Tag Archives: Desolation Angels

Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s Daughter Reads the Beats

18 Aug

Frances Bean Cobain turns 22 today!

The only daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love has been in the spotlight since the time she was was born. When I was in high school one of my best friends was a huge Nirvana fan, and I pretty much had Hole’s Live Through This on constant repeat.

I was pretty excited to stumble across some photos that indicated Frances Bean’s literary tastes include the Beats! Here are a couple of photographs of her reading Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums: pic 1, pic 2, pic 3. (Side note::: I tried to dye my hair pink with Kool-Aid when I was in high school, but apart from a pink neck, it did not work for me. I still wish I had pink hair….)

And here is a photo reportedly of Francs Bean Cobain’s bookshelf, which includes:

windblownJack Kerouac’s Windblown World

gerardJack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard

desolationJack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels

exterWilliam S. Burroughs’ Exterminator!

burroughs1William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

quWilliam S. Burroughs’ Queer

collectedpAllen Ginsberg’s Collected Poems: 1947-1997

These photos of Frances Bean Cobain reading the Beats are on my Beats board on Pinterest.

 

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Remembering Neal Cassady

4 Feb

“I recently heard a quote in a play, the source I forget: ‘A man’s measure is not from the amount of love he gives to others but the amount he is loved.’ I have to think about that, but Neal was/is certainly loved.”

~ Carolyn Cassady

Just a few days shy of his forty-second birthday, Neal Cassady passed away. On February 3, 1968, he left a wedding party in Mexico, where he’d taken a barbiturate known for its hypnotic effects, and began walking along the railroad tracks in San Miguel to reach the next town. Somewhere along the way, he passed out. He was found in a coma the next morning. He was taken to a hospital, but died a few hours later. The autopsy report read: “general congestion in all systems.” He was apparently cremated.

Popular imagination most readily remembers Neal Cassady as a muse, a character in novels, the man behind the wheel of the bus Further in grainy film footage. Check him out in these “Beat” novels:

  • Dean Moriarty in On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Dean in Jazz of the Beat Generation by Jack Kerouac
  • Cody Pomeray in Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac
  • Cody Pomeray in Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac
  • Cody Pomeray in Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac
  • Cody Pomeray in Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac
  • Neal Pomeray in Neal and the Three Stooges by Jack Kerouac
  • Leroy in The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac
  • Hart Kennedy in Go by John Clellon Holmes

Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, and The Grateful Dead also wrote about their experiences with Cassady.

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales

18 Jun

Jack Kerouac once quipped back at a journalist, “I’m not a beatnik; I’m a Catholic.”  Despite the Beat Generation being associated with the countercultural movement—sex, drugs, and … jazz—Kerouac’s writing so often points toward the spiritual.

Visions of Gerard describes his saint-like brother who died at age nine and touches upon life in the Catholic church in Lowell, Massachusetts.  When he left home, Kerouac began exploring Buddhism.  Ultimately he grew disenchanted by it, though, an experience he describes in Desolation AngelsOn the Road is tinged with the idea of holiness.  Check out this quote:

As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, “Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?  In some ways, Sal Paradise—what a name!—is on a pilgrimage.  The point of the trip itself isn’t religious, but along the way Sal sees God in nature and in the act of traveling.  Throughout On the Road, Kerouac writes about searching for the holy.  What he finds there on the open road is the beatific—the blessings that seem contradictory to what the world says are blessings.

If you think about it, one of the earliest road trip novels is about a pilgrimage: The Canterbury Tales.  Chaucer’s fourteenth-century tale has all the seedy characters one might find William S. Burroughs depicting.  The pilgrims are road tripping from Southwark to the Saint Thomas Becket shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.  Just like how Sal Paradise finds he has tell good stories to anyone who picks him up while hitchhiking, the cast of characters in The Canterbury Tales each tell a story along the journey.

To support the National Literacy Trust, a group of modern-day pilgrims recently reenacted The Canterbury Tales.  You can read about it, see photographs, and listen to portions at the Guardian.

 

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Don’t forget!

I’m reading tonight at 7:00 at The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy), here in New York City, as part of the Storytellers event, hosted by C3.