Beat News: September 21 1998

1. Congratulations to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the new poet-laureate of San Francisco. This is a cool move on San Francisco’s part, and I dare New York City to match it. I think Gregory Corso is available.

2. Speaking of the old Beat crowd, some good new material has surfaced lately. I recently received some beautiful photographic prints from Larry Keenan. They are for sale at reasonable prices here.

Jan Kerouac’s two long out-of-print autobiographical novels, “Baby Driver” and “Trainsong,” have just been republished in new paperback editions. These books are written very much in her father’s style, and it’s ironic that Jack Kerouac never got to enjoy hanging out with his only daughter, because they both obviously had similar ideas about how to live: like Roman candles, with big emphasis on the poignancy of the burn-out.

Diane DiPrima, on the other hand, has never been accused of poignancy. This poet sings out in a major key, brazen and proud as hell. Her autobiographical “Memoirs of a Beatnik”, which has also just been republished in paperback, is not the wan, soft-toned, gently nostalgic memoir one would expect, but instead a ribald, sexually detailed accounting of her bedroom adventures with a series of Greenwich Village hipsters and Zen writers including, among them, the poignant Jack Kerouac. The book is great fun, even if it sometimes reads more like “Penthouse Forum” than like an autobiography.

It’s more fun, anyway, than that inept attempt at soft-core porn known as “The Kenneth Starr Report”. You know (if I may
stray onto a different subject) I endorsed Bill Clinton for President in these pages back in 1996, not because I thought he was anything close to perfect, but
mainly because I found him much more down-to-earth than the smarmy, patriarchal right-wing bores who preceded him. Remember George Bush, Bob Dole and Ronald Reagan? I went to college during the Reagan presidency, and I’ll tell you, after eight years of Ron and Nancy on TV (followed by four of George and Barbara), Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived like a breath of fresh air. I liked it that they read books, and knew something about good music (not much, but something), and that Hillary seemed to have a brain of her own (like I said, I’d just spent four years watching George and Barbara on TV, and eight with Ron and Nancy. That shit was cornier than “Father Knows Best”).

Now Bill and Hillary have run into rough times, and I just want to say from my humble little portal here that I support and respect them as much as ever. I refuse to pretend to be shocked at the discovery that Bill Clinton has a few human flaws. “She removed her blouse and he fondled her breasts.” Yeah, yeah … don’t you Republicans have work to do?

I propose that Kenneth Starr, Henry Hyde and all their cronies be indicted for wasting ridiculous amounts of taxpayer’s money composing bad porn. I mean,
a cigar … where do they get off publishing shit like this? Since when does America have Sex Police? And if we’re all laying our cards on the table, I’d like to hear George Bush swear that he didn’t have any extramarital affairs while he was President or Vice-President. Come on, George … America is listening.

What you hear now is the sound of uncomfortable squirming from somewhere around Kennebunkport, Maine. End of editorial.

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