Allen’s new book, The Best Minds of My Generation, selections from Allen’s lectures (not to be confused with the lectures transcribed here on the Allen Ginsberg Project), “mercifully reduced to 455 pages, shorn of repetitions, student interventions and Ginsberg’s habit of beginning every sentence with “So” – (sic) – as the reviewer in the London Times would have it) continues to impress one and all.
Here’s an excerpt from Gaby Wood‘s review in London’s Daily Telegraph:
“Lovingly edited from recordings by Bill Morgan, who has produced eleven other books for the Allen Ginsberg Trust since the poet’s death, Ginsberg’s account is strikingly un-lecture-like. It’s closer to a combination of memoir and literary criticism – generous, precise, companionable.
He tells us what he and his friends were reading – Kafka, Rimbaud, Blake, Yeats, Chandler; what they were watching – the films of Fritz Lang, Jean Gabin in almost anything. He reads long passages from Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs out loud, so you not only feel you’re reading those works alongside him but, because he was there, almost watching them being written live. He unpacks trains of thought – his own, and those of Kerouac and Burroughs in particular, giving a vivid sense of what they were trying to do, and how such thoughts came to them. “That’s a great sentence,” he’ll say, having paused to admire a line
written by one of his friends. Or: “Nobody would think of actually writing that down except Burroughs”….”
“Ginsberg’s loveliest analysis is reserved for music. The live jazz they listened to in New York from adolescence onwards became the basis for the cadences of their words. Kerouac took it up first, using the Salt Peanuts rhythm Dizzy Gillespie had pilfered from speech on the street and putting it back into words. “Opp Bob Sh’Bam” became, as
Ginsberg puts it, “a squiggle of rhythm in Kerouac’s head”. Later, Ornette Coleman “extended the speech to include ‘Aee aee’,” Ginsberg writes; Charlie Parker introduced “oonk”. He talks about a “saxophone sentence” and describes “a kind of mysterious quality of laconic intervention in the chords” of Thelonius Monk. Ginsberg isn’t just talking about music here, or giving a list of “totemistic pieces of music”; he’s describing its direct effect on the syntax of his peers.”
Kerouac news and update. We reported here some time back on the potential threat to the classic Kerouac-ian locale, the Stations of the Cross and Grotto in Lowell (prominent in Doctor Sax) – happy to report, notwithstanding real-estate deals, they’re safe, and will be protected now “in perpetuity”. Here‘s the breaking-news article in the Lowell Sun.
And speaking of sacred locales – here’s a note on William Blake’s cottage in Felpham – and here‘s a note (with pictures) of 17 South Molton Street, Blake‘s London residence for nearly two decades.
Another of Allen’s dear friends (and also a story we’ve previously reported on) Elsa Dorfman (“Ellie”) is the subject of a fascinating and riveting documentary from Errol Morris – The B-Side (with significant Allen content) – Read more about it and see the trailer for the movie – here
William Burroughs (in Italian) – here
The Beat goes on.