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October 08, 1971 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1971-10-08

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Fridoy, October 8, 1971

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

THE MKHIGAN DAILY Page Hve

THE BEAT GENERATION

On

the

Road

Bruce Cook, THE MEAT GEN-
ERATION, Scribner's, $6.95.
Ann Charters, SCENES ALONG
THE ROAD, Portents/Gotham
Book Mart, $3.00
By R.C. GREGORY
A couple of years ago The
New Yorker published a poem
by Allen Ginsberg; then Jack
Kerouac was lamented; and not
long ago, with lugubrious eulogy
by Charles Reich, counter cul-
ture, nee Beat Generation, was
laid out. Dissected into frag-
ments, the best work of a gen-
eration, like the bones of me-
dieval saints, has been interred
in reliquary reading lists around
the country.
In America when literary
movements and the writers who
make them die, they do not, as
in olden days, go to Pere La-
chaise; they go to universities:
the dead care for the dead. In
the fullness of time, which is
always too late, the medieval
sow neither recognizes her er-
rors and rejections nor admits
her canibalism; she recognizes
her dead offspring and proceeds
to bury them beneath piles of
theses.
But there is a chance with
The Beat Generation. Bruce

Cook who wrote this book about
the Beats is a literary journal-
ist, not a professor. That has
not diminished the poignancy
of the dead lives and it certain-
ly hasn't reduced the goodness
of Bruce Cook's study. The Beat
Generation is a good piece of
work of a kind not often done
adequately. It is history, report-
ing, interviews and reminis-
censes; it is personal, although
the author never assumes an
importance greater than that of
his subjects. Bruce Cook's book
makes clear at least two things:
Americans generally h a v e
rarely found a place or a way
in which to be at home in this
land and, consequently, have
an imperfect sense of what is or
can be. That is one thing. The
other is more obvious and more
ominous: as a direct consequence
of War Two, the decay in
American intellectual and ar-
tistic life set in at the top-
in the universities, about the
time the Beat Generation was
forming.
This decay would not be ob-
vious, except that the effect of
Beat books, if not their intent,
has been to show how obsolete
universities, among other insti-
tutions, are. The age of admin-
istration has made it impossible

ofAm
to distinguish government de-
partments from universities:
administrators have become in-
terchangeable parts. This is
ominous because art and intel-
lect do not thrive in Washing-
ton nor under administrators.
What's good enough for Wash-
ington is not good enough for
Harvard or Michigan, although
no one wants to say as much.
It is not so much that there
were no Establishments before
War Two; there were. It is
more that since War Two, the
same establishment of admin-
istrators is everywhere and
more or less identical. Nearly all
prominent administrators are
veterans of War Two; they do
not miss the killing and dying-
but they miss their war. Mili-
tarized at an early age, veter-
ans, especially those' who re-
turned to academic or govern-
ment posts or those who stayed
in, have never adjusted to non-
belligerency.
Perhaps it is natural that all
institutions should grow imper-
sonal; it does not follow that
universities need become deper-
sonalized repo-depots, adminis-
tered by ruptured ducks. This
nation is occupied. The Beat
Generation,. f r o m Kerouac's
On the Road to now, has ex-
posed the occupation and sought
alternatives. The Beats were the
first to open guerrilla warfare;
they simply went out of univer-
sities, out of cities, on the road.
Bruce Cook writes.
There must be nearly a
hundred quotably eloquent
examples of Kerouac on the
art of travel. And in all them
there is such freedom, such
an obvious feeling of opti-
mism and joy that it seems
almost superfluous to empha-
size the deeply and specifical-
ly American quality that per-

The literary Fifties were ex-
acerbated by the dead and dy-
ing New Critics who kept
moaning about the lack of liter-
ary culture, while Wellek and
and Warren defined a poem as
a system of systems, thus giv-
to the world the confusion that
pedagogy and literary criticism
are identical and systems analy-
sis is superior to both.
The Fifties of the intellectual
quarterlies were soiled by the
Partisan Review et al., relict
from the thirties and infected
with Miss Mary McCarthy's

What they were to find and
to make is impressive; Bruce
Cook writes, "It was not only
that they touched something es-
sential and responsive in their
younger readers and listeners.
The Beats also had behind them
the force of a long, rich, and
deeply American tradition."
They made books from their
journey. If some of them travel-
led without finding a way, if
few of them have charted home,
they nevertheless made a Re-
naissance.
Nor was it just a San Francis-
co Renaissance, although it
headed there. It was an Ameri-
can Renaissance because, in
brief time, it affected millions
where they had not been living
and because, above all else, it
was not dedicated to war or
death or universities but to
peace and the land and love.
From San Francisco the word
went over the land; and the bell
was not cracked. Jack Kerouac
returned to fiction the strong,
joyous narrative line, the sense
of story, that readers could, and
thousands have, retell by re-
enactment. Readers and young-
er Beats discovered in Kenneth
Rexroth a beautiful poet, whose
sense of the word and the word's
resources, is matched by a pur-
ity and precision unique and
lovely.
Gary Snyder brought to his
poems and journals and essays
the deepest, cleanest sense of
earth since Thoreau--or certain
Japanese or the American In-
dians-taught what no one else

the members of this genera-
tion see themselves.
For all that was against them
-reviews, universities, "south-
ern reactionary literary gentle-
men," and other cops-the Beats
found an audience and wrote for
it and read to it. Robert Frost,
among a few "reading" poets,
had been saying lieder unac-
companied for decades; Dylan
Thomas and Theodore Roethke,
as much as anyone, started the
new round of poetry readings-
although Kenneth Rexroth was
first to read poems with jazz
back-up.
The Beats took up reading,
with a difference. They made
their readings more powerful by
reading the audience as well as
their poems: they sensed both
how and what to read. Ginsberg's
readings, especially, have always
been exchanges of verbal and
other energies, where Dylan
Thomas's were aria perform-
ances.
The importance of the Beat
Generation is simple and enor-
mous and Bruce Cook's study
makes both aspects clear. The
Beats made a Renaissance and
they made it outside the gates,
in this broad awakening land.
They made their lives and this
brought something missing back
to American literature. They
brought back to literature a con-
cern for words and form that
had been carried on almost alone
by William Carlos Williams and
Charles Olson. They picked up
bardic strains silent since the
death of Yeats. They found D. H.

terican Renaissance

booksbooks

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr, 1953

Advance Man.

Jerry Bruno and Jeff Green-
field, THE ADVANCE M A N,
William Morrow, $5.95.
By WILLIAM GAUS
Jerry Bruno is a former fac-
tory worker for whom God had
a special plan. In the nineteen-
fifties, he chanced to go to a
political meeting in his native
Wisconsin, centering around the
campaign of a Democratic as-
pirant for the governorship
named William Proxmire. Prox-
mire happened to chat person-
ally with Bruno and, in the
manner of politicians, solicited
Bruno's help and advice. As
Bruno remembers it, so novel
an experience was it for his
opinions to be sought that he
plunged into the Proxmire cam-
paign, and stayed with Prox-
mire through subsequent cam-
paigns that sent him to Wash-
ington as a U.S. Senator. Dur-
ing Proxmire's re-election bid,
Bruno handled arrangements
for a series of in-state speeches
on Proxmire's behalf by then-
Senator John Kennedy of Mas-
sachusetts. When Kennedy be-
gan to gear up for the pri-
mary campaigns that would
eventually carry him to the
Pre s i d e n cy he remembered
Bruno and recruited him away
from Proxmire. For the next
nine years, Bruno served, with
distinction as a political tech-
nician for Presidential aspir-
ants and Presidents. The Ad-
vance Man is a winning ac-
count of those years.
That this is not a pretentious
book can be seen by its brevity
and by the photographs which
appear on the inside front cover.
They show Bruno, a dour,
chunky man in the background
of a series of famous men of the
nineteen - sixties. The principal
subject is sometimes smiling,
sometimes solemn and always in
the light. Bruno's face is al-
ways blank and often blurred
and he stands away from the
center of the picture, looking
bored, and slightly pained. Bru-
no wisely lays no claim to
knowing Kennedy's true feel-
ings on any question of policy,
or to have been present when
the important decisions of that
administration were made. Can-
didly related is the infrequency

with which he saw the Presi-
dent privately, and what a prize
it was to be asked-and you
had to be asked-to join the
President at the pool, or the
Candidate in the forward cab-
in of the plane. Nor does Bruno
try to hold interest with infor-
mal glimpses of the late Presi-
dent and his family, though
there is some of that.
Instead, the book is primarily
about advancing political visits
for the two politicians who had
the keenest intuitive sense of
the importance of such prepara-
tion and the natural gifts to
exploit Bruno's talents to the
fullest. It was Bruno who would
see to it that crowds were held
back behind some non-intimi-
dating barrier, a single strand
of rope, say, held by plain-
clothes marshals, and that the.
barrier would be dropped at the
right moment, allowing the de-
lighted crowd to press close to
the waving, handshaking can-
didate. It was Bruno who
would oversee distribution of 10,
000 tickets to an event in an
auditorium that couldn't seat
3,000 and Bruno who would see
to it that nobody was turned
away merely because he had no
ticket.
History will little note, per-
haps, nor long remember, how
many times Kennedy spoke "be-
fore an overflow crowd" because
Bruno deliberately booked the
smaller of two facilities, but
one cannot read this book with-
out being impressed with how
very helpful Bruno's kind of
savvy was to the men he
served. In part, this is a text-
book on the necessity for
shrewd and painstaking culti-
vation of appearances.
In addition, the careful de-
scription of how it was all put
together helps stir the memo-
ry, makes the reader able to
recall how very exciting and en-
tertaining the Kennedys could
be, and this can make pleasant
reading for those who recall
those years with a special fond-
ness. Bruno has an agreeable
way of telling it, not like a
member of the elite, but as an
ordinary sort of fellow who
chanced to be present at a time
and place rich with excitement,
camaraderie and fun.

Gary Snyder, 1956
Bourbonic ability to forget
nothing - and to learn noth-
ing.
Chaplin's "Limelight" was
picketed in Ann Arbor and
elsewhere, as was Herbert van
Karajan, although Werner van
Braun got himself a spacious
job. Young veterans gave up
searching after lost generations
and settled down in the coun-
try of the old. Others came
back from War to wage anoth-
er one, in English courses. on
the psychology department -
and seem bent on fighting it out
unto threescore and ten. secure
in the fox hole of tenure; no
one listens.
Still others who had, in their
opinions, held Michigan togeth-
er during the war, relapsed into
Miltonic behavior under the
sweet assumption that behavior
is textual exposition. But wait:
Michigan did something for
poetry in the Beat years; the
University gave Edgar A. Guest
an honorary doctorate. You
know: "I'd rather flunk my
Wasserman test . Than read a
poem by Eddie Guest."
Somehow, amid these down-
and-out conditions, the Beat
Generation -- Jack Kerouac, Al-
len Ginsberg, Gary Snyder,
Kenneth Rexroth, Gregory Cor-
so. and Michael McClure, among
others. took off, went on the
road. They sought and in seek-
ing fought. It was a brave set-
ting out, "the worst time . .
For a journey, and such a long
journey: / The ways deep and
the weather sharp .
Today's Writers .. .
R.C. Gregory, a reviewer of
long - standing for the Daily,
works at Centicore Bookshop.
William Gaus is a former al-
gebra teacher who served two
years as the outstanding Cau-
casian Go player in Dallas,
Texas.

a change of heart, a change of
consciousness, is a mighty thing.
Bruce Cook's book is not and
does not pretend to be a com-
plete map of the Beat way. It is
too soon, we are all mid-passage
or dead. The Beat Generation
compares favorably with Lewis
Mumford's The Golden Day,
all one could ask at this time.
Scenes Along the Road is
complimentary to Bruce Cook's
book. Compiled by Ann Char-
ters, with three poems and com-
ments by Allen Ginsberg, and
occasional comments by others,
this is a small paperbound col-
lection of "Photographs of the
Desolation Angels, 1944-1960."
Most of the photographs come
from Ginsberg's collection-and
it is easy to be grateful to him
for having taken and, posed for
snapshots; it is humbling and
interesting to see pictures of

men "before they became, as
Jack Kerouac put it, famous
writers more or less."
These photographs show how
Alvah Goldbrook, Dean Mori-
arity, Japhy Ryder, Ray Smith,
and quite a few others looked
when they were beginning to
write-about each other, among
other things. These pictures
are the persons, places, times;
what is gone and what remains.
If "Many ingenious lovely
things are gone," there are
these pictures as well as the
books. Much remains; Allen
Ginsberg's final memorial poem
ends the book this way,
Well, while I'm here I'll
do the work-
and what's the Work?
To ease the pain of living.
Everything else, drunken
dumbshow.

Jack. Kerouac, 1937

Jack Keronac and Peter Orlovsky,
Tangier, 1957
meates all his writing. He is
what the Beats have most in
common with Mark Twain,
. the Wobblies, Jack London,
and all those hobo heroes of
American literature.
That was in the Fifties-and
the Fifties were a strange time,
longer ago than subtraction,
more distant than the war.
They were strange, depressing
years. In addition to the post-
war consumer-orgy, the times
were poisoned by Senator Mc-
Carthy's licensed rabidity. The
House counterpart to his Sena-
torial sub-committee was, in
fact, bade welcome to Michigan.

has succeeded in learning so
well: "Only those who do not
deny the web of being have vis-
sion."
Allen Ginsberg, since "Howl,"
has created a body of poetry
which gives his role of nabi
among the gentiles the vision-,
ary intensity of Blake and the
frank openness of Whitman:
Listen, literary articulation,
even of the long-haired gener-
ation, is just a ripple of the
giant wave of evolution that
is taking place. What this
whole generation feels is a
c o s m i c consciousness, an
awareness of being in the
middle of the cosmos instead
of this town or that valley or
city. So if they perceive this
big breath of this giant being,
then there are real differences
between them and the previ-
ous generation who thought of
themselves as individuals. Now
it's as leviathan tendrils that

Lawrence and read him-and not
as a casebook.
The Beats. in general, found
what Gary Snyder says he seeks,
voices for things that do not us-
ually have voices. They set out,
more or less consciously, to find
the place, home, where, as Sny-
der has said, "linguistic struc-
ture and mythology intersect .
very close to the center of poli-
tics . . . where you can chanige
the mind of a whole civilization."
Wherever located inside the
head, the Beats came nearer
that intersection than any gen-
eration of writers since The
Golden Day. The Beats charted
the possibility that one can
learn to live in this continent,
but that it will require an im-
mense work from and in each
person, To have found a way to

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