Monday, January 25, 2010

More Details

On the Lives of the Beats



I recently finished reading Bill Morgan's 2007 biography of poet Allen Ginsberg I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg. It's a good read, and especially interesting because it focuses on material that became available only after Ginsberg's death in 1997, taken from his personal journals and archives.

It helps to already know something about Ginsberg's life and times before reading this biography, since it tends to skim over famous events from Ginsberg's life in order to put the emphasis on the new material never before released. The biography brings to light a number of aspects of Ginsberg such as:

- His basic insecurity. Ginsberg was always bold and socially uncompromising in public settings, often appearing to relish shocking people with his rude disregard for societal conventions. Yet his journals reveal that he was often filled with confusion and self-doubt in private.



- Ginsberg had a long term relationship with Peter Orlovsky (above left) that has often been cited as a role model of an enduring homosexual romance. However Ginsberg's journals reveal that their relationship was much rockier behind the scenes than the public ever saw, including incidents of violence.

- There are also details revealed that portray other figures of the beat generation in a different light. Jack Kerouac is shown as being much sharper in his final alcoholic phase than he is usually given credit for. Neal Cassady, previously thought to have had only a brief homosexual affair with Ginsberg, is revealed as having had a much more extensive sexual relationship, much of which was conducted in secret because Cassady was married at the time.

- Although Ginsberg was so famous that to this day he is the only modern poet that most Americans can recognize from a photograph, this book says Ginsberg was secretly jealous of the fame of rock stars and wished he could be one himself. He also apparently had a lot more private (non-sexual) interaction with Bob Dylan than was previously known.



Incidentally, when I told Springfield Republican columnist and Dylan obsessive Tom Shea (above) that I was reading this book, he told me a bit of local Ginsberg lore that I hadn't known. Apparently just after Ginsberg's death, Dylan played at Smith College in Northampton and dedicated the song "Don't Think Twice" to his old friend. Shea also reminded me that Ginsberg appeared onstage at the Springfield Civic Center in 1975 playing finger cymbals during the all-star encore for Dylan's "Rolling Thunder" tour. Here is a picture of Dylan and Ginsberg at the grave of Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts taken the day before the Springfield show.



So while I think I Celebrate Myself is a good read for the true beat generation fan in search of formerly unavailable details, the general reader would probably find this book lacking in overview and more in-depth than they would require.

Old Pine Point

Speaking of local history, here's some pictures of the Pine Point section of Springfield that people have sent me. Here is the late Yolly Nahorniak in 2008.



This is State Street just before you get to Saint Michael's Cemetery, where the road splits into Berkshire and Boston Road. A large and ancient pine tree once stood at that fork in the road, but not in the lifetime of anyone now living. The date of the photograph is unknown. I believe both of those structures shown in the picture are still standing, one is a gravestone seller (as it apparently was back then) and the other in recent years was a car lot. Dig the trolley tracks.



An undated photo of a cemetery worker in Saint Michael's.



Good advice from a St. Michael's resident.



Today's Music Video

Cool dancing.


5 comments:

S.P. Sullivan said...

That looks like an interesting read! The Whitman reference title is particularly apt.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what the "Cemetary Worker" is doing? He is engraving someones date of death on the stone.

That's an air-Compressor he is sitting on. The tank to the left contains sand. They make a "Plate' out of rubber with the letters cut out, and blast away. The sand bounces off the rubber but eats away at the stone.

Growing up with my Grandfather working at Byrons for 31 years, and my Father worked there for 7 years, and the owner of Graham -Wallengren on State st was Best Man at my folks wedding. On the way home from a Funeral when I was only about 8 years old, I was allowed to ride in a hearse. Every few minutes a car would pass us, and my brother and I would pull back the curtain & wave.

My Grandfather and Grandmother would come up to the House in Wilbraham every sunday with a basket of fresh flowers. I learned to actually root Roses and planted them all around the house!

Rich said...

Michael Savage said the other night that Ginsberg molested Kerouac as an adult, and Kerouac never got over it, which contributed in his later years to his isolationism and alcohol issues.

Anonymous said...

Hah! Old Jack didn't need much prompting to wander over to the wild side... check out "Subterranean Kerouac" by Ellis Amburn. Richard

Tom said...

Rich, can you really be "molested as an adult" without your consent? I would not consider Michael Savage an expert on the Beat Generation.