the legendary scholar, D.T. (Daisetsu Teitaro) Suzuki. As Pearlman, in an earlier article, notes, “I interviewed many people in the New York creative world and practically all roads, without exception, lead back to Suzuki. Everyone, it seemed, had read him, especially in the 1940s and 1950’s before ordained Buddhist teachers were readily available in the West.”
An account of the famous (or rather, infamous) Kerouac-Suzuki encounter (Allen and Peter Orlovsky were also in attendance) can be found here. Pearlman, however, provides considerably more details (via Mihoko Okamura, Suzuki’s Japanese-American secretary – “Suzuki shared his feelings with Okamura about these young men. He thought Kerouac’s greatest flaw was that he “misunderstood the essence of freedom…Freedom is from Dr.Suzuki’s point of view (working) in the harness..and (Kerouac was unable) to overcome all of that and understand it. According to Okamura, the point where the Beats fell short was in misunderstanding the essential Zen point that we are already free and “it is the human mind that thinks we are not free. To look for freedom outside of your original freedom is already an aberration of the mind. We are not apart in the original state”. Not to give the impression that Suzuki was entirely censorious, he was perspicacious enough to note/notice at the time: “The “Beat Generation” is not a mere passing phenomenon to be lightly put aside as insignificant. I’m inclined to think it’s somehow prognostic of something coming, at least, to American life”.
Ellen’s 2004 Brooklyn Rail piece on Anne Waldman and her Feb 2011 piece (noted before) on the Ginsberg-Kerouac letters are also both well worth checking out. On May 16 she’ll be speaking on Nothing and Everything (in a discussion with Vincent Katz) at New York’s Rubin Museum.
Upcoming dates (well before that, this Sunday, in fact), at the Jewish Museum of Florida (in conjunction with the current Max Miller show, currently up), there will be a collaborative reading/performance of Allen’s “Kaddish”.
And, anyone close to Seattle, keep the date of Saturday June 2nd free, SPLAB will be, once again, hosting the annual Ginsberg Marathon. “to honor one of the 20th Century’s most important poet/activists”. “Last year”, they note, “we heard a Grandma reading “Please Master”. What will happen in 2012?” The mind boggles!
David J Krajicek’s excellent article, “Where Death Shaped The Beats” (an account of the notorious Kammerer-Carr case) we gave somewhat short shrift to last week, so we’re spotlighting it again (and did we mention the accompanying slide-show of Columbia Beat locations?). Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C Hall (“Harry Potter” and “Dexter”) continue to be sighted. Here’s the two of them together (“Allen Ginsberg” and “David Kammerer”) – and here too – more (on location) Kill Your Darlings shots.