Monday, May 28, 2007
The Beat Hotel
Since I was stuck in the lawn chair or bed all weekend, I mostly finished this book on Beatniks in Paris in the late fifties, early sixties. It was fairly interesting and remarkable in how different the attitude towards poetry is today, fifty years later. These poets really felt they were important-- and in their way, in history, they were. The book is all about the inhabitants of this one nasty hotel in Paris where Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs and others came and went and wrote lots of poems.
Allen Ginsberg seems like he was a decent guy. He loved looking at old buildings-- I liked that, and there's a wonderful short anecdote about him discovering a chateau within the city that seemed as if it had fallen out of time. It was occupied by the Russian Royal Ballet. He seems like he had a big heart, and when he leaves the book, 2/3 through, to go back to the states, the book drags.
The book has no index, which is annoying, because many odd unheard of books are mentioned, which I thought I'd look into later. I was surprised how much heroin Ginsberg and everyone else mentioned in the book was freely consuming in Paris. William Burroughs seemed like an evil snaky presence, but then I never read NAKED LUNCH. There was no crossover of cultures, with the Beats and the intellectuals of Paris at the time, even though the Existentialists were right there in the same city, and they all seemed fond of being seen and published. A number of the minor poets earned checks writing dirty novels for Olympia Press.
I saw Allen Ginsberg once, and I think it must have been at Smith. He was fat, his hair was long and wild and he seemed so launched into his point of view regarding politics, drugs, Jack Kerouac, (who might have just died then) that it was hard to get much sense of him. It was a time when people's politics could make them seem so one dimensional, especially if they were also stoned.
They brought a number of unusual writers and artists to Smith, including Tom Wolfe, Anais Nin, Anne Sexton, filmmaker Stan VanderBeeck, W.H. Auden. I distinctly remember each of these-- I'm sure there were lots more.
The image isn't an advertising link, ie I don't get 5 cents back, but you might be able to go straight to a look inside the book from it, I'm just not sure if that's how it works. I use the look inside feature at Amazon a lot, since I'm such a fussy reader. Sometimes you have to sign in before you get your free look.