Beat News: October 29 1998

1. A lot of Beat history happened at the Evergreen Review, a long-running indie literary journal created to represent the underground literary scene of the late 50’s (heavy on Sartre and Beckett as well as Kerouac and Genet). They now have a website worthy of their legacy. I especially like surfing around the cleanly designed, unpretentious archive section.

2. Historian/writer Douglas Brinkley, author of the Cassady/Kesey-inspired travel book “The Majic Bus” and editor of Hunter S. Thompson’s recent book of letters, seems to be doing a pretty good job as the estate-appointed compiler of the Kerouac papers. He leaked a few selections from the Kerouac archive to the Atlantic Monthly,
which even put Jack on the cover of the current issue (NOTE: this never would have happened when Jack was alive — that’s
what the Evergreen Review was for). Anyway, Brinkley selected some good stuff. Here’s Jack complaining to the editor of his novel “Subterraneans” about revisions to his manuscript:

“I can’t possibly go on as a responsible prose artist and also a believer in the impulses of my own heart and in the beauty of pure spontaneous language if I let editors take my sentences, which are my phrases that I separate by dashes when “I draw
a breath,” each of which pours out to the tune of the whole story its own rythmic yawp of expostulation, & riddle them with commas, cut them in half, in three, in fours, ruining the swing, making what was reasonably wordy prose even more wordy and unnaturally awkward (because castrated). In fact the manuscript of Subterraneans, I see by the photostats, is so (already) riddled and buckshot with commas and marks I can’t see how you can restore the original out of it. The act of composition is wiser by far than the act of after-arrangement, “changes to help the reader” is a fallacious idea prejudging the lack of instinctual communication between avid scribbling narrator and avid reading reader, it is also a typically American business idea like removing the vitamins out of rice to make it white (popular).”

Yeah! Jack, you tell them.

3. I get a lot of e-mail from lots of countries, but I get a special kick out of it when, for instance, somebody translates Ginsberg,
Ferlinghetti and Kerouac into Turkish.

4. Lots and lots of Beat movies are “in development”, as they say in Hollywood. Francis Ford Coppola’s proposed film of ‘On The Road‘ is still being discussed, and, yes, they are considering casting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (from “Good Will Hunting”) as Sal and Dean. I assume Matt would play Dean and Ben would play Sal. I just hope Robin Williams stays the hell out of it.

Anyway, the Damon/Affleck thing is far from a done deal, just something being bandied about. A new screenplay for ‘Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ is also in the idea stage. I think this could be an amazing movie if done well. I vote for Woody
Harrelson to play Neal Cassady, but I can’t think of anybody who’d be right to play Ken Kesey — yeah, I know, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (whoever doesn’t get to play Kesey can be Babbs). I’m just not sure about it.

In all seriousness, though, I hope this film gets made, but it probably doesn’t portend well that Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, a book about the same era, with a similar sensibility, bombed at the box office. This may scare off some
of the bean-counters out there on the ‘Digital Coast’.

There are also still machinations behind the proposed Steve Buscemi film based on William S. Burroughs’ two novels ‘Queer’ and
Junky‘, and I really hope this one happens. I saw an early version of this screenplay and it was excellent. I also hear that a movie about the early days of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Lucien Carr and company is being proposed. The tentative title is ‘Beat’ — real original, guys. Then again, it’s a better title than ‘Last Time I Committed Suicide‘.

Forget all this Hollywood/Sundance bullshit for a minute, though, and let’s just take a minute to think about an obscure 64-minute movie made by a certain poor aspiring filmmaker somewhere in the outer buroughs of New York City, a
failed actor who had to work as a software engineer to support
his lifelong dream that he could make a movie of his very own. This young man had no agent, no budget, no equipment — just a Macintosh, some expensive software of dubious license-status, and a bunch of friends willing to be videotaped doing stupid things in public. And this pathetic, lonely would-be auteur slaved away two hard years making this movie, all the while also slaving away maintaining his website (fixing spelling errors, etc., which is hard work) and now, finally, after all this work, the movie has been released on CD-Rom and is on sale for only $12.00. Let’s talk about this for a minute.

Because, in case you haven’t guessed yet, that filmmaker is me. My modern-dress version of ‘Notes From Underground‘ has been out for a couple of months now, and I’ve gotten really excellent feedback on it. I’ve just finished switching credit card vendors so that people who tried to buy it online and couldn’t get through earlier this month should no longer have any trouble. So what the hell are you waiting for? Get your ass
over there and buy a copy. It’s Dostoevsky. It’s good for you.

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