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Homo Narrator

Inga Clendinnen, 16 March 2000

Mirror Talk: Genres of Crisis in Contemporary Autobiography 
by Susanna Egan.
North Carolina, 275 pp., £39.95, September 1999, 0 8078 4782 8
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... one side, feet precariously hooked on the other. Remember Anaïs Nin and her ‘liary’. Remember Jack Kerouac, living dangerously so he could dash back to the quiet of his mother’s house, sit down at his boyhood desk, and write his rough living down. Nonetheless, until recently there has been an expectation, quite often met, that the autobiographer ...

Pretty Letters

Megan Marshall: The Death of Edgar Allan Poe, 21 February 2008

Poe: A Life Cut Short 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Chatto, 170 pp., £15.99, February 2008, 978 0 7011 6988 6
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... order’. He wrote on ‘narrow strips of paper, pasted into long rolls’ (a more fastidious Jack Kerouac), allowing the narrative to flow unchecked by page breaks. The ‘music’ of words obsessed him; in the early story ‘Berenice’, Ackroyd notes ‘the melodies of Poe’s prose’ and ‘his consummate control of cadence and of open vowel ...

Predatory Sex Aliens

Gary Indiana: Burroughs, 8 May 2014

Call Me Burroughs: A Life 
by Barry Miles.
Twelve, 718 pp., £17, January 2014, 978 1 4555 1195 2
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... to another. Allen Ginsberg selected the correspondence that became The Yage Letters. Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac put Naked Lunch together from drastic-looking clumps of torn, coffee-stained fragments; the book’s final sequence was determined by the order in which proof pages arrived back from the printer. Outtakes and overflow from Naked ...

Junk Mail

Jeremy Harding, 23 September 1993

The Letters of William Burroughs, 1949-1959 
edited by Oliver Harris.
Picador, 472 pp., £17.50, August 1993, 0 330 33074 8
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... legacy of poverty and squalor from which a reborn Burroughs makes sense of himself as a writer. To Jack Kerouac from Tangier (February 1955): ‘Last month I ran out of money and was 36 hours without food or junk, and sold my typewriter.’ An earlier letter to Ginsberg says, simply, that the typewriter is out of action. The important thing, perhaps, is ...

They don’t say that about Idi Amin

Andrew O’Hagan: Bellow Whinges, 6 January 2011

Saul Bellow: Letters 
edited by Benjamin Taylor.
Viking, 571 pp., $35, November 2010, 978 0 670 02221 2
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... of the human faculties as he seeks to fight or flee. The letters of a lesser contemporary, Jack Kerouac for instance, appear almost luminary next to these gripes and gashings. Kerouac at least described a sensibility and a falling away, punctuated with adventure and open-heartedness. With Bellow’s letters, by ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... a definite commodity … I’ve had oil-painting shows that were very realistic, then I’ve done jack-off collages, cut-outs one year and drawings … it’s all been different … People want to buy a Warhol or a person instead of a work. My work’s never become ‘a Brainard’. Or even a Jainard or a Bernard or a Joe. Here are the last six ‘I ...

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair: Meeting Gary Snyder, 24 May 2012

... fit, weathered, narrow-eyed, skin creased and printed like a proper manuscript of mortality. Jack Kerouac, in The Dharma Bums (1958), took Snyder, in the person of Japhy Ryder, as the second American hero of his open-form mythology, a scholar-poet of the mountains and the Pacific west, after Neal Cassady’s transcontinental road ...

Hormone Wars

A. Craig Copetas, 23 April 1992

Crazy Cock 
by Henry Miller.
HarperCollins, 202 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 00 223943 4
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The Happiest Man Alive 
by Mary Dearborn.
HarperCollins, 368 pp., £18.50, July 1991, 0 00 215172 3
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... in the movie Reds, speaking about the leftish environment that hosted the love affair between Jack Reed and Louise Bryant, he commented on the sexual relationships of his own early years. ‘There was just as much fucking going on then as now,’ he said, ‘only now it has a more perverted quality, now there’s no love whatever included. Then there was ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... just how those dreams had been deferred. Yet tonight the cemetery of hope and idealism is empty. Jack Kennedy is alive. Martin Luther King is alive. Bobby Kennedy is alive. James Baldwin is alive. Janis Joplin is alive. Jack Kerouac is alive. Jimi Hendrix is alive. Lyndon Johnson is alive. James Jones is alive. Jim ...

After-Time

Christopher Hitchens, 19 October 1995

Palimpsest: A Memoir 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 432 pp., £17.99, October 1995, 0 233 98891 2
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... is more instructive and nearer to the nitty, if not indeed the actual gritty. In a letter to Jack Kerouac in April 1952, William Burroughs demanded to know: ‘Is Gore Vidal queer or not?’ Burroughs, who had once been at the same boys’ boarding-school as Vidal, can now slake his curiosity. Or he could have pressed ...

The Horror of Money

Michael Wood, 8 December 1988

The Pink and the Green 
by Stendhal, translated by Richard Howard.
Hamish Hamilton, 148 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 241 12289 9
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Stendhal’s Violin: A Novelist and his Reader 
by Roger Pearson.
Oxford, 294 pp., £30, February 1988, 0 19 815851 3
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... carries along a road,’ Stendhal famously said, situating himself somewhere between Hamlet and Jack Kerouac. In context, the remark is a dubious apology for some of the contents of Le Rouge et le Noir, not at all to be trusted; and out of context it seems even less reliable, too bland and hands-off by half. Who chooses the road, the angle of the ...

Concini and the Squirrel

Peter Campbell, 24 May 1990

Innumeracy 
by John Allen Paulos.
135 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 670 83008 9
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The Culture of Print 
edited by Roger Chartier.
351 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 7456 0575 3
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Symbols of Ideal Life 
by Maren Stange.
Cambridge, 190 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 521 32441 6
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The Lines of My Hand 
by Robert Frank.
£30, September 1989, 0 436 16256 3
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... story, the form of this book is also of its time – most of the words in it were supplied by Jack Kerouac – and itself invites interpretation. What is the importance of the analysis of habits and publishing practices which such interpretations deal in? According to one account, the work is formed by, and not strictly separable from, its matrix. A ...

Acrimony

Nina Auerbach: Feminists Fall Out, 6 July 2000

Critical Condition: Feminism at the Turn of the Century 
by Susan Gubar.
Columbia, 237 pp., £16, February 2000, 0 231 11580 6
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... the shaman of America’s commitment to e pluribus unum, a composite of Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac on the road to becoming a cosmos. I don’t hear so much as a whisper of reconciliation in Deavere Smith’s excoriating re-creation of hate and murder, but in this initial essay, Gubar finds in African American women’s art the comity that ...

If you don’t swing, don’t ring

Christopher Turner: Playboy Mansions, 21 April 2016

Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Architecture and Biopolitics 
by Beatriz Preciado.
Zone, 303 pp., £20.95, October 2014, 978 1 935408 48 2
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Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny 
by Holly Madison.
Dey Street, 334 pp., £16.99, July 2015, 978 0 06 237210 9
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... work by John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, Saul Bellow, P.G. Wodehouse, Anne Sexton and John Updike. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was first serialised in the magazine. ‘I only read it for the articles,’ joked subscribers, of which there were more than a million by the end of the ...

Upriver

Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... I will attempt to overcome, tends towards the more cynical view ascribed to William Burroughs by Jack Kerouac. ‘When you start separating the people from their rivers what have you got? Bureaucracy!’ Having triumphantly ghosted London’s autobiography, Ackroyd’s obvious follow-up was the Thames: generator of life, origin of the city, a passage ...

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