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The Nobel Prize in Literature – an Alternative Universe

Interesting piece below from greatbooksguide talking about the crazy world of the Nobel Prize for Literature and suggesting alternative, and potentially more worthy, winners than those awarded the prize.

We need to say that it’s absolutely shameful that the greatest novelist of the modern era, James Joyce – one of the key founders of modernism and a writer who has to some extent influenced every writer who came after – has not won the Nobel Prize.

It’s now 86 years since the greatest novel of all time, Ulysses, was first published by Sylvia Beach. For that work alone, he should deserve the prize – let alone for other great works like Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the uber-experimental masterpiece Finnegans Wake, as well as his great poetry and other works.

The situation is crazy. Why can the Nobel Committee not award the prize to Joyce now, even at this stage? Better late than eternally dumb!!

Shameful too that Charles Bukowski, one of the greatest writers of the past 50 years (not only as novelist but as short story writer, poet, screen-writer and non-fiction writer too) and Bob Dylan, one of the greatest poets of modern times, have also not won.

Not far behind would be the marvelous Hubert Selby Jr and the great John Fante!

These great artists, however, created works that are far outside what the culture nazis and the cobwebbed world of academia narrow-mindedly, and insanely, consider “proper literature”!

So fuck academia and let’s have a gander at the great Bukowski in action, speaking about a not dissimilar topic!

Ted Gioia came up with the list below of winners from an alternative reality!

A few interesting names I would agree with. However, there are quite a few odd choices in there!

Some of them are very odd indeed! Prime amongst which would be JK Rowling! If Rowling ever wins a Nobel, I will do a Kurt Cobain with a shotgun!!

Article below from

The Nobel Prize in Literature from an Alternative Universe (2008)
– by Ted Gioia

Note: In 2007, I wrote an article on what the Nobel Prize in Literature might look like in an alternative universe. This little piece generated a surprising amount of discussion and debate (see original article here).

The premise was simple. As I wrote then: “Imagine a world in which such honors are exempt from pettiness, politics and tokenism. Imagine a Nobel Prize in which the contributions of Proust, Kafka, Nabokov and Joyce are not forgotten. Imagine a Nobel Prize in Literature in which genre writers have a chance. Imagine a Nobel Prize in Literature that doesn’t bend over backward to exclude native born U.S. writers (only three honored during the last 52 years!).”

These words seem even more relevant to me now than they did a year ago. But no matter how bad the Nobel decisions might look, at least I have my alternative universe. The judges at the Swedish Academy are smarter than you think. They really out-did themselves this year by orchestrating a clever disinformation campaign attacking all American novelists across the board (that was a giveaway right then, my friends)—then they turn around and give the award to Don DeLillo. They are a sly bunch!

Of course, I saw it coming all along.

Secretary of the Swedish Academy Horace Engdahl may have fooled everyone else, but when I heard his recent rant on the broad-mindedness and lack of insularity of European culture, I knew immediately that thiswas comedy and performance art ofthe highest quality. After all, a recentsurvey to pick the best Swedishworks of fiction of all time had Pippi Longstocking in fourth place. Say no more. We don’t even need to get into the topic of Mohammed and newspaper cartoons.

You have to give Engdahl credit for keeping a straight face even while he performed his little skit. He is a real wit and knows how to pull your leg—sort of the Borat of serious literature. Yet it’s amazing how many people took the bait. Some folks were even predicting the award would go to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio of France—as a way of demonstrating the Academy’s commitment to anti-insularity. Huh? That would be like going to Alaska to find a running mate . . .

DeLillo is a brilliant choice. In a few days, he will turn 72, and he has written fifteen novels, including classics such as White Noise and Underworld. No contemporary writer has a better feel for dialogue or is less . . . well, insular. His critique of the banality and dehumanization of American life is much more incisive and interesting than anything you will hear in the hallowed halls of the Svenska Akademien.

I know I should be celebrating the event, but I can’t help wondering what the Swedish Academy has in store next year.

How can they top this one, with its real-life meta-fiction angles.

Fool me once, Mr. Engdahl, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Below is a complete list of past winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature from an alternative universe.

Year Actual Winner
Alternative Reality Winner
1901 Sully Prudhomme Leo Tolstoy
1902 Theodor Mommsen George Meredith
1903 Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Anton Chekhov
1904 Frédéric Mistral, José Echegaray Jules Verne
1905 Henryk Sienkiewicz Henrik Ibsen
1906 Giosuè Carducci Mark Twain
1907 Rudyard Kipling Rudyard Kipling
1908 Rudolf Eucken John Millington Synge
1909 Selma Lagerlöf August Strindberg
1910 Paul Heyse W.S. Gilbert
1911 Maurice Maeterlinck Henry James
1912 Gerhart Hauptmann William Dean Howells
1913 Rabindranath Tagore George Trakl
1915 Romain Rolland Guillaume Apollinaire
1916 Verner von Heidenstam Sigmund Freud
1917 Karl Gjellerup, Henrik Pontoppidan Joseph Conrad
1919 Carl Spitteler Thomas Hardy
1920 Knut Hamsun Rainer Maria Rilke
1921 Anatole France Marcel Proust
1922 Jacinto Benavente Franz Kafka
1923 William Butler Yeats William Butler Yeats
1924 Wladyslaw Reymont Miguel de Unamuno
1925 George Bernard Shaw George Bernard Shaw
1926 Grazia Deledda Arthur Conan Doyle
1927 Henri Bergson Constantine P. Cavafy
1928 Sigrid Undset Edith Wharton
1929 Thomas Mann Thomas Mann
1930 Sinclair Lewis F. Scott Fitzgerald
1931 Erik Axel Karlfeldt G. K. Chesterton
1932 John Galsworthy Zane Grey
1933 Ivan Bunin Stefan Zweig
1934 Luigi Pirandello Luigi Pirandello
1936 Eugene O’Neill Eugene O’Neill
1937 Roger Martin du Gard James Joyce
1938 Pearl Buck Virginia Woolf
1939 Frans Eemil Sillanpää Robert Musil
1944 Johannes V. Jensen W. H. Auden
1945 Gabriela Mistral George Orwell
1946 Hermann Hesse Hermann Broch
1947 André Gide André Gide
1948 T.S. Eliot T.S. Eliot
1949 William Faulkner William Faulkner
1950 Bertrand Russell Ludwig Wittgenstein
1951 Pär Lagerkvist Dorothy Parker
1952 François Mauriac Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
1953 Winston Churchill Wallace Stevens
1954 Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway
1955 Halldòr Laxness Bertolt Brecht
1956 Juan Ramón Jiménez Raymond Chandler
1957 Albert Camus Albert Camus
1958 Boris Pasternak E. M. Forster
1959 Salvatore Quasimodo Cole Porter
1960 Saint-John Perse Ian Fleming
1961 Ivo Andric William Carlos Willaims
1962 John Steinbeck John Steinbeck
1963 Giorgios Seferis Giorgios Seferis
1964 Jean-Paul Sartre Jean-Paul Sartre
1965 Mikhail Sholokhov Jack Kerouac
1966 Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Nelly Sachs Agatha Christie, Jorge Luis Borges
1967 Miguel Angel Asturias Vladimir Nabokov
1968 Yasunari Kawabata Yukio Mishima
1969 Samuel Beckett Samuel Beckett
1970 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
1971 Pablo Neruda Pablo Neruda
1972 Heinrich Böll J.R.R. Tolkein
1973 Patrick White Lionel Trilling
1974 Eyvind Johnson, Harry Martinson John Lennon, Paul McCartney
1975 Eugenio Montale Eugenio Montale
1976 Saul Bellow Saul Bellow
1977 Vicente Aleixandre Tennessee Williams
1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer Isaac Bashevis Singer
1979 Odysseus Elytis Philip K. Dick
1980 Czeslaw Milosz Czeslaw Milosz
1981 Elias Canetti Elias Canetti
1982 Gabriel García Márquez Gabriel García Márquez
1983 William Golding Graham Greene
1984 Jaroslav Seifert Italo Calvino
1985 Claude Simon Philip Larkin
1986 Wole Soyinka Eugene Ionesco
1987 Joseph Brodsky Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein
1988 Naguib Mahfouz Salman Rushdie
1989 Camilo José Cela Theodor Seuss Geisel
1990 Octavio Paz Octavio Paz
1991 Nadine Gordimer Muriel Spark
1992 Derek Walcott Bob Dylan
1993 Toni Morrison Ralph Ellison
1994 Kenzaburo Oe Stephen Sondheim
1995 Seamus Heaney Isaiah Berlin
1996 Wislawa Szymborska Stanisław Lem
1997 Dario Fo Hunter Thompson
1998 José Saramago Roberto Bolaño
1999 Günter Grass Tom Stoppard
2000 Gao Xingjian Haruki Murakami
2001 V. S. Naipaul V. S. Naipaul
2002 Imre Kertész John le Carré
2003 J. M. Coetzee Mario Vargas Llosa
2004 Elfriede Jelinek John Updike
2005 Harold Pinter Milan Kundera
2006 Orhan Pamuk Philip Roth
2007 Doris Lessing J.K. Rowling
2008 Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio Don DeLillo

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Charles Bukowski, James Joyce, Marilyn Monroe, OTHER_LITERATURE, _BOB DYLAN, _OTHER, _VIDEO | 2 Comments

The genius of Zhu Xi

Zhu Xi or Chu Hsi (Chinese Neo-Confucian philosopher, Song Dynasty, 1130–1200). Considered the greatest of the Neo-Confucian scholars, Zhu Xi’s thought initially represented a challenge to orthodox Neo-Confucianism. His commentaries on “The Four Books”, however, would eventually form the basis for all civil service examinations conducted in China for the next 400 years, until that system was abolished in 1905.

Life magazine ranked Zhu Xi as the 45th most important person in the last millennium.

Zhu Xi Poem in Monument House Utrecht

Feeling on reading a book

Zhu Xi Poem in Monument House Utrecht
1. My half a mu square pond is like a mirror in an open box

2. The sunlight and shadow of clouds linger in the mirror together;

3. I ask the pond how it gets the water so limpid (clear),

4. That is because running water is coming from the source.

Big thanks to Anne Ku

Zhu Xi’s views on human nature

Zhu Xi (reads Chu Hsi in the Wade-Giles system, 1130-1200) was a late Song scholar who synthesized the earlier Song scholars of Zhou Dunyi, Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, and Zhang Zai, and edited the Four Books. It was he who gave what was later accepted as the standard interpretation of Confucian learning in the imperial examinations, completing a second wave of canonizing Confucian learning after the Confucian scholar Dong Zhongshu succeeded in having the emperor Han Wudi accept Confucian learning as the state ethic in the Han Dynasty.

The Cheng-Zhu school of Confucian learning (named after the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi) absorbed many elements from Daoist and Buddhist teachings but combated the other worldly tendencies of both teachings. It became Confucian orthodoxy for 500-600 hundred years before challenged by Confucian scholars who wanted to go back to the Confucian classics before they were abridged into the Four Books.

In the 20th century, Neo-Confucian learning saw its revival in East Asia and what one could call the Chinese diaspora: areas where large Chinese communities reside, including southeast Asia and Chinese communities in America.

In Zhu Xi’s struggles with Daoism and Buddhism, like his predecessors, he integrates elements of both into his writings. In what follows I will examine first the Daoist influence on him, then the Buddhist influence, and how he reinterpreted Confucian learning in light of both.

1. Influence of Daoism:

Linking primordial chaos with civilization through seeing nature as constant movement, generating the myriad things on its own: Like Zhou Dunyi (see notes or early part of chap.20 of de Bary), Zhu Xi attempted to bridge Daoism and Confucian this-worldliness. Seeing the primordial state of nature that the Daoists longed to return to not as a quiet pristine scene, but a site of constant movement generated from within itself, Zhu Xi borrowed from Zhou Dunyi the idea of the Supreme Ultimate Polarity to describe this constant self-generated movement and the moments when it stops: when the movement goes on, it has a force called yang, and when it momentarily stops, the stillness is called yin. The different combinations of the yin and yang lead to the myriad things in this world. (de Bary, 699-700)

The Confucian Way and the workings of the Supreme Ultimate: Having argued that the primordial chaos of the Daoists and the Confucian civilized world were in a continuum, the former naturally generating the latter, Zhu Xi built a greater linkage between the Confucian and the Daoist worlds by arguing that the Confucian principles (li) were directly embedded in the primordial chaos: it was they that generated the force called yang, leading to the changes which led to civilization and the myriad things. (701-702) In another place, Zhu Xi more specifically describes how the myriad things were created, emphasizing that it was the material force [directed by the Confucian principles which caused the ying-yang movements] that created the universe. (702-703)

2. Influence of Buddhism

Differentiation between the material and spiritual worlds on the basis of purity/impurity: As we know, the Buddhist belief that human perceptions are false is based on their belief in the impurity of the world (meaning the world is made up of composites). Only purity is permanent and the impure composites disintegrate over time. In his attempt to fight against the other-worldly tendencies of Buddhism, Zhu Xi emphasized the authenticity of the material world.

While he did not want to separate ideas from the material world for fear that would destroy the Confucian belief in human innate rationality, he wanted to distinguish between ideas/principles and the material world. so he chose to use the binary of pure/impure to describe the difference: on the one hand, principles were inherent in the material world [just as moral ideas were inherent in the human mind, as Confucians argued], on the other hand, principles were pure, while the material world was impure.(699-700)

This way, Zhu Xi managed to state the slight superiority of principles over the material world while not separating them into two different worlds. Zhu Xi hastened to add that however, principles would not work without material force. Here the material force referred to the five phases or elements, and principles the Confucian ones including humaneness, rightness, ritual decorum, and wisdom. (700)

Principle and material force were inseparable: As a good Confucian who focused on practical results, Zhu Xi pointed out that the principles could not function without material force, thus with death and disintegration the spirit within the human being was gone because the spirit could not function without the body.(701)

It was a rebuttal to the Buddhist argument of the transmigration of souls, showing that rationality or spirituality do not exist aside from individual humans, emphasizing rationality as an instrument for this worldly activities. Zhu follows a similar logic in his piece “Spiritual Beings,” although he leaves room for ancestral worship: the worship of the spirit of the ancestors because their material bodies decayed gradually, helping the spirit to linger on for a while after death.

Because of the centrality of the issue of human innate rationality, Zhu Xi argued for the integration of principles and material force in many places. In “The Mind-and-Heart,” he compared them to candle flames (spirit), which could not burn without the candle (material force).

He argued that the mind could access the whole universe, since they shared the same principles, and controlled the universe instead of being controlled by it. (708-709) This was a rebuttal to the Buddhist argument that human perceptions are illusions and truth was separate from human experience in this world.

The thing is, by creating this all powerful mind that could access the whole universe, Zhu Xi himself was perilously close to the argument that thinking could be separate from human experience, something he desperately tried to combat.

Human nature: Just as in the Consciousness-Only Buddhist schools of thought, where human knowledge is divided into pure or true knowledge stored in the alaya, and contaminated knowledge as transmitted through the six senses, so Zhu Xi used this binary of purity versus contamination to describe what he termed the original human nature of perfection and its operation, during which evil arises.

He describes this original human nature not yet put in practice as identical with the Confucian principles, the same principles that led to the ying-yang forces to create the myriad things in the universe.(704-705)

Even though human thinking and the material world shared the same principles, Zhu Xi tried to differentiate between the human and material world, not qualitatively, but only through degrees. Thus like his contemporaries, he equated the universe with the moral universe:

Thus consciousness and movement proceed from material force, while humaneness, rightness, decorum, and wisdom proceed from principle. Both human beings and things are capable of consciousness and movement, but though things possess humaneness, rightness, decorum, and wisdom, they cannot have them completely….(706)

Avoiding vagueness in defining human nature: Perhaps more than any earlier Confucian, Zhu Xi was extremely conscious of the difference between principle and practice. When Confucius was asked to define humaneness, as recorded in the Analects, he only pointed out which aspects of humaneness his individual students were lacking in.

When Zhu Xi tried to define humaneness, he pondered about whether to define it as a principle or a practice. His concern was it should not be too vague or too specific, and yet it should have enough substance to serve as a guideline for action. Defining it as a principle, “to talk about ren in general terms of the unity of things and the self will lead people to be vague, confused, neglected, and make no effort to be alert.” (712)

Therefore Zhu Xi confined the definition of humaneness to a function, or a sub-principle to a larger principle called impartiality, which he said should be in place before humaneness could be developed. (712)

After limiting humaneness to the framework of impartiality, which basically means other-regarding, in contrast to partiality, which in this context means concerned primarily of one’s self-interests, Zhu Xi further defined humaneness as a principle of which empathy and love are functions.(712-713)

Love, what made humaneness specific and practicable, on the other hand, could not be specifically defined because to “talk about love in specific terms of consciousness will lead people to be nervous, irascible, and devoid of any quality of depth;” (713) in general it would just be too restricting to people and deprive them of the freer exercise of their (moral) nature. In his definition of humaneness, therefore, one can see that Zhu Xi wanted to achieve both the effect of universal principles clearly defined and to adhere to the traditional Confucian goal of making all principles practicable.

Both the universality and the practicability of humaneness thus defined were to combat the vagueness of Buddhist teachings about this world and the Buddhist views of the universe (as empty or illusive).


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September 24, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_LITERATURE, OTHER_Philosophy, Zhu Xi, _OTHER, _POETRY | Leave a comment

Shot Man in Reno

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin’,
I hang my head and cry.
I bet there’s rich folks eatin’ in a fancy dining car

They’re probably drinking coffee and smoking big cigars
But I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free

“Folsom Prison Blues” cover
extract from: Folsom Prison Blues by J. Cash (1955)

With the pithy and catchy title “I Shot a Man in Reno: A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease, and General Misadventure, as Related in Popular Song“, – named of course for Johnny Cash’s great Folsom Prison Blues – this book by Graeme Thomson looks pretty damn interesting!

Death and murder – almost as much as sex and lust! – have been staples of great music back from earliest times up through the traditional Irish / Scots ballads (which set the cornerstone for much of modern music) on to the twentieth century via various genres (esp. blues, traditional/folk and country – via the likes of Leadbelly, Cash, John Lee Hooker, Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, to name just a few), often with the same characters being sung about in different songs (Stagger Lee, etc), right on through to more recent times and significant artists such as Nick Cave (especially in the “Murder Ballads” LP- which we’ve already posted somewhere) and, moreso, Bob Dylan (most significantly in “World Gone Wrong” – which we’ve already posted somewhere).

The recent excellent album from Bob Frank and John Murry (World Without End (2006) – which we’ve already posted somewhere) strongly carried forth the tradition into the twenty-first century.

And it won’t end there!

I want to get my mitts on this book real soon!

You can check it out here;

More importantly, for getting a free copy of the book to me, contact !!!

A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease, and General Misadventure, as Related in Popular Song Cover <!– begin ingram look-inside

end ingram look-inside –>

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Ask the gangsta rap devotee. Ask the grizzled blues fanatic and the bearded folk fan. Ask the goth and the indie kid.

Ask and they will all tell you the same thing: death and popular music have forever danced hand-in-hand in funereal waltz time. The pop charts and the majority of radio stations’ playlists may conspire to convince anyone listening that the world spins on its axis to the tune of “I love you, you love me” and traditional matters of the heart. The rest of us know that we live in a world where red roses will one day become lilies and that death is the motor that drives the greatest and most exhilarating music of all.

“Death music” is not merely a byword for bookish solemnity, or the glorification of murder, drugs and guns. Over the course of the last hundred years it has also been about teenage girls weeping over their high school boyfriend’s fatal car wreck; natural disasters sweeping whole communities away; the ever-evolving threat of disease; changing attitudes to old age; exhortations to suicide; the perfect playlist for a funeral; and the thorny question of what happens after the fat lady ceases to sing. Which means that for every “Black Angel’s Death Song” there is a “Candle in the Wind,” and for every “Cop Killer” there is “The Living Years.” Death, like music, is a unifying force. There is something for every taste and inclination, from murderous vengeance to camp sentimentality and everything in between.

Drawing upon original and unique interviews with artists such as Mick Jagger, Richard Thompson, Ice-T, Will Oldham and Neil Finn among many others, I Shot a Man in Reno explores how popular music deals with death, and how it documents the changing reality of what death means as one grows older. It’s as transfixing as a train wreck, and you won’t be able to put it down.

As an epilogue, I Shot a Man in Reno presents the reader with the 50 greatest death songs of all time, complete with a brief rationale for each, acting as a primer for the morbidly curious listener.


“Death in popular song comes in all shapes and sizes, but Thomson (Willie Nelson: The Outlaw) skids wildly from one genre and artist to another without pausing to draw larger conclusions. Divided into chapters covering everything from the common teenage penchant for suicide songs to the evolution of murder ballads and gangsta rap, Thomson displays considerable knowledge of music past and present, but his conclusions are often less than profound: death as a ‘hallmark of teen rebellion’ (think James Dean); the Doors’ ‘The End’ signifying the late 1960s, Vietnam and ‘a world defined by death.’ In his most compelling section, entitled ‘Sweetness Follows: Into the Great Beyond’ (from the R.E.M. songs of the same names), Thomson explores musicians’ approach not to death itself, or even the journey toward it, but to what happens next. Though Thomson admits in the introduction that more death songs will be omitted than included, frustrated readers may wish he had taken his own advice and culled his examples to support a focused thesis.” Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)


“This isnt a history; its a commentary. Damned good one, too, by a journalist who knows his stuff and struts it….Enthralling from the first page, he guarantees rereaders…” Booklist


“Rock songs…are as much about death as they are about love, argues Greame Thomson in his brilliant I Shot a Man In Reno.” ForeWord magazine


Drawing upon original and unique interviews with such artists as Mick Jagger, Richard Thompson, Ice-T, Neil Finn, and many others, I Shot a Man in Reno explores how popular music deals with death, and how it documents the changing reality of what death means as one grows older.

About the Author

Graeme Thomson is a regular contributor to The Word, the Observer, Time Out, the Herald, and the Sunday Herald. He is the author of Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello (Canongate, 2004) and Willie Nelson: The Outlaw (Virgin Books, 2006). He lives in Edinburgh.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Art of Dying
1. “Death Ain’t Nothin’ New”: From John Barleycorn to John Walker’s Blues
2. Teenage Wildlife: From Sob to Suicide
3. Blood on the Floor: Music, Murder and Morality
4. How Does It Feel?: Death in the Sixties
5. Appetite for Self-Destruction: Oblivion Songs
6. Sweetness Follows?: Into the Earth, Into the Fire, and Into the Great Beyond
7. Gangsta Gangsta: Rap Reclaims the Murder Song
8. Sometimes It Snows in April: The Music of Loss
9. Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Fat Lady’s Songbook
10. Epilogue
Appendix: The 50 Greatest Death Songs

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September 12, 2008 Posted by | Graeme Thomson, Johnny Cash, OTHER_LITERATURE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

William Burroughs "Junkie"

“Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. . . . The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff in junk.”

-William S. Burroughs

Round here, we fucking love William S. Burroughs!

We really got into Burroughs back in the day immediately after our crazy Kerouac phase, during which time we devoured (in both senses of the term! … I was peckish one day after smoking too much weed and ate some of On The Road with jam and cheese!) all of Jack’s works.

Burroughs work had the power of a roundhouse kick to the balls! The realness, the style, the madness, the intelligence. Billy was the real deal! We never went back to Jack!

“I have never regretted my experience with drugs.”

-William S. Burroughs

Junkie (also titled with the alternative spelling, Junky) is a semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1953.

It was Burroughs’ first published novel and has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in the early 1950s. Burroughs’ working title for the text was Junk.

The book was initially published by Ace Books.

Ace Books primarily catered to New York City subway riders, and competed in the same market as comic book, true crime and detective fiction publishers. Ace published no hardcover books, only cheap paperbacks, which sold for very little; Burroughs earned less than a cent royalty on each purchase.

Most libraries at the time did not buy Ace books, considering them trivial and without literary merit, and Ace paperbacks were never reviewed by literary critics. At the time of its publication, the novel was in a two-book (“dos-à-dos”) omnibus edition (known as an “Ace Double”) alongside a previously published 1941 novel called Narcotic Agent by Maurice Helbrant. Burroughs chose to use the pseudonym “William Lee“, Lee being his mother’s maiden name, for the writing credit.

The subtitle of the work was Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict. This edition is a highly desired collectible and even below-average-condition copies have been known to cost hundreds of dollars. The United States Library of Congress purchased a copy in 1992 for its Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room.

Numerous reprints of the book appeared in the 1960s and 1970s once Burroughs achieved notability with Naked Lunch. Generally, American editions used the original Junkie spelling for the title, while UK editions usually changed this to Junky.

In 1977 a complete edition of the original text was finally published by Penguin Books with an introduction by Allen Ginsberg; sections of the manuscript referring to Burroughs’s homosexuality which had been edited out of earlier editions were included for the first time.

In 2003, to mark the work’s 50th anniversary, Penguin reissued the book as Junky: The Definitive Text of “Junk.” It included a new introduction by Oliver Harris, the British literary scholar, who integrated new material never before published; Harris had found edits of deleted material in the literary archives of Allen Ginsberg.

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William S. Burroughs reads “103rd Street” from “Junkie.”

A typically wonderful and idiosyncratic reading by Burroughs of an extract from this great work.

Thanks Netvandal1

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June 25, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_LITERATURE, William S. Burroughs, _ART, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Tom Joad Lives“Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.”

Great piece from on Steinbeck which segues on through The Grapes Of Wrath, Tom Joad, John Ford, Woody Guthrie up to Tom Morello and Springsteen!

Although John Steinbeck never achieved the stylistic heights of Fitzgerald, Faulkner, or Hemingway, when he wrote The Grapes Of Wrath, he wrote one of the genuinely great American novels of the 20th Century.

The epic of the Joad family resonates profoundly: Literally swept away by the Dust Bowl, the battered clan migrates west to the promised land of California only to find that themselves reviled and rejected by those who came before them.

Fleeing the law, Tom Joad goes underground and by doing so transforms himself into an icon of the dispossessed. Henry Fonda as Tom famously captured this moment in the classic John Ford film. Tom attempts to assuage the fears of his worried, only half-understanding mother by assuring her that “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.” He leaves his disintegrating family to merge with the larger family that lives “wherever you can look.” He disappears into the night to reemerge as a solitary figure questing hopefully into the dawn:

Woody Guthrie captured the novel’s Depression-era spirit of solidarity in his protest ballad “Tom Joad.” Where the film’s monologue stressed middle-class aspirations of “people … eatin’ the stuff they raise, and livin’ in the houses they build,” Guthrie turned his attention to a class army of the hungry, the weeping, and the disenfranchised.

It’s telling that in Ford’s film, children laugh when they were hungry; in Guthrie’s song, they cry. Where Ford’s view is ultimately and unsurprisingly romantic, Guthrie — an Okie himself — retains a hard edge.

Post-war prosperity seemed to bear out Ford’s vision, at least in part. But as Reaganomics and globalization began to suffocate the middle class like as boa constrictor, Tom Joad suddenly seemed as relevant as ever.

In 1995, Bruce Springsteen updated the famous monologue in “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Here, the homeless huddle under a bridge, denied even the community of a migrant camp. A teeming road leads to poverty and exploitation. And yet, the singer won’t surrender his anger even if it does depend on the fading hope of his belief in a ghost. Three years later, Rage Against The Machine released their own fiery take, keeping the ghost alive for a new generation.

For it seems that Tom Joad won’t go away, even as the middle class dreams of the Ford film fade for millions.

Recently, Rage guitarist Tom Morello joined Bruce Springsteen on stage for what must be the definitive performance of “The Ghost Of Tom Joad.” Morello’s soft voice combines with Springsteen’s defiance and remarkable empathy to form an anthem culminating in a Morello guitar solo that captures all of the frustration and rage conveyed by the lyrics in a literal attempt to summon forth old Tom’s ghost. A video of the performance made its way to YouTube, spreading Tom Joad’s words in a way that Steinbeck or Ford of Guthrie could never have imagined:

You just can’t keep a good man down…

June 25, 2008 Posted by | Bruce Springsteen, John Steinbeck, Music_ClassicRock, OTHER_ARTICLE, OTHER_LITERATURE, Tom Morello, _CARTOON, _MUSIC, _VIDEO | Leave a comment

Henry Louis Mencken – the “Sage of Baltimore”, American author, critic, newspaper man and iconoclast.

Wink your eye at some homely girl …
A sample work of the great Henry Louis Mencken (1880-09-12—1956-01-29), the “Sage of Baltimore”, American author, critic, newspaper man and iconoclast.

They don’t make em like this anymore.

They don’t even make real newspapers anymore!

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.“If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

—“Epitaph”, Smart Set, 1921, p. 33


The Malevolent Jobholder

H.L. Mencken

[From the American Mercury, 1924 June, pp. 156-159. Reprinted with an introduction in A Mencken Crestomathy (NY: Vintage Books, c1949, 1982), pp. 384-388.]

From the American Mercury, June 1924, pp. 156-59.

This was written long before the New Deal afflicted the country with a great mass of new administrative law and a huge horde of new and extra-tyrannical jobholders. I am more than even convinced that it embodied a good idea.

In the immoral monarchies of the continent of Europe, now happily abolished by God’s will, there was, in the old days of sin, an intelligent and effective way of dealing with delinquent officials. Not only were they subject, when taken in downright corruption, to the ordinary processes of the criminal laws; in addition they were liable to prosecution in special courts for such offenses as were peculiar to their offices. In this business the abominable Prussian state, though founded by Satan, took the lead. It maintained a tribunal in Berlin that devoted itself wholly to the trial of officials accused of malfeasance, corruption, tyranny and incompetence, and any citizen was free to lodge a complaint with the learned judges. The trial was public and in accord with rules fixed by law. An official found guilty could be punished summarily and in a dozen different ways. He could be reprimanded, reduced in rank, suspended from office for a definite period, transferred to a less desirable job, removed from the rolls altogether, fined, or sent to jail. If he was removed from office he could be deprived of his right to a pension in addition, or fined or jailed in addition. He could be made to pay damages to any citizen he had injured, or to apologize publicly.

All this, remember, was in addition to his liability under the ordinary law, and the statutes specifically provided that he could be punished twice for the same offence, once in the ordinary courts and once in the administrative court. Thus, a Prussian official who assaulted a citizen, invaded his house without a warrant, or seized his property without process of law, could be deprived of his office and fined heavily by the administrative court, sent to jail by an ordinary court, and forced to pay damages to his victim by either or both. Had a Prussian judge in those far-off days of despotism, overcome by a brain-storm of kaiserliche passion, done any of the high-handed and irrational things that our own judges, Federal and State, do almost every day, an aggrieved citizen might have haled him before the administrative court and recovered heavy damages from him, besides enjoying the felicity of seeing him transferred to some distant swap in East Prussia, to listen all day to the unintelligible perjury of anthropoid Poles. The law specifically provided that responsible officials should be punished, not more leniently than subordinate or ordinary offenders, but more severely. If a corrupt policeman got six months a corrupt chief of police got two years. More, these statutes were enforced with Prussian barbarity, and the jails were constantly full of errant officials.

I do not propose, of course, that such medieval laws be set up in the United States. We have, indeed, gone far enough in imitating the Prussians already; if we go much further the moral and enlightened nations of the world will have to unite in a crusade to put us down. As a matter of fact, the Prussian scheme would probably prove ineffective in the Republic, if only because it involved setting up one gang of jobholders to judge and punish another gang. It worked well in Prussia before the country was civilized by force of arms because, as everyone knows, a Prussian official was trained in ferocity from infancy, and regarded every man arraigned before him, whether a fellow official or not, guilty ipso facto; in fact, any thought of a prisoners’ possible innocence was abhorrent to him as a reflection upon the Polizei, and by inference, upon the Throne, the whole monarchical idea, and God. But in America, even if they had no other sentiment in common, which would be rarely, judge and prisoner would often be fellow Democrats or fellow Republicans, and hence jointly interested in protecting their party against scandal and its members against the loss of their jobs. Moreover, the Prussian system had another plain defect: the punishments it provided were, in the main, platitudinous and banal. They lacked dramatic quality, and they lacked ingenuity and appropriateness. To punish a judge taken in judicial crim. con. by fining him or sending him to jail is a bit too facile and obvious. What is needed is a system (a) that does not depend for its execution upon the good-will of fellow jobholders, and (b) that provides swift, certain and unpedantic punishments, each fitted neatly to its crime.

I announce without further ado that such a system, after due prayer, I have devised. It is simple, it is unhackneyed, and I believe that it would work. It is divided into two halves. The first half takes the detection and punishment of the crimes of jobholders away from courts of impeachment, congressional smelling committees, and all the other existing agencies—i.e., away from other jobholders—and vests it in the whole body of free citizens, male and female. The second half provides that any member of that body, having looked into the acts of a jobholder and found him delinquent, may punish him instantly and on the spot, and in any manner that seems appropriate and convenient—and that, in case this punishment involves physical damage to the jobholder, the ensuing inquiry by a grand jury or coroner shall confine itself strictly to the question of whether the jobholder deserved what he got. In other words, I propose that it shall be no longer malum in se for a citizen to pummel, cowhide, kick, gouge, cut, wound, bruise, maim, burn, club, bastinado, flay, or even lynch a jobholder, and that it shall be malum prohibitum only to the extent that the punishment exceeds the jobholder’s deserts. The amount of this excess, if any, may be determined very conveniently by a petit jury, as other questions of guilt are now determined. The flogged judge, or Congressman, or other jobholder, on being discharged from hospital—or his chief heir, in case he has perished—goes before a grand jury and makes a complaint, and, if a true bill is found, a petit jury is empaneled and all the evidence is put before it. If it decides that the jobholder deserves the punishment inflicted upon him, the citizen who inflicted it is acquitted with honor. If, on the contrary, it decides that this punishment was excessive, then the citizen is adjudged guilty of assault, mayhem, murder, or whatever it is, in a degree apportioned to the difference between what the jobholder deserved and what he got, and punishment for that excess follows in the usual course.

The advantages of this plan, I believe, are too patent to need argument. At one stroke it removes all the legal impediments which now make the punishment of a recreant jobholder so hopeless a process, and enormously widens the range of possible penalties. They are now stiff and, in large measure, illogical; under the system I propose they could be made to fit the crime precisely. Say a citizen today becomes convinced that a certain judge is a jackass—that his legal learning is defective, his sense of justice atrophied, and his conduct of cases before him tyrannical and against decency. As things stand, it is impossible to do anything about it. A judge cannot be impeached on the mere ground that he is a jackass; the process is far too costly and cumbersome, and there are too many judges liable to the charge. Nor is anything to be gained from denouncing him publicly and urging all good citizens to vote against him when he comes up for re-election, for his term may run for ten or fifteen years, and even if it expires tomorrow and he is defeated the chances are good that his successor will be quite as bad, and maybe even worse. Moreover, if he is a Federal judge he never comes up for re-election at all, for once he has been appointed by the President of the United States, on the advice of his more influential clients and with the consent of their agents in the Senate, he is safe until he is so far gone in senility that he has to be propped up on the bench with pillows.

But now imagine any citizen free to approach him in open court and pull his nose. Or even, in aggravated cases, to cut off his ears, throw him out of the window, or knock him in the head with an axe. How vastly more attentive he would be to his duties! How diligently he would apply himself to the study of the law! How careful he would be about the rights of litigants before him! How polite and suave he would become! For judges, like all the rest of us, are vain fellows: they do not enjoy having their noses pulled. The ignominy resident in the operation would not be abated by the subsequent trial of the puller, even if he should be convicted and jailed. The fact would still be brilliantly remembered that at least one citizen had deemed the judge sufficiently a malefactor to punish him publicly, and to risk going to jail for it. A dozen such episodes, and the career of any judge would be ruined and his heart broken, even though the jails bulged with his critics. He could not maintain his air of aloof dignity on the bench; even his catchpolls would snicker at him behind their hands, especially if he showed a cauliflower ear, a black eye or a scar over his bald head. Moreover, soon or late some citizen who had at him would be acquitted by a petit jury, and then, obviously, he would have to retire. It might be provided by law, indeed, that he should be compelled to retire in that case—that an acquittal would automatically vacate the office of the offending jobholder.

[The following is not part of the original article above.]

crim. con. “Criminal conversation”, a synonym for adultery.

Ipso facto. “By the fact (or act) itself”.

Kaiserliche. Imperial

Malum in se. “wrong in itself”, i.e. inherently wrong; cf. malum prohibitum.

Malum prohibitum. “wrong because prohibited”; cf. malum in se.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Henry Louis Mencken, OTHER_ARTICLE, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | 1 Comment

Sean Penn reads an eight–part abridgement of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume 1.

Sean Penn reads an eight–part abridgement of Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume 1.

Chronicles Vol. 1 (Abridged) – BBC Radio 2.
52.8 MB @ 64 kbps, 15 min x 8, MP3.
Recorded from BBC Radio 2 Audio stream.

Chronicles Vol. 1is a supreme work. Not only in terms of the fascinating story to be told, but also in the immaculate quality of the writing itself. You really need to read the book. Then re-read it!

One of the finest non-fiction books of recent times. No fucking doubt! I love it!

I normally hate audio versions of literature. It really doesn’t make any sense if the book is of high enough literary quality. In such cases, you need to absorb every word, line, paragraph, every nuance, every item of punctuation on every page. Listening to it is of negligible worth.

Unless of course it’s some rubbish book – like 95% of modern literature – say, a Nick Hornby book, for example!

Here, we make an exception to a certain degree. Mainly because of what Sean Penn brings to the piece. Also mainly too because of the excellent snippets of music it contains.

It’s for sure an excellent accompaniment to the book itself. It’s still no replacement, however!

This is slightly different to what I already posted ages ago – the full original audio version.

This is from a series on BBC Radio 2.

Here’s some blurb on the wonderful Chronicles, Volume 1.

The uncompromising Bob Dylan tells his story in his own words and lets the reader discover his early motivations and frustrations breaking into the 1960s New York folk scene.

This is a fascinating insight into the man’s mind as we follow him through his struggle to get a record deal, his battle to write songs, recording sessions, influences both literary and musical, his accidents, his traumas and his highs and lows as he becomes probably the greatest singer songwriter of his generation.

To read this classic autobiography we have not only one of America’s greatest contemporary actors but also a friend and neighbour of Bob Dylan’s, Sean Penn, punctuated of course by snatches of some great music from Dylan, Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Jack Elliott, Joan Baez and of course Dave Van Ronk.

Dylan’s voice is quintessentially American: generous, engaged, fanciful and rhythmic with a great turn of phrase as one would expect from someone who has written some of the greatest lyrics of our time. It is a poignant reflection on his life, the people whom he has met, the places he has played in, and his many influences all shaping the character of the man and his art.

Summaries of the first 5 episodes:

Episode one: DYLAN SIGNS

Episode one does not commence with the beginning of Bob Dylan’s career (we come to that later) but at the start of his recording career as he signs to both Columbia Records for recording and to Leeds Music for his song-writing, the latter for an advance of one hundred dollars!

We meet Lou Levy the top man at Leeds Music who was married to one of The Andrews Sisters and had been recommended to Bob by Columbia Records. Lou who had dealt with Al Martino and Nat King Cole could never quite get to grips with Dylan’s songs and later at the advice of his new manager Al Grossman, Dylan bought himself out of the contract for one thousand dollars.

We meet John Hammond the man who signed him to Columbia Records. Hammond was a great talent scout and had been responsible for signing great artistes like Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and had recently brought Pete Seeger to Columbia. And we meet the great blues artiste Robert Johnson whose record Hammond had given him on the day of the signing.

Episode Two: THE BIG APPLE

We now go back in time to the day Bob was born in the Spring of 1941 and his school days under the threat of Communist infiltration in the McCarthy era.

In 1961 he arrives in New York and goes straight to Geenwich Village and to the Caf? Wha ran by Fred Neil (he later composed Everybody’s Talking) and asked if he could play…mainly for ‘gastronomic reasons’ – “all the French fries and hamburgers I could eat”.

One of his co-performers who joined him in the kitchen was Tiny Tim. Fred said that he could accompany him on harmonica but he was never given a solo spot. He soon left and hung around The Folklore Centre where he finally met up with one of his heros…Dave Van Ronk.

Bob asked Van Ronk how he could start playing at the gaslight? Van Ronk surlily asked him whether he was a Janitor and then asked him to play something for him. Bob Dylan gave a rendition of Nobody Loves You When You are Down and Out and he got the gig.

Episode Three: AT RAY AND CHLOE’S

Still in the early 60s with Bob Dylan in New York sleeping wherever he could find a sofa. Mainly however he stayed at Ray and Chloe’s place.

During a day on his own in the flat in Vestry Place Greenwich Village we discover his influences as he wanders through the ‘library’ full of books, as he switches on the radio and hears the great Roy Orbison but compared to him the rest of the playlist is “dullsville”, and as he switches on and then off the black and white TV as Wagon Train appears to “be coming from a different country”.

We hear about his visit to a party at Camilla Adams’ place where he meets Cisco Houston, a great friend of Woody Guthrie’s and singer who had sung on many Guthrie recordings. He had a terminal illness and died a few weeks later.

At the party he also met another major influence, Mike Seeger, who was a member of The New Lost City Ramblers. Dylan had seen him play on his own and with the band and was very impressed indeed.

Episode Four: INFLUENCES

Bob Dylan hasn’t yet started writing his own songs but all the time he is searching for musical influences. In episode 4 he is introduced to his two main influences a) Woody Guthrie (songs like: Ludlow Masscre, 1913 Masscre, Jesus Christ, Pretty Boy Floyd – featured in the prog – Hard Travelin’ and This Land is Your Land) and then Rambling Jack Elliott (San Francisco Bay Blues – featured in the prog – Ol Riley and Red Bag Blues and so influenced was he that he started to sound first like Guthrie and then like Elliott.

His love of Guthrie’s music extended to his visiting Guthrie in a hospital where he had mental health problems… and while there he used to play Guthrie’s songs to him on the guitar.

On one occasion Guthrie told Dylan that he would use some songs he had written and to get them from his wife. Dylan went to his house but Guthrie’s wife was not at home and Arlo his son was only 12 and knew nothing about them so Dylan returned empty handed. Many years later these songs were recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco and given a completely new treatment.

Episode Five: 1961

It’s 1961 and Bob Dylan has moved from accompanying Fred Neil on harmonica at Greenwich Village’s Caf? Wha to earning 60 dollars a week playing a 20 minute set at the Village Gaslight also in the Village.

Other performers there were Paul Clayton, Len Chandler, Stookey, Hal Waters, Romney and his idol Dave van Ronk. The jukebox mainly played Jazz and occasionally he would play Judy Garland’s ‘The Man that Got Away’. Judy also came from Minnesota and the song was written by one of Dylan’s most respected song-writers, Harold Arlen.

In this episode 5 we hear how he came to change his name from Robert Allan Zimmerman to Bob Dylan. Dylan is not writing his own material at this time but he is coming to terms with the fact that he will have to do so soon. So he buries himself in the New York Public Library reading history books in order to get some ideas.

Thanks to the original poster

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May 9, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_LITERATURE, OTHER_SPOKEN WORD, Sean Penn, _BOB DYLAN, _OTHER | Leave a comment

William S. Burroughs – A Grey Lodge Occult Review Special

William S. Burroughs – A Grey Lodge Occult Review Special

“The purpose of my writing is to expose and arrest Nova Criminals: In Naked Lunch, Soft Machine and Nova Express I show who they are and what they are doing and what they will do if they are not arrested. Minutes to go. Souls rotten from their orgasm drugs, flesh shuddering from their nova ovens, prisoners of the earth to come out, With your help we can occupy The Reality Studio and retake their universe of Fear Death and Monopoly”

(Signed) Inspector J. LEE, Nova Police

A wonderful Burroughs resource here with loads of wonderful audio and video clips of the great man!

One of our real heroes, William Seward Burroughs II (February 5, 1914— August 2, 1997; ), more commonly known as William S. Burroughs was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer.

Much of Burroughs’ work is semi-autobiographical, drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict, a condition that marked the last fifty years of his life.

Willy was an avant-garde author who affected popular culture as well as literature.

In 1984, he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.…..sounds.htm

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May 3, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_LITERATURE, William S. Burroughs, _OTHER | Leave a comment

William S. Burroughs – Collection of Audio/Music Works

William S. Burroughs – A Collection of Audio/Music Works

There is simply no room left for ‘freedom from the tyranny of government’ since city dwellers depend on it for food, power, water, transportation, protection, and welfare. Your right to live where you want, with companions of your choosing, under laws to which you agree, died in the eighteenth century with Captain Mission. Only a miracle or a disaster could restore it.

Cities of the Red Night (1981)

Some wonderful Burroughs audio works and collaborations here, as posted by trainwreck!

William S. Burroughs – Call Me Burroughs


Gus Van Sant & William Burroughs – The Elvis Of Letters


William S. Burroughs – Break Through in Grey Room


William S. Burroughs – Vaudeville Voices


William S. Burroughs – Dead City Radio


William S. Burroughs – Spare Ass Annie & Other Tales

big thanks trainwreck!

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May 3, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_LITERATURE, OTHER_SPOKEN WORD, William S. Burroughs, _MUSIC, _OTHER | 1 Comment

Jack Kerouac ; "Drive, He Wrote – What the Beats were about",0.jpg
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

– On the Road

Interesting piece below from the New Yorker on Jack Kerouac, the great writer from Lowell, Massachusetts, and the group of writers who became termed as “Beats” by the lazy media.

Many of these “Beat” writers, had nothing much in common either stylistically or thematically. The great William Burroughs was always wrongly described as a Beat writer. Bukowski used to go into fits of rage when labelled a “Beat” writer!

In fact, most of the so-called “Beats” were hacks.

Kerouac, however, really brought something innovative to the world with the great “On the Road” and this work has undoubtedly been hugely influential, not only in literature, but across many art-forms. It was one of the fires that set the great Bob Dylan on his wonderful journey, for example.

For a time there, years back, having read “On the Road”, we became obsessed with Jackie boy, devouring every novel he wrote. We actually loved Maggie Cassidy best of all of his works.

Jack was a real tortured soul. He started his journey to adulthood as a football protogee with scholarship offers from Boston College, Notre Dame and Columbia University. He ended up dead at only 47, a physical and mental wreck.

Racked with Catholic guilt, full of self hate for his sexuality, inflicted with a fucked up Freudian mother fixation, addicted to alcohol, Jack unfortunately died all too young in October 1969.

Youtube – Jack Kerouac Explains On The Road

Drive, He Wrote – What the Beats were about

by Louis Menand

“The social organization which is most true of itself to the artist is the boy gang,” Allen Ginsberg once observed. It’s a sentiment that Frank Sinatra would have appreciated. The time of “Howl” and “On the Road” was also the time of “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” and the original “Ocean’s Eleven,” and although by many measures a taste for the product of North Beach is incompatible with a taste for the product of Las Vegas, the Beat Movement writers and the Rat Pack entertainers were shapers of a similar sensibility.

When “On the Road” came out, in September, 1957, it was praised in the New York Times as the novel of the Beat Generation, equivalent in stature and significance to “The Sun Also Rises,” the novel of the Lost Generation. The book was a best-seller, and it made Jack Kerouac, who had worked on it for ten years, a celebrity. It is sometimes said of Kerouac that fame killed him—that he was driven crazy by being continually addressed as the spokesman for a generation and by endless unwelcome requests to explain the meaning of the term “Beat.” Kerouac was certainly undone by something. After the success of “On the Road,” he continued to write at a manic pace, as he always had, but he became a suicidal alcoholic, and he died, of a hemorrhage caused by acute liver damage, in 1969, at the age of forty-seven. (He had by then written more than twenty-five books.) The notion of the Beat Generation was hardly thrust upon him, though.

“Beat” is old carny slang. According to Beat Movement legend (and it is a movement with a deep inventory of legend), Ginsberg and Kerouac picked it up from a character named Herbert Huncke, a gay street hustler and drug addict from Chicago who began hanging around Times Square in 1939 (and who introduced William Burroughs to heroin, an important cultural moment). The term has nothing to do with music; it names the condition of being beaten down, poor, exhausted, at the bottom of the world. (It’s used often in this sense in “On the Road.”)

In 1948, Kerouac is supposed to have remarked, in a conversation with the writer John Clellon Holmes, “You know, this is really a beat generation” (followed by a spooky “only the Shadow knows” laugh), and Holmes thought enough of the phrase to use it as the working title of a novel, eventually published as “Go,” and to write an article for the Times Magazine, in 1952, called “This Is the Beat Generation,” in which he credited Kerouac with the term. (The article was solicited by the man who, five years later, wrote the Times’ review of “On the Road,” Gilbert Millstein.)

Holmes wasn’t referring to a movement. He was referring to the Cold War generation, which, he said, had been disillusioned by the war, the bomb, and the “cold peace,” but was obsessed with the question of how life should be lived. Holmes thought that Beats were optimists, risk-takers, seekers—young people with “a desperate craving for belief.” The article popularized the concept, and Kerouac began using it himself. “Beat Generation” was one of his early titles for “On the Road.” (Another was “Shades of the Prison House.”) After the book came out, he wrote a play called “Beat Generation,” an article for Esquire on “The Philosophy of the Beat Generation,” and another for Playboy on “The Origins of the Beat Generation,” in which he added “beatific” to the meanings of “Beat.” In interviews up to the end of his life, he talked about his conception of the Beat Generation, and the literary movement associated with it, proudly, affectionately, and defensively. In his final appearance on television, a falling-down-drunk performance on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” he insisted that his idea of beatness had nothing to do with the hippies (whom he despised).

It’s true that the Beat writers were caricatured and abused. In the literary world, academic critics, whose aesthetic was all about form and restraint, ignored them, and the New York intellectuals, whose ethic was all about complexity and responsibility, attacked them. Irony was the highbrow virtue of the day, and the Beats had none. This response probably did matter a little to Ginsberg and Kerouac. They were Columbia boys. They had genuine literary aspirations, and they wanted to be taken seriously. On the other hand, they could hardly have lived in hope of the approval of people like Diana Trilling and Norman Podhoretz.

In the entertainment world, “Beat” was transmuted into “beatnik,” a word invented, in 1958, by the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. The term derives from Sputnik, which was launched into space a month after the publication of “On the Road.” (Why is a beatnik like Sputnik? They are both far-out.) The type was made immortal by the character Maynard G. Krebs on the television series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”—a goateed, bongo-playing slacker who calls people “daddy-o.” But lampooning is merely the price of mass attention.

Satire and polemic are, on some level, defensive. It’s possible that something about the Beats simply made people uncomfortable. For the nineteen-fifties images of the Beat—Partisan Review’s bohemian nihilist and Hollywood’s hip hedonist—are almost complete inversions of the character types represented in “On the Road.” The book is not about hipsters looking for kicks, or about subversives and nonconformists, rebels without a cause who point the way for the radicals of the nineteen-sixties. And the book is not an anti-intellectual celebration of spontaneity or an artifact of literary primitivism. It’s a sad and somewhat self-consciously lyrical story about loneliness, insecurity, and failure. It’s also a story about guys who want to be with other guys.

The Beat Movement had a male muse. This was, of course, Neal Cassady, the protagonist of both “On the Road,” where he is Dean Moriarty, and “Howl,” where he is “N. C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver.” Cassady also figures in several of Kerouac’s other books—five of Kerouac’s road novels are being published this fall by the Library of America ($35) in a volume edited by Douglas Brinkley—and his iconic presence went beyond the Beats. He became a friend of Ken Kesey, and he was the driver on the Merry Pranksters’ famous bus trip, the subject of Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” The Grateful Dead wrote a song about him. He is the Lou Andreas-Salomé, the Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, of postwar American culture.

Cassady was an uncanny cross between James Dean and W. C. Fields—a screwup with a profile, a stud with an endless supply of goofy gab. There is sufficient testimony concerning his sexual endowment to overcome the skepticism normally advisable on that topic. Some people who knew and liked him called him a con man (and many people, including Burroughs, disliked and avoided him), but this seems misleading. Cassady was a serial seducer, and, therefore, inveterately untrustworthy. He grew up on the Denver streets—his father was a wino—and he learned to cope by relying on his enormous energy, adaptive wit, and good looks. He charmed people in order to get what he needed, and he was generally in need of something. On the other hand, the people he charmed generally needed something from him—sex or companionship or good times. And Cassady had no material ambitions. He was content to get by, and although he had three wives in rapid succession, and juggled his attentions between them and assorted casual girlfriends, he was intermittently serious about all of them. Everything about Cassady was intermittent. He had a kind of sociosexual A.D.D.

Kerouac and Ginsberg met Cassady in New York City in 1946, around Christmastime. They were introduced by Hal Chase, a Columbia anthropology major from Denver. (Chase appears as Chad King in “On the Road.”) Cassady was twenty. It was his first trip to New York, and he was accompanied by his sixteen-year-old wife, LuAnne (Marylou in “On the Road”). Cassady claimed to have stolen five hundred cars when he was a teen-ager, all for joyrides, and he had spent some time in reform school, where he developed an enthusiasm for books. He came to New York because he dreamed of attending Columbia (this didn’t happen) and being a writer (this only sort of happened), and he befriended Kerouac and became Ginsberg’s lover because he thought that they could help him. Kerouac befriended Cassady because he wanted to write a novel of the road, and he thought that Cassady could be the basis for a good character.

Fundamentally, “On the Road” is autobiographical. It’s a report—with pseudonyms (for legal reasons) and elisions (mostly for length reasons)—of four long-distance trips that Kerouac made between 1947, when he bused and hitchhiked by himself from New York to Denver, and 1950, when he drove with Cassady and another friend from Denver to Mexico City. (Kerouac’s real-life travels are the subject of “Jack Kerouac’s American Journey,” by Paul Maher, Jr.; Thunder’s Mouth; $15.99.) Kerouac is quite explicit about it: the trips in “On the Road” were made for the purpose of writing “On the Road.” The motive was not tourism or escape; it was literature.

In fact, Kerouac began the book before his first trip with Cassady, which they took in the winter of 1948-49. He kept detailed journals, and he struggled for a long time to find the proper form for a narrative. He started by inventing fictional characters with backstories, and it was three years before he finally dropped the idea of a conventional novel and simply wrote down what had happened. This was the celebrated scroll, a continuous length of paper, a hundred and twenty feet long, on which Kerouac typed the first complete draft of the book in three weeks in April, 1951, with the assistance of his second wife, Joan Haverty, and a lot of coffee. (Not, as legend has it, Benzedrine—which is not to say that Kerouac was a stranger to amphetamines.) He immediately retyped the book on regular paper, and then spent six years revising it. Howard Cunnell’s useful edition, “On the Road: The Original Scroll” (Viking; $29.95), makes it clear that, despite his later talk about the spontaneous method of composition, Kerouac did not create the published book in a single burst of inspiration. It was the deliberate and arduous labor of years.

The literature of the road is immense. (One work not often mentioned as a possible influence on Kerouac is Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, “Bound for Glory,” which was published in 1943. It’s more Okie than jivey, but it aspires to the same beatness and the same lyricism of place.) “On the Road” is as self-consciously a work of literature as “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu”—and Proust was a writer whom both Kerouac and Cassady emulated, someone who turned his life into literature. Kerouac read widely and intelligently: he knew what he was doing when he put the scroll into the typewriter, and, just as important, he knew what he was not doing, what kind of book he was not writing—just as (to take a common and apt contemporary comparison) Jackson Pollock knew that he was not making an easel painting, with all the aesthetic assumptions that that implied, when he put a canvas on the floor and poured paint on it.

Kerouac credited the inspiration for the scroll to Cassady—specifically, to a long letter, supposedly around thirteen thousand words, that Cassady wrote over several days (he was on speed) in December, 1950. This is known as the “Joan letter,” because its ostensible subject is a girlfriend of Cassady’s named Joan Anderson. But the letter, or the portion of it that survives (the original is lost, a holy Beat relic), is actually a hyper, funny, uninhibited account of Cassady’s sexual misadventures with a different girlfriend. It has no stylistic pretensions; it’s just a this-happened-and-then-that-happened piece of personal correspondence. Kerouac was knocked out by it. “I thought it ranked among the best things ever written in America,” he wrote to Cassady. It had the vernacular directness and narrative propulsion he was looking for, and it gave him the impulse he needed to tape his scroll together and get a complete draft on paper. He saw that this-happened-and-then-that-happened had literary possibilities, and the scroll was a way of forcing himself to stick to this vision. (A little later, Frank O’Hara made poems using the same theory. “I do this, I do that” is how he described them.) The scroll was therefore a restriction: it was a way of defining form, not a way of avoiding form. In religious terms (and Kerouac was always, deep down, a Catholic and a sufferer), it was a collar, a self-mortification. He did, after he finished the scroll, go back and make changes. But first he had to submit to his discipline.

Nostalgia is part of the appeal of “On the Road” today, but it was also part of its appeal in 1957. For it is not a book about the nineteen-fifties. It’s a book about the nineteen-forties. In 1947, when Kerouac began his travels, there were three million miles of intercity roads in the United States and thirty-eight million registered vehicles. When “On the Road” came out, there was roughly the same amount of highway, but there were thirty million more cars and trucks. And the construction of the federal highway system, which had been planned since 1944, was under way. The interstates changed the phenomenology of driving. Kerouac’s original plan, in 1947, was to hitchhike across the country on Route 6, which begins at the tip of Cape Cod. Today, although there is a sign in Provincetown that reads “Bishop, CA., 3205 miles,” few people would dream of taking that road even as far as Rhode Island. They would get on the inter-state. And they wouldn’t think of getting there fast, either. For although there are about a million more miles of road in the United States today than there were in 1947 (there are also two more states), two hundred million more vehicles are registered to drive on them. There is little romance left in long car rides.

In fact, the characters in “On the Road” spend as short a time on the road as they can. They’re not interested in exploring rural or small-town America. Speed is essential. The men rarely even have time to chase after the women they run into, because they’re always in a hurry to get to a city. A lot of the book takes place in cities, particularly New York, Denver, and San Francisco, but also Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Mexico City. Even there, the characters are always rushing around.

The bits and pieces of America that the book captures, therefore, are snapshots taken on the run, glimpses from the window of a speeding car. And they are carefully selected to represent a way of life that is coming to an end in the postwar boom, a way of life before televisions and washing machines and fast food, when millions of people lived patched-together existences and men wandered the country—“ramblin’ round,” in the Guthrie song—following the seasons in search of work. Robert Frank’s photographs in “The Americans,” taken between 1955 and 1956 and published in Paris in 1958 and in the United States a year later, with an introduction by Kerouac, held the same interest: they are pictures of a world not yet made plump and uniform by postwar affluence and consumerism.

The sadness that soaks through Kerouac’s story comes from the certainty that this world of hoboes and migrant workers and cowboys and crazy joyriders—the world of Neal Cassady and his derelict father—is dying. But the sadness is not sentimentality, because many of the people in the book who inhabit that world would be happy to see it go or else are too drunk or forlorn to care. They do not share the literary man’s nostalgie de la boue; they are restless, lonely, lost—beat. “There ain’t no flowers there,” says a girl whom Sal Paradise, the Kerouac figure, tries to pick up in Cheyenne by suggesting a walk on the prairie among the flowers. “I want to go to New York. I’m sick and tired of this. Ain’t no place to go to but Cheyenne and ain’t nothin in Cheyenne.” “Ain’t nothin in New York,” Sal says. “Hell there ain’t,” she says. She wants to get in the car, too.

And the car is the place to be. Why? The obvious answer is that nothing happens in the car. Everyone has an irresistible urge to get to Denver or San Francisco or New York, because there will be work or friends or women there, but, after they arrive, hopes start to unravel, and it’s back in the car again. The characters can’t settle down except when they are nowhere in particular, between one destination and the next. But they want to settle down somewhere in particular. They are not sociopaths or radicals—as John Leland argues in “Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of ‘On the Road’ ” (Viking; $23.95). Their crimes against the establishment consist of speeding, shoplifting, and a minor bout of car stealing (all right, a little illegal drug use, too). They fear and dislike cops, as most people without much money do; other than that, they are not especially antisocial.

They are not hipsters, either, cats too cool for life in suits. There is nothing cool about Dean or Carlo Marx (the Ginsberg character, Karl converted into a Marx Brother). The characters marry and get legally divorced; they take jobs and quit them; they talk about Dostoyevsky and Hemingway and write novels and poems and hope for recognition. The narrator lives with his aunt, who sends him money when he needs a bus ticket home. Otherwise, he draws on his G.I. benefits. A middle-class life with a house and a wife and kids is what Sal wants, and what Dean would want, too, if he could stop getting in his own way. As Kerouac later insisted, it’s a mistake to read this as an anticipation of the counterculture.

The car is also a male space. The women who end up being driven in (never driving) the car are either shared by the guys (Marylou, for example, whom Dean hands off to Sal, as Cassady handed off LuAnne to Kerouac) or abandoned (as happens to the character Galatea Dunkel, and as happened to her real-life counterpart, Helen Hinkle). But the car is not an erotic space. Driving is a way for men to be together without the need to answer questions about why they want to be together. (Drinking is another way for men to be together, and there is a lot of drinking in “On the Road.” There is a lot of drinking, period.) In this sense, “On the Road” is a little like another sensational road novel of the time: Humbert and Lolita drive obsessively back and forth across the continent because that is the only public way for them to be together. As long as they’re driving, they’re not doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.

But maybe we should not understand the sexual themes in “On the Road” too quickly. Maybe the best thing to say about those themes is that they are murky and underrealized, not entirely within the author’s control. Sal has a crush on Dean, in the way that attractive but insecure men can form attachments to gregarious and self-confident men. Sal gets close to women vicariously by being closer to Dean than Dean’s women are (until he, too, gets dumped, in Mexico City). This is perfectly consistent with the “Ocean’s Eleven” genre of buddy stories: there is always a dame, but the real bond is between Brad and George. They have something with each other that neither could have, or would care to have, with a woman.

How much farther do we want to go, though? Kerouac was certainly infatuated with Cassady. Partly this was a genuine fascination shared by many; partly it was his belief that in Cassady he had found a perfect foil, in literature and in life, for his own moody and self-absorbed response to experience. Was he in a state of unavowed love? The sexual world of the Beats is, to say the least, confused. There is, right near the top among Beat legends, the strange story of Kerouac and Ginsberg’s Columbia friend Lucien Carr, who, in 1944, killed his gay stalker (and former scoutmaster), David Kammerer, in Riverside Park and got Kerouac to help conceal the evidence. Kerouac was arrested as a material witness, and he married his first wife, Edie Parker, in part so her family would put up bail money. (The marriage was annulled after two years.) Kerouac had a tendency to get involved with his male friends’ former girlfriends; his longest and closest relationship was with his mother. He was living with her, in Florida, when he died. (She is the aunt in “On the Road”—a more respectable relative for a grown man to be dependent on.) Burroughs was homosexual, but lived with and had children with his common-law wife, Jane Vollmer, whom he loved and whom he shot dead in a drunken game of William Tell, in Mexico City, in 1951. Ginsberg was attracted to straight men: his frustration with Cassady was repeated throughout his life. Peter Orlovsky, his longtime partner, was basically straight. And Cassady was a priapic pinball machine whose sexual bouncing around was plainly from desperation. No one would want to be like that. The Beats were not rebels; they were misfits.

“On the Road” does not cross over into this territory. In the scroll version, the sexual relation between Carlo and Dean is explicit, but that material was eliminated. The sexuality of the book that we have is straight, and mostly male. The book is not really about sexuality; it has a slightly different subject, which is masculinity. There is no good cultural model, in the period in which the story is set, for the kind of men the characters are—as there was no model for Kerouac and Ginsberg themselves. This was the reason that Kerouac became so embittered by the caricatures of the Beats: they played off stock conceptions of masculine types—the hip anarchist, the leotard-chasing, jazz-fiend tea-head, the swaggering barfly, the hot-rodder, the cruising delinquent. Kerouac was none of these things. He was shy with women; he was devoted to his mother and his friends; he was a workaholic (as well as an alcoholic); and he didn’t like to drive. His drinking was self-medication; it was not for fun. He was not a macho anti-aesthete. He was the opposite, a poet and a failed mystic. He was what in the nineteen-fifties was referred to as a “sensitivo.” This was the demon that he wrestled with. And this is the point at which the thematic preoccupations of “On the Road” meet the style of “On the Road”—the lyrical, gushing, excessive prose.

“Beautiful” is a word that some women used to describe Kerouac. Before he became bloated by drink, he was rugged, too—he had been recruited to play football at Columbia—and he had a husky baritone. He spoke with a Boston accent (he was from Lowell), and he was excruciatingly self-conscious. That was one of the sources of his perpetual discomfort, but when he was sober it added to his appeal: he was virile and he was shy. In 1959, he appeared on television, on “The Steve Allen Show.” Steverino was a jazz buff who used to noodle around on a piano while he interviewed his guests (an unbelievably annoying routine). He liked Kerouac, and Kerouac seemed less than usually guarded with him. After they chatted, a little awkwardly, two men in jackets, Kerouac read the last paragraph of “On the Road,” while Allen contributed background riffs on the piano:

In Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.

It is sensitive and it is earnest, a performance of one of the most difficult emotions to express, male vulnerability. It’s not too hard to imagine Sinatra intoning this passage, snapping his fingers quietly to the musical accompaniment. There is something risky and exposed about Kerouac’s reading, as there is about Kerouac’s prose. The Beats were men who wrote about their feelings.

Years ago, I taught in a Ph.D. program at the City University. One semester, Allen Ginsberg, who was affiliated with one of the CUNY colleges, offered a graduate seminar. He was nearly seventy, small, neatly dressed in jacket and tie and gray flannel pants, totally adorable. He once sweetly sidled up to me and said, “I heard that you are teaching Gertrude Stein.” Then, in a lower voice, “I have some tapes of Gertrude Stein reading”—as one might say, “I have some photos of Greta Garbo in the nude.” I said to the graduate students that I thought it must be amazing to take a seminar with Ginsberg, to be around someone who had been around so much. “Nah,” they said. “He just keeps saying that Kerouac is the most important American writer.” Possibly, they didn’t think that knowing a great deal about Kerouac was going to give them much of a professional edge.

Possibly, they were right. “Lolita” is in the canon; “On the Road” is somewhat sub-canonical—also a tour de force, like Nabokov’s book, but considered more a literary phenomenon than a work of literature. On the other hand, it has had an equivalent influence. Nabokov showed writers how to squeeze a morality tale inside a Fabergé egg; Kerouac showed how to stretch a canvas across an entire continent. He made America a subject for literary fiction; he de-Europeanized the novel for American writers. Kerouac’s influence is all over Thomas Pynchon’s books: the protagonist in Pynchon’s first novel, “V.,” clearly alludes to Sal Paradise—his name is Benny Profane. Don DeLillo’s first novel, “Americana,” is Kerouac in spirit if not in style. John Updike scarcely qualifies as a Kerouac disciple, but Rabbit’s frightened flight by car in the beginning of “Rabbit, Run” is a kind of friendly, parodic allusion to the men of “On the Road.” And, as Howard Cunnell cleverly suggests in his edition of the scroll, “On the Road” might be called the first nonfiction novel: Kerouac’s book came out eight years before Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” It is certainly one of the literary sources of the New Journalism of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, the outburst of magazine pieces, by writers like Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson, that took America and its weirdness as its great subject.

Books like “On the Road” have a different kind of influence as well. They can, whether we think of them as great literature or not, get into the blood. They give content to experience. Many years after my encounters with Ginsberg around the department water fountain, I took a job in Boston, two hundred miles from New York, and I ended up commuting there by car. I drove at night, so that the trip would not eat up the workday, and I often stopped for gas at a service area on the Mass Pike about fifty miles from Boston. It’s fairly high above sea level there, in the lower ranges of the Berkshires, and I would stand at the pump in the dark looking at the stars in the cold clear sky as the semis roared past and with the wind in my hair, and I liked to imagine that I was a character in Kerouac’s novel, lost to everyone I knew and to everyone who knew me, somewhere in America, on the road. Then I would get in the car, and, bent over the wheel, while the trucks beat on past me, and the radio crackled, the sound going in and out, with oldies from the seventies, I began the long drop down to the lights of Boston, late in the night, late in my life, alone.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, OTHER_ARTICLE, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | 1 Comment

Brendan Behan and the myspace Ouija Board

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Who can believe that Brendan Behan has 1,934 friends on myspace!

Man, a lot of people must love ghosts!

Else, these are people Behan still owes money to!

Nowadays, the ouija board business is fucked. Every psychic type nutcase uses myspace instead!

There must be a bar with wifi access in whatever realm Behan now resides!

Anyway, not meaning to be too morbid, here’s Brendan Behan’s rather interesting gravestone in Glasnevin, North Dublin, snapped by Ro.

I paid a pilgrimage there once years ago – well I was en-route to the famous Kavanagh’s pub just adjoining the cemetery, where the best pint of Guinness in Dublin can be had!

Even in death, Brendan still stands out!

If you don’t know who the fuck Behan was, here’s a ridiculously high-level snapshot;

Brendan Francis Behan (Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin) (February 9, 1923 – March 20, 1964) was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was also a committed Irish Republican and an erstwhile member of the Irish Republican Army. Behan was one of the most successful Irish dramatists of the 20th century.

More here on Wiki: Brendan_Behan

Thanks to Ro

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Brendan Behan, OTHER_LITERATURE, _EDITORIAL, _OTHER, _PHOTOGRAPHY | Leave a comment

Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (1985)

Vintage | 352 pages | ISBN: 0679728759 | Edition – 1992 | PDF | 1.5 MB

Already you could see through the dust on the ponies’ hides the painted chevrons and the hands and rising suns and birds and fish of every device like the shade of old work through sizing on a canvas and now too you could hear above the pounding of the unshod hooves the piping of the quena, flutes made from human bones, and some among the company had begun to saw back on their mounts and some to mill in confusion when up from the offside of those ponies there rose a fabled horde of mounted lancers and archers bearing shields bedight with bits of broken mirrorglass that cast a thousand unpieced suns against the eyes of their enemies.

One of our great heroes here at The Last Bastion, novelist supreme, Mr. Cormac McCarthy, with his finest oeuvre, the magnificently dark and darkly magnificent “Blood Meridian”.

The bad news (probably!) is that a movie of this great book is in the works, slated for a 2009 release, with Ridley Scott at the helm!

Man, we fucking hated what those Coen creeps did to McCarthy’s 2005 novel “No Country for Old Men” – not Cormac’s finest work, but still better than 99% of the garbage out there (shit that critics drool about such as the atrocious Nick Hornby et al).

The one-trick pony Coenys turned the novel into “Texmex Terminator”!

Furthermore, to add insult to injury, these Coen freaks had the temerity to not even thank Cormac when they accepted their ill-gotten Academy Awards.

Now, don’t get me started on what a masterpiece of cinema Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There will be Blood” is, and the insanity of “There will be Blood” not having swept all awards before it that night (aside from female acting awards, of course, as there is no significant female character – no bad thing, in my view)! I’ve already written in depth about that great work before! And here she be; there-will-be-magnificence

Meanwhile, back on topic!

Glanton’s eyes in their dark sockets were burning centroids of murder and he and his haggard riders stared balefully at the kid as if he were no part of them for all they were so like in wretchedness of circumstance.

One of the finest prose stylists working in the English language today, (or arguably at any time) McCarthy brings all his skill to bear on this dark, bloody tale set in the final days of the Indian wars.

The tale concerns itself with a teenage runaway known as “the kid” and his experiences with the Glanton gang, a historical group of scalp hunters who massacred Indians and others in the US/Mexico border area during 1849 and 1850.

The principal antagonist is the shocking and vividly portrayed ‘Judge Holden’, a physical manifestation of pure malevolence. This character is a physically enormous, strange, base, perverted, intelligent man, utterly devoid of human empathy, utterly devoted to violence and conflict, who seems to exist outside natural laws, morality and even time itself.

The novel famously has a most ambiguous ending which has caused much debate.

It is a novel alive with the unbearable, unending violence that infested the daily life of people the ilk of the protagonists, in hotbeds of conflict like the United States–Mexico borderlands, in the middle of a century of great turmoil, imperialism, greed, injustice, suffering and pain.

Blood Meridian is generally historically accurate in its depiction of this fucked up time and place and includes numerous references to actual contemporary occurrences. Much of the novel is actually based on real Glanton gang member Samuel Chamberlain’s book My Confession.

In the neuter austerity of that terrain all phenomena were bequeathed a strange equality and no one thing nor spider nor stone nor blade of grass could put forth claim to precedence.

I still remember the joy I had reading – and once finished, immediately rereading! – this meisterwerk many, many years ago, over a few nights, well into the wee small hours, with copious amounts of Jameson whisky at hand to keep company!!

This is a pure masterpiece of vivid, real, extended poetry which dares to delve inside the rotten soul of America, the dark soul of man.

One of the greatest – if not the greatest – novel of recent times!

He poured the tumbler full. Drink up, he said. The world goes on. We have dancing nightly and this night is no exception.

In the entire range of American literature, only Moby-Dick bears comparison to Blood Meridian. Both are epic in scope, cosmically resonant, obsessed with open space and with language, exploring vast uncharted distances with a fanatically patient minuteness. Both manifest a sublime visionary power that is matched only by still more ferocious irony. Both savagely explode the American dream of manifest destiny, of racial domination and endless imperial expansion. But if anything, McCarthy writes with a yet more terrible clarity than does Melville.

—Steven Shaviro, “A Reading of Blood Meridian”

This is a perverse, picaresque Western about bounty hunters for Indian scalps near the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s – a ragged caravan of indiscriminate killers led by an unforgettable human monster called “The Judge.”

Imagine the imagery of Sam Peckinpah and Heironymus Bosch as written by William Faulkner, and you’ll have just an inkling of this novel’s power. From the opening scenes about a 14-year-old Tennessee boy who joins the band of hunters to the extraordinary, mythic ending, this is an American classic about extreme violence.

Here she be;

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Cormac McCarthy, OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Li Po – Classic Poetry Series (63 Poems)

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Li Po (A.D. 701-762) – Classic Poetry Series (63 Poems)

Knowing the world
fears what is too pure,
The wisest man
prizes and stores light

Li Bai or Li Po (701-762) was a great connoisseur of alcohol and a great poet, part of the group of Chinese scholars called the “Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup” by fellow poet Du Fu.

Li Bai is often regarded, along with Du Fu, as one of the two greatest poets in China’s literary history.

Read more about the great man on Last Bastion here; Li Po

Drinking Alone

I take my wine jug out among the flowers

to drink alone, without friends.

I raise my cup to entice the moon.

That, and my shadow, makes us three.

But the moon doesn’t drink,

and my shadow silently follows.

I will travel with moon and shadow,

happy to the end of spring.

When I sing, the moon dances.

When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

We share life’s joys when sober.

Drunk, each goes a separate way.

Constant friends, although we wander,

we’ll meet again in the Milky Way.

Here be Po;


Thanks to the original poster

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April 20, 2008 Posted by | China, Li Po, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER, _POETRY | Leave a comment

The poet Li Po, A.D. 701-762 (1919)

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The poet Li Po, A.D. 701-762 (1919)

Waley, Arthur
China Society (London, England)
London, East and West, ltd.

Li Bai or Li Po (701-762) was a great connoisseur of alcohol and a great poet, part of the group of Chinese scholars called the “Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup” by fellow poet Du Fu.

Li Bai is often regarded, along with Du Fu, as one of the two greatest poets in China’s literary history.

Approximately 1,100 of his poems remain today. The first translations in a Western language were published in 1862 by Marquis d’Hervey de Saint-Denys in his Poésies de l’Époque des Thang.

The English-speaking world was introduced to Li Bai’s works by a Herbert Allen Giles publication History of Chinese Literature (1901) and through the liberal, but poetically influential, translations of Japanese versions of his poems made by Ezra Pound.

A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;

I drink alone, for no friend is near.

Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,

For her, with my shadow, will make three men.

The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;

Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.

Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave

I must make merry before the Spring is spent.

To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;

In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.

While we were sober, three shared the fun;

Now we are drunk, each goes his way.

May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,

And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.

Li Bai is best known for the extravagant imagination and striking Taoist imagery in his poetry, as well as for his great love for liquor. Just like me. Well not the Taoist bit, the alcohol bit!

Li Bai spent much of his life travelling, although in his case it was because his wealth allowed him to, rather than because his poverty forced him.

He is said to have had a poetic death drowning in the Yangtze River, having fallen from his boat while drunkenly trying to embrace the reflection of the moon.

Here be Po;

(5.5 MB) PDF
(2.4 MB) B/W PDF
(53 KB) TXT

Thanks to the original poster

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April 20, 2008 Posted by | China, Li Po, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER, _POETRY | Leave a comment

Apollonius Rhodius – "The Argonautica" (aka The Voyage of Argo)

 The Argonautica

Apollonius Rhodius “The Argonautica” (aka The Voyage of Argo)

PDF | ISBN not applicable | 3rd Century BC | 157 pages | English | 1.83MB

A magnificent and timeless classic!

The Argonautica is a famous Greek epic poem written by Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC.

The only surviving Hellenistic epic, the Argonautica tells the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the mythical land of Colchis.

Apollonius was a Greek grammarian and epic poet of Alexandria in Egypt and lived late in the 3rd century and early in the 2nd century BC.

While still young he composed his extant epic poem of four books on the story of the Argonauts. When this work failed to win acceptance he went to Rhodes where he not only did well as a rhetorician but also made a success of his epic in a revised form, for which the Rhodians gave him the ‘freedom’ of their city; hence his surname.

On returning to Alexandria he recited his poem again, to applause. In 196 Ptolemy Epiphanes made him the librarian of the Museum (the university) at Alexandria.


Password : 97dAR2g

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April 19, 2008 Posted by | Apollonius Rhodius, OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Mandakranta Bose – The Ramayana Revisited

Mandakranta Bose, The Ramayana Revisited

Oxford University Press | ISBN:0195168321 | 2004 | PDF | 2 MB | 398 pages

The Ramayana is a wonderful sprawling epic. A true classic of literature. Pure art.

You can find it in the library at dublindog Mansions. It’s filed next to “Making Love with Lovelies: The Lazy Way” (a very informative how-to book I knocked out a decade ago).

I must admit though that The Ramayana is much better than “Making Love with Lovelies: The Lazy Way”.

Yap …. The Ramayana, one of India’s foundational epics, still demonstrates a continuing power to influence social, religious, cultural, and political life in India and further afield.

Brought to textual life in Sanskrit by the legendary “first poet,” Valmiki, over the ensuing centuries the tale has been recycled with extraordinary adaptability and diversity through the varied cultural heritages of India and other parts of Asia.

The basic tale of the Ramayana is continually adapted to new contexts, forms, and media. It is read, recited, sung, danced, and acted in one form or another, and renewed so constantly by changing times and values that it demands constant revaluation.

The Ramayana Revisited presents the latest in Ramayana scholarship.

Fourteen leading scholars examine the epic in its myriad contexts throughout South and Southeast Asia. They explore the role the narrative plays in societies as varied as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia.

The essays also expand the understanding of the “text” to include non-verbal renditions of the epic, with particular attention to the complex ways such retellings change the way the narrative deals with gender. This volume will be invaluable to students and scholars interested in mythology, Hinduism, Asian studies, and anthropology.



April 4, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Czesław Miłosz ‘Selected poems’


Czesław Miłosz ‘Selected poems’ / ‘Poezje wybrane’
Bilingual edition: English/Polish
Wydawnictwo Literackie | ISBN 8308025935 | 1996 | 461 pages | PDF | 0.84 MB

Fine works from the fine Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz.

This is the most complete presentation available of the work of the 1980 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

milosz_selected.rar – 0.84MB

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April 4, 2008 Posted by | Czesław Miłosz, OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Homer" The Iliad "

 The Iliad

Homer” The Iliad “

PDF | ISBN 1406953342 |Year 750BC | 495 pages | English | 1.30 MB

A seminal work in the history of literature.

Nothing to do with the Simpsons!

Together with the Odyssey, one of two ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, supposedly a blind Ionian poet, or collection of nameless poets. Most modern scholars consider the epics to be the oldest literature in the Greek language.

Typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but to say the Iliad is a war story does not begin to describe the emotional sweep of its action and characters: Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy.

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April 4, 2008 Posted by | Homer, OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – Updated Edition

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – Updated Edition

Cambridge University Press | ISBN:0521532523 | 2003 | PDF | 6 MB | 272 pages

A fine exploration of the greatest work of the great Willy the Shake, the sublime “Hamlet”.

What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a God! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!

– Hamlet Act II, Sc. II

An incredibly well written, dark and complex work, this play has never been bettered. Nor will it.

This is the best thing I was ever forced to study in school! This and advanced trigonometry, of course!

Hamlet is believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601.

The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father, the King, and then taken the throne and married Hamlet’s mother. The play vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness—from overwhelming grief to seething rage—and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses

– Hamlet Act I, Sc. II

Philip Edwards deals succinctly with the exhaustive commentary and controversy which Hamlet has provoked in the manifestation of its tragic energy.

Robert Hapgood has contributed a new section on prevailing critical and performance approaches to the play in this updated edition. He discusses recent film and stage performances and actors of the Hamlet role as well as directors of the play.

His account of new scholarship stresses the role of memory in the play and the impact of feminist and performance studies upon it.



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April 4, 2008 Posted by | OTHER_BOOK, OTHER_LITERATURE, William Shakespeare, _OTHER | Leave a comment

Friedrich Nietzsche – "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

 Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
PDF | ISBN not applicable | 1891 | 410 pages | English | 1.4 MB

Official … God is dead. Superman lives!

So sayeth Freddy N., prototype nazi in certain elements perhaps, but a harbinger of some interesting philosophies.
I used to read Freddy N. quite a bit back in the day. But then I discovered Jack Daniels!

So what’s this one ?

Well, this one’s a 19th-century literary masterpiece, which has proved to be tremendously influential not only in the realm of philosophy but also in the various fields of art.

The book employs the conceit of using Persian religious leader Zarathustra to voice the author’s views. These views include the introduction of the controversial doctrine of the Übermensch, or “superman,” a term later perverted by Nazi propagandists.

A passionate, quasi-biblical style is used by Freddy to inspire readers.

There’s no mention of Kryptonite though!


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April 3, 2008 Posted by | Friedrich Nietzsche, OTHER_LITERATURE, _OTHER | Leave a comment