Tracking the Beat Generation Across Three Continents

Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” (1951)

“PARIS — Though almost entirely lacking a female presence — artist Jay DeFeo and poet Diane Di Prima being the exceptions that prove the rule —  the Centre Pompidou’s airily laid out retrospective of the Beat Generation is otherwise flawless. It delicately and luxuriously balances the dim lighting requirements needed to show the mix of texts, paintings, photography, collages, ephemera, historic documents, magazines (including Beatitude, Umbra and Ed Sanders’s transgressive Fuck You: A Magazine for the Arts), books, jazz music, spoken word recordings, and fantastic underground films. This vast array of artifacts is organized geographically into three main sections — Paris, California, and New York — with two smaller areas devoted to Mexico and Tangier. The Beat Generation’s romantic myth was born with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac gathering at Columbia University in 1944. The exhibition’s large entry gallery is bisected by Kerouac’s original manuscript-scroll of the Beat novel par excellence, On the Road. In the French context, Kerouac’s famous long scroll formally evokes the Marquis de Sade’s 12-meter-long scroll-manuscript of debauchery, The 120 Days of Sodom, seen last year at L’Institut des Lettres et Manuscrits. That the decadent dandy Frenchman could be such a key undercurrent for the literary and artistic aspects of the Beat Generation, first formulated in the late 1940s in the US, is fathomable given the vital role Paris and the French avant-garde played within Beat theory and activity. Between 1957 and 1963, Paris would be an important hub of creative doings and interesting rendezvous for Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Brion Gysin, and others who regularly crashed at the bohemian Beat Hotel at 9 rue Gît-Le-Coeur, as documented in the photographs shot at the hotel by Harold Chapman. The cultural moment Chapman captured is widely believed to have helped inspire the radical events of May 1968 and a general rejection of American technological idealism, racism, and homophobia. For the Beats, for a time, Paris — with the help of psychotropic substances — became the creative heart of their verbal, visual, and sonic experiments.  …”

Bob Thompson – “Le Roi Jones and his Family” (1964)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Books, Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Jazz, LSD, Marijuana, Mexico, Music, Paris, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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