The best thing about this collaboration between Jack Kerouac and William S. The two authors take turns telling their story in alternating chapters. As James W. Louis, Mo.
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The legendary unpublished collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, a hard-boiled crime novel about a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation. Burroughs from St. The next day, his clothes stained with blood, he went to his friends Bill Burroughs and Jack Kerouac for help.
Doing so, he caught them up in the crime. The two were arrested for failing to inform the police, and a few months later, they were drawn to the crime in a different way.
Something about the murder, with its echoes of Verlaine and Rimbaud, captivated the Beats. Burroughs and Kerouac decided to collaborate on a fictionalization of the events of the summer of , a crime novel in the style of Dashiell Hammett or James M. They alternated chapters, Burroughs writing as Will Dennison, a bartender steeped in the criminal underworld and Kerouac as Mike Ryko, a hard-drinking merchant marine in dirty chinos.
For the title, they settled on a line from a news report they had heard one night while sitting in a bar near Columbus Circle. At this point, the writers were far from famous.
Burroughs had written next to nothing, and Kerouac, though he had churned out hundreds of thousands of words, had met with little success—it would be five years before his first novel was published.
When they submitted the novel to publishers, it was rejected by all, and sat unpublished for decades. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is an incomparable artifact from the early days of the Beats, a fascinating piece of American literary history, and a remarkable window into the personal lives of two hugely influential writers at the very beginning of their careers.
It is also an engaging novel, a hypnotic descent into lust and obsession, drugs and alcohol, art and outsized dreams. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac is a literary event, not only because it drew two of the three leading Beat writers into confederacy, but because the book told a story.
But Hippos is more than just a debunking of the standard histories of the period. It contains the first clear expression of the core Beat vision of America as insane and morally corrupt—a vision as apt and accurate today as it was when these outcasts and marginal outlaws began to emerge from their societal exile some 60 years ago.
With its evocative rendition of now-vanished saloons, bygone diners, and other landmarks of yesteryear, Burroughs and Kerouac may have inadvertently done for Greenwich Village what Joyce did for Dublin. The conceit of switching back and forth between narrators every chapter also keeps things speeding along—it creates the illusion that one is listening to a radio broadcast from one station, only to have the frequency changed every few minutes, with the narrative sometimes overlapping and the two voices bleeding into another.
This oddly titled novel is an engaging literary and historical curio. What makes the novel particularly fascinating, however, is its ability to provide a window into the early autobiographical styles of both Burroughs and Kerouac as emerging, unpublished writers. I dropped the News and Mirror on the couch and peeled off my seersucker coat and dropped it on top of them. I was going straight to bed. At this point, the buzzer rang.
Then I took my coat off the couch and hung it over a chair so no one would sit on it, and I put the papers in a drawer. I wanted to be sure they would be there when I woke up in the morning. Then I went over and opened the door. Four people came into the room. Phillip Tourian is seventeen years old, half Turkish and half American. He has a choice of several names but prefers Tourian.
His father goes under the name of Rogers. Curly black hair falls over his forehead, his skin is very pale, and he has green eyes. He was sitting down in the most comfortable chair with his leg over the arm before the others were all in the room. Ramsay Allen is an impressive-looking gray-haired man of forty or so, tall and a little flabby.
He looks like a down-at-the-heels actor, or someone who used to be somebody. Also he is a southerner and claims to be of a good family, like all southerners. He is so stuck on Phillip he is hovering over him like a shy vulture, with a foolish sloppy grin on his face.
And Phillip is all right too. She is straightforward, manly, and reliable. Mike Ryko is a nineteen-year-old, red-haired Finn, a sort of merchant seaman dressed in dirty khaki. Agnes asked me for some water which I got for her. Phillip had some philosophical idea he had evidently been developing in the course of the evening and now I was going to hear about it. So long as you are creating something it is good.
The only sin is waste of your potentialities. Well, that seemed to hit him right between the eyes. Phillip then asked me if I had any marijuana and I told him not much, but he insisted he wanted to smoke some, so I got it out of the desk drawer and we lit a cigarette and passed it around.
It was very poor stuff and the one stick had no effect on anyone. So I filled my glass with Canadian Club. Right then it struck me as strange, since these guys never have any money, where this Canadian Club came from, so I asked them.
This took place earlier in the evening and the fifth was now about half gone. I congratulated Agnes and she smiled complacently. Then there was a lull in the conversation and I was too sleepy to say anything. Agnes and Ryko made faces like someone was scratching fingernails on a blackboard. So then Al ate a piece too and I got him a glass of water to wash it down with.
Agnes asked if I thought they would die, and I said no, there was no danger if you chewed it up fine, it was like eating a little sand. All this talk about people dying from ground glass was hooey. Is anyone hungry? I have something very special I just got today. At this point Phillip and Al were picking stray pieces of glass out from between their teeth.
Al had gone into the bathroom to look at his gums in the mirror, and they were bleeding. So I went into the closet and fooled around for a while and came out with a lot of old razor blades on a plate with a jar of mustard.
Razor blades, glass, and light globes. He finally ate a porcelain plate. By this time everyone was drunk except Agnes and me. I began to wish that everybody would go home. So they lurched out the door and started up the stairs.
The landlady and her family occupy the floor above me, and above them is the roof. I sat down and poured myself some more Canadian Club. Ryko was now dozing on the couch, so I poured the rest in my own glass, and Agnes got up to go. I could hear some sort of commotion on the roof and then I heard some glass break in the street. This seemed logical to me, so I stuck my head out cautiously and there was a woman looking up and swearing. It was getting gray in the street. After a few minutes she walked away still swearing, and I was swearing myself, only silently, as I remembered all the trouble those two had caused me in the past.
I remembered how they had piled up my car in Newark and got me thrown out of a hotel in Washington when Phillip pissed out the window. And there was plenty more of the same. I mean Joe College stuff, about style. This happened whenever they were together. Alone, they were all right. I undressed and got into bed, leaving Ryko sleeping on the couch. Grove Press. I turned on the lights and Agnes left. Everything was quiet on the roof. Newsletters, offers and promotions delivered straight to your inbox.
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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
In alternating chapters that reveal a nascent period in their development as two of the twentieth century's most influential writers, Beat Generation icons William S. This is a hardboiled crime novel, and a true story. In , Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, then still unknown writers, were both arrested following a murder: one of their friends had stabbed another and then come to them for advice - neither had told the police. Later they wrote this fictionalised account of that summer - of a group of friends in wartime New York, moving through each other's apartments, drinking, necking, talking and taking drugs and haphazardly drifting towards a bloody crime.
A first stab at Beat
I n the summer of Jack Kerouac was 23, William Burroughs Both were members of a loose New York coterie of artsy dropouts but neither had written anything substantial. Drifting between late-night bars, friends' apartments and union halls, they were slowly becoming themselves, Kerouac slumming around as a half-hearted merchant seaman and Burroughs embarking on his patient metamorphosis into a wire-veined votary of morphine. In those early days the Beat generation hadn't even realised it was beat. It was just broke and bored.
When a Real-Life Killing Sent Two Future Beats in Search of Their Voices
The legendary unpublished collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, a hard-boiled crime novel about a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation. Burroughs from St. The next day, his clothes stained with blood, he went to his friends Bill Burroughs and Jack Kerouac for help. Doing so, he caught them up in the crime. The two were arrested for failing to inform the police, and a few months later, they were drawn to the crime in a different way.
And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks
First, the fatal stabbing of David Kammerer in , around which this novella revolves like a ghoulish carousel; then the passing in of Kammerer's attacker, Lucien Carr, which meant publication could finally go ahead. Burroughs and Kerouac were 30 and 21 respectively when they composed And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks the surreal title alludes to a report of a fire at a zoo , writing alternate chapters under pseudonyms. Carr and Kammerer were their friends, and the events surrounding the latter's death were still fresh in their minds. A bloodstained Carr sought out both men straight after the attack, but whereas the worldly-wise Burroughs calmly advised Carr to turn himself in, Kerouac buckled under the strain. Nevertheless, Kerouac can barely disguise his excitement at this unexpected exposure to a real-life drama. Without Carr, however, the whole Beat phenomenon might never have happened, for he not only introduced Kerouac, Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg to one another, he also inspired them by setting a bad example. Finally, forcing his attentions on Carr in a park on New York's Upper West Side, Kammerer was rewarded with a pocket knife in the heart.