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Andrew O’Hagan

5 October 1995
Jack KerouacSelected Letters 1940-56 
edited by Ann Charters.
Viking, 629 pp., £25, August 1995, 0 670 84952 9
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... the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; the pilot show of Roseanne. Each viewer wore headphones; all you could hear was the giggles and gasps. On my little TV, where the picture was jumpy at first, was JackKerouac. He was sitting up at a white piano, and Steve Allen tinkled away at the keys. Kerouac is very clean, very neat, but he looks nervous. Allen is smug. He’s a polyester-clad uncle sitting at ...

He K-norcked Her One

August Kleinzahler: Burroughs and Kerouac’s Novel

28 May 2009
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks 
by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
Penguin, 214 pp., £20, November 2008, 978 1 84614 164 5
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... In Vanity of Duluoz, a cross between a novel and a memoir published in 1968, a year before his death, JackKerouac wrote about the circle of friends he had met in the spring of 1944, on his return from a stint in the Merchant Marine, describing them as ‘the most evil and intelligent buncha bastards and shits in ...

Boy Gang

Peter Prince

19 January 1984
Minor Characters 
by Joyce Johnson.
Collins, 262 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 272511 8
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Neurotica: The Authentic Voice of the Beat Generation 1948-1951 
edited by Jay Landesman and G. Legman.
Jay Landesman, 535 pp., £19.95, July 1981, 0 905150 26 0
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Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack​ Kerouac 
by Gerald Nicosia.
Grove, 767 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 394 52270 2
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... Joyce Johnson was JackKerouac’s lover during a brief but crucial period in his career. She met him on a blind date fixed up by Allen Ginsberg in January 1957, nine months before the publication of his second novel. Outside a ...
23 April 1987
‘Howl’: Original Draft Facsimile 
by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Barry Miles.
Viking, 194 pp., £16.95, February 1987, 0 670 81599 3
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White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 89 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 670 81598 5
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... impact in Scratching the Beat Surface (1982): I hadn’t seen Allen in a few weeks and I had not heard Howl – it was new to me. Allen began in a small and intensely lucid voice. At some point JackKerouac began shouting ‘GO’ in cadence as Allen read it. In spite of all our memories no one had been so outspoken in poetry before – we had gone beyond a point of no return – and we were ...

At the Centre Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: Beat Generation

7 September 2016
... In​ the Beat constellation, Allen Ginsberg’s star now shines more brightly than the rest. True, JackKerouac and William Burroughs glowed on in the aftermath of On the Road (1957) and Naked Lunch (1959); Brion Gysin, inventor of the cut-up technique, is still visible on a clear night. But the beautiful ...

Oms and Hums

Julian Symons

22 March 1990
Ginsberg: A Biography 
by Barry Miles.
Viking, 588 pp., £20, January 1990, 0 670 82683 9
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... angry fix’ positively bounced with energy when put beside Donald Davie sitting wrapped in his overcoat beside the fire saying Heigh-ho on a winter afternoon. It was possible then to see Ginsberg, Kerouac and their friends as anarchists articulating and exemplifying a morality that flouted the values of liberal Western society and the rigidities of orthodox Communism in favour of a romantic code that ...
7 March 1991
by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... of his tether, in a city of the near future with a hallucinatory resemblance to London. The decisive influence on this grisly dystopia is surely the grand master of all dystopias, William Burroughs. JackKerouac, asked for a quote for the jacket of The Naked Lunch, said it was an endless novel that would drive everybody mad. High praise. Downriver is like that, too. It is mostly about the East End ...
25 April 2002
... a winter fly snores at a window-pane. Old existentialists, old beats, old punks sat here of old; some dedicated drunks still sing in the marketplace, and out the back there’s an old guy who knew JackKerouac. Spring in January now, of course: no doubt the daffs and daisies are already out and you lot, in the serene post-Christmas lull, biking the back roads between Hob and Schull. Here at the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man

10 May 2007
... of typists in America soared from 4 per cent to 95.6 per cent, the bulk of The Iron Whim concerns itself with the likes of Paul Auster, Bram Stoker, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, Mark Twain, JackKerouac, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard and Hunter S. Thompson: in other words, men. He says more than once that he’s less interested in typewriters as machines (once upon a time the ...

Mad to Be Saved

Thomas Powers: The Kerouac​ Years

25 October 2012
The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack​ Kerouac 
by Joyce Johnson.
Viking, 489 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 0 670 02510 7
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... JackKerouac’s short life, big talent and last dollar were all just about exhausted when the young writer Joyce Glassman bought him a dinner of hot dogs and beans on a Saturday night in New York City in January ...

Knights of the Road

Tom Clark: The Beat generation

6 July 2000
This is the Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris 
by James Campbell.
Vintage, 320 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 09 928269 0
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... his wife in the head in Mexico (champagne glass, shot glass, highball glass, wine glass, gin glass, water glass, tin can, apple, apricot, grape), and six possibilities for the kind of paper on which JackKerouac typed out the original hundred-foot scroll of On the Road (teletype paper, Japanese drawing paper, oilskin art paper, shelf-paper, canister-paper, tracing paper). He finds strands of Kerouac ...


Iain Sinclair: Ferlinghetti

17 December 2015
I Greet You at the Beginning of a Great Career: The Selected Correspondence of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, 1955–97 
edited by Bill Morgan.
City Lights, 284 pp., £11.83, July 2015, 978 0 87286 678 2
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Writing across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, edited by Giada Diano and Matthew Gleeson.
Liveright, 464 pp., £22.99, October 2015, 978 1 63149 001 9
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... in the cramped confines of the Six Gallery, an auto-repair shop at Union and Fillmore in San Francisco. Five poets performed. Kenneth Rexroth, the consigliore of radicalism, was master of ceremonies. JackKerouac, too self-conscious to read, acted as cheerleader: ‘Go! Go! Go!’ He passed out slopping gallon jugs of Californian Burgundy. There had been poetry readings in the Bay Area before this and ...

Lonely Metal Souls

Theo Tait: Haruki Murakami

18 October 2001
Sputnik Sweetheart 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill, 229 pp., £12, May 2001, 9781860468254
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... 17 years older than her. Sumire falls for her on the spot: ‘an intense love, a veritable tornado sweeping across the plains’. When they first meet, Sumire tells Miu about her obsession with JackKerouac. Miu says: ‘Kerouac . . . hmm . . . Wasn’t he a Sputnik?’ From then on, Sumire refers to Miu as her ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’.This is typical of the novel’s humour – gentle, possibly ...
24 November 1988
The Grass Arena 
by John Healy.
Faber, 194 pp., £9.95, October 1988, 0 571 15170 1
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... and, always, the drink. Attending him on the farm, as in the city, never further than the end of the bed, was his dark twin, ‘tension’: a shudder, a shoulder-twitch, a clinging sense of doom that JackKerouac called ‘The Shadow’. There was the expectation of disaster that made its arrival ever more certain. The shudder can only be muted in pints, the drinking life, oblivion: clubbing the wolf ...

Homo Narrator

Inga Clendinnen

16 March 2000
Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography 
by Susanna Egan.
North Carolina, 275 pp., £39.95, September 1999, 0 8078 4782 8
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... and autobiography drapes itself across the space between history and fiction, head and hands on one side, feet precariously hooked on the other. Remember Anaïs Nin and her ‘liary’. Remember JackKerouac, living dangerously so he could dash back to the quiet of his mother’s house, sit down at his boyhood desk, and write his rough living down. Nonetheless, until recently there has been an ...

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