Ginsberg on Kerouac (Columbia Days – 5)

Kerouac sleeping – photograph by Burt Glinn

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac and Columbia days continues from here

AG: And Dean McKnight faced me across the desk and said, “Mr Ginsberg, I hope you realize the enormity of what you’re done” – unquote – And I said, “Oh, I do sir, I do, If you can only tell me what I can do to make this up”, cringing and sniveling and.. terrified and trying to just.. agreeing with him, wanting to get out of this situation which was completely embarrassing.  And what if he calls up my father again?  (and makes my father come to the office, and weep more, and have another heart-attack?).  Besides, saying that I slept with Kerouac – and I didn’t sleep with Kerouac!  So it was a very confusing situation.  So I was still,  (I) was..  And the Dean said he’d think it over.   And William Lancaster, my room-mate, decided for the good of things, (because he was pretty smart, he was old… from another point of view, he’d been psychoanalyzed to the marrow, since he was a kid, since he was twelve, since his mother was the President of the Karen Horney Society)..  So he went into the Dean and said, ” Dean McKnight,  I understand there’s some difficulty and I would like to clear up the situation. I understand that there are allegations of homosexuality, is that what’s at issue?,  when Kerouac and Ginsberg slept together?” –  And the Dean said, “No, no, no, no, nobody said anything about it.  Nobody’s mentioned it, nobody’s brought up the subject. I am not accusing anybody of anything at all..”  So Lancaster said, “straightforward, manly and reliable”, he said,”Well, I can assure you that nothing of there sort went on, because the door was open and I was there all night and they were old friends and they just slept like college boys sleep”  (which was very cool, sensible, straightforward – I was astounded, because I was so terrified of the situation, being queer, actually, and not having told anybody.  See.. I guess my terror was that I was in the closet and I hadn’t told anybody. so this was sort of trapping me and the consequences of something that I didn’t even do – (tho’ I  wished it, see?)  But Lancaster came to my aid. (Kerouac just stayed away – he was right, what was he supposed to do? – go into the Dean’s office? – and say ,”I didn’t suck..”, he didn’t suck my cock, or something, – “We didn’t do nuttin’) – He was banned from the campus.  And Dean McKnight said, “You realize that Mr Kerouac, Jack Kerouac, is banned from the campus”, or “ not supposed to set foot on the campus. He’s an unwholesome influence on the students, as you can see here, in this situation, (he’ll) get you into trouble”.  Then he brought my father in and he wept again.

So then finally..  so then I went to see (Lionel) Trilling, and Trilling.. I remember Trilling was very funny. He was a little..  He didn’t know what the whole thing was all about really, and at the same time he knew me and he knew Kerouac and realized there was something stupid about it, but he didn’t know how to analyze it, and what was disturbing him and his wife most of all, probably, was what was reported to them, was that I had made anti-Semitic remarks (as if that were the point of the story! – that was, you know, just some little tiny footnote, but that’s what they were hung-up on). So I remember it was in his office and he said, “Well, I talked to the Dean but there doesn’t seem to be any… he seems to have made up his mind”, and he was irritatedly, or sympathetically with me, and irritatedly slapped his bookcase with his hand. And he was a Distinguished Professor! – and I never saw a Distinguished Professor slap a bookcase in irritation before, or some sort of sympathetic gesture of wildness.  I went to Mark Van Doren, who most tried to be helpful also, but it was finally decided that, (I got a letter from the Dean), that I had to withdraw from Columbia and go out into the world and work, and not return until I had become more matured and had seen a psychiatrist, and had got a letter from a psychiatrist saying that I had worked for about a year out in the world and was now.. and I was now “matured” enough so that I was “capable of assuming responsible.. proper responsibilities for being a member of the academic community”.  That was the terminology, “proper participation in the academic community”.   And so I got kicked out of Columbia – for a while. A soft kick out, actually, but, the thing that rung in my ears was “”Mr Ginsberg, I hope you realize the enormity of what you’re done”, (because actually I hadn’t done anything, I thought, I was afraid to do anything!  I wanted to do something, I lay there longing all night, thinking and dreaming, but I didn’t do nothing!

That was about Kerouac’s sleepiness!

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-three minutes in

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