Herman Melville

IdleRich

IdleRich
Maybe because Burroughs was a literary genius? .. but if Bill had ever visited my flat I'm sure I would have kept an eye on him, wouldn't want him pocketing valuables to trade for smack..although he was a trust fund kid so that probably wouldn't have been an issue... and objectively he was a creep - the whole "Yage Letters" episode is a case in point..obsessing about a young lad to the level of stalking ( also documented in "Queer" ).. then the issue of the underage boys he'd pay for sex in Morocco.. also some of his best ideas were filched from Brion Gysin.. but still he seems to rise above all that...and he did love cats as documented in "The Cat Inside" which effectively gives him a pass from me...

Compared to him the rest of the Beats strike me as a sorry bunch - pederast Allen Ginsberg, the one hit wonder of poetry, Gregory Corso, a toothless wonder dealing smack out of the Chelsea Hotel. As Patti Smith recounts, 'I first encountered Gregory long ago in front of the Chelsea Hotel. He lifted his overcoat and dropped his trousers, spewing Latin expletives. Seeing my astonished face, he laughed and said, “I’m not mooning you sweetheart, I’m mooning the world.” ' What a dick...
Yeah his family was very wealthy and that enabled him to go gallivanting around the world. As well as the William Tell incident I was thinking of that when talking about how his actions affected his family of course, but also thinking of his son who died young after a life of addiction. I mean, of course you make your own choices and so but I can imagine that the influences he had in that respect were not great.
An aside - googling Cassady a minute ago I read that he was Ginsberg's lover for years, maybe that's common knowledge but I don't think I'd heard it before.
With the Moroccan thing, sadly he was far from the only one almost openly doing that, seems there was a whole bunch of perverts (or let's not beat around the bush, child rapists) meeting up there regularly as is documented by Joe Orton. Again I like his plays and even the novel he did but his diary - Jesus Christ, if that had come out while he'd been alive they would have definitely locked him up and thrown away the key and quite rightly. Obviously the diary was not intended for consumption by anyone else so - once his lover had bludgeoned him to death with a hammer - and it was published, huge parts of it amount to a long and detailed confession to a string of horrible crimes. I think it was him who said "Ah... Marrakesh, where one can get brown in minutes".
 
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william_kent

Well-known member
also thinking of his son who died young after a life of addiction

I forgot about his son, just like Burroughs did.. junior did manage to write that one book, "Speed", which is like a generational sequel to "Junky".

I was thinking that what Burroughs possessed was charm. That can get people a long way.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I forgot about his son, just like Burroughs did.. junior did manage to write that one book, "Speed", which is like a generational sequel to "Junky".

I was thinking that what Burroughs possessed was charm. That can get people a long way.
Likely Cassady too no? I imagine him as one those people who can turn it on and off, totally mesmerize people when they want to, and then all but ignore when they're bored. That's just a guess, I don't particularly remember him being described as charming... but surely he must have had something, I feel that just blundering around acting like such a prick would have had a very short shelf-life otherwise, no matter how 'beat' he was.
 

william_kent

Well-known member
Likely Cassady too no? I imagine him as one those people who can turn it on and off, totally mesmerize people when they want to, and then all but ignore when they're bored. That's just a guess, I don't particularly remember him being described as charming... but surely he must have had something, I feel that just blundering around acting like such a prick would have had a very short shelf-life otherwise, no matter how 'beat' he was.
In the "Magic Trip" documentary he really comes off as an insufferable prick! He's the last person I'd want driving the vehicle I'm in, especially when it's rigged with all manner of microphones enabling him to babble on and on and transmit his speed "raps" to all and sundry...

I suppose he was a "bad boy" - some people go for that type, Kerouac certainly seemed to have the hots for him
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Ah good point, I've never seen that, in my head he's someone totally confined to the page but you're right - actually seeing him in action has gotta be more valuable than ten thousand words of hagiography from Kerouac in terms of assessing what he was actually like.
 

william_kent

Well-known member
I am pleased this threadis now populated by Melville-esque characters - confidence men and lightning-rod men; self-inventors. I’d recommend The Lightng-Rod Man, it’s very short and simultaneously confusing and illuminating.

Great recommendation - I enjoyed reading that. As William Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson were both fans of Melville ( Wilson even seemed to think parts of "Illuminatus" were on the same level as "Moby Dick" ) , I was pleased to see that the story contains a reference to both 23 and the Discordian Law of Five:

"My special business is to travel the country for orders for lightning-rods. This is my specimen rod;" tapping his staff; "I have the best of references" - fumbling in his pockets. "In Criggan last month, I put up three-and-twenty rods on only five buildings."

"Let me see. Was it not at Criggan last week, about midnight on Saturday, that the steeple, the big elm, and the assemblyroom cupola were struck? Any of your rods there?"
 
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IdleRich

IdleRich
I am pleased this threadis now populated by Melville-esque characters - confidence men and lightning-rod men; self-inventors. I’d recommend The Lightng-Rod Man, it’s very short and simultaneously confusing and illuminating.
Brother of Dennis...
 

version

Well-known member
I didn't expect Moby-Dick to be as funny as it is; Ishmael and Queequeg make a great odd couple.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Classic line about rather a sober savage than a drunk christian.

Where you at? You gone past the bit where they meet the other ship and theres a long and cool story about island life?
 

version

Well-known member
Ahab cuts a more sympathetic figure than I'd imagined. I'm not into whaling and the loss of his leg comes with the territory, you can't attack something and balk at it responding in kind, but someone that consumed by rage is genuinely tragic,
"Hark ye yet again- the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event- in the living act, the undoubted deed- there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike though the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations... "
The stuff about striking through the mask and striking the sun reminds me of Blicero's quest for transcendence via the rocket in Gravity's Rainbow; man's harnessing of "holy lightning" in the form of the V-2 and firing it back at God -- Heaven.
 
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