Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 609

Carolyn Cassady‘s painting of Allen Ginsberg. Jason Whittaker of The Blake Society comments on this remarkable work

Jami Cassady is in the process of organizing an urgent fundraiser for the maintenance of this and other irreplaceable items – see here


Who was “Mardou Fox” (Alene Lee) ?  –  Lynell George presents an in-depth investigation this month in Alta magazine

Alene Lee with William S Burroughs, 1953 – photo (& inscription) by Allen Ginsberg  courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

“I’m still trying to settle for myself the enigma – who she was, yes”, she writes, “but even more why she matters so much to me. Academics…have studied the space around her absence, musicians …have adopted her persona as a signal and a vibe. Kerouac set a captivating ambience in motion, but for Mardou herself, a full story has yet to be told. Whether or not I wanted to cop to it, I was like a Kerouac figure, shambling after her…”

“Eventually, a suggestion of a form took shape. She was there in fragments, quotes, asides, descriptions. Who was this woman who held her own? Who pushed back, who walked away to save herself? I drank up what I could find—not about what is now an antique affair, but about what it meant to survive.”

George probes the scant sources, notably Lee’s fragmentary account “Sisters”, published in Beatdom back in 2010, alongside Christina Diamente’s  “Walking With The Barefoot Beat” from the same year (wherein she reveals herself as being Lee’s daughter), the latter, further augmented and updated by Diamente in a shocking and candid 2021 telephone interview – see here )

George also references Allen’s photo(s):

“The rooftop photo captivates – an animated Burroughs, in horn-rimmed glasses and houndstooth blazer, Lee with an easy smile, hair covered with a long scarf. They lean toward each other; her hand rests on his. In tight cursive, Ginsberg captioned the moment – “William Burroughs and Alene Lee, rooftop near Thompkins Park [sic] and Paradise Alley. Bill and I assembled Yage and Queer letters, Alene typed up the collaged manuscripts, Fall 1953.”

For a further account of Alene Lee – see Erika Blair in Please Kill Me – here 


Beat Studies – Beats as an academic discourse. We do, of course, draw your attention to
The Beat Studies Association and to the invaluable European Beat Studies Network.

The former’s Journal of Beat Studies, back in 2020, featured an extensive survey of Beat Studies scholars on the state of the field

One current lively publishing outlet is the Clemson University Press, which has its own Beat Studies series (five titles so far).
Its newest title, Erik Mortenson and Tony Trigilio‘s The Beats and the Academy – a renegotiation, addresses the topic full on.

This book is, the publishers observe, “the first sustained effort to train a scholarly eye on the dynamics of the relationship between Beat writers and the academic institutions in which they taught. Rather than assuming the relationship between Beat writers and institutions of higher education was only hostile, The Beats and the Academy begins with the premise that influence between the two flows in both directions. Beat writers’ suspicion of established institutions was a significant aspect of their postwar countercultural allure. Their anti-establishment aesthetic and countercultural stance led Beat writers to be critical of postwar academic institutions that tended to dismiss them as a passing social phenomenon. Even today, Beat writing still meets resistance in an academy that questions the relevance of their writing and ideas. But this picture, like any generalization, is far too easy.”
“The Beat relationship to the academy”, they argue, “is one of negotiation, rather than negation…


Best Minds – How Allen Ginsberg Made Revolutionary Poetry From Madness – This week marks the publication of this groundbreaking book.

David Luhrssen reviews the book – here
Author Stevan M Weine speaks to Joe Donahue on WAMC (Albany public radio)  – here 

Stevan Weine will be making further speaking engagements. (Much) more to come.

One comment

  1. I find all of the articles about Alene Lee fascinating, and her own piece, ‘Sisters’ is a revelation. Clearly it is a carefully-crafted piece of writing, which I personally find quite affecting and full of subtle insights. She deserved better than to be told to give up writing by some stuffed shirt at Grove Press.

    The promise of a substantial archive of her writing held by her daughter is something Lynell George should try to follow up. Also, is it possible for scholars to study Kerouac’s earliest manuscripts of The Subterraneans? I’m guessing it was written like the original scroll of On The Road, real names and all, and more traces might be discovered of the real Alene Lee.

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