“A Thanksgiving Prayer” by William Burroughs was written 30 years ago and it is as relevant now as the day Burroughs put it to paper. AIDS, the war on drugs, cops killing Blacks, homophobia, Big Brother…If anything, it’s gotten worse.
So what is there to be thankful for? The right to talk about it.
To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day November 28 1986
Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For n*gger-killin’ lawmen, feelin’ their notches.
For decent church-goin’ women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for “Kill a Queer for Christ” stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind their own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories—all right let’s see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.
For decades upon centuries, revolution of various stripes has often had roots firmly wrapped around and within the print medium. From Martin Luther to Karl Marx, manifestos, underground papers, comics, fliers—the pen not the sword, in other words—have caused change. These are the occasions where the medium itself was indeed the message. When it comes to cultural revolution, this is all truth times nine and with the birth of the counterculture and especially its prodigal bastard child, punk, print media in the form of zines were an absolutely vital part of this.
But all of this pseudo-flowery historical talk is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Rob St. Mary’s incredible tome-tribute to Detroit’s alternative culture magazine, The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry. Influenced by its forefathers White Noise (1978-1980) and Fun:The Magazine for Swinging Intellectuals (1986-1990), The Orbit managed to take the punk ethos of the former, the polished yet primed fuck-it-ness of the latter and out of both emerged a local publication whose shakes, quakes and reverberations could be felt not only outside of the Detroit area, but for years later after its demise in 1999.
White Noise featured interviews with punk stalwarts like DEVO, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers and Pauline Murray from the UK group Penetration. Fun had such biting political activity book whimsy like “Ronald’s Mind Maze,” where you get to navigate around such topics as world destruction and Jodie Foster in the former actor/president’s appropriately ghoulish head. Fun was put to bed permanently in the spring of 1990 and out of its ashes sprung Orbit.
Losing the politics and adding emphasis on local art, culture, humor and entertainment, this bi-monthly free alternative paper quickly established itself as the right mix of edge with just enough professionalism to make it truly subversive. At the center of this paper was its creator, Jerry Peterson, better known to some as “Jerry Vile,” the same man behind the two previous publications and self-described “sloppy perfectionist,” Peterson is revealed as an artist, musician, editor, writer and publisher as a controversially catalytic personality. If you want real creative impact, complete with cultural shrapnel, then you need guys like Peterson, whom might burn down the whole hen house to make the omelet but it will be an omelet you will never forget. The man pissed off everyone ranging from their only real competition, the Metro Times, assorted ex-advertisers and former staff members, including Film Threat editor Chris Gore (all of which is beautifully detailed in the Fun chapter), but his mark was and is undeniable, and the proof of that is all lined out in this anthology.
Created with the goal of being “friendly as possible for all readers while retaining a hip vibe” is a lofty one that can leave a veritable football-field sized room to fail, Orbit escaped this folly by enlisting a strong crew of artists and writers over its nine year lifespan. Influenced by magazines as seemingly divergent as Spy and Oui, Orbit stood out on a visual level alone, complete with its own mascot, “Orby,” a grinning, slightly smug looking globe-man loosely based on former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Designed by illustrator Terry Colon, who would go on to create work for Time and Entertainment Weekly, Orby would gain further fame when featured on a T-Shirt worn by Quentin Tarantino in his 1995 film, Pulp Fiction. (Orbit was one of the earliest mags to write about the then indie-darling now Hollywood titan, when his debut, Reservoir Dogs first hit the screen back in 1992. It was a kind act the young director did not forget.)
Along with its own personal Alfred E. Neumann-ish mascot, Orbit would feature the work of established artists, like the inimitable and Bathory-like-in-her-ability-to-not-age Niagara, whose artwork was used for the most recent Kid Rock album, First Kiss. Niagara was also a member of both the terminally underrated psychedelic-punk-rock band Destroy All Monsters and the super group Dark Carnival, which also featured both Asheton brothers. But Orbit became known for breaking more artists into the world, including Glenn Barr (DC Comics,The Betty Pages Digest, etc), Tom Thewes (Hi-Fructose), Mark Dancey (Motorbooty Magazine, assorted rock posters) and more. Humans are visual creatures, so if you’re going to have hip content then you’d better have an outside that not only draws the readers in, but also visually reflects the trip you are about to take them on.
Another facet of the arts was the weird array of local Detroit bands that got their first taste of fame via the pages of Orbit, ranging from Kid Rock (back in his flat top days) and Insane Clown Posse to The White Stripes and His Name is Alive. Detroit’s rich and diverse musical history continued well into the 1990’s and all of that is reflected here. One of the biggest surprises is that Rock himself, who not only contributed $20,000 of his own money to the Kickstarter for this book but who also comes across impressively self-effacing within the pages. “Talk about someone trying to get attention—-running around with a flattop hair cut with too much Aqua Net screaming, ‘I’m the pimp of the nation!’” It’s enough to almost overlook the fact that this is the same man that wrote a song called “Jesus and Bocephus.” Almost.
Orbit also delves into the assortment of ways the staff writers would keep themselves and their readers entertained. A personal favorite was their concert listings section, called “Critical Dates.” There can be a certain type of beauty when a writer is bored and the “fuck it! Let’s have some fun!” instinct kicks in. My personal favorite was the write-up for an upcoming Eagles gig. “You would think with all the senseless violence in the world that somebody would get sensible and inflict some bodily hurt on these money-grubbing-has-beens. Hell Freezes Over?” And this was BEFORE the classic butt-rockers released an album only through Wal-Mart.
That’s not even touching the borderline-Subgenius levels of prankdom, including throwing the world’s worst garage sale, where one could purchase such “treasures” as “two really ugly mens wigs,” “single rusty metal coaster,” “broken Sweet Valley High cassette” and “a latex sex device that was left in a garage for 20 years and is now covered in mold spores.” There were more serious moments, including Detroit historian and geographer Bill McGraw’s (using the pen name of Silas Farmer) column entitled “Detroit’s Shameful History” that delved into the city’s less covered and more unseemly past.
Orbit folded in 1999 but thanks to Rob St. Mary’s tireless research and academic-meets-pop-culture-sage approach with this Re-Entry, it will live on for both those who experienced it firsthand and those who never had a chance to hold an issue in their hands. The formatting on this book alone is a graphic designer’s sweet-laced dream but the content meets it riches for riches. To quote Orbit father, Jerry Peterson, “I really, really enjoy making people upset. I think that is my art.”
The loss of ignorance makes existence worthwhile. Two days ago I’d only vaguely heard of the late English composer and jazz musician Graham Collier (1937-2011) and would probably have never hooked up with his work if not for a tweeted image of his 1977 album The Day of the Dead that set me off on an Internet voyage of discovery.
Collier was a musician, composer and teacher of considerable note—which only underlines my paltry knowledge—and wrote a significant body of work before his untimely death. But my attention was drawn to this photo by the name of the author on the cover of the album: Malcolm Lowry—one of the great misunderstood and underappreciated authors of the 20th century, whose books demand to be read and kept permanently in print—currently only one of his books is available, not surprisingly it’s his classic novel Under the Volcano.
Little ole drink anything me, Malcolm Lowry and his classic book ‘Under the Volcano.’
Lowry’s Under the Volcano is the Faustian tale of Geoffrey’s Firmin, a British consul to Mexico, and his descent into a personal hell. This book inspired Collier to write The Day of the Dead, which was then described as his most “sprawling and ambitious” work as a composer.
Too often there is an awkwardness born out of improvised jazz and spoken word (listen to Jack Kerouac’s recordings) which can ruin good music and good words, but here Collier managed to wed Lowry’s words (culled from Under the Volcano and spoken by John Carbery) with his storm-tossed, intense music. It’s a revelation and has been deservedly hailed as his masterpiece. As critic Thom Jurek wrote of the album:
Collier’s vision here is focused, intense, and spiritually charged by Lowry’s work. This is not some jazz with text, where a written text becomes the thematic cause of a group of instrumentalists, but more a series of passages that offered great textural and spiritual depth and dimension by this obviously on fire group of musicians.
This is vanguard music, but it is far from “free jazz.” The gorgeous chromatic range is almost overwhelming as these players entwine around one another, and the text, further extending the entire notion of collaboration between literature and jazz.
The totality of this set makes for Collier’s most ambitious work yet, but also his most realized statement on record for a group of this size. This is the text for British and European big bands to follow.
Graham Collier creating ‘the text for British and European big bands to follow.’
Collier had an understandable obsession with Lowry, as the writer mined a solitary path against insurmountable odds. In fact it was incredible that Lowry ever managed to write anything as his fondness for alcohol often had the better of him—here, was a man who would literally drink anything, including aftershave and hair tonic.
But Lowry for all his demons was a man who understood and loved life—he thrived in the joy and complexity of existence, writing everything down in his notebooks before it was all too quickly gone.
Listen to Graham Collier’s ‘The Day of the Dead,’ after the jump….
The City Life Book Of Manchester Short Stories, published by Penguin in 1999, included a contribution from the city’s public fountain of bile, Mark E. Smith. The book’s editor, Ra Page, then on the masthead of Manchester’s City Life magazine, subsequently published a “making-of” diary that suggested the Fall singer’s inclusion was more Penguin’s idea than his own.
Scans of the two-and-a-half-page story have long been up at thefall.org, but it was actually simpler to transcribe this brief tale than to post the images. As far as I can tell, “No Place Like It” concerns the space-wasting activities of some unhappy Mancunians. I suppose someone has to be on the business end of Smith’s withering scorn; better them than me.
PONDERING at half-step on the gross arrogance, blatant incompetence and thievery of the white trash in their late twenties, and their shaven-headed middle class imitators, FRANK circumnavigated what seemed like endless sand-holes, foxholes, spastic-convenient kerb stones punctuated by upright, kicked-over, reddy-orange and white fences on his way through the doing up of the Manchester Victoria post-bomb development.
It had been a muggy, slowcoach taxi ride, due to the incompetent driver, who in his porn-stupefied brain had not turned left before the Cathedral, where FRANK had made an early exit.
The only thing he remembered was the three healthy kids who’d thrown two rocks at the passing vehicles near the Rialto in Higher Broughton.
He was getting the black illuminations again, i.e. All Is Substance – You Have Contact With None, or There’s Been Nothing on Granada For At Least Ten Minutes, Never Mind the Digital Testing.
DELIVERING leaflets 22 hours a week was just about manageable, thought JOE, if it wasn’t for those big over-powered cars making him jump every time he crossed the road – they made him remember the small metal splint in his upper right thigh from that time he’d ventured into Rusholme, pissed, and got half knocked over. He’d agreed with most of the shit on that political leaflet that other bloke he’d bumped into was giving out, apart from that repeated phrase – It All Makes Sense, Doesn’t It QUESTION MARK.
The men in the yellow hats sniggered as he limped by, and it seemed that they’d deliberately sanded near him, sending vicious particles coupled with lime flowing through the muggy, close, damp Cheetham Hill mid-afternoon on to his forehead and into his eyes.
STEWART Mayerling sat down in the Low Rat Head pub near the bottom end of Oxford Road, trying to work out how his plans to distract and confuse his English Drama lecturer hadn’t quite worked out. Mother was a teacher, and the attention/distraction games had always worked on her. The pager going off, mid-lesson, the showbiz titbit asides in the middle of Hamlet, my vegetarianism – how the jumped-up prole sneered at that, of course not understanding my code of internal hygiene, well advanced beyond that of mere travellers and their ilk, or polytechnic balding lecturers. For that matter – I think I’ll head up to Victoria, skip the lecture.
THE MITRE Arms, adjacent to the Cathedral, and next to The Shambles was empty this afternoon. FRANK walks in, having well given up on getting past Marks & Spencer, and blanching at the apostrophe on the Finnegan’s Wake pub sign, towards the station. Picking a table was fairly hard even though – only one large eight-seater occupied by Joe.
In walks STEWART.
‘Is it OK to sit here?’ he asks the seated two.
‘It’s crap out there isn’t it?’ says JOE.
‘Damn right it is.’
‘Let’s form a Party,’ says FRANK . . .
After the jump, MES reads the football results… as only he can!
“What did you and Jack do?” Allen Ginsberg asked Gore Vidal one cold January night in 1994.
“Well, I fucked him,” Vidal was pleased to reply. On the night of August 23, 1953, the two men of letters had banged one out in a Chelsea Hotel room following a Greenwich Village bar crawl. Kerouac published a fictionalized account of the assignation in The Subterraneans but, aside from a morning-after moment of “horrible recognition,” he left out the sex. Vidal was annoyed, and said so:
I challenged Jack. “Why did you, the tell-it-all-like-it-is writer, tell everything about that evening with Burroughs and me and then go leave out what happened when we went to bed?”
“I forgot,” he said. The once startlingly clear blue eyes were now bloodshot.
Palimpsest, the first of Gore Vidal’s two memoirs, fills in the lacuna with a detailed record of the evening’s events. It began with William S. Burroughs. Kerouac and Vidal had met before, and in a 1952 letter to Kerouac, Burroughs expressed interest in meeting the author of The Judgment of Paris:
Is Gore Vidal queer or not? Judging from the picture of him that adorns his latest opus I would be interested to make his acquaintance. Always glad to meet a literary gent in any case, and if the man of letters is young and pretty and possibly available my interest understandably increases.
Gore Vidal on the back cover of The Judgment of Paris, 1952
The three writers met at the San Remo bar the following year, after Burroughs’ return from Mexico. Kerouac, Vidal writes, “was manic. Sea captain’s hat. T-shirt. Like Marlon Brando in Streetcar.” Burroughs asked about a Turkish bath in Rome that Vidal had described in The Judgment of Paris. They moved on to Tony Pastor’s, a lesbian bar; afterwards, Kerouac swung around a lamppost out front, “a Tarzan routine that caused Burroughs to leave us in disgust.” Vidal was ready to go back to his father’s apartment uptown, but Kerouac had a different notion:
“Let’s get a room around here.” The first law of sex is never go to bed with someone drunk. Corollary to this universal maxim was my own fetish–never to have sex with anyone older. I was twenty-eight. Jack was thirty-one. Five years earlier, when we first met, I would have overruled the difference, but I had also arbitrarily convinced myself that Conrad’s “shadow line” extended to sex: So from the age of thirty on, a man or woman was, for my purposes, already a corpse–not that I ever had much on my mind when it came to sex with men. In my anonymous encounters, I was what used to be called trade. I did nothing–deliberately, at least–to please the other. When I became too old for these attentions from the young, I paid, gladly, thus relieving myself of having to please anyone in any way. But now here I was stuck with Jack, who had certainly once attracted me at the Metropolitan when that drop of clear water slid down his cheek. Now there was real sweat. I stared at him. We were the same height and general build. With some misgiving, I crossed the shadow line.
At the nearby Chelsea Hotel, each signed his real name. Grandly, I told the bemused clerk that this register would become famous. I’ve often wondered what did happen to it. Has anyone torn out our page? Or is it still hidden away in the dusty Chelsea files? Lust to one side, we both thought, even then (this was before On the Road), that we owed it to literary history to couple.
I remember that the bathroom was near the entrance to a large double room. There was no window shade, so a red neon light flickering on and off gave a rosy glow to the room and its contents. Jack was now in a manic mood: We must take a shower together. To my surprise, he was circumcised. [...]
Where Anaïs and I were incompatible–chicken hawk meets chicken hawk–Jack and I were an even more unlikely pairing–classic trade meets classic trade, and who will do what?
Gore Vidal, 1948
“Jack was rather proud of the fact that he blew you.” Allen sounded a bit sad as we assembled our common memories over tea in the Hollywood Hills. I said that I had heard Jack had announced this momentous feat to the entire clientele of the San Remo bar, to the consternation of one of the customers, an advertising man for Westinghouse, the firm that paid for the program Studio One, where I had only just begun to make a living as a television playwright. “I don’t think,” said the nervous advertiser, “that this is such a good advertisement for you, not to mention Westinghouse.” As On the Road would not be published until 1957, he had no idea who Jack was.
Thanks to Allen’s certainty of what Jack had told him, I finally recall the blow job–a pro forma affair, which I put a quick stop to. At what might nicely be called loose ends, we rubbed bellies for a while; later he would publish a poem dedicated to me: “Didn’t know I was a great come-onner, did you? (come-on-er).” I was not particularly touched by this belated Valentine, considering that I finally flipped him over on his stomach, not an easy job as he was much heavier than I [...]
Jack raised his head from the pillow to look at me over his left shoulder; off to our left the rosy neon from the window gave the room a mildly infernal glow. He stared at me a moment–I see this part very clearly now, forehead half covered with sweaty dark curls–then he sighed as his head dropped back onto the pillow. There are other published versions of this encounter: in one, Jack says that he spent the night in the bathroom. On the floor? There was a shower but no tub. In another, he was impotent. But the potency of other males is, for me, a turnoff. What I have reported is all there was to it, except that I liked the way he smelled.
Alas, there is no sex tape, but you can watch part one of the fascinating Omnibus profile of Vidal below (part two here).
Shout Factory TV has given us an early Halloween treat by posting a twenty-five-year-old roundtable discussion from The Dick Cavett Show with Stephen King, George Romero, Ira Levin, and Peter Straub.
The discussion, in two parts, was originally broadcast on October 16 and 17 in 1980, shortly before Stephen King and George Romero began collaborative work on the film Creepshow.
King at that point was “the best-selling author in the world.” Romero’s greatest successes to that date were with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Peter Straub’s major accomplishment up to that point was Ghost Story, which would be adapted into a motion picture the following year. Ira Levin represented the old guard on the panel, having written Rosemary’s Baby in 1967 and The Stepford Wives in 1972.
The fascinating discussion takes place over two separate 30-minute programs. Personally, I could have watched another two hours of these guys talking about their work and inspirations. If you are a fan of any of these individuals, or the horror genre in general, the conversation is crucial.
The panel analyzes the appeal of horror, which Stephen King describes as a healthy way of exorcising the dark emotions of fear, aggressiveness, anger, and sadism in a harmless way. He calls it a way of “blowing off anxieties and bad feelings.” According to King, “You seek out the things that [as a child] scared you the most and you try to get rid of them.” Romero states that the success of horror is based on the ability to induce involuntary responses in the audience.
I know how it is: you read the trilogy of sci-fi novels, saw the play, listened to the audiobook, even picked up the card game, but you still can’t get enough of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s conspiracy epic, Illuminatus! Where is the balm that will soothe your hurt?
Back in 1987, underground comix publishers Rip Off Press—the persons responsible for the fourth edition of the related sacred text Principia Discordia, not to mention The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers—put out Eye-n-Apple Productions’ comic book adaptation of Illuminatus! A few months ago, Eye-n-Apple (which seems to be identical with one Mark Philip Steele) announced plans for a digital reprint on its Facebook page:
Good news, folks, the ILLUMINATUS! comic I published back in 1987 is now in e-comic format, including text commentary. It’s a zip file available for download, and may end up at other sites in other formats. If you’re interested, download the comic and contact me about it. Some of the comments MAY be posted in further editions. There was one self-published issue, then 3 with Rip Off Press, and an unpublished 4th issue. Plans are for us to release one a month from now till we’re done.
No word yet on subsequent numbers, but you can download a free PDF of the first issue here, and it seems this is the space to watch for updates. Below, Robert Anton Wilson and Rev. Ivan Stang of the Church of the Subgenius discuss the consolations of the Discordian faith on Hour of Slack.
October 1958: Jack Kerouac appears on The Ben Hecht Show to discuss the Beat Generation and his latest novel Dharma Bums. Kerouac was still riding high on the first wave of success that came with the publication of On the Road in 1957, and then its follow-up The Subterraneans the following year. Now he was beginning to reap some of the rewards brought by all those long years of hard work and toil, traveling America, honing his writing to a “spontaneous prose,” where first thought was best thought—though this disguised the rewriting involved in being “spontaneous.”
As for Ben Hecht, well he was a famous journalist, author, playwright and screenwriter whose contributions to cinema earned him the nickname “Mr. Hollywood.” Between 1927 and 1964, Hecht wrote or contributed to over 150 movies—often uncredited. While some may not know the name, Hecht’s work is instantly recognizable in such classics as Hitchcock’s Notorious, Spellbound, Rope, Foreign Correspondent and The Paradine Case; or such other gems as the original Scarface with Paul Muni, or Gone With the Wind, or Stagecoach or The Front Page. Hecht was a prolific screenwriter though he thought of Hollywood as a 9-5 job rather than his career. However, he did win considerable praise and acclaim for his film work—being nominated for five Oscars, winning two, and credited with being the first writer to bring powerful and realistic dialog to the screen.
‘The Dharma Bums’ meets dapper Mr. Hecht.
Hecht had started off as a war reporter in Berlin before returning to Chicago as a crime reporter, where he mixed with the lowlifes and hustlers and learnt the language of street—this, of course, he later used to inform his screenplays. Kerouac had similarly lived the low life and learnt the lingo, and one would think this connection would have brought the two writers together, but in his interview Hecht is condescending, almost dismissing Kerouac and the Beats as the latest supermarket fashion rather than a serious literary movement.
Hecht opens with a question on the naming of the Beat Generation, before quizzing Kerouac about his philosophy being a mixture of “Catholicism and gin,” wanting to know in what proportions? Jack is stumped by the question. “G-I-N? Gin?...” he asks, before adding, “I don’t understand your question.” This is where the interview turns into an an awkward dance with both wanting to lead. Hecht asks about Kerouac’s politics (was he a Republican? No, but he liked Eisenhower) and did he believe in the Devil (again a no, as the Devil had been defeated) and what about God? and so on, and so forth. Hecht’s problem is he does not wait or listen long enough to allow Kerouac to give any insight or substance to his answers, preferring to keep the questions moving onwards to some unidentifiable conclusion that is never ultimately reached.
Kerouac sounds bemused and comes off the better of the two. While Hecht (sadly) sounds like a crusty square looking to ridicule the “Drama” bums—as he mistakenly calls them.
In 1981, when William S. Burroughs moved there, Lawrence, Kansas was home to a punk band called the Mortal Micronotz. Bill Rich, owner of Lawrence’s Fresh Sounds label and editor of Talk Talk magazine, was friendly with the author—according to Barry Miles’ Call Me Burroughs, Rich knew Burroughs’ longtime companion and editor James Grauerholz from the latter’s college days in Lawrence—and he arranged a meeting at the band’s request. Burroughs liked them well enough to give them a song lyric about paedophagy, “Old Lady Sloan,” which became a 90-second blast of disgust on the Mortal Micronotz’ eponymous debut. A few lines:
Old lady Sloan, she likes her chow
Burping up her baby like a happy old sow
Old lady Sloan, chewin’ on a bone
Chewin’ on the bones of her child
Old lady Sloan, she went hog wild
Old lady Sloan, she butchered her child
She stuffed him with apples, mincemeat and fig
and she roasted him in her ashpit like a fat little pig
A later lineup of the Micronotz discussed the association with Burroughs in a 1985 interview with Memphis station WLYX:
STEVE EDDY: We got hooked up with him, and he wrote some lyrics for one of our songs on the first record that we put out, a song called “Old Lady Sloan.” And it’s just about a fat old lady who eats her children. And we had some lyrics, and when Dean, our old singer, found out that Bill was an acquaintance—Bill Rich, our record producer, was an acquaintance of William Burroughs, he saw it as a good opportunity to find out what could be done in that area.
JOHN HARPER: Aside from that, the guy who produced our first album was James Grauerholz, who’s William Burroughs’ personal manager, so that kinda helped out.
The Mortal Micronotz’ debut album is long gone—you’ll need to buy a used copy or download a needle drop if you want to hear the original one-and-a-half-minute punk thrash version of “Old Lady Sloan”—but, remarkably, Burroughs recorded the song himself for 1995’s The Mortal Micronotz Tribute! The quality of moral outrage is missing from Burroughs and the Eudoras’ laid-back interpretation of the number, which makes use of a vibraphone; as one imagines Ms. Sloan lingered over her roasted child, they take their sweet time savoring WSB’s words and the Micronotz’ chords. Bon appétit!
Ginsberg was known as a poet, a key figure in the Beat movement—alongside Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs—and for his collections Howl and other poems and KaddishThough then hitting middle age, Ginsberg had revolutionized poetry and was a countercultural icon to the generation that blossomed during the 1960s, as he spoke out against war, and in favor of drugs and free love.
During the Q&A with the Paris Review, Ginsberg was asked about his use of drugs, in particular hallucinogens. As a man who saw no bar on discussing any subject no matter how personal or intimate, Ginsberg said that on hallucinogens he had visions “of great scaly dragons in outer space they’re winding slowly and eating their own tails.”
Sometimes my skin and all the room seem sparkling with scales, and it’s all made out of serpent stuff. And as if the whole illusion of life were made of reptile dream.
Hallucinogenic experiences had been “states of consciousness that subjectively seem to be cosmic-ecstatic, or cosmic-demonic.” However, his tolerance to hallucinogens (“Lysergic acid, peyote, mescaline, psilocybin, ayahuasca.”) was badly reduced and he no longer enjoyed them.
I can’t stand them anymore, because something happened to me with them very similar to the Blake visions. After about thirty times, thirty-five times, I began getting monster vibrations again.
So I couldn’t go any further. I may later on again, if I feel more reassurance.
When the interview was published in the Spring 1966 issue of Paris Review, Ginsberg wrote a letter to journal giving as footnote to the interview his regret over the “unedited ambivalence” to LSD and his endorsement for the drug.
June 2, 1966
To readers of Paris Review:
Re LSD, Psylocibin [sic], etc., Paris Review #37 p. 46: “So I couldn’t go any further. I may later on occasion, if I feel more reassurance.”
Between occasion of interview with Thomas Clark June ’65 and publication May ’66 more reassurance came. I tried small doses of LSD twice in secluded tree and ocean cliff haven at Big Sur. No monster vibration, no snake universe hallucinations. Many tiny jeweled violet flowers along the path of a living brook that looked like Blake’s illustration for a canal in grassy Eden: huge Pacific watery shore, Orlovsky dancing naked like Shiva long-haired before giant green waves, titanic cliffs that Wordsworth mentioned in his own Sublime, great yellow sun veiled with mist hanging over the planet’s oceanic horizon. No harm. President Johnson that day went into the Valley of Shadow operating room because of his gall bladder & Berkley’s Vietnam Day Committee was preparing anxious manifestoes for our march toward Oakland police and Hell’s Angels. Realizing that more vile words from me would send out physical vibrations into the atmosphere that might curse poor Johnson’s flesh and further unbalance his soul, I knelt on the sand surrounded by masses of green bulb-headed Kelp vegetable-snake undersea beings washed up by last night’s tempest, and prayed for the President’s tranquil health. Since there has been so much legislative mis-comprehension of the LSD boon I regret that my unedited ambivalence in Thomas Clark’s tape transcript interview was published wanting this footnote.
Your obedient servant
Allen Ginsberg, aetat 40
The letter was thought long lost somewhere deep in the Paris Review archives, but when it was recently re-discovered, the journal published it along with the following erratum:
The Paris Review regrets the error. May the record hereafter reflect Allen Ginsberg’s unequivocal endorsement of lysergic acid diethylamide.
Below Ginsberg reads William Buckley a poem written under the influence of LSD.