Categories: Essays

Go… the Summer, Fall, and Winter of Discontent

The summer, the fall, and the winter of discontent, shovel after shovel of snow that turns to filthy slush, as in slush pile (publishers’ slush piles) . . . the discontent of youth, the discontent of marriage, the discontent of writers, the discontent of New Yorkers, and the discontent that turns to temporary joy at the nightclub The Go Hole. “Go! Go!” and “gone.” The discontent of life right from the beginning, as whimsically stated by William Blake:

“My mother groan’d! my father weapt.
Into the dangerous world I leapt” i

Go the 1952 novel by John Clellon Holmes is a must for any serious Beat reader. It has none of the poetry of Kerouac, but provides an authentic background and clear insight into character, especially chilling are portraits of Bill Cannastra and Neal Cassady. Holmes delivers compelling studies of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and some more minor characters, such as a sympathetic one of Luanne Henderson.
Go was published five years before On the Road, “your book was accepted and mine rejected,” ii in an ironic, fascinating bit of publishing history. “What do I do now? . . . It’s been nothing but a dream all along. How can I earn money? What job can I do?” All those years of writing, gathering material, writing, writing, writing, and then, nothing, rejection, humiliation, a “numb bewilderment of these hapless thoughts.” iii
When reading the Beats, keep in mind that before the Beat Generation, this was the World War II Generation, as explained in this passage about The Go Hole:

“The Go Hole was where all the high schools, the swing bands, and the roadhouses of their lives had led these young people; and above all it was the result of their vision of a wartime America as a monstrous danceland, extending from coast to coast . . . In this modern jazz, they heard something rebel and nameless that spoke for them . . . It was more than a music; it became an attitude toward life . . . and these introverted kids . . . who had never belonged anywhere before, now felt somewhere at last.” iv

So the go in Go comes from the muse, Neal Cassady , called Hart, who makes no attempt to hide his excitement for the music in his “enormous nervous energy” as he grins and mumbles his approval: “Go! Go!” As Hart shouts “go!” at the musicians, the audience is yelling “go!” at Hart. Holmes, called Hobbes, sees through Hart’s con man ways, but Jack, called Pasternak, and Allen, called Stofsky, adore him. v
The rest is history, Beat history, and once again, in the words of Blake, which Stofsky takes to heart:

“Seek love in the pity of other’s woe,
In the gentle relief of another’s care,
In the darkness of night & the winter’s snow
In the naked and outcast, seek love there!” vi

i Holmes, John Clellon. Go. (Mamaroneck, New York: Paul P. Appel, Publisher, 1977). p. 70.
ii Ibid., p. 254.
iii Ibid., p. 250.
iv Ibid., p. 161.
v Ibid., p. 115-116.
vi Ibid., p. 276.

GK Stritch

GK Stritch is a contributor to Beatdom and the author of CBGB Was My High School. The book is available at the St. Mark's Bookshop, New York City, and and

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  • “Chronos Schmonos”

    by Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto

    We can never truly,
    Never fully
    Grasp the subject.
    We can measure Time,
    But we really don’t know.
    What is Time?
    The tick tock clock
    Gives just inkling.
    We hear. We see.
    We are aware.
    An essential piece of definition—
    Yet, a bare fraction,
    Sliced off with a
    Bare bodkin,
    Scraping Shakespeare’s
    Lyric-perfect bare bottom
    For inspiration, I suppose.

    But I digress.
    Time: longitudinal?
    The model--of course—for all
    Correlational research.
    Repetitive observations
    Of the same variables
    Over long periods of time,
    Often many decades--
    ‎Our lives:
    “Just one damn thing after another.”
    Quantum mechanics, be damned.

      • Mille grazie!

        “Women’s Lib Under the Rising Sun”

        by Giuseppi Martino Buonaiuto

        You might think that Women’s Lib in
        Japan began due to the flood of
        Western thinking reaching
        Its isolated shores after
        The so-called Meiji Restoration in 1868.
        But you’d be wrong.
        Think about it: American and European girls
        Were not exactly burning their bras
        In the late nineteenth century.
        What deluge of Western thinking & influence?

        It was in the aftermath
        Of World War II that
        Real changes to the status of
        Japanese women began.
        Most of the young & middle-aged
        Husbands & fathers were dead.
        Their cities were garrisoned,
        By tall Caucasian-Americans,
        Calling the shots.
        Nip local honey
        Trading their tight twats
        For PX ration cards,
        Chocolate & cigarettes, or
        “B-Yen” military scrip,
        That funny money
        Issued to American Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen.
        Why would we still honor
        Japanese males?
        You lost the war, Samurai Sam.
        It’s your fault your
        Wives and mothers,
        Your Geishas & Mama-sans,
        Are all whores for the
        Gaijin (外人?, [ɡaidʑiɴ]) Conquerors!
        Your daughters literally nipped in the bud.
        General MacArthur’s mandate—
        That new Japanese constitution of 1946--
        Stipulating equality between the sexes.
        Japanese women unleashed.
        Godzilla in the Ginza: Amok.

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