Archives For February 2009

Tempest Tavern Temptress

by Paul Kay

That night in the Tempest Tavern the place was swinging like never before. Hip Brooklyn girls with their eyes on the stars. Drunk guys with their eyes on the girls. Mike was there along with 50 others. A few brunettes were dancing on his lap while he spun his wheelchair around.

“Keep going baby, spin us faster. It’s not fast enough,” one said while riding him.

Strange stares came my way as I walked through the doorway. A cool calm-bomb look entering the drunken ceremony. “Come our way, come handsome, come play.”
The girls on pills were crazed like rats running through a maze. Kissing each other’s boyfriends and suited till morning.. The bouncer sat outside smoking a joint with a couple minors who wanted to get in.. I wasn’t drunk at all and looked like an outsider till several shots later.

Death was dead in the Tempest Tavern on those Friday nights. We killed him with high hopes while shouting “go die death!”. Crazy kids running along while the dollar a song jukebox kept’em under a spell. The ritual going on at the tavern is religious, but far away from the house of god.

I sat at the bar overhearing all the small talk and watching Mike dry hump a transvestite on his wheelchair. He’s having way too much fun (till he realizes it’s somebody’s son).

Oh baby you got pretty eyes, dance with me. You got a cigarette? Let me buy you a drink. Do I know you from somewhere? I swear I’ve seen you before. Are you an actress? I shouldn’t drink gin anymore. Pour me another. Don’t stop till you drop.

I fist saw her at the bar sipping out of a fish bowl sized margarita. A fish out of water drinking the bowl because it’s not big enough to jump into. Her eyes sparkled and dazzled with a strange familiarity. She wore designer clothes and could have jumped right out of a fashion magazine.

“That’s one hell of a drink,” I said.

“Thanks, my friend left me here with it. We were going to share, but she went into the bathroom with that guy in the wheelchair. Want some?”

I put another straw into the bottomless bowl

“I hate to ask a really personal question, but is your friend a transvestite?”

“It really depends on the day,” she said.

We talked about baseball, we talked about the Beatles, the sun, lust for life, lust for sanity, humanity…the role call of things you can’t usually talk about before the sun and drinks go down.

Chitter chatter back and forth through the coarse of our visit led to the unknown. The unknown happiness coming from a talk between two strangers drunk in a bar at 2 am. Happy nights paid for by dreary days stuck inside doors wanting to run out and play.
If only we could hug and kiss strangers while boarding the subway trains. Just jump on each other randomly, moaning and groaning out “I’m afraid to. I’m going to die too. I love your eyes, let‘s talk.”

We are all headed to the great unknown so why shouldn’t we get to know each other before we get there? The girl’s name was Eve and she agreed that we had to do something about this problem in society.

“Fuck it, Paul. You’re right. We should love everyone and express it everywhere we go. It shouldn’t have to take drinks in a bar to get to know people,”

“I completely agree! Let’s start a revolution,” WOW I’M DRUNK.

She grabbed my hand and put it on her breast.

“Do you feel my heart?”

“Yes” I said.

“It’s the same as yours. And the girl you last slept with. And that bartender’s over there”

“Exactly! Why do people think they’re all different? It beats the same”

She grabbed my arm and we bolted for the door. I wasn’t sure where we were headed but I didn’t care. Riding the tides of hope and whiskey out the door, splashing our wave at the bouncer stoned and dancing on the floor.

We bolted across the street into Penn Station nearly getting hit by couple cars but we knew there was no way to kill us. We were riding so damn high, flying above the common ground.

Penn Station was flinging around everything you could think of. We ran fast through the main concourse, past the bums and hookers begging for paper love. She pulled me onto a subway platform and began kissing me. A cop strolled by staring at us and we stopped for a moment.

“Are you paying for that kid?” he asked.

“No, sir.”

“Okay, have a good night”

He took off searching for hookers as quickly as he took off. Only in New York. The city I love more everyday. The city of searchers ands seekers. Drifters and tweakers. Lovers and saviors. All sharing the same bathroom.

We continued sharing each other in the damp deserted subway terminal. A symphony of sounds surrounded us. Rats, dripping water, crying bums, and laughing drunks played in the background of our waltz. About twenty minutes of sweet subway sex the cop came back and told us we better leave.

Outside of Madison Square Garden we said our goodbyes.

We held each other. She kissed me and I smothered her. The New York City sidewalk was sparkling from the light rain. The sparkles looked like angel dust coming down to celebrate our love. The heat of our souls together was enough to keep the whole city warm forever.

“Goodnight, Eve. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Promise you’ll still love me tomorrow?”

“We will find out.”

I watched her cross the street leading onto 7th Avenue towards the train station. A certain skip went to my step on the way home. Beatles songs were playing in my head and everything smelled like Penn Station. I called her the next day and her roommate answered.

“Oh you’re the boy she met in the bar last night?


“She left a message. She said she will see you again in dreams.”

“Wait, what happened? Where did she go?” I asked.

“She had to go away. I’m sorry, I got to go”

And that was the end of that. She did visit me in my dreams and seems to always be on my mind. I’m not sure what happened to her but that night will always remain a high note in my life’s song. Want to sing along?

We go through life so quickly and forget that the run will soon be done. We must have fun. One bang and nature puts out our flames. The bang that is sure to come. BanG with a capital B and G as it will end just as it had begun. It can happen at anytime, whether we’re loving life or moaning in our own strife. That’s why we must keep moving and improving. BanG. With a suave beat of motion making yourself at peace with the world‘s commotion. Keep writing instead of fighting. Fighting yourself and let it all be. Let it all hang out and let go of melancholy.


by Steven O’Sullivan

Being a street urchin in New York’s Little Italy around the 40s you would typically follow fabulous cinematic example and team up with the fat kid, the tough kid, and some kind of leader and you’d all run around snatching candy and purses and grow up to run jobs for the Five Families. Right?

Fortunately for us, Nunzio Corso turned to books instead of Hollywood stereotypes. At 17, serving three years in New York’s Siberia(Clinton Correctional) he was a prime target for getting fucked with, but with the protection of Mafioso inmates looking out for one of their own, he was able to soak in Clinton’s rather extensive library. This library had been mostly donated by Lucky Luciano, who had been the just previous occupant of Corso’s cell. How quaint.

Now let me tell you what is great about this:

Are you listening? I doubt it.

Here is what is great about this: when you take an Italian street urchin rolling in subways and food stands, throw him in prison for a few years of hardboiled treatment, but give him the classics along the way you get one powerful motherfucker. The kind of motherfucker that takes Scorcese’s supposed mean streets, goes looking for them all over Europe with a head full of Shelley, and lets every single detail of it explode along the way in terse, biting, notebooked lines.

Corso is perpetually referred to as the bad boy of the Beat circle. I suppose ultimately this makes sense. Kerouac was the tag-along, documenting all the madness he could get his hands on. Most of this madness was perpetrated by Cassady, the pure embodiment of Beat mania. Burroughs: the old tom-cat of the crowd. Spending most of his time alone or in travels searching for exotic young boys. Yet he would, from time to time, meet up with the rest of the group for collaborative or observational purposes.

Then there was that inner-circle of Beats that primarily exemplified themselves as poets. Corso, Ginsberg, and Orlovsky. Hanging around Ginsberg and Orlovsky, Corso seemed to straddle the line of sexuality. For a while the trio shared a bed in the Beat Hotel in Paris even, but Corso secured his own room (more of a triangular closet) shortly thereafter.

So, be it covering rented room walls in absurd oil paintings to the raving dismay of a landlord or calling out nonsensical fried shoe sentiments to those looking for a statement of purpose in his work, Corso pulled himself along as a literary pirate.

Now why exactly is this great?

Look at that picture of Corso. Thick head of hair, rough and tumble face all set in charisma, and a cocky grin. Stumbling all around Europe. When the rest of the Beats show up, he places them at the soon-to-be-named Beat Hotel in Paris and sets all of them up with content and experience for plenty of output. But off he goes again, looking for that always elusive muse. Desperately searching every coke line crevice of every abandoned back alley from Morocco to Paris.

Turns out the muse was back in Trenton. His mother. That was the question mark of his life. And he claims to have been searching for his muse all throughout his wanderings. But it was the search that ultimately was his muse. After all, once he finally tracked the muse down in Trenton . . . death caught up with him a few steps later. He had his muse all along. Where do you think that spitfire output came from? The SEARCH. The HEART. The absolute down trodden emptiness of not knowing. That’s where the hell it came from. Mean street upbringing, obsession with but not obeisance to classics, and madness. You need that goddamn madness, don’t you think?

You need to jump in a rubber raft, float it all the way down the Brazos, and see where it takes you. Probably to a surf shop in Freeport that poses as a vegetarian cafe on the side; which is really just three tables crammed in a corner with a trailer park butch bitch that would rather be watching COPS. Pretty sure it was steak and eggs for breakfast.

So you swallow down their stale bread for $6.95. Where the hell’s the bus station in this town?

Go back to minimum wage shot-pulling in the cafe and see every suburban housewife float in for their lattes. The owner’s not in today and you’re too scary looking with your scruffy beard to talk shop to so they take their coffee and hit the fuckin’ road. At least there’s a tanning salon next door. Hallelujah.

You try to explain the Beats to your boss. What am I writing? Some bat-shit piece that will probably get rejected by this literary mag. What’s it about? The whole mag is about the Beats. What are the Beats? Jesus lady, didn’t you go to college? Yes, but in Cuba! So, what? You didn’t explore literature in your free time? Isn’t education in any country other than America supposed to be fantastic (except maybe, I don’t know, Cameroon)? Apparently she was too busy running around the jungle with a rifle and camo shorts for the Cuban Internationale on weekends to read anything extracurricular.

So you have her read Howl and Bomb. She says it’s interesting and I don’t think she’s lying. But what does it matter? Shove along. We’re running out of ice in here.

But back to the point I guess . . .

Coming out of jail Corso could have gone straight for the Five Families. He definitely had the chutzpah for it. Instead he got hung up on Shelley and did his best to show the rest of us the road. Kerouac was always on the road I guess, but it seems Corso was the street light. Finding other roads and trying to show the ugly and the damned which streets to slip along. You know? Sure he was there for Mexico and everything, but mostly he was floating along finding his own little way and leaving some bread crumbs for the hungriest of us to pick up.

On the Map

Stephanie Posavec is the artist behind the mapping of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. In a recent attempt to explore both the nature of mapping and alternative, non-textual representations of literature, Posavec created a stunning image that was representative of the sentence structure of the legendary Beat text.

Here, the artist speaks with Beatdom about her work and her feelings about Kerouac.

On Jack Kerouac…

I first became interested in Jack Kerouac when I was a teenager, when I started reading literature from the mid twentieth-century. I suppose that his work resonated with me because of the ideas of freedom, spontaneity, and excitement that you are just beginning to appreciate and yearn for at that age. I just loved his lengthy poetic sentences that swooped up and down in such a vibrant way about the most mundane of things, making you appreciate them in a new way. The reverence for life, joy, and excitement in his writing made me realise that I had millions of options in the world, and that I could lead a life that was equally colourful.

On Denver…

Living in Denver was probably what made me so interested in Jack Kerouac as a teenager, and especially interested in the novel On the Road. For high school, I went to a Catholic high school that used to be a home for boys decades before. I was your typical angst-ridden teenager who was frustrated with being in such a restrictive, conservative school, so learning that Neal Cassady had spent some time at my high school when it was a school for boys cheered me up immensely. Plus, it was just exciting to read about all these crazy things happening in a novel, and knowing EXACTLY where the streets were. There aren’t very many novels written about Denver, so this was brilliant for a teenager who thought Denver, Colorado was the middle of nowhere!

On Kerouac’s Work…

I would say that working so intensely on a project relating to Kerouac has changed my perception of him. Over all the time I spent analysing and re-analysing On the Road I would be frustrated with him on a personal level, as if I knew him, becoming annoyed at certain literary tics and turns of speech that he would use repeatedly throughout the novel. I think analysing the work of your heroes so closely makes you realise that they are, in fact, human, and I’m happy for that, because it helps you in understanding the place and time they lived in. I feel like I understand him on a human level now rather than a ‘hero’ level. I enjoy his writing because I love his character sketches, his quick depictions of social scenes, and how it feels like he isn’t hiding things from the reader when retelling the story, but recounting everything, regardless of whether he is proud of it or not.

On the Map…

‘Writing Without Words’ was the project completed for my final year on the MA Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, in 2006. The intention of this body of work was to explore various methods of visualising literature without using words. I wanted to find a way of communicating the complexity found in literature as well as highlight the similarities and differences in the writing styles of various authors.The structure of a novel, punctuation, parts of speech, and words per sentence were used to generate the final complex patterns.

Any piece of literature can be visualised using these approaches, but I chose to focus on the novel On the Road by Jack Kerouac because I wanted to analyse a piece of literature I was truly passionate about.

All of the work is colour-coded according to key themes and characters in On the Road. The colours were chosen from automobile paint swatches from the 1940s. The books that were created as part of the project are even created to the same ratio of proportions of the first edition of On the Road. Everything in the project was there for a reason, and the majority of the aesthetic choices were drawn from the era when Kerouac was travelling across the United States.

– – – –




‘On the Map’ with Susan Stockwell, Pauline Burbidge, Betty Pepper, Kerr | Noble, Phyllis Pearsall, and Paula Amaral.

At the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield until the 15 June 2008

Millennium Galleries

Arundel Gate


S1 2PP

Beat Dictionary

Action – activity, goings on

Baby – term of endearment

Beat – beaten down, exhausted, tired, broken by the world

Beatific – against the world, out for kicks

Beatnik – Herb Caen’s mocking term, used sarcastically

Blow – to play, musically

Bread – money

Bring down – to depress

Capped – beaten, bettered

Cat – hip fellow

Chick – female

Collar – to understand

Cool – hip

Cool it – calm down

Corny – old fashioned

Cubby – home

Cut – to leave

Dig – appreciate, understand

Down with – cool, ok

Drag – unfortunate, disappointing

Flip – go crazy

Freeby – no charge

Fuzz – police

Gammin’ – showing off

Gas – laugh

Gravy – money

Groovy – cool, great, happy

Hard – cool, good

Hep – knowledgeable

Hincty – uptight

Holding – in possession of (relating often to drugs)

Igg – short for ignore

Jam – swing music

Jitterbug – fan of swing music

Jive – derogatory, no good

Joint – place, home, location

Kicks – fun, banter, good times

Knock – to give

Latch on – understand

Later – goodbye

Lay on – to give, to lend

Licks – good musical phrases

Lock up – certainty

Man, the – police, authority

Mellow – cool, nothing harsh

Mess – cool, good

Mezz – brilliant

Moo juice – milk

Murder – brilliant

Nang – cool, brilliant, awesome

Nod – sleep, boring

Nutty – madcap, crazy

Ofay – white person

Out of this world – the best

Pad – home, bed

Peng – brilliant, amazing, the best

Pigeon – young girl

Pops – men

Put on – to teach, mock

Riff – musical phrase

Righteous – excellent

Rug cutter – good dancer

Sad – lame, poor quality

Scoff – to eat

Score – to acquire drugs or money

Sharp – neat, cool, smart

Skins – drums

Skirt – sexy female

Slave – any form of work

Solid – great, good, cool

Spoutin’ – talking

Square – boring, lame, uncool

Stash – to hide, put away

Take it slow – be careful

Tapped – poor, broke

Threads – clothes

Tossed – searched by the police

Too much – praise, brilliant

Truck – to go, move

Turn on – take drugs

Unhep – not cool, not hep

Wail – talk, sing

Wig – brain

Wren – a chick, female

Zoot – too much


by Adi Rajkovic

There have been many pivotal experiences and events that have influenced my vision as an artist, but the most arresting event (historically speaking) has been the Beat Generation. Although short lived and long ago in the 1950’s, I have learned more from the astute pantheons of the Beat Generation than I have from the spiritless stars that the current generation lionizes.

The Beat Generation was a group of people who had the audacity to rise above the cookie cutter civilization and form a union of aspiring artists that were all bored with society. I identified with the beats as individuals and as respected artists. I admired their charisma and virtue. Their motives were sincere, and their thesis, competent. The beats were pioneers with no destination, changing the world one impulse at a time.

Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948, generalizing from his social circle to characterize the underground, anti-conformist youth gathering in New York at the time. “Beat” originated from underworld slang – the world of hustlers, drug addicts and petty thieves, where Kerouac and his beat friends sought inspiration. Beat was slang for “beaten down” or oppressed, but to Kerouac, it symbolized being at the bottom and looking up.

With Kerouac as the protagonist of the Beat Generation, his entourage served as the other characters in this literary revolution. The core Beats included: Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. When these three creative minds came together they formed an intellectual environment that soon progressed into an intellectual community, and then a generation.

Ginsberg was notorious for writing the poem ‘Howl’, which became the focus of the obscenity trials in the United States that helped to liberalize what could legally be published. With his radical vocabulary and unorthodox style of writing, Ginsberg’s poems were heresy to some and brilliant to others. Being the queerest of the group, much of Ginsberg’s poetry was inspired by his infatuation towards Burroughs, Kerouac and other various Beats he encountered.

Burroughs controversial writing was also a subject of debate. Much of Burroughs’s inspiration for his novels came from his battles with drug addiction. After finishing his series of drug diaries, Junkie, and Queer, Burroughs explored a non-linear style of writing. When writing Naked Lunch, Burroughs used a cut-up technique, slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences. The avant-garde approach proved to be a success once Naked Lunch was published. Soon after publication, it was prosecuted as obscene by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, in 1966 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared the work “not obscene” based on the criteria developed largely to defend the book. The case against Burroughs’s novel still stands as the last obscenity trial against a work of literature.

Kerouac’s style was unlike that of Burroughs and Ginsberg’s. Kerouac’s first acclaimed novel, On the Road, was an account of his adventures while on a wild goose chase across America with his friend Dean Moriarty. Neal Cassady was Kerouac’s muse, and eventually the inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in On the Road, and later on Cody Pomeray in Visions of Cody. Cassady’s outlandish and uncanny personality is also credited as the inspiration for other Beat literature by Allen Ginsberg and later by Thomas Wolfe (one of the kings of the counterculture). Kerouac wrote about personal journeys in search of enlightenment. He eventually started writing in a style he called Spontaneous Prose, a literary technique akin to stream of consciousness.

The works of Beats that impacted me the most were the novels Naked Lunch, by Burroughs, On the Road and Dharma Bums, by Kerouac, and the poems ‘Howl’ and ‘Reality Sandwiches’, by Ginsberg. The fluent surge of words so bottomless and evocative, stirred something deep inside me. Kerouac’s words especially were able to rekindle my forsaken spirit. Growing up in a generation consumed by apathy, the fire inside me slowly ceased to burn, remaining dormant for a long time. My aloof perception of the world was shattered by the Beats. I have always believed that the purpose of exceptional art is to make one feel- to defrost emotions and sensations that have been numb for so long, and that is exactly what their words did for me.

Candor and humility were part of the thread that strung together Kerouac’s words, becoming stitches in a boundless fabric that like a Native American Morning Star quilt, held the traditions of an entire generation. The durable thread -now a flexible elastic, traveled through fits of madness, ecstasy, death, misery, fleeting infatuations, incessant heartbreak, euphoric comas enjoyed by junkies, remarkable revelations soon to be forgotten, spontaneous anger, impossible dreams, regretted altercations…each fiber- an event, an experience, a message…each fiber, a woven strand that interlaces into surrounding strands, forming a pattern, completing another chapter in time.

Each word I read was repeated by the voice in my head. Dialogues echoed for days and each sentence consumed was never digested. I embodied each character I met- In Dharma Bums I became a spiritual seeker, diligently following the path to enlightenment. I befriended a Zen lunatic and an eccentric librarian who shared my love for Buddhist philosophy, poetry and the simple life. As I learned to appreciate the outdoors, I fell in love with nature’s beauty. I preferred the mental rewards of time spent in solitude rather than the temporary fulfillment of company. When surrounded by the silence of the night, I found myself feeling freer than ever. The shining stars frozen in the omnipresent sky promised more than a pretty face. The dirt I sank my bare feet into was warmer than any cashmere sweater. The soaring leaves spoke of a truth more urgent than even a whisper of the words inside my head- the leaves, unbiased and respected, a fairer judge than any in court. The incandescent moon was brighter than any professor I have ever had. This is the education most valuable to the human soul- to be able to feel a sense of belonging in this world that everyone tries so hard to achieve with short lived possessions and social status. In the greatest poems, I encountered a million hollow dreams; I cringed as cigarettes rotted my teeth, I wrapped myself in a vine of honey suckles, I watched the sun until It faded, I talked to the sky, I imagined a white wedding splattered in paint, I lamented the death of a stranger at a charcoal funeral, my handkerchief damp with grief.

Through investigating the Beats I have been able to experience a renaissance in my soul. By integrating myself into each character I have been able to feel again. I experienced empathy for other people, a feeling that had perished with the rest. And through empathy I have been able to relate to people on a deeper level. I experienced a variety of emotions and for once they were not forced. I did not have to fabricate my own feelings to satisfy another. I now appreciated my emotions; histrionics and all. With this surge of clarity I feel more myself than I ever had. I recognize myself as an individual, not merely a shadow. The Beats showed me where my heart was, and how to use it. Previously my creativity was concealed by the veneer encouraged by society. I was overwhelmed by the blaring voice of the tabloids and the explicit images on television. I decided to no longer let my life be defined the toxic tongue of the media. And even though I never verbally endorsed the manufacturing of counterfeit smiles on rust colored Barbie’s, I was still just as responsible as anyone else for the current turmoil for merely watching it happen and not speaking up. My former position was the equivalent of a bobby pin in an avalanche of honey comb ringlets securing some peroxide blond bimbos tiara from falling off. I am no longer the metallic black bobby pin laminated in a sticky coat of hairspray, caught in a tangle of teased hair- my only purpose being to keep the precious crown glued to her scalp so that she would not commit beauty pageant suicide and humiliate herself in front of an audience of twenty people (fifteen of which are her immediate family members).

My most recent change in the hierarchy of society has given me an advantage to a wire set of 3cm prongs. I decided to make a change. What was supposed to be a sprinkle of rhinestones in the beauty queen’s hair became a sea and what became a sea soon became a swamp of crystallized glitter. The sparkling white summit of plastic jewels erupted. Hot tears stained her cheeks, denting the layer cake of foundation that she calls a face. Under the heat of her blistering tears, the mask slowly melts away. The elements of the mask are exposed: waxy coats of tin oxide, starch, carminic acid, titanium dioxide, tartarzine, animal fat, glycol, disterate, and bismuth oxychloride peel away, revealing organic silky white skin that glistens and sparkles greater than any of those synthetic stones. This is a complex metaphor of what I would like to accomplish: to one day reveal something awe-ing to the world. I have learned from the Beats that I the only way I can do this is through eradicating the facades of society that camouflage the real beauty.

And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks

One famous and pivotal moment in Beat history was the killing David Kammerer by Lucian Carr. It was the end of some things, the start of others, and above all a landmark piece of history that involved some of the most famous writers of the twentieth century.

On 13th August, 1944, Lucian Carr was drinking with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, his two Columbia University buddies, when David Kammerer appeared and joined the group. Kammerer was thirty-three, much older than the young future Beats. Carr was only nineteen years old, but Kammerer had been sexually obsessed with him for at least five years, since first guiding Carr’s Boy Scout group on nature walks.

When Kammerer and Carr left the bar at three in the morning, to walk and talk by the Hudson River, it was the last time anyone would see Kammerer alive. According to Carr, Kammerer tried to sexually assault the younger man, and Carr defended himself by stabbing his attacker twice in the chest with a small Boy Scout knife. In a panic, Carr filled Kammerer’s pockets with stones and throw his body into the Hudson River.

But that was where the story ended between the two parties, as Carr went to seek refuge with Burroughs. Burroughs, a good friend of Kammerer, simply told Carr to get a good lawyer and turn himself in. Indeed, Burroughs’ use of his family’s wealth to hire good lawyers kept him from a life in jail.

Next, Carr went to visit Kerouac, who responded differently, helping Carr to dispose of the murder weapon, and then taking him on a tour of the city to talk about what happened. They went to a museum and watched a movie, The Four Feathers.

But two days later, Carr broke under the strain of guilt and turned himself in to the police. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested. Burroughs used his family’s money to pay the bail, but Kerouac couldn’t, and was bizarrely forced to marry Edie Parker in order for her family to pay his own bail.

Carr was sentenced to a maximum of ten years in jail, a light sentenced based on the defence argument that because Kammerer was homosexual, the murder was an ‘honour killing’ that protected Carr from being raped.

Nonetheless, it changed much. Kerouac was now married, Carr was gone from the circle, and all of the writing of the time centred on the infamous event. Ginsberg wrote The Bloodsong, but was warned by the assistant Dean that Columbia didn’t need any more bad publicity. Kerouac and Burroughs, however, wrote a novel called, strangely, And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks.

The novel would prove to be a thorn in the side of Carr, who emerged from prison a reformed man with little interest in his Beatnik past, and instead had the desire to go straight, without anything to remind him or embarrass him for a horrible incident. But now, after Carr’s death, the long awaited literary even has come – the release of the lost Beat Generation novel that predates all others by many years.

In between, there was a description, by Kerouac, in Vanity of Duluoz, but the truth was heavily distorted. Kerouac talked about it with Ann Charters, for his biography. And two years later, excerpts of Hippos appeared in a magazine and Burroughs had to sue to protect Carr, who was trying to work a stable life as a journalist. A short excerpt, too, came in Word Virus, but still there was no great effort made to bring about this near mythical text.

For many years, Burroughs maintained that the title of the novel came from his memory of a radio report about a fire at the St. Louis Zoo, when the announcer burst into fits of laughter when attempting to read the line.

And for years the novel didn’t surface, in spite of attempts by both Kerouac and Burroughs. Burroughs has mentioned that the novel was ‘not a very distinguished work’, but nevertheless it attracted an agent who was willing to push it around and tolerate many, many rejections.

Most of the rejections came, presumably, because of the totally inappropriate subject matter. This was before Kerouac and Burroughs were famous, able to say what they wished, but they still had elements of their future selves hidden in the text. Taking it turn about, chapter-by-chapter, the two friends each wrote from the point of view of a different protagonist. Kerouac’s chapters contained the original elements of Kerouacian prose, and Burroughs had some of the hallmarks of Junky or Queer, but neither author exposed his true brilliance of his truth style.

It seems they limited one another, although not necessarily in a bad way. They could only write what they knew, after all, and they both new different things, both in terms of facts and of style. One can tell when reading portions of the book where something was written by Kerouac or Burroughs. Burroughs’ sections contain strong and mystical descriptions of drug use, gay sex, and hallucinatory violence. Kerouac’s sections ramble on. But neither author goes to the extremes reached in his own books.

The result, we now see, is perhaps not a classic work of literature, but certainly an interesting one, and not the epic failure that Burroughs tried to have us all believe with his dismissive comments in the eighties. Instead, there is now something else for Beat fans to read, to learn a little more about Beat history, now that all the players in the scenario are safely entombed beyond the grave. There are no more hurt feelings, no more treading carefully.

Perhaps Burroughs said it best in a milder moment:

“It wasn’t sensational enough to make it from that point of view, nor was it well-written or interesting enough to make it from a purely literary point of view. It sort of fell in-between. It was very much in the Existentialist genre, the prevailing mode of the period, but that hadn’t hit America yet. It just wasn’t a commercially viable property.”

Indeed, And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks has reached a time when it will be loved, and that raises real questions over its literary merit. But then again, who really cares, so long as it’s a fun read? The key is in both authors calling it ‘hard-boiled’. When was hard-boiled ever really out and out literary?

Modern Beat: Tom Waits

In Issue One, David S Wills looked at the songwriter Pete Doherty as a modern day Beatnik, with the promise of finding another for Issue Two. He lied. There was no Modern Beats in Issue Two. But here, belatedly, he brings you the second instalment of the Modern Beats section… This time it’s Tom Waits, legendary pianist and Beat aficionado.


When I was in California, I met a man named Dale. He was an interesting character, who changed from day to day, influenced my life, and then left in a few weeks, leaving a trail of confusion and hurt feeling. What grabbed me when I first met him was his appearance – he looked absolutely, one hundred per cent the spitting image of Tom Waits. It was staggering. And boy could he talk. The man had spent his life on the road, wandering from odd job to odd job, all over America. He reminded me in character of Jack Kerouac, and not just for the good points. He seemed Byronic, mired in guilt and with a ferocious battle against alcoholism and abandonment issues. He was a womaniser and a smooth-talking environmental crusader.

He was my inspiration for this article, a link in my head between the Beats, whom I’d gone to California to chase, and Tom Waits, whose music was so often my own theme tune.


Tom Waits is often viewed as an heir to the Beat Generation, and indeed he acknowledges the strong influence the Bets, and in particular Burroughs and Kerouac, have had upon his work. It’s not hard to see in Waits’ work the musical influences of the bop artists held in such importance by the Beats, as well as the lyrical significance of urban, Cold War America, a central tenant of Beat literature.

Elvis Costello quipped that around the release of ‘Swordfishtrombones’ and ‘Raindogs’, Waits shed an image that was entirely built upon the legends of the Beat Generation, and partially on those who influenced the Beats. He called it “this hipster thing he’d taken from Kerouac and Bukowski, and the music was tied to some Beat/ Jazz thing.” Indeed, many remember meeting Waits or even seeing him perform, looking as though he’d just stepped off a freight train, after years of footloose wandering.


But it wasn’t just his appearance that smacked of a Beat influence. Michael Melvoin considered Waits’ lyrics to be high quality poetry. “I felt I was in the presence of one of the great Beat poets,” he said. Bones Howe said Waits performing was like “Allen Ginsberg with a really, really good band.”

“I guess everybody reads Kerouac at some point in their life. Even though I was growing up in Southern California, he made a tremendous impression on me. It was 1968. I started wearing dark glasses and got myself a subscription to Downbeat … I was a little late. Kerouac died in 1969 in St Petersburg, Florida, a bitter old man.

“I became curious about style more than anything else. I discovered Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti … Ginsberg still comes up with something every now and again.”

But perhaps his music wasn’t just inspired by reading too much Beat poetry. Perhaps it was more to do with a shared heritage and environment. Waits didn’t love jazz because the Beats loved jazz, and likewise he didn’t write about the city just because they wrote about the city. With the exception of Gary Snyder, the Beats were pretty much all city-dwellers, left disaffected by a cold and desolate world. At night there were no stars or owls in the distance; it was neon light, sirens, 24hr stores, and a world that refused to sleep. These things are evident anywhere in the annals of Beat literature, as in the lyrics of Tom Waits, who conjures up a world of hookers, waitresses and truckers after the fall of darkness.

A 1975 Melodymaker article says Waits had “a continuing fascination with the ephemeral ecstasies previously explored by such writers as Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti [and] Allen Ginsberg.”

The influence didn’t just stop with reading Kerouac or sharing the same heartless world, however, as Waits eyed the poetry readings that made Ginsberg famous. The Beats were always associated with jazz, but jazz wasn’t just their influence. Many Beat poets – Ginsberg being the most famous, of course – used jazz as the background to their readings. It didn’t distract from the words, but instead brings out the words in a special light. Likewise, Waits frequently performed alone or with a light jazz accompaniment.

The 1957 album, ‘Kerouac/Allen’ helped influence Waits, as it featured Kerouac telling stories with Steve Allen playing the piano. It’s not hard to listen to Waits and see the connection.

“The first time I heard any spoken word that I was really impressed with was an album called ‘Kerouac/Allen’ – Steve Allen & Jack Kerouac and he talked while Steve Allen played some stuff and he just talked over the top of it and it was real, real effective – I had never heard anything like it”

Waits is frequently asked about Kerouac, and he claims to have read everything of his, including all the articles hidden away in skin mags and other such publications. In 1979 he told New Music Express that he dreamed about Kerouac and that Kerouac was his hero, even years after discovering the author. Kerouac was obvious a massive influence on the art of Waits, but whenever ask, offers a glimpse of his literary predecessors, who include Corso, Ferlinghetti, Lord Buckley and Ken Nordine. But it always came back to Kerouac, and reading On the Road at eighteen: “It spoke to me. I couldn’t believe that somebody’d be making words that felt like music, that didn’t have any music in it, but had music all over it.”

But we shouldn’t get too carried away with the connections, no matter how obvious they are. We don’t want to get our asses kicked…

A lot of people when they talk to me, they talk about Kerouac, and get this impression that I’m trying to recreate the beat scene or some bullshit. Pure folly. I think it’s redundant, and I think it just shows their own stupidity.


Of course, one could claim any number of late twentieth century artists to be heirs of the Beat Generation, such was the impact upon the culture held by these writers, but Waits is unique in the extent of his collaboration, and of course the fact that he is still active today and still carrying the Beat torch.

Whereas Doherty, as explained in Issue One, maintains a Beat ethos and shares a similar style and line of literary and musical influence to the Beats, Waits’ connection is far more direct. In 1987, Waits was involved with William S Burroughs and Nick Cave in releasing ‘Smack my Crack’, a spoken word album, released through Giorno Poetry Systems.

A year later, theatre director Robert Wilson approached Waits with the idea of aligning with Burroughs to create The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets. The play showed at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, in 1990, and has since toured Europe and America. Burroughs wrote the story, based on a German folktale, while Waits wrote and performed the music and lyrics, released on a highly successful album of the same name.