Literary Birthday: Allen Ginsberg

(L-R) Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs

Allen Ginsberg (born today in 1926) entered American literary infamy on the night of October 7, 1955 at a gallery in San Francisco, when he read his iconic poem “Howl” for the first time. The stage and audience included many other writers who had not quite achieve boldface status (Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder). Ginsberg went on later in the evening, by which time the audience had been indulging for several hours (urged on by Kerouac, who described in The Dharma Bums telling everyone that “mad night” to “glug a slug from the jug”).

The reception to Ginsberg’s ecstatically exuberant Whitman-esque flight of prophetic fancy blew the doors off, with the crowd yelling (per Kerouac) “Go! Go! Go!” as though they were at some late-night bop session. City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in the audience as well. He published the collection Howl later that year and was promptly arrested for indecency and obscenity.

Now Playing: ‘Kill Your Darlings’

Daniel Radcliffe (left) as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr in ‘Kill Your Darlings’

Kill-Your-Darlings-PosterIn 1944, Arthur Rimbaud-worshiping Columbia University student Lucien Carr was charged with stabbing to death David Kammerer, an older man Carr had known back in St. Louis who had been allegedly stalking him all across the country for years. The resulting murder scandal roped in Carr’s friends Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Kammerer’s St. Louis cohort William S. Burroughs.

The spry new film Kill Your Darlings — featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a bright-eyed young Ginsberg still unsure about his outlaw sexuality — tells an evocative, tortured romantic version of this story.

My review is at Film Racket; here’s part:

The Allen Ginsberg played by Daniel Radcliffe in the audacious but underachieving Kill Your Darlings is far from the brazen, bearded libertine who bridged the Beats to the hippies in one exulting Whitman-esque guffaw. This Ginsberg is an owl-ish college freshman overflowing with desires both literary and romantic. His eyes fairly gleam with all that he is not doing or writing or saying. The war is still on, and such a regimented society has little interest in such yearning young artistes. At least until the murder…

The trailer is here:

Soundbooth: ‘Wise Up Ghost’

elviscostelloroots-wiseupghostcover1Apropos of nothing to do with music, it must be said that the cover for the new Elvis Costello and The Roots collaboration, Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs, is likely the album cover of the year. Clean with about being overly minimal, with an elegant serif typeface, it’s the sort of thing more bands should aspire to.

That remains true even if Elvis, Questlove and the boys are just paying homage to copying the cover for the classic City Lights edition of Allen Ginsberg’s first poetry collection Howl; a work that most likely had little direct influence on any of the artists working on this album.

When in doubt, steal well.