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bohemians, beats and blues people

Jim Burns

from Jim's Introduction

This fourth collection of essays and reviews hopefully provides a useful and entertaining survey of various writers and others who might be said to slot easily into the category of bohemians. I have, admittedly, included some writers who perhaps wouldn't have welcomed being called bohemians. Kurt Vonnegut , Gilbert Sorrentino , and James T.Farrell , for example. But it can be argued that most writers have at least a touch of the bohemian about them, and only those desperate for respectability need to deny it. It may all depend on how you define a bohemian. It's a term that extends far beyond the popular conception of someone who has a free-and-easy life-style that has links, however tenuous, to the arts.

There are several essays dealing with little magazines. They seem to me to be essential to any study of 20th Century literature. This Quarter, Blues, and Contact  between them say a great deal about the literature of the 1920s and 1930s if you want to look beyond the well-known. Likewise, The Floating Bear, Evergreen Review, and Kulchur  offer insights into activity in the late-1950s and early-1960s. One of the pleasures of looking at little magazines of the past is that they have work by writers who never became famous or perhaps produced only a few poems or stories, but who nonetheless made a contribution to the writing of their time. I have to admit to not caring to spend too much time writing about successful authors. Lots of critics and literary historians already do that, so why should I bother? It's the "dusty side-streets" (as someone described them) that interest me.

Paperback 6" x 9" 299pp ISBN 978-1-291-32093-0  published June 2013

From Times Literary Supplement No 5652 July 29 2011 NB back page

Among the more agreeable features of the literary world is the proximity of the ivory tower to the dusty side street. The criti­cal sage, whether he likes it or not, is neigh­bour to the offbeat prowler. Jim Burns is such a one. For half a century, he has inhabited the zone of small press and little magazine, track­ing rebel writers and syncopated songsters. The title of a collection of essays, Beats, Bohemians and Intellectuals (2001), sums him up. Now Mr Burns, who lives in the unlikely setting of Cheadle, Cheshire, has issued Radicals, Beats and Beboppers. Its thirty items appeared originally in publica­tions many readers of this journal will not have heard of: Beat Scene, Prop 3, Penniless Press. Many of its characters are likewise tributarial: Maxwell Bodenheim, Walter Lowenfels, Anatole Broyard.

Mr Burns can tell you what Jack Kerouac was reading in 1941 - the novels of Albert Halper, whoever he was - how the screenplay of The Sweet Smell of Success by Clifford Odets differs from the novella by Ernest Leh­man, on which it is based; what sort of music Jackson Pollock listened to while painting. Burns dismisses the suggestion that Pollock found in the "speed and jarring harmony" of bebop "an apt analogue to his own work". Sometimes he listened to classical music.

An essay on Robert McAlmon, owner of Contact Editions which issued Hemingway's first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems, begins with the unarguable assertion, "Few people today read McAlmon's poetry". Mr Burns shows how McAlmon moved from "poetic language" to "ideas" to a sort of sub-Waste Land verse. By the time he reaches McAlmon's toilet-paper poem ("Inferior goods make scabs / that turn the best people to crabs"), you might think forgetting is the kindest treatment; but you remain grateful to Mr Burns for having done the legwork. Radicals, Beats & Boppers is available from Penniless Press Publications.

 CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

LA VIE DE BOHEME

HARRY KEMP, THE TRAMP POET

BEATS, BUMS AND BOHEMIANS

THIS QUARTER

CAFÉ SOCIETY

GILBERT SORRENTINO

IN PRAISE OF BOOKSELLERS

JOHN CRAXTON

BLUES

CONTACT

KURT VONNEGUT’S JAILBIRD

THINGS ARE NOT AS THEY SEEM

THE INDIGNANT GENERATION

THE MASSES

THE GREAT FEAR

JAMES T. FARRELL

B. TRAVEN

BEATS IN BRITAIN

HOW FAR UNDERGROUND?

PRE-BEATS

TED JOANS IN PARIS

GREGORY CORSO

THE FLOATING BEAR

ORIGINS OF THE BEAT GENERATION

EVERGREEN REVIEW

KULCHUR

JACK KEROUAC’S JAZZ SCENE

WHAT’S YOUR SONG, KING KONG?

THE NAMES OF THE FORGOTTEN

NICA’S DREAM

THE HIPSTER

CENTRAL AVENUE BREAKDOWN

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

NOTES

INDEX

 

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