Archives For February 2012

On the Road Movie Poster

Today was a great day for those eagerly awaiting the release of On the Road. The marketing team finally got into gear and started twin Facebook and Twitter pages, pushing stills and a poster for the movie. You can view the still here.

On the Road Movie

Both pages have been racking up followers quickly, with the Twitter page leading after gaining 600 followers in about 2 hrs, thanks to sharing by Beat fans.

You can visit the production website at

The Genius of Henry Miller

Photo by David S. Wills

Big Sur


Henry Miller’s books are like a bowl of French onion soup; overwhelmingly rich, intimidatingly dense, and always served with class. Each sentence then becomes a thick, cheesy bite, and shortly after you infiltrate the crust to begin pecking away at the center, you’ve had enough. At least for now.

Luckily, unlike soup, Miller’s writing doesn’t lose steam. You may have to set the work down for an hour, a day, a week or a month, but it rests in your mental den like a fine memory.

His narrative diction is absolutely remarkable, splattering gorgeous images across the page with unrelenting force. He’s also delightfully filthy, which may explain why his most acclaimed work, Tropic of Cancer, was banned in the United States for 27 years after its initial publication in 1934.

Let’s take a look at some of Miller’s vibrant passages and perhaps you’ll find him as brilliant as I do.



From Tropic of Cancer:


             As I say, the day began gloriously. It was only this morning that I became conscious again of this physical Paris of which I have been unaware for weeks. Perhaps it is because the book has begun to grow inside me. I am carrying it around with me everywhere. I walk through the streets big with child and the cops escort me across the street. Women get up to offer me their seats. Nobody pushes me rudely any more. I am pregnant. I waddle awkwardly, my big stomach pressed against the weight of the world.


             The notion that you, as a writer, are one against the world has always appealed to me. It’s a sense of motivation that grows from ego, but it can sustain you for a lifetime and push you to create things you never thought yourself capable of. And the image of his book being his child, something he is literally pregnant with, is fantastic. It shows both how much he cares about his work and how much he’s willing to exploit his authorship. “I am a writer, a great writer, and you must respect me, you must bow down to me.” Again– it’s heavy self-absorption, but most of it’s merely inside the brain.



An example of his extreme, exaggerated foulness, also from TOC:


At night when I look at Boris’ goatee lying on the pillow I get hysterical. O Tania, where now is that warm cunt of yours, those fat, heavy garters, those soft, bulging thighs? There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your cunt, Tania, big with seed. I will send you home to your Sylvester with an ache in your belly and your womb turned inside out. Your Sylvester! Yes, he knows how to build a fire, but I know how to inflame a cunt. I shoot hot bolts into you, Tania, I make your ovaries incandescent. Your Sylvester is a little jealous now? He feels something, does he? He feels the remnants of my big prick. I have set the shores a little wider, I have ironed out the wrinkles. After me you can take on stallions, bulls, rams, drakes, St. Bernards. You can stuff toads, bats, lizards up your rectum. You can shit arpeggios if you like, or string a zither across your navel. I am fucking you, Tania, so that you’ll stay fucked. And if you are afraid of being fucked publicly I will fuck you privately. I will tear off a few hairs from your cunt and paste them on Boris’ chin. I will bite into your clitoris and spit out two franc pieces…


             This is comically graphic, but written with such purpose and anger I can’t help but love it. He continues to say her name, which to me, points to his infatuation with her and not simply the act of fucking. And also, in a way, this can be seen as another attack against the page and those who stand in his way. His need to emerge victorious spreads across each and every desire in his head.

If you don’t take his “threats” too seriously here, you’ve got to laugh. The absurdity is outrageous.



Two selections from The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, published in 1959:


He whipped himself into such a frenzy of impatience that when he emerged into the spotlight, accompanied by a few thin squeaks from the violin, he was cavorting like a crazy goat. From the moment his feet touched the sawdust it was sheer improvisation. Not one of these wild, senseless capers have ever thought of before, much less rehearsed. He had given himself a clean slate and on it he was writing Antoine’s name in indelible letters. If only Antoine were there, could witness his own debut as a world figure!


The following day, emotionally exhausted by the ravages of his dream, Auguste decided to remain in his room. It was only towards the evening that he bestirred himself. He had spent the whole day in bed, listlessly toying with the throngs of memory which for some inexplicable reason had descended upon him like a plague of locusts. Finally, weary of being buffeted about in this vast cauldron of reminiscence, he dressed himself and sauntered out to lose himself in the crowd. It was with some difficultly that he managed to recall the name of the town through whose streets he was strolling.


             This book, or long short story (a mere 40 pages), recounts the story of a clown regaining his glory on stage. Although brief, it’s marvelously written and if anything, is more lavish than anything else Miller has done.

Much of the protagonist reminds me of John Fante’s character Arturo Bandini and his incessant, introspective battle. The imagery is always beautiful and the ordinary is magnified, focusing on insecurity and the necessity of approval.

A definite light read, but as the paragraphs show, it’s not one ounce short on imagination and ability. I highly recommend this story.



From the short story collection Nights of Love and Laughter, published in (I believe) 1939:


             The men at the helm, who were spared the horrors of combat, now play their ignominious role in which greed and hatred rival one another for mastery. The men who bore the brunt of the struggle are too sickened and disgusted to show any desire to participate in the rearrangement of the world. All they ask is to be left alone to enjoy the luxury of the petty, workday rhythm which once seemed so dull and barren.


             That passage is from the first story entitled The Alcoholic Veteran with the Washboard Cranium. The title alone is magnificent and the selection is a great account of post-war apathy/disillusionment. Again, there’s the dichotomy of good vs. evil, hero vs. enemy, lucky vs. unfortunate. He consistently writes with confrontational intent, keeping the narrative accelerator floored which allows him to guide you through his words with precise control.


From The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, published in 1945, after Miller returned to America to live in Big Sur (home of the famous Henry Miller Memorial Library):


A heavy mist had descended. I walked cautiously in my bare feet for the old bricks were slippery with moss. As I got to the far corner of the rectangle the light of the moon broke full and clear on the serene face of the goddess there enshrined. I leaned over impulsively and kissed the marble lips. It was a strange sensation. I went to each of them in turn and kissed their cold, chaste lips. Then I strolled back to the trellised garden house which lies on the banks of the Bayou Teche. The scene before my eyes was that of a Chinese painting. Sky and water had become one: the whole world was floating in a nebular mist. It was indescribably beautiful and bewitching. I could scarcely believe that I was in America. In a moment or so a river boat loomed up, her colored lights scattering the dense mist into a frayed kaleidoscope of ribboned light. The deep fog horn sounded and was echoed by the hooting of invisible owls.


             It’s funny to think that the same man who spoke of shoving animals up a woman’s ass finds the subtle beauty in marble statues and river landscapes.

This passage displays the delicacy with which Miller can construct his sentences, sharing a simple moment alone among surprisingly beautiful surroundings. Normally a fan of lengthy, expansive run-ons, he tones it down here in structure and vocabulary, allowing the description to speak for itself. Perhaps the scenery left his more speechless than usual.



             From Black Spring, published in 1936:


And then comes a time when suddenly all seems to be reversed. We live in the mind, in ideas, in fragments. We no longer drink in the wild outer music of the streets– we remember only. Like a monomaniac we relive the drama of youth. Like a spider that picks up the thread over and over and spews it out according to some obsessive, logarithmic pattern. If we are stirred by a fat bust it is the fat bust of the whore who bent over on a rainy night and showed us for the first time the wonder of the great milky globes; if we are stirred by the reflections on a wet pavement it is because at the age of seven we were suddenly speared by a premonition of the life to come as we stared unthinkingly into that bright, liquid mirror of the street. If the sight of a swinging door intrigues us it is the memory of a summer’s evening when all the doors were swinging softly and where the light bent down to caress the shadow there were golden calves and lace and glittering parasols and through the chinks in the swinging door, like fine sand sifting a bed of rubies, there drifted the music and the incense of gorgeous unknown bodies.

This in quintessential Henry Miller; a sprawling, vast narrative rant which speaks to specific, yet relatable moments of nostalgia, whether they bring pain or joy, happiness or loneliness, spliced between incredibly luscious and innovative images which often personify that which we would never attach human emotion.

We grew up in school being taught to never being a sentence with “and” but that’s exactly what he does here, throwing us right in the middle of his internal monologue. Note that in the second sentence he speaks of living in ideas and fragments, while chopping up the sentence with two commas. That, to me, is an unbelievably talented writer matching structure with content, which adds a visual element necessary to truly grab your reader.

The comparison to a spider spinning an endlessly pointless (“obsessive, logarithmic”) web is perfect, which he follows up with his trademark sexually-driven picture of a chesty woman bending over, showing us her “great milky globes.” But not only that, he romanticizes the erotic image by adding the element of rain. A nice touch, you might say, but how about instantly tying it back in with the childish recollection of wet pavement described perfectly as a “bright, liquid mirror of the street.” I can’t say enough about the mind of this man.

And to be fair, this thought continues for another two pages. Miller is a man unafraid of losing your attention because he’s had it all along. That or he’s lost you immediately, but then why give a shit about you?

Review: One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road

One and Only: The Untold Story of On The Road, may have played more to the heart had it been sub-titled The Untold Story of the Desolation Angels.  Published in November 2011, the volume is mainly comprised of Gerald Nicosia’s interviews with Lu Anne Henderson, former girlfriend of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and first ex-wife of Cassady. Henderson, in On The Road, is referred to as ‘Marylou’.

Although not a character in the latter, her words paint, in the end, a portrait of the desolation of Jack and Neal, both driven to desperate distraction and depression by the roles and expectations foisted upon them in the former novel.  Also, through her words, we see how integral Lu Anne became in the formation of the Beat Generation; that she was not just another pert piece of jailbait Neal was known to chase.

We learn that Jack and Neal did not like each other.  Not many liked Neal, which can be blamed on fear, jealousy, or the thought of a natural born con dropped into the middle of a group of Columbia students.  Neal bared his heart and soul to Lu Anne; so did Jack. The two men came to know each other, not through interacting, but through what Lu Anne told one about the other, in the times they were alone together.  She loved them both and her love shone bright enough for them to see what was good, what brilliance burst from the other man. They became fast friends when Lu Anne introduced soul to soul; before that, they had trouble even having a simple conversation with each other.

On The Road presented Jack with a variety of psychic challenges from the constant worry and waiting for the publisher to accept it, to guilt-ridden doubt about how his friends would perceive the characters he forged from their earthly essences, to living up to being the character of ‘Sal Paradise’ – who with Neal as ‘Dean Moriarty’, gave a new sort of maverick hero to a strange new generation. This generation embraced, emulated, imitated and intoxicated itself into an active cerebral state where freedom of choice in our own fate and existence became true options by following the example of the rebel heroes. Mass emulation forced Jack and Neal into roles they had long outgrown. Not only that, Jack exaggerated and changed facts, so they had to live up to caricatures of themselves. In the meantime, their real blood spilled on the tracks.

Cassady, found himself stuck in Moriarty’s shoes ad infinutum, always ‘on,’ always the superhuman clown who was expected to perform constantly. A cross-over character used by Tom Wolfe, Cassady is seen as the man with the plan in The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, introduced in white tee and doing his famous hammer toss. Lu Anne never saw the hammer toss, although she had heard much of it, secondhand. When Neal finally talked about it, it was in shame, as he had painted himself into a predictable corner. In the beginning he felt obliged to live up to the image Kerouac had created and it had slowly turned into a sideshow, the hammer being the most obvious prop. Now he felt like a performing monkey. “I put on my act at six o’clock and eight o’clock,” he says, in Lu Anne’s best memory.


She is like a hip, sexy Dorothy, pulling back the curtains and revealing the Wizard(s)…Her lesson being pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. She knew the real men behind the curtain before the curtain cloaked them in myth and fable. Much of what she tells seems revelatory – but only in the context of how Kerouac tweaked real life into typed adventures. Jack and Neal – Men, not Gods – acted like most men do. If Neal had five dollars in his pocket, it was his five dollars. The Beats were not as communal a society as we would like to recall them as being. They were real people. They were selfish sometimes.One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road

During the early 1950s Jack was in a state of high anxiety concerning his future, and the high expectations that went along with the hopeful success of his book, which he had started writing in 1948. Although, in legend, he is said to have written it all in one three-week stint,  he actually typed up the book on the infamous reel of teletype paper in 1951, culled from the notebooks that Jack always carried in his shirt pocket.  It was during the creative process of compiling these notes that Neal abandoned him and Lu Anne in San Francisco in 1949. Added to the frustration of butting heads with his publisher and trying to create a new style of prose, the rejection by Neal (who drove Jack and Lu Anne across the country, only to leave them stranded in the middle of the city with no cash while he returned to live with then-wife, Carolyn) seemed to set Jack off into a spiral of depression from which he would never fully recover. While most of the literary world and readers did not see this, Lu Anne did.

Lu Anne’s lot was not an easy one, either; bouts with irritable bowel syndrome eventually led to dependence on medications and ultimately to morphine and heroin addiction. While she outlived the pair of men, her lot was not easy. In the 1980s, she eventually returned to Denver, where she initially met Neal when she was fifteen years old, and cleaned up. Conducted in 1978, before her death from cancer in 2006, the transcription of the interview runs to some 34,000 words. We are also presented with 55 archival photographs of Lu Anne, Jack, Neal, Allen Ginsberg, Al Hinkle, and other Beat figures, some of which have never been seen before this printing by Viva Editions.

In many ways, it is more sobering than most volumes on Beat history. One telling incident is hopelessness concealed in the question Neal asked Lu Anne, when he finally went quiet and quit acting, “Where do we go from here, Babe?”

The Beat Generation YouTube Collection

The three giants of Beat poetry are Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac, all of whom I deeply respect, love and attempt to emulate. But in addition to these legends, I’d like to include Charles Bukowski (the man who pushed me to write) and Henry Miller, at least for the purpose of this article.


Below are a number of video links featuring the five authors I’ve mentioned. As I said, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Kerouac are obvious choices, but I included Bukowski because he reads with disgustingly raw emotion; emotion dominated by insecurity, drunken arrogance and most importantly, an absolute need to write. His unquestionable love for the printed word is always visible, and to me, that’s a large part of beat poetry; the necessary feeling of expression no matter how vulnerable it leaves you.


And then there’s Henry Miller. A man who fulfilled the same internal craving to write and relished in the opportunity to carve his name into stone with a pen. An abnormal choice for beat poetry, but a titanic force of imagination and another voice who refused to go unheard. The spirit to make a difference no matter how much work it takes is a quality that screams “beat” to me. Hopefully it does to you too.





Charles Bukowski


Here’s a meaty, hour long black and white video of Buk reading at Bellevue in 1970. At this point he was 50 and had yet to write his first novel, Post Office, which would come out the following year. He had, however, written 14 collections of poetry, including the great The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills, which was released in 1969. The video is fairly low quality, but the audio is great and perfectly reflects his usual tone and pace.


At about 8:50, he begins talking about a skid row in Los Angeles and says, “Not a nice place to have a typewriter, and no place is really nice unless you have a typewriter. You can do without a woman, but you can’t do without a typewriter.” Not too many quotes sum up the beauty of Bukowski quite like that one.


Here’s a reading of “the laughing heart” by Tom Waits and “roll the dice” by Bono. I personally prefer Tom’s reading, but Bono does a decent job.


Two great poems in Buk’s familiar advice-heavy style. He may always be talking about himself, but he never forgets about his audience.


“What is your definition of love?”


Here, Buk discusses people. “Two inches is great, two miles is great, two thousands miles is beautiful.” A completely misanthropic statement, but like I said earlier, one probably stemming from insecurity. Words appeared to always be his best friend.


An amusing clip of Buk drunk on French television, one he was unable to finish.




William S. Burroughs


Here, Burroughs, and others, discuss the outrageously beautiful idea that is The Cut-Up. For any of you unaware of the method (which is very open for interpretation), I strongly encourage you to watch this, for it will squash writer’s block like nothing you’ve met before.


Here is an in-depth, almost 90 minute film on the life of Burroughs and his unforgettably raspy, monotone voice (oh yes, and maniacal style of writing/life).


Just a side note– the song which begins this film is “Another Green World” by Brian Eno, who may not be a beatnik, but is one hell of a genius.


A clip on Burroughs from a film on Allen Ginsberg entitled “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg”.



Allen Ginsberg


Here’s another short clip from “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” featuring Ginsberg and Bob Dylan.


Ginsberg speaks upon offensive language on the TV show “Firing Line” hosted by William Buckley in 1968.


Another clip from “Firing Line” where Ginsberg reads a poem he wrote under the influence of LSD.


Ginsberg singing a beautifully sad piece (accompanied by a lap organ) called “Father Death Blues”, inspired by the death of his Father in 1978.


One last clip from “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg”, where he speaks inside the City Lights Bookstore in 1965.


You can purchase the movie here:




Jack Kerouac


A clip of Kerouac reading an excerpt from “On the Road”, accompanied by light piano. Here he reads with calm confidence and honesty.


Drunken, loud Kerouac embarrassing himself on “Firing Line”.


Another television appearance featuring a belligerent and entertaining Kerouac.


Here’s a brief clip of Kerouac speaking over footage of him shooting pool.


“Now it’s jazz. The place is roaring. All beautiful girls in there. One mad brunette at the bar, drunk with her boys.”




Henry Miller


A clip of Miller, later in his life, discussing death, life, dreams and the world with Anaïs Nin.


A clip on French television, featuring Miller speaking in French, discussing why he chose to leave America and what he thought about it upon return.


A nice, 7:30 clip of Miller reading from “The Tailor Shop”, a short story from the book Black Spring, published in 1936. Two years prior he wrote the genius Tropic of Cancer and three years later he’d write The Tropic of Capricorn.


14 minutes of Miller speaking in an interview, featuring candid footage.


More candid footage of Miller speaking over dinner and wine with friends. A long, casual half an hour clip unlike most other videos available.