Category Archives: Beat generation

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

October 3, 1957

Allen Ginsberg Howl Judgement

Allen Ginsberg Howl Judgement

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

Free speech v free speech

The struggle between the Bill of Right’s First Amendment [Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech…”] on paper and in reality is an ongoing one. That freedom becomes culturally uncomfortable when the speech expressed is contrary to the norm.

Allen Ginsberg Howl Judgement

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

James Joyce Ulysses

On December 6, 1933 in United States v. One Book Called Ulysses.  Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that James Joyce’s Ulysses was not pornographic—that nowhere in it was the “leer of the sensualist.”

     Woolsey stated that the novel was serious and that its author was sincere and honest in showing how the minds of his characters operate and what they were thinking. Some of their thoughts, the judge said, were expressed in “old Saxon words” familiar to readers, and [i]n respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of [Joyce’s] characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring. “To have failed to honestly tell fully what his characters thought would have been “artistically inexcusable”, said the judge.

One might think that such a clear ruling regarding literature closed the door to future challenges, but those challenges continued and continue.

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ginsberg first performed “Howl” at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955.  In 1956, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore and the City Lights Press, published  “Howl” as part of collection called Howl and Other Poems.

US Custom agents seized 520 copies of the book [printed in Great Britain] on March 25, 1957 and on June 3, 1957 two San Francisco undercover cops assigned to the Juvenile Bureau arrested Shigeyoshi Murao, a clerk at the City Lights store for selling “Howl and Other Poems.”

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement

Judgement

Ferlinghetti requested a bench trial thinking that a judge might be more likely to favor the defendant’s case than a jury.  Judge Clayton W Horn, a Republican, taught Sunday school. He had once sentenced sentenced five female thieves – the newspapers called them “lady shoplifters” – to attend a showing of the movie “The Ten Commandments” and to write essays on the epic film’s lesson when it came to stealing.

On October 3, 1959 Horn ruled and sided with the defense. In his ruling he said, “The first part of ‘Howl’ presents a picture of a nightmare world… The second part is an indictment of those elements in modern society destructive of the best qualities of human nature; such elements are predominantly identified as materialism, conformity and mechanization leading toward war…

Full transcript of decision

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement


Ginsberg reading Howl (link to words →  Howl)

Allen Ginsberg Howl judgement
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Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Happy anniversary

Published September 5, 1957

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Paterson, NJ

As a New Jersey guy born and bred, it’s important to me that Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) began his first road trip from Paterson. It was there that Paradise had “…por[ed] over maps of the United States…for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles.

All but one of my father’s seven siblings left their NJ hometown and all but five moved out of state: Arizona, New Mexico. Oklahoma. A traveling saleman uncle found homes all over the Midwest. The US Navy stationed a nurse aunt all over the world.

When I was four my family traveled from NJ to visit those distant relatives. I grew up thinking I was a traveler. Later I was a Boy Scout who thought he was a camper. Later I thought I was cool because I had a summer job in NYC.

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Ripe for the “…Road”

By the time I was in college I was ripe for Kerouac. I don’t think I’d heard of him, but likely saw his name referenced in some Rolling Stone magazine articles.

Like thousands of other Boomers, we found an older brother in Kerouac. A guy whose traveling stories awoke us to the soundtrack of the American history we’d nodded through in school.

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Sex, drugs, and more jazz than rock and roll!

Some find On the Road enervating. An example of a wasted life. A life without purpose or goal.

Myth: Kerouac wrote the story on toilet paper. No. He created a continuous scroll from sheets of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together.

Like many things written, Kerouac had written dozens of notes during his travels in the late 1940s. Those notes eventually coalesced into the novel when in one three-week spurt Kerouac put the novel together as if writing a letter.

In response to a student’s letter, Kerouac wrote in 1961, “Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.”

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Jack Kerouac On the Road

Jack Kerouac On the Road

Most critics praised the book, particularly Gilbert Millstein of the New York Times who wrote, “its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion

Jack Kerouac On the Road

In the same paper, David Dempsey dismissed the novel as an “affectionate lark…[that depended]upon the bizarre and the offbeat for its creative stimulus

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

Counterculture

Whatever the view, the story inspired a new generation to seek adventure on the road. Hitchhiking sometimes. Just hiking other times. Woodstock Venture’s idea of having a festival in the country, in an open space, where one could be free and roam around has some roots in Kerouac’s book.

The book was, even if unconsciously, part of the reason I went there. It was certainly part of the reason my wife, six children, and I took a cross-country trip to visit those many relatives. We called it the “Shoots Not Roots” tour. It even had it’s own t-shirt.

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise
back of the tour t-shirt
Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise

The end…

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and 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.

Jack Kerouac Road Sal Paradise
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Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

April 2, 1958

Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks
Cartoon about the Bolsheviks

 


Jack Kerouac Reads from “On The Road”
Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Bolshevik Revolution


When the Bolshevik Revolution began in 1917, the capitalistic economies of the world saw the uprising as a threat to their systems. The Bolsheviks challenged the notion of private property, private business, and personal self-determination.


When the nuclear arms race began after World War II, exemplified in particular between the United State and the Soviet Union, propaganda on both sides successfully demonized their enemy.


As Americans the suffix “-ik” became associated with Communism and thus with evil intentions. When Senator Joseph McCarthy announced that he had incontrovertible evidence of Communist infiltration into the government and the arts, he launched hearings through the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Committees hearings and accusations damaged the careers of dozens of American citizens.


A corollary of the US-Soviet arms race was the space race. While on paper it looked like a race to get humans into space, the unspoken government goat was to design a nuclear bomb delivery system. 


Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

Sputnik


On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 and Americans had  another Communist -ick to hate (NYT article).


Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks
replica of Spunik 1 at US Air and Space Museum
Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

The Beats


In reaction to the horrors of World War II and the increasing emphasis of the American Dream equaling American Consumerism (the antithesis of Soviet Communism), some young Americans like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady (future hippie and driver of Furthur), and many others developed a literary view and philosophy that de-emphasized conspicuous consumerism. They deliberately did not fit in.  According to the Wikipedia entry, “Jack Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation” in 1948 to characterize a perceived underground, anti-conformist youth movement in New York.” Oxford Dictionaries site(see also )


Boshevik Sputnik Beatnik

Beatnik


Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks
Herb Caen

Traditionalist already viewed the Beats with suspicion when Herb Caen, a well-known and popular San Francisco Examiner columnist, published a column on April 2, 1958. In it he wrote, “Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.’s beat generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!) hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles’ free booze. They’re only beat, y’know, when it comes to work.”


The term took hold immediately and the San Francisco Beats, already discriminated against, now carried the additionally negative Communist association.


Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks


Ever ready to take advantage of a popular coinage, the media was able to convert the negative image of the beatnik into one to ridicule and have fun with. The Halloween costume.  The TV show The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis in which Bob Denver played Maynard G Krebs, the lazy air-head beatnik. Denver’s acting career, as successful as it was, never recovered as his even more successful character on Gilligan’s Island  is simply the same beatnik without the costume.


Beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik, beatnik

Bosheviks Sputniks Beatniks

 

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