On Mexico City Blues (31st Chorus)


Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here

AG:  Thirty-First Chorus – “Three Saints in Four Acts” – (Actually, there’s an opera by Gertrude Stein, “Four Saints in Three Acts“, with music by Virgil Thomson.  Gertrude Stein’s opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts” by Virgil Thomson, music, and Virgil Thomson had visited Gertrude Stein in Paris during that time when she also, in the ‘Twenties, had a salon and received Hemingway and Pound and Fitzgerald, and said to Fitzgerald, “You are all a Lost Generation, young man.”  For the ‘Twenties.  So it was Gertrude Stein who invented the phrase “Lost Generation” and said it to Fitzgerald.  Kerouac, the generation spirit-namer, is in his own solitude saying:

“Three Saints in Four Acts/ by Gertrude Stein/ A Great Prophet/ is a Great Teacher/ But he is also/ A Great Saint/ And he is furthermore/ A Great Man/ And more than that/ an incomparable listener/ to music and non-music/everywhere/    And a Great Sitter Under Trees,/ And a Man of Trees,/ And a Man of Sorrows,/ And a Lemon Light/ of Angel Sounds
and Singer of Religion/ wild singer of come-igion/  wild lover of the origin/ wild hater of hate his own/    Convulsive writer of Poems/ And dialog for Saints/ Stomping their feet
On Pirandelloan stage.”

Well, I think it’s a self-description.  These are characteristics (of Kerouac).  There’s a thing called the characteristics of Buddha, one-hundred-and-twenty (Editorial noteactually, one-hundred-and-twelve (sic)) characteristics of a Buddha – he’s a great saint, and an incomparable listener to music, and to non-music, and he sits under trees, and he’s a man of….  But Kerouac’s parodying that list of the marks of a Buddha.  I don’t know – eighty-one marks of a Buddha (Editorial note – thirty-two major marks and eighty minor marks) or something like that – so he’s parodying it.  And it all sounds like he’s describing himself – “Convulsive writer of Poems/And dialog for Saints.”

“And dialog for Saints/ Stomping their feet/On Pirandelloan stage’ – (Does anybody know (Luigi) Pirandello?  Well, what is the significance of Pirandello there?  “Six Characters in Search of an Author

Student: (It’s a reference) to Stein, too.
AG:  To what?
Student:  It might refer to back to Stein.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  (and Pirandello)

AG:  Yeah.  Pirandello wrote a play, which is a very modern play, which is called “Six Characters in Search of an Author”, which is like “Four Saints in Three Acts”. I don’t know, it was some kind of breakthrough in theatre where you took it for granted that the characters were imaginary on the stage.  And I think at the end the author emerges.  I haven’t read it in thirty years but I think the author emerges as a character in the end.  So these six characters are maybe looking for the author, or God, to rebuke him for what happened to them on the stage.

But it’s a Pirandello-ian stage, which is to say a stage-stage – a theatrical stage, just like a Jimmy the Greek scene.  Pirandello-ian stage and Jimmy the Greek scene.  Or world of mahamaya – Mother Maya – Illusion.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-nine minutes in and continuing until approximately sixty-three minutes in

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