He K-norcked Her One

August Kleinzahler

  • And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs
    Penguin, 214 pp, £20.00, November 2008, ISBN 978 1 84614 164 5

In Vanity of Duluoz, a cross between a novel and a memoir published in 1968, a year before his death, Jack Kerouac 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 America’. The group included Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr and David Kammerer. In August 1944, Carr stabbed and killed Kammerer. Near the end of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a lightly fictionalised and surprisingly engaging account of the murder and of the months leading up to it, written in 1945 by Kerouac and Burroughs in alternate chapters, Kerouac says: ‘I began to think about how I used to imagine what it would be like to kill someone and how I used to write thousands of words to create that pattern of emotions. Now here stood [Carr] beside me, and he had actually done it.’

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