Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac (and Vanity of Duluoz) continues from here
Student: Allen, did he (Jack) make up the name “Howl”?
AG: Not quite like that.. Yes, he gave me the idea, but.. he gave me the word but.. I sent him a poem and his reply was, “I received your Howl (underlined)”, “I received your Howl for Carl Solomon”
Student: Wow! , did you have another title before that?
AG: No I didn’t, I didn’t have particularly.. I hadn’t thought about it, then he said,”I received your Howl”, and I thought, “oh, that would be nice”
Student: Like Ann Charters was saying (that he was, like, a crazy) sorcerer naming “Naked Lunch“ and “Howl” and…
AG: No, it wasn’t sorcery at all. It was just such funny ordinary-mind common sense. Like, in the middle of a longer letter, he wanted to tell me that he got the manuscript and he said – and also, shrewdly, he had read it and got it, and I guess the word occurred to him), and he said, “I received your Howl” (and he underlined it – and capitalized it). So it was like characterizing it with a suggestion, without even making it overtly that that’s the title -but it wasn’t, you know, a big sorcery thing, it was just sort of smart, smart, just ordinary, you know, smart.
Funny (a) sentence here I never understood, I guess it’s me – “That night on the train trip to Washington we were left alone in..” – (this is page one sixty six) – “That night on the train trip to Washington we were left alone in separate sleeping compartments, while the corpsman waited outside, and I took the opportunity to fantasize, or that is, to relieve myself of the horror of masculinity” – ( I guess, jack-off – ” to relieve myself horror of masculinity”!) – “Heart” and “Kiss” is only something’s sung by gals.”
Yeah, he mentions in the middle of the book that the book comes to a certain pivotal point and changes, while he’s writing it. So I want to read a couple of lines.. What I’m pointing to here is the synthesis.. There’s that quality of empty playfulness, that complete.. since there’s that quality of playfulness in this particular novel, the most finished work that he put together, it’s really odd all the… how he knows what he’s doing, or he decides once he’s written something that that’s it – and so he better tell the reader
“I said “After I make my break, and may not sink anything and you miss some dumb choice (he’s talking about.. its a little conversation about football among the team) -“I’ll slice the first ball into the corner with a little scythe as soft as your Devil” – (Answer) – “And therefore you’re the devil” – (Kerouac) – “No, I’m his wind. And I’m gone as much from his influence as this ungraspable handshake”. This is where the book, the story, pivots. This is known by Massachusetts Yankees as “deep form” – (quote unquote) – “Funny halfbacks don’t have to sell Pepsi-Cola. (and (he) himself is a funny halfback, he can go on being a novelist. instead of going on like the rest of the half backs, get fat and old selling Pepsi-cola – “Funny half backs don’t have to sell Pepsi Cola”)
Book 10 – It pivots in the sense that all this is his Horace Mann School days (the first half) and then gets on into New York, Burroughs, and Lucian Carr, Huncke myself. “This is where the book pivots. He just decided it there and then, “Ah, well I better get on”, tells the story, so he tells the reader
There’s a little bit about his Catholicism here – and God (his notions of God) which I thought was pretty good because he just.. at a late time, summarizing thoughts, philosophical thoughts, after a long time being in Buddhist thinking, a long time being in Catholic thinking. Finally, again emptily, making a few conclusions, negligently
“Because when I saw the face of my beloved dead cat Timmy, in the Heavens..” ( this is page 176) – “Because when I saw the face of my beloved dead cat Timmy, in the Heavens and heard him mew like he used to do in a little voice, it surprised me to realize he wasn’t even born when World War II was on and therefore at this moment, how can he even be dead? So just an apparition in molecular form for a while, to haunt our souls with similarities of God’s perfection, In Timmy’s case the perfection was when he’d would sit like a lion on the kitchen table, paws straight out, head erect and full-jowled, and God’s imperfection when he was dying and his back was a skeletal run of ribs and spinal joints and his fur falling off and his eyes looking at me: “I may have loved you, I may love you now, but it’s too late…” – (quote-unquote) -“Pascal says it better than I do when he says: WHAT SHALL WE GATHER FROM ALL OUR DARKNESS, IF NOT A CONVICTION OF OUR UNWORTHINESS?” And he adds to show you the right path – “There are perfections in Nature which demonstrate that She is the image of God”. (That nature is no more than the image of God). – and Kerouac’s comment – “..I believe that/ ‘God is dead” made everybody sick to their stomachs because they all know what I just said, and Pascal said, and Paschal means Resurrection” – ( and Pascal. the philosopher said – and Paschal – P-A-S-C–H-A-L. Paschal, the lamb means resurrection – So there’s a little Catholic statement there – Just from an aesthetic point of view -“God is dead” made everybody sick to their stomachs. (that’s like your final comment on that! – on that as an intellectual thesis).
There was a, when we got together at that time, I mentioned last time there was “Supreme Reality” as an ideal -1945. I think that was. Yes, I think Kerouac and I both used that phrase as being the “New Vision” that we were chasing after , There was a phrase “New Vision”, coming probably from Lucien Carr carrying around Yeats’ A Vision, and coming from around the paragraph from Rimbaud’s “A Season In Hell” (Une Saison en Enfer), which goes “When shall we.. after..I can’t quote it but, “When shall we be.. after much suffering and many seasons arrive and be there first to see Christmas on Earth, forever” – “We are slaves/ Let us not curse life” – (“Esclaves, ne maudissons pas la vie”). (Noel sur la Terre – “Christmas on Earth”). Like, a little visionary moment in Rimbaud that was so poignant and sweet and sad (because he failed to make it – but we decided that we were going to make it). So he wanted “Christmas on Earth”. So, out of Yeats’ Vision, out of Rimbaud’s phrase, “Christmas on Earth”, about 1945, we concocted, as I said, out of the notion of unity of being, we concocted – (we, I say, because we talked about it. I think it was my obsession, but Kerouac used the phrase also – “Supreme Reality”, as being what we were chasing after).
“I thought, for in.stance, I heard a big fist fight..” – (he’s in a boat on page 184) – “I thought for instance, I heard a big fistfight, and wrestling rough-and-tumble on the steel desk right under my pillow one morning, fifty guys fighting, with clubs and sledgehammers, but it was “Pueee puee pueee”, the scream of the “All hands on deck” attack warning, and I realized that I was listening to depth charges going off in a submarine attack. I just turned over and went back to sleep. Not because we had 500-pound bombs and couldn’t do anything about anyone anyhow, but because I was just so naturally sleepy and I had figured out in the Navy nuthouse: “I could get killed walking across the street, if Supreme Reality arranged it, so why not go to sea?” And besides, ding-blast it, I WAS just simply sleepy all the time. They called me ” Sleepy Du Louse”) – (sleepy Kerouac) – “like Beetle Bailey, you might say…ZZZZZ.” – (The chapter ends ZZZZZ – snoring sound – but “I could get killed walking across the street, if Supreme Reality arranged it, so why not go to sea?” – I just noticed that “Supreme Reality” with a capital “S” and a capital “R”).
Speaking of his sleepiness, that was a characteristic thing, just like cutting out of a scene which got too complicated, or a job which got too complicated, or a situation which seemed to be unresolvable, he’d simply drop it and go south. I had that experience in another form with him, like him pulling the covers over his head and turning over and going to sleep in 1945, I guess it was. I had just written a long poem that has never been published because it was too much doggerel…. (tape ends here)
Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately eighty-one minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape