Tag Archives | Literature

Letters of Note: Jack Kerouac ‘Burroughs Has Gone Insane’

William S. BurroughsOn the always fascinating site Letters of Note:
Early 1957, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg travelled to Tangier to join William Burroughs; their mission to assemble and edit Burroughs' many fragments of work to form a 'readable' Naked Lunch manuscript. Kerouac arrived early and, during a break from socialising with Burroughs, the 'old familiar lunatic', wrote to Lucien Carr and his wife Francesca in order to update them on the project's progress. That handwritten letter — essentially a fascinating account of Burroughs' behaviour in his prime — can be seen [here]. For related material — including other correspondence, manuscript pages and photographs — I very highly recommend visiting Columbia University's online exhibition, "Naked Lunch": The First Fifty Years.
Transcript here: Dear Lucien & Cessa — Writing to you by candlelight from the mysterious Casbah — have a magnificent room overlooking the beach & the bay & the sea & can see Gibraltar — patio to sun on, room maid, $20 a month — feel great but Burroughs has gone insane as, — he keeps saying he's going to erupt into some unspeakable atrocity such as waving his dingdong at an Embassy part & such or slaughtering an Arab boy to see what his beautiful insides look like ...
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‘Catcher in the Rye’ Author J.D. Salinger Dies at 91

The Catcher In The Rye“People always think something’s all true.”
— J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 2

Hillel Italie writes on the AP Via Yahoo News:

J.D. Salinger, the legendary author, youth hero and fugitive from fame whose The Catcher in the Rye shocked and inspired a world he increasingly shunned, has died. He was 91.

Salinger died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday, the author’s son said in a statement from Salinger’s literary representative. He had lived for decades in self-imposed isolation in the small, remote house in Cornish, N.H.

The Catcher in the Rye, with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made Catcher a featured selection, advised that for “anyone who has ever brought up a son” the novel will be “a source of wonder and delight — and concern.”

Enraged by all the “phonies” who make “me so depressed I go crazy,” Holden soon became American literature’s most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn.

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Nevermore? No Mystery Visitor to Poe’s Grave for First Time in 60 Years

You can get a more detailed description of the mystery on Wikipedia. Here's the report from the Baltimore Sun:
Poe Mystery VisitorA longtime tribute to Edgar Allan Poe may have come to an end with the absence of the "Poe Toaster," who for more than half a century has marked the poet's birthday by laying roses and a bottle of cognac at his original grave site. This is the first time since Jan. 19, 1949 that the person, whose identity is unknown, failed to arrive, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House. "I was very annoyed," he said. "I've been doing this since 1977, and there was no indication he wasn't going to show up," Jerome said. The curator said the toaster usually arrives between midnight and 5:30 a.m. He said he arrived at Westminster Hall at 10:30 p.m., because one year the toaster left his offerings at 11:30 p.m. He sometimes kneels at the tombstone or puts his hands on it, Jerome said. "There's no elaborate ceremony — it's very short and touching," he said.
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The Red Laugh

red_laughForgive me, I realize that literature isn’t often posted on this site… However, anyone intrepid enough to actually finish reading this short story will surely agree that The Red Laugh is supremely relevant to today’s world… From Amagamatedspooks.com:

LEONID ANDREYEV (1871-1919) became the foremost literary figure in Russia between the revolution of 1905 and the communist revolution of 1917. Originally studying and training as a lawyer, he abandoned that career soon after its beginning and dedicated himself wholly to his writing. His first story,“In the Fog,” was published in 1902 and won him immediate critical recognition. His new career, that of an author, had begun.

A pessimistic, moody man (who had already tried to end his life by shooting in 1894), he soon turned this dark sentiment over to an analysis of the predicament of the existentialistic situation of mankind in a series of socially aware works that included To the Stars, Savva, King-Hunger, and Anathema.

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Books You Can Live Without

Now here’s an end of the year/decade literary debate that’s actually quite interesting, versus the morass of “best of lists”, courtesy of the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from author David Matthews:

Things I will never, ever read:

The authors who get to stay did something the others did not — they saved me.

The biography of Willem de Kooning. Ditto the 600 pages devoted to Wittgenstein’s life and thought. Malraux’s “The Voices of Silence” will remain mute, its spine un-cracked, the book’s presence meant to imply to anyone perusing my “library” that I’m a man of serious ideas and scholarship.

Sadly, I’m too far along to absorb whatever Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy has to teach me, so out it goes. For that matter, what with the urgency of global warming and recession and deadly flus, I might as well live in the moment, so anything with the words, “The History of…” in the title is, well, history.

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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (Documentary)

Via www.burroughsthemovie.com:
The film investigates the life of legendary beat author and American icon, William S. Burroughs. Born the heir of the Burroughs’ adding machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems and self. He was forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century. William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come. However, his friends were left wondering, did William ever find happiness? This extremely personal documentary breaks the surface of the troubled and brilliant world of one of the greatest authors of all time.
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How Philip K. Dick Predicted The Future

Author Jonathan Lethem is also the man who edited Philip K. Dick’s anthologies for the Library of America. In this new interview, Lethem notes that Philip K. Dick correctly predicted our future.

“I think that Dick saw the makings of the contemporary reality we experience so profoundly. And this speaks to the different layers of reality in his work — the way time moves at one clip according to the calendar, but other ways in terms of mental time, psychological time, social time, American historical time.

“Like if you look at the terms of this absurd, hysterical healthcare debate — it’s basically McCarthyism again, the Red Scare. Socialism is coming to get us. ”

“Mid-50s America was overwhelmingly alive in his vision, in such a way that he saw it simultaneously as a present and as a future. He saw the makings of the late capitalist experience embedded in that mid-century triumphalist post-war moment.… Read the rest

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Anais Nin on LSD’s value

via Arthur


[Huxley] reminded me that drugs are beneficial if they provide the only access to our nightlife. I realized that the expression “blow my mind” was born of the fact that America had cemented access to imagination and fantasy and that it would take dynamite to remove this block! I believed Leary’s emphasis on the fact we use only one percent of our mind or potential, that everything in our education conspires to restrict and constrict us. I only wished people had had time to study drugs as they studied religion or philosophy and to adapt to this chemical alteration of our bodies.

[LSD’s] value is in being a shortcut to the unconscious, so that one enters the realm of intuition unhampered, pure as it is in children, of direct emotional reaction to nature, to other human beings. In a sense it is the return to the spontaneity and freshness of childhood vision which makes every child able to paint or sing.… Read the rest

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