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Thread: Jack Kerouac amd William Burroughs

  1. #1
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    Jan 2015

    Jack Kerouac amd William Burroughs

    Is neurosis a good thing? Being normal in a sick society has it's ups and downs for certain. Will the future see a different normal and worship that which was called sick? I have chosen to be abnormal from the position of one who is driven to succeed in 'other than' the paradigm values. I am compared with Alan Watts who was part of the culture in arts which includes Ginsberg, Joseph Campbell and Aldous Huxley. I might be more like Carl Jung but I really cannot say - because I am a reflection of the circumstances I am in as often as I am not. If that makes sense then you probably already like Jack Kerouac and his partner William Burroughs. "Para" means "beyond" and I might not be as beyond as these guys and those in the discordian genre including Robert Anton Wilson, Leary, Alpert, and Hakim Bey are - I know I am not as concerned about whether or not I am seen one way or another as I once was.

    "Although Ginsberg and Ansen concentrated on the organisation of the material — the most urgent task in hand — Kerouac’s involvement in typing up Burroughs’ mess of notes and turning them into a clean manuscript should not be underestimated. He brought something special to this collective effort by way of the same epic typing speed and stamina that had made his scroll Road possible. Famously, typing up Burroughs’ material gave Kerouac the horrors, but his physical labours at the typewriter in the Villa Muniria produced a manuscript that followed the co-authored Hippos (co-authored, but typed up solely by Kerouac) as a precursor to Burroughs’ future engagements with creative collaboration (the cut-up project, the third mind concept, etc.), firmly rooted in the most practical of matters: Burroughs needed the help of others to complete his work.

    Near the end of Desolation Angels, Kerouac has Burroughs explain the origins and purpose of this writing: “I’m shitting out my educated Middlewest background for once and all […] By the time I finish this book I’ll be pure as an angel, my dear.” (315). These terms — “shitting out” to become “pure as an angel” — are especially relevant to my interests here, but more narrowly the key point is the collaborative act between writers. It’s especially important and deeply poignant too, because this would turn out to be the last time Burroughs and Kerouac had any truly meaningful contact — their intimacy as friends and writers all but over little more than a decade after their co-writing of Hippos.

    Many years later, the manuscript Kerouac helped type out, under the title “Interzone,” ended up filed away in the Ginsberg papers at Columbia University. There it had been stored — unrecognized — until it resurfaced in 1984 when Barry Miles discovered it, coincidentally, just weeks before I myself came across it there, as a fresh-faced doctoral student in the Rare Books and Manuscript reading room of the Butler Library. I mention this because it brings us full circle, back to forty years earlier when Burroughs and Kerouac were posing for Ginsberg’s camera on the Columbia campus, and also because for me it was the beginning of my work as a Burroughs scholar, so that next year will be my twenty-fifth anniversary, a very strange kind of sliver wedding…

    And finally, as an epilogue, we fast-forward almost fifty years to 2006, which saw Kerouac and Burroughs now reunited one last time beyond the grave, housed in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library."

    Another person who sees more truth in atmosphere and the visceral experience which is more than existential is Beckett. Here is an insight written by John Calder.

    "Ohio Impromptu is unchanged from its Ohio premiere, but suffered a little from a smaller stage. The sculptural quality of a Beckett play always lends itself better to distance, width and surrounding blackness. It is the first Beckett play to present a Doppelganger on stage, another Beckett pair, but this time seen as mirror images; it belongs to Beckett’s ghost period, where phantoms that echo the haunting quality of memory and nostalgia in his work are seen or described on stage. Meaning is less important than atmosphere: Ohio Impromptu catches, in those tones of calm resignation that has characterised the Beckett of recent years, the sense of loss of a loved one, seen both from within and without, not only the memory of a face and a presence, but also a memory of that memory. The reader reads to his own image, is visited by that image, reads about that image that is his own memory of being visited. Some passages that have special poignancy for the listener are repeated on request. Seldom has the atmosphere of personal loss as it must be suffered by millions daily, been so perfectly captured in dramatic and literary terms. As with Company, the author again returns to a theme he has portrays many times, that loneliness and nostalgia are too personal, after a certain age, to be shared with any being other than oneself.

    Beckett writes in metaphor, but seldom as directly as in Catastrophe, the second play in this group. He accepted a commission from the Theatre Festival at Avignon to write a play for a special evening to draw attention to the plight of Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident playwright, who had then been in jail for some years. Without in anyway moving closer to naturalistic theatre, he has nevertheless caught in a way that must be clear to any audience the essence of Havel’s situation and of any victim in the hands of total authoritarian power. As always with Beckett’s most frightening situations, it contains much humour, and the audience laughs, before it draws in its breath as it begins to catch the point, much as it usually does in Happy Days.

    Catastrophe portrays a man in a studio or theatre being made-up and prepared for a “performance” in which he becomes a living statue portraying, from the director’s point of view, the quiescent, unprotesting victim, a symbol of the ideal citizen of a totalitarian regime; to us he portrays helpless misery, but in spite of his helplessness, defiance shines—there can be no better word for it—from his suffering eyes.

    Catastrophe is not only about a political situation and the place of the artist in it. The victim or “protagonist” is also representative of all actors, having to portray what writers write for them in the way directors tell them to do it (Beckett is not unaware of his own relationship with actors, particularly those who in the past have resisted his stage directions)."

    Many modernist authors are influenced by the Transcendentalists and the James Brothers. It is a mystical merry-go-round you do not have to understand to feel and sense in the same place nature abounds inside you. Gertrude Stein's "Charmed Circle" was a cauldron for all artistic media and she influenced the like of Fitzgerald and Picasso and everyone in between. You might not see her mentor William James in all of this, but he is there and in Jung too. It was no "Lost Generation" though it may well have been a 'fin de siecle'. You can hope for more of their influence on our collective future.

    The degree of manipulation you know about is directly related to the amount of what you think about. Thinking is not a skill you learn in school and presumably your parents were too busy to teach you even if they knew what was going on - which would make them very unusual. In fact what you think about - the thinking process itself is by-passed and less than the importance given to it in our educational environment, I say by design.

    There is no black and white boogeyman but both sides of every issue are managed and considered with resultant contingencies generated when necessary. The politicians are not all that capable of deciding what is needed and they listen to the bureaucrats who are supported and trained by think tanks or outgrowths of the Rhodes Round Tables and banker's monies.

    That does not mean it is wrong and I agree with Professor Quigley and other whistleblowers who say the institutions they expose do a lot of necessary things. Unfortunately the rage of stupidity by so-called 'truthers' and Tea party cretins is all 'in vogue' and being 'liked' through eubonics and social media. Shrub and Trump are the result.

    It may be better today, or it might not be. When Eckart heralded a new Messiah and Armand Hammer was teaching Al Gore about how to manage Russia, things got pretty bad. They were just as bad in Canada under the Family Compact in a century before that as The Gangs of New York created Tammany Hall. There is always room for a Thule Society or a Leni Riefenstahl as long as people have no Critical Thinking skills and allow those who do (Like Socrates) to be eliminated.
    Last edited by R_Baird; 03-30-2016 at 10:06 AM.

  2. #2
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    Jan 2015
    On the edge of naturalism as seen in Hemingway we have a strident opposition to Empire and war which echoes in my heart even more as I realize the stupidity of my youthful heroism.

    I can only imagine how different my life would have been if I had spent a decade growing up in India with all the gurus and sages.

    "Colonialism and Imperialism

    It's a useful comment, from Martin Green, that "One could read all the works of the Great Tradition, and never know that England had an empire" - the canonical English texts deal, he comments, with "women and marriage, personal relations, and alternatives to politics", but the financial source of the wealth which lubricates these personal and social relationships is left generally unspoken of. Forster's work faces that silence head on, raising issues of empire and race in ways which had not been attempted earlier. His principal, and contrasting antecedent as, of course, Kipling, and it is against Kipling's representation of the 'East' as a training ground for manliness, decency and character-building which Forster wishes to challenge. When the novel appeared, in 1924, many Anglo-Indians were outraged: the portrayal, Forster admitted, was exaggerated, but only slightly. Ronnie's views on his career are parallel to the sympathies of contemporary young Anglo-Indians for whom the 'East' was, in the words of Disraeli, "a career". India was also seen, from this Kiplingesque perspective, as a training ground, a frontier, a gymnasium within which qualities such as manliness and character were to be assessed. We find echoes of the influence of such views of India in George Orwell's portrayal of his experiences in the 'East', in Burmese Days or 'Shooting an Elephant'.

    Forster clearly ironises such views of the India as Career, as gymnasium or testing ground, but it is the nature of the debunking which is important. Forster, in common with a number of upper middle class intellectuals (such as Virginia Woolf) was an anti-Imperialist, but his criticism of imperialism is liberal, as opposed to Socialist or Marxist. For Forster, with his liberal emphasis on education and individualist psychology, approaches the critique of Anglo-Indian imperialism in terms of the predominance amongst the upper middle classes of the "Public School Attitude": the priggishness, snobbery, complacency, censoriousness, the lack of imagination and subtlety, the philistinism and narrow-mindedness which the novel sees in the Anglo-Indians is, for Forster, testimony of something deficient within the English national character.

    This emphasis on national psychology is a recurrent issue throughout Forster's work, coupled with his ironic, and often highly satirical, portraits of the English middle class culture from which he had emerged and, briefly, lived within. In a 1921 article, 'Notes on the English Character' Forster outlines his case more fully: "For it is not that that the Englishmen can't feel - it is that he is afraid to feel. He has been taught at his public school that feeling is bad form. He must not express great joy or sorrow, or even to open his mouth too wide when he talks - his pipe might fall out if he did. He must bottle up his emotions, or let them out only on a very special occasion."

    Forster, as someone who partly admires the virility of this type of Englishman, remains ambivalent about the English Public School Character and the "undeveloped heart" of the typical Englishman. Nevertheless, in A Passage, his criticism of Anglo-Indian prejudice, snobbery and narrow-mindedness is remorseless.

    Whilst Forster emphasises the personal experience of Imperialism two points should be noted: (i) he recognises that Imperialism in India is a system (political, economic and social) and that India is a colonial subject, and (ii) that Forster's account of India is culturally and historically specific. Although the novel was first conceived in 1912, it is set in an India shortly after the Amritsah Massacre, a notable and brutal episode in the history of English rule over India, when there were debates about how Anglo-Indian rule could be liberalised through new attitudes of courtesy and decency. Forster spent two years in India, in 1912 and again in 1921/2, and did so as a paid secretary at a Hindu court. He was closely involved in Indian affairs, supported the Ghandi Non-Co-operation movement of the early 1920s, and continued to remain interested in Indian affairs as a broadcaster and commentator in the inter-War period. For these reasons Forster's portrait of Anglo-Indian rule is a well-observed portrait, from the pen of someone who was thoroughly familiar with the realities of the Raj.

    Personal Realities

    Why the interest in India? For Forster the interest was highly personal. Forster was a homosexual and it was his love affair with an Indian, Syed Ross Massood, a long and turbulent affair, which opened his eyes to India. The novel is dedicated to Massood and is, partly at least, an attempt to come to terms with that relationship through its exploration of Anglo-Indian friendship. Massood died in 1923, when Forster was working on the novel, and inevitably his thoughts and feelings regarding the relationship worked themselves into the novel's characterisation, its imagery, and its treatment of personal relationships. It certainly explains a great deal about the characterisation of Aziz and the narrative's attempt to see events from Aziz's point of view. In part also Forster's treatment of inter-racial friendship draws upon his other affairs, most notably with Mohammed, whom Forster had first met in Alexandria in 1917. Throughout his novels Forster explores ways in which the barriers - of race, of class, of age and gender - can be broken down or even transcended. In Howards End, for example, the novel's insistence on the need to connect("only connect") permeates the exploration of the various friendships, and Forster's other Edwardian narratives continue this in their presentation of Anglo-Italian relationships, or in the friendships which cross the barriers of class. As a liberal novelist Forster is determined to explore these friendships from all perspectives, from a variety of points of view.

    A Polyphonic Novel

    This takes us back to the issue of A Passage as a "polyphonic" novel, as a novel with multiple points of view or perspectives, and also as a novel split across a number of levels - political/social observation, spiritual/philosophical speculation, and straightforward drama. One's reading of the novel is, therefore, determined by the point of view from which the action is seen. If, for example, we identify Fielding with Forster, as many readers do (and partly correctly), the novel is about friendship and the difficulty of leading a life by liberal principles Fielding, in terms of this reading, is the hero. From Aziz's point of view, however, the novel takes on a different quality: Aziz moves from the naïve good-natured innocent who is eager to please to a more rigidly Indian nationalist perspective. However, the novel also presents us with two more points of view, that of Adela Quested and Mrs Moore. In the case of Adela the novel allegorises her growth in personal honesty and personal truth - she moves from a shallow desire to "see India" towards a more truthful sense of self, of sexual and psychological honesty, than she had previously possessed. But it is the point of view of Mrs Moore, who also confronts something in the Marabar Caves, an emptiness and hollowness which undermines her form of Christian idealism, which makes the novel particularly enigmatic. What is in the caves, if anything, challenges all Mrs Moore's idealistic belief in the intrinsic friendliness of Nature and of the Universe - she realises, possibly, that Nature is, at best, indifferent, and possibly hostile. From this perspective many critics have seen Forster using Mrs Moore's point of view as a means of exploring fundamental issues about Good and Evil, about Truth and Reality. Certainly the novel permits this reading, a reading of the "shadow side" of Christian humanism and of the basic tenets of Western civilisation, and a prophetic anticipation of the spirit which would lead to Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

    Yet over-arching all of these perspectives is the design of the novel itself, with its tripartite structure modelling the 3 Indian seasons. It is also a novel structured by the quest for India itself. The novel portrays a ever-shifting and panoramic view of an 'India' which cannot grasped. References to mystery/muddle that is India are frequent throughout the novel, but by the end all we can say for sure is that we have various visions, but India remains."
    Last edited by R_Baird; 03-13-2016 at 09:15 PM.

  3. #3
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    Jan 2015
    Excellence in academia and thinking do not always go hand in hand - but you do find it. It is not clickable - but it is well worth browsing to find the influence of Easter philosophies upon our culture.

    "Indian Journals and Allen Ginsberg’s Revival as Prophet of Social Revolution

    Raj Chandarlapaty

    Countercultural political and social histories may well remember Allen Ginsberg’s renditions of beatnik religious and narrational adventures into underclass liberal intellectualism and social ethics as the expression of the true sublimity of “Beat,” if only because he anticipates the massive protest vehicle of 1960s counterculture. In addition, biographical assessments assert the fact that spiritual metaphors of discovery and deracialized ethno-studies could galvanize intellectual and social revolutions against the anesthetizing power of American capitalist technological authoritarianism (Raskin, Schumacher). Hence, analytic readings tend to point out pronounced differences with Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg’s spiritual mentor, and William S. Burroughs, a onetime lover who had forewarned the young Ginsberg not to adopt a political liberalism that mimicked “the most damnable tyranny, a sniveling, mealy-mouthed tyranny of bureaucrats, social workers, psychiatrists, and Union officials” (qtd. in Johnson 113). Robert Johnson describes Burroughs’s instructional tone: ideologies obstructed the thinker’s point of view, and liberalism “was a plot to create conformity—politically, economically, and, as his letters to Ginsberg consistently argue, sexually” (106).

    Ginsberg’s two-year trek to India between 1961 and 1963 was, in fact, the narrative force which catalyzed his rebirth as prophet, icon, and countercultural messenger, causing him to move further from Kerouac’s spiritual adventuring while transforming anguish into redemption that made possible the development of a truly countercultural outlook and protest rhetoric. First, a reading of Indian Journals implies a decisive moment of authorial self-doubt, borrowed from the poet’s sexual and philosophical anxieties which were the result of dependence upon Burroughs and Kerouac as a “protégé.” Depression, both in and after the ariel: a review of international english literature ISSN 0004-1327 Vol. 41 No. 2 Pages 113–138 Copyright © 2011

    publication of “Howl,” is intimately connected with Ginsberg’s relationship to his mentors. His poetry during the late 1950s and early 1960s profile the isolating psychic frustrations of an intellectual gay dissenter obsessed with finding meanings, yet unable to realize sustained selfhood while confronted with American capitalist-military dominance. Notwithstanding his translation of drugged depression into poems such as 1959’s “Lysergic Acid” and 1963’s “Mescaline,” the tone of his entreaty was often quite simple. In 1962, he pleaded with Kerouac in a letter: “what will happen to my mind which has lost its idea?” (Indian Journals 11). My sense is that two regenerative themes characterize the transformation of “beatnik” Ginsberg into the ebullient, concrete, and synthetic hippie poet who would truly challenge American structures of domination. The first was intellectual: Hindu India manifested Ginsberg’s concept of “world,” materially crystallized his understanding of liberal international possibility, and expanded the urgency of learning from the “Eastern” anthropological/cultural traditions, redeveloping social ethics away from the rhetoric of colonialism, postcolonialism, and globalization.

    Orientalist configurations of otherness, too, were challenged, making vocalizations of true narrative communicativity between “White” and “Other” possible. Here, a reading of the makings of poems such as “Stotras to Kali Destroyer of Illusions” marked an interesting change, a moment where Ginsberg rewrote the mythology and typology of American domination to present a ubiquitous sacrificial demon which had amalgamated and destroyed man’s intellectual and social being. This poem, which was in a constant state of revision in the early 1960s, empowered the focus of poetry once again to challenge the rhetoric of war, democracy, and authority within the American social landscape. The second effect was mystical and spiritual: Ginsberg’s drugged depression at the outset of his journey became pleasantly romanticized, set in a country with a long history of tolerance for mysticism, shamanism, and underground rebellions against the State. Hindu mysticism, far from maintaining class separation, provided class-conscious material for the Ginsbergian revolution against American military-capitalist-technological dominance. Readings of Indian Journals with a view to the semiotics of narrative production re-establishes romanticism, yet one which was redemptive of the individual’s understanding of history, the sensing of telos, and one’s ethical selfhood. In short, India performed the social and spiritual transformation of Ginsberg into a revived political acolyte, while challenging the orientalist domain of his fantasies to present a more deeply sensible Other and a changing political dynamic sympathetic with American liberalism."


    Yogananda has a way of fulfilling a desire for knowing even when it is impossible to believe it can be true. This is a little something from his Autobiography I hope can touch any reader who wishes for more.

    "“Pratap, I will instruct you in the Kriya of Lahiri Mahasaya, the greatest yogi of modern times. His technique will be your guru.”

    The initiation was concluded in a half hour. “Kriya is your chintamani,” 7 I told the new student. “The technique, which as you see is simple, embodies the art of quickening man’s spiritual evolution. Hindu scriptures teach that the incarnating ego requires a million years to obtain liberation from maya. This natural period is greatly shortened through Kriya Yoga. Just as Jagadis Chandra Bose has demonstrated that plant growth can be accelerated far beyond its normal rate, so man’s psychological development can be also speeded by an inner science. Be faithful in your practice; you will approach the Guru of all gurus.”"
    Last edited by R_Baird; 04-03-2016 at 12:25 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Would we have had hippies and the Flower Children if we did not have Jack Kerouac to guide our thoughts? I think we might have had a similar rebellious sort of culture but I do wonder how much better it is because of Jazz and these hobos of honor.

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