Huncke Blog

Huncke's "Easter 1961" (Sound Interpretation in 3 parts)

  Image by Mari G I Mooney via angryteen420.tumblr.com 

 

Image by Mari G I Mooney via angryteen420.tumblr.com 

 

From The Herbert Huncke Reader:  "Easter" stands out as a prime example of automatic writing, and a multilayered description of daily life on Avenue C while Huncke was living with poet Janine Pommy Vega and artist Bill Heine—times also described in "The Magician" and "Beware of Fallen Angels".

 

Read/Interpreted by LW w/Fahey Loop in 3 parts.  (Part 3 coming soon.)


 
 

Huncke's Amazon Portal / Help us preserve Huncke's work

 

Please consider clicking through the Huncke Amazon Portal if & when you buy Books or Anything at all on Amazon.  They will give us a tiny micro-payment for each purchase made through this portal.  Proceeds will help publish more small editions of new & old Huncke material, the archiving of his correspondence, notebooks & papers & the digitisation of cassettes & new recordings of his works etc.  

If you go through the portal & then bookmark it for future use please email me (HunckeTeaCompany@gmail.com) with your name & postal address & I will post you a Huncke Business Card from France (if you like).

Click on the Beetles for Huncke Amazon Portal & please bookmark for future use.  It'll go a long way toward preserving Huncke's archives.  Thanks in advance.

 



100 Years & 1 Week—Herbert Huncke Centennial

Poet & musician Leslie Winer is currently recording a series of Huncke stories, notebook entries & letters put to some new music co-written with & produced by Christophe Van Huffel—to be released on vinyl 2015.  The first track ‘Cuba’ will drop at The Huncke Centennial Celebration at The Beat Museum tomorrow night in San Francisco—courtesy of Tate Swindell / Unerequited Records.  Come & have a listen if you’re in the area.  Brilliant list of people paying tribute to Huncke.  100 years young.  Shocking.

 


Please help us here at HunckeTeaCompany to celebrate Huncke’s Centennial Year by possibly thinking about bookmarking & using our Amazon portal for any of your purchases on Amazon.  Books & Otherwise.  Proceeds go toward the archiving & digitisation of Huncke’s notebooks, correspondence & audio recordings—& the publishing of previously unpublished & out-of-print stories in both hard copy & eBook formats.  Let’s keep Huncke’s legacy alive in this, his 100th year.  Thanks in advance.

 

We’ve been busy digitising a series of cassettes, informal conversations with HH from over the years.  Some of these will go up soon over at our Soundcloud account.   We are also preparing a series of podcasts—conversations Now with & about people who knew Huncke.  We're hoping to have a conversation with Stewart Meyer—author of 'The Lotus Crew', chronicler of Burroughs & friend of Huncke's—for our first podcast.  Stay tuned. 

 

Simply click on the image or link (above) to go through our Huncke Amazon Portal & then bookmark us when you are there.  Use this link for all your Amazon purchases & they will give us a micro payment for every purchase made through this link—at no cost to you.  Basically:  free money from Amazon for preserving Huncke archives.  Win / Win.  

 

You can also help by using our Huncke Abe Books affiliate link when you buy rare or out-of-print books from independent booksellers or donate directly with Paypal.  Even 5 bucks helps.  If you make a donation we’ll send you a ‘Huncke Business’ card in the post from Huncke Tea Company headquarters here in France.  Just email us your address etc & we’ll send one out.  ‘Tea they called it.’

 

 

Big donations get one of the new stories.  If you’re good.  Maybe.  Bilingual editions from Les Editions Derrière la Salles de Bains . . .

(email your postal details to huncketeacompany@gmail.com & something will be posted from France, eventually … )

Once upon a time, when I was around 20 or thereabouts & living near Grammercy Park,  Herbert came over for a visit.  It was quite near his methadone pickup at the time so he would drop by twice a week or so.  I had to run out to get some cigarettes & told Herbert I’d be right back.  He started to slowly shake his head in that slow exaggerated sad way that he had: no, no, no.  “Leslie, have I taught you… Nothing?  You can’t leeeeeeeeeaaaave me here.  I’ll steal everything the minute you’re gone.”  I pulled on my new-to-me overcoat which he'd brought over earlier.  “Like a glove!” he said as we descended the staircase.  “That’s merino wool you know.”  

When I first met Herbert in the late '70s I thought of him as old.  Already.  He was just a couple of years older than I find myself here & now.  Across the wounded galaxies we intersect.  —LW January 16, 2015 près de Vigny, France.

 


 


 
 
 

FagRag #42/43 Herbert Huncke, John Wieners

32p. folded tabloid newspaper, photos, art, articles, poetry, services, mildly worn and toned newsprint. Includes an interview with Herbert Huncke, Shively defending prostitution, poetry by John Wieners.


Allen Ginsberg and Herbert Huncke - SFSU 1967

Once again, mirrored from our (Gallimaufrey !) friends at The Allen Ginsberg Project :

[Herbert Huncke and Allen Ginsberg - together on East 10th Street, New York City,  three years later, 1970 - Photograph by Ann Charters]   

[Herbert Huncke and Allen Ginsberg - together on East 10th Street, New York City,  three years later, 1970 - Photograph by Ann Charters
 

From the invaluable trove at San Francisco State University's Poetry Center Digital Archive -  Allen Ginsberg and Herbert Huncke reading on February 7, 1967

This historic event can be heard in its entirety here

Mark Linenthal (of SFSU) begins by noting upcoming events and a visit to the campus by film-maker Stan Brakhage.
He then turns to the business of the evening, introducing Herbert Huncke and Allen Ginsberg.

ML: "I want to welcome  Herbert Huncke and Allen Ginsberg to the Poetry Center and to the campus of San Francisco State College. Allen is going to read first and then we'll have a break and everybody can stand up and stretch and we can open the doors  (oh, the doors are open!), everyone can stand up and stretch, and then Herbert will read.

As most of you know Mr Herbert Huncke is an old friend of Allen's, it's appropriate then to have Allen introduce him to you. Allen Ginsberg needs no introduction but I would like to call attention to his extreme importance. I want to suggest what I think his role has been in changing the way in which we experience our experience, that is, in actually changing us." 

AG: And now I want to introduce someone who I think is a major American prose writer. His work will be published, probably later this year, by Grove Press [editorial note - sadly, this was not to be], an older fellow, who was my teacher and guru, both in language and perception, Mr Herbert Huncke . . .  

HH: I'm afraid my voice will sound pale next to Allen's, he's always so vibrant, you know. As a sort of introduction, I'll read "Song of Self" - "Herbert E Huncke. My name - although I'm generally known as Huncke and by a few as Herbert and in the past as Herbie…"…"It wasn't long after I began travelling and ceased to call Chicago my home." - 

 

In 'The Thief's Journal', Genet says there are very few people who have earned the right to think.  Huncke had adventures and misadventures that were not available to middle-class, comparatively wealthy college people like Kerouac and me:  "Some write home to the old folks for coin.  That's their ace in the hole."  Huncke had extraordinary experiences that were quite genuine.  He isn't a type you find anymore.
— William S. Burroughs (foreword to 'The Herbert Huncke Reader')
 
 


HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY HERBERT HUNCKE !

Here's a little of what's happening around the web regarding Huncke's Centennial Year.  More as it comes in.

 

Mirrored from our friends over at The Allen Ginsberg Project:

January 9 1915, the birthday of Herbert Huncke, original Beat - yes, today marks the day, the official day of the Herbert Huncke Centennial. There'll be a film-showing, as we mentioned last week, of Laki Vazakas' extraordinary documentary, Huncke and Louis,  (in Lowell, not so far from his birthplace, in Greenfield, Mass), tonight, to mark the occasion, and, next week, a big gathering in San Francisco at the Beat Museum featuring Laki Vazakas, Hilary HolladayBen SchaferDennis McNally, Brenda Knight, Regina Marler and Tate Swindell 

Meantime, Huncke on the Allen Ginsberg Project -
There's some invaluable resources. Don't miss our four previous birthday postings
  - herehere, here and here 

His memorable 1982 workshop at the Jack Kerouac Conference at Naropa is available (with transcription)  here

Our note on Hilary Holladay's 2013 biography, American Hipster - here
 

  ["Old-timer & survivor, Herbert E Huncke, Beat Literary Pioneer, early decades thief, who introduced Burroughs, Kerouac & me to floating population hustling & drug scene Times Square 1945. From '48 on, he penned remarkable musings, Collected as autobiographical vignettes, anecdotes & storyteller's tales in the classic The Evening Sun Turned Crimson (Cherry Valley, 1970) and later Guilty of Everything. Here age 78 in basement back-yard, his apartment East 7th Street, near Avenue D, New York, May 18, 1993" - (Photograph and Inscription by Allen Ginsberg)]    

 

["Old-timer & survivor, Herbert E Huncke, Beat Literary Pioneer, early decades thief, who introduced Burroughs, Kerouac & me to floating population hustling & drug scene Times Square 1945. From '48 on, he penned remarkable musings, Collected as autobiographical vignettes, anecdotes & storyteller's tales in the classic The Evening Sun Turned Crimson (Cherry Valley, 1970) and later Guilty of Everything. Here age 78 in basement back-yard, his apartment East 7th Street, near Avenue D, New York, May 18, 1993" - (Photograph and Inscription by Allen Ginsberg)]  
 


  Celebrate centennial of Herbert Huncke’s birth with a special screening of Laki Vazakas's Huncke and Louis at The Luna Theater. From the 1998 Cucalorus Film Festival Guide: “Huncke and Louis” is an honest, sometimes harrowing glimpse of Herbert Huncke’s final years, the culmination of a life lived without compromise. Never straying from the life he chose to live, Vazakas’ camera is witness to Huncke bravely keeping on even after his dear friend Louis Cartwright was murdered in 1994, and as his own life slowly winds down. In a society full of growing religious fervor that is evermore vitriolic for its self-righteous and oft-vindictive moralizing, Huncke seems more and more the anachronism. Herbert Huncke died on August 8, 1996, unrepentant at 81, shown in the film as a man who in his honest non-conformity and gentle repose is, even after death, an anecdote, an antidote, a shot in the arm, so to speak, for anyone who refuses to be bullied into accepting the forced “virtues” of those that feel they need to save us from ourselves.  

 

Celebrate centennial of Herbert Huncke’s birth with a special screening of Laki Vazakas's Huncke and Louis at The Luna Theater.

From the 1998 Cucalorus Film Festival Guide:

“Huncke and Louis” is an honest, sometimes harrowing glimpse of Herbert Huncke’s final years, the culmination of a life lived without compromise. Never straying from the life he chose to live, Vazakas’ camera is witness to Huncke bravely keeping on even after his dear friend Louis Cartwright was murdered in 1994, and as his own life slowly winds down. In a society full of growing religious fervor that is evermore vitriolic for its self-righteous and oft-vindictive moralizing, Huncke seems more and more the anachronism. Herbert Huncke died on August 8, 1996, unrepentant at 81, shown in the film as a man who in his honest non-conformity and gentle repose is, even after death, an anecdote, an antidote, a shot in the arm, so to speak, for anyone who refuses to be bullied into accepting the forced “virtues” of those that feel they need to save us from ourselves.

 

Mirrored from Reality Studio:

The Writer’s Notebooks of Herbert Huncke

Tags: Herbert Huncke

 

by Marcus D. Niski

 

“Whatever one might say of him [Huncke], he was unmistakably a writer.”
– Raymond Foye

“I want to see what makes the world tick, naturally. God, I’ve spent so many years grinding it out, the least I can do is to try to look for something along the way…”
– Herbert Huncke

” … Is Huncke still in the can? No, last time I saw him on Times Square…”
– Allen Ginsberg

Herbert Edwin Huncke undoubtedly ranks amongst one of the most fascinating yet underestimated figures of the ‘Beat’ world.

Born into a middle class family in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Huncke’s colourful life was shaped early on. A restless child and “chronic runaway,” Huncke hit New York City permanently in 1939 at the age of 24, immediately gravitating to Forty-Second Street where he began hustling for sex.

Widely immortalized in the literature of his confrères — William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and John Clellon Holmes — Huncke served as a model for literary characters such as Elmo Hassel in Kerouac’sOn The Road and Herman in Burroughs’ Junky. As Herman, Huncke’s portrait appeared thus:

Waves of hostility and suspicion flowed out from his large brown eyes like some sort of television broadcast. The effect was almost like a physical impact. The man was small and very thin, his neck loose in the collar of his shirt. His complexion faded from brown to a mottled yellow, and pancake make-up had been heavily applied in an attempt to conceal a skin eruption. His mouth was drawn down at the corners in a grimace of petulant annoyance.

As a “Virgilian guide,” Huncke would skillfully guide Burroughs into the subterranean world of junk as well as provide a great degree of source material for his literary adventures. Yet Huncke’s own creative endeavors have often taken a back seat to those of his contemporaries. Throughout his long and often tumultuous life, Huncke wrote his observations, reflections, and vignettes in a series of notebooks. This stock of tales undoubtedly underpinned the Huncke mythology. As longtime friend and confidant Raymond Foye recollects:

There remains an indelible image of Herbert Huncke the writer, frozen forever in time: homeless and alone, couched in a Times Square pay toilet with notebook on knees, furtively composing his latest tale from the underground.

Huncke’s notebooks are an evocative record of his trials and tribulations as a sage and survivor on New York’s often brutal and unforgiving streets. Indeed, Huncke’s fondness of the notebook as a medium in itself is also directly recorded in a devotional piece on Kerouac. In a rice-paper notebook given to him by a friend, the poet Zachary Wollard, Huncke wrote:

TO BEGIN –
I am pleased to receive this beautiful notebook as a gift … notebooks have always pleased me. This notebook suits Jack’s personality as I saw it … a very serviceable book of an unusual appearance…

In a brilliant essay on the notebooks of Albert Camus, Susan Sontag suggests that a writer’s notebooks “have a very a special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself.” Undoubtedly, the notebooks of Huncke — thief, storyteller, junky, street sage, muse, mentor, raconteur and Beat icon — bear this very quality: a writer’s struggle to create a sense of identity amidt the tumult and turmoil of everyday life. Indeed, his notebook writings also serve as an example of what Michel Foucault termed self-writing: a reflective process whereby the writer explores his inner universe in an attempt to mediate the often unsettling nature of the forces around him.

Huncke’s notebook revelations also provide an insight into “a way of life, a vocabulary, references, a whole symbol system” (as Burroughs put it in Junky) that has now largely disappeared. The world of “crash pads, speakeasies, [and] all-night jam sessions with Charlie Parker or Dexter Gordon” was a part of the “carnie” world that informed Huncke’s reflections on an often chaotic, always kaleidoscopic culture.

While eventually Huncke’s collection of notebook writings and stories would be gathered together by friends in The Herbert Huncke Reader (edited by Benjamin Schafer with an introduction by Raymond Foye and biographical note by Jerome Poynton), the notebooks appear to have received little attention from literary scholars.

Having had the privilege of examining Huncke’s cache of notebooks in the Butler Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, I was able to engage personally with the handwritten entries that chart the course of Huncke’s extraordinary life journey.
Characterized by such themes as alienation, depression and sometimes-acute despair, the notebook writings delineate Huncke’s constant struggle with a triangle of forces — self, junk, and the law — that he felt were closing in on him. As an undated entry reflects:

I think I am going insane. I almost hope so. Thoughts rush at one. I am beginning to lose the thread of my story. This happens frequently. Mad thoughts keep occurring to me… All happening to me is unnecessary. It is not important to any cause beyond my own and I am unimportant. Of course it is happening and it is what it is as things are. [Undated MS.]

The frustrations of Huncke’s itinerant existence are expressed in this entry:

lost to the streets — lost completely to a life I once knew — stealing — junk– all night wandering– thru the streets — lost completely to a life I once knew – — stealing — junk all night wandering thru the city — no pads– no friends — no way of life– almost convinced prison is a solution — shriveling within at the mere thought — wishing for death — willing death… [Untitled MS Page, Notebook and Diary excerpts, 1959-1960]

Huncke answers in his notebooks the question why he became a junky in the first place:

I have been asked many times as is always asked of users of narcotics what a fix does to me — how it feels etc…it helps me to believe in life again at the same time to accept it calmly and with peace. [1948]

For Huncke, the process of writing offered a cathartic sense of solace. At times he reflected upon the process and what it meant to be a “writer”:

Perhaps I am writing — but I have come to believe — writing is not a matter of diligent application but rather the result of the will left free… also — one cannot write greatly — or should I say actually coherently — at simply any time — one should be almost guided to it… [Thoughts about Writing, 1948]

Huncke’s fondness for writing as a creative medium is captured in the observations of filmmaker Laki Vazakas. His extensive documentary footage of Huncke provides a glimpse into Huncke’s world in the years shortly before his death. As Vazakas vividly recollects of Huncke sitting writing –

I used to visit Herbert at the Chelsea [Hotel] and he would have a yellow legal notepad and he was always writing in longhand as he never learned to type. It was his way of putting down on paper an internal monologue and obviously it was his way of exploring and examining some of the raw emotions that he had experienced…. Herbert’s style of writing was far more influential than has been acknowledged.

In their physical form, Huncke’s notebooks consisted of a number and variety of forms that included gifts from other writers; composition books such as those commonly used by American school and university students; stenographer notebooks; “memo” books; a mix of different diaries used as notebooks; and notepaper gathered spontaneously from sources such as the YMCA.

The notebook entries range from fully composed stories to mundane notes, sketches, observations and doodles, and both hand-drawn and painted embellishments.

Huncke’s style is “confessional,” direct and highly observant in nature. As Raymond Foye suggests in his introduction to the Herbert Huncke Reader, Huncke’s writing, “…is deceptively simple in its plain spoken style” –

To write as one speaks is one ideal of literature and Huncke’s prose accomplishes just that, to such a degree that reading him is akin to sitting across from him in one of those famous all-night sessions, where tales were unraveled and the human condition examined into the early hours of the morn…

While Herbert Huncke’s literary output was modest in comparison with his Beat contemporaries, it is nevertheless a significant fragment of the overall picture of the Beats as a global literary force. Huncke’s “lifestyle” undoubtedly provided the very model of what it meant to be Beat and to struggle against a system that stymied any alternative phenomenon that deviated from the mainstream. To be an outsider was what “being Beat” came to represent.

Huncke Centennial Celebration at The Beat Museum

HERBERT HUNCKE CENTENNIAL

FRI. JAN. 16TH, 7PM

Presented by the Beat Museum and Unrequited Records

Herbert Huncke has long been a marginal figure among marginal figures. A Times Square hustler whose writings shone a naked bulb upon the gritty urban underworld, peopled with dispossessed characters scraping an existence from the fringes of society, Huncke not only inspired the Beat Generation—he gave it a name.

This January would have been Huncke’s 100th birthday. Join us as we celebrate his centennial.

Appearances by:

  • Hilary Holladay
    (author – American Hipster: A Life Of Herbert Huncke)
  • Dennis McNally
    (author – Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beats, and America)
  • Tate Swindell
    (record producer – Guilty Of Everything)
  • Ben Schafer
    (editor – The Herbert Huncke Reader)
  • Brenda Knight
    (author – Women of the Beat Generation)
  • Regina Marler
    (author – Queer Beats)
  • Laki Vazakas
    (filmmaker – Huncke and Louis)

This event is free of charge.

 

"7786 - Burroughs, Wm."

Huncke Tea Company has helped fund "7786 - Burroughs, Wm." — Patrick Clement's intimate look at William Burroughs through a series of seven unpublished portraits on Kickstarter.  

You can still contribute, pre-order a book, some postcards or just read more about the project here.  

"7786 - Burroughs, Wm." Facebook page here.


Allen Ginsberg to Herbert Huncke—Dec 5, 1965

In the process of transcribing this letter.  Transcription (so far) below the scans.  Need help deciphering Allen's handwriting—if you can make out any of the missing text please leave in the comments or email us at: huncketeacompany@gmail.com  . . .  Thanks in advance.   —Ed. (Transcribed by JP.)

P 4.jpg
P 9.jpg

 

Dec 5, 1965

c/o City Lights

261 Columbus Ave.

 

Dear Herbie—

Everything here building toward more harmony, hints and scattered glimpses of the last 2 decades now becoming more manifest and natural making a continuity of high awareness & a public community emerging each person contributing his own privately experienced unthought-of discovery of light/unity/self nature to the common outer world by action or talk or song or print & the Theme of all we envision begins a show up in bookstores and airwaves and even on the hats of kids in Gas Stations.  I begin to feel the societal meanness and pain—like the China war—as just fear & suffering which grows acute because changes are coming on so fast one after another—things unthinkable 10 years ago our Word spread ­­­­________, like I’m bald _____, or astronauts with long hair soon, or the Eve of Destruction broadcast to teenage  _____ ears, or Dylan’s mysterious spirit speak, or Russia turning young again, or sexual blackout for teenagers _________ with highschool kid flashlights on Cancer lunch under the covers or on the bedstead, Hell’s angels high on LSD listening to Kosmos-is-Maya songs chanted to them/as if it were all pre-arranged by universe-Cinemascope in Deja-Vu, movies of World’s end Apocalypse or ____ Buck Rogers space universe coming true scene by _____ . Anyway seeing your Blue First Edition Journal Cover unexpectedly in City Lights was like seeing a __________ or climbing a snowy mountain & reaching clear rock peaks & sitting down to look at the blue earth-gas in panorama low land valley floors & wondering how it could be so that this big heavy mountain was finally climbed to its crag top since when we began way down below looking up at a real earth-god big mountain such as there were ______ library pictures of in Junior High School.

 

2.

 

Your own book is the most interesting new truthful word text I’ve read in recent year-era. You can’t imagine how awesome it is, how helpful, how magically ____________ on our same life as I know it, that what seemed real drops ___________ and is here now for good.  Once you completely manifest your self in these detailed fragments,- and the world has you out front like a big ________-rock you can actually see & point out & look at up close.

 

What’s Truthful in the book is that it is a writing that’s by itself, for god knows who, which makes it raw (not like most art objects) nature, a part of life itself like an uncle fireside story told so the family could know really who felt what in Newark some recent years.  It feels Truthful, the truth being an accurate record of you, a close version of whatever you know you are, close enough to be identical with your self-thought and inside noticing of all the ____________, written the only way it comes out without trying to “improve” your real nature’s image by calculated rearrangement of your story – So it is like nature of things.

 

I keep getting glimpses of that, like recognitions of the actual scene as we know it so familiar but rare

 

3.

 

in conscious reflection and rarer in permanent writ-memory.

 

What I mean is your original self as I’ve always ______________ it to be, is the same as the way the book is; and the closeness between your nature and your written version of what you’re minded of, as a rare thing in art (somehow not many people can come up with that simple such -______ prose or poetry) and is absolutely precious vital social serum against the effects of mass-bulk false (like mis-comprehending ______ -interpreting _____-reporting mis-taking) word products wholesale broadcast ________ an hour in everybody’s consciousness.

 

I’m meaning to say, one straight record like Cuba or In the Park or Youth to take the most obvious, (or old Elsie)—one straight account like that is so recognizably true to what life is, and true to what everybody’s natural sympathy feels like – true events what one time or other at least, everybody has experience in his own scene—true to everybody’s inside knowledge—that it has the effect of waking or reaffirming that sleeping or timid self-recognition—and (offhand or incomplete, or dubiously or hastily jotted as  you may have felt them to be during or after writing, unsatisfactory) because it does so clearly show

 

4.

 

some real, native, undisguised Self to any reader’s obscure inward self, that it can cut thru all the illusions of prejudice identity opinion – cut thru millions of copies of official Time_______digest righteous viewpoint language – and touch the actual huge nature underneath even the worst Heat in the long run – and bring lost people back to them selves, back home to the original feeling for life.

 

Now all this I guess is really obvious to you, I’m only scribbling to you at such length the same repeated thought because (maybe out of some lack of confidence in your efforts) you always do say when low down that maybe your writings have no real value or function or purpose to yourself or anyone else for that matter, & why bother to publish them.  I’m trying to explain clearly what is the value function purpose to the whole central population organized nation community.  Which is now as you know so lost in the head it is like to be the end of the whole show. Or the mind can be clarified in us & we transmit that clarity as you do in the book and it will certainly have an effect on others; that will return to you in the long run too.

 

5.

 

So the point is, you have good reason to do something now about the larger mss.  How many pages now 600?—and make an active effort to be sure all the scattered fragments are collected & arranged in some indicative order,

and maybe whatever lesser material there is (less lively) cut out,-- or better blue penciled in bulk returning only _______________ phrases & sentences that are lively & pure, linked with “. . . “ to show you ________ the background for the gems.  That’s easiest most natural way, Williams recommended it – (if a poem has only 2 good lines, get rid of the poem & publish the 2 lines, there’s no reason a poem should be look finished or complete if too completion is shitty or unreal or just to make it look apparently complete.)  (he said & that s how I prepared mss. of empty _________, from masses of journal jottings I locked it down to those essential lines & fragments of writing that were interesting)—

 

6.

The present Journals volume looks to me all high order writings.  Do the next of 600 p. mss the same as good?

I thought of the title Confessions years ago but don’t know now if it’s appropriate (I meant like St. Augustine’s or Rousseau’s  Confessions.)

Is the mss. ready to submit to a publisher? I won’t be back in N.Y. till Feb or March but no reason you or Eila or Clive or someone—Sanders perhaps—could not start circulating it. Perhaps try Grove first.  Ferlinghetti wants to see the mss. too.  You cold give him an hundred page book; and then arrange to have that & DiPrima’s volume __________ with the rest of the bulk by a hardcover N.Y. publisher in a year or 2 or just go directly to Fred Jordan at Grove Press; or Jason Epstein at Random House etc. etc.  I can send you more names & places but why not start there now?  Probably 3 or 4 will reject it before one finally can see in this book what it is.  If you do go to  Grove or Random, tell them I advised you to & show them this letter too if they need any convincing.

Please send me a card (before the week is out because I’m heaving here Dec 15) let me know what the status of the mss is.

(If you feel that there’s more editing to do, Irving Rosenthal is really handy at that if he’s willing. If publisher want to edit, better have it checked with Irving anyhow.)

 

7.

 

Everything socially here is very dramatic and charming.  I see a lot of McClure, a lot of new young poetry & LSD and longhair anarchist boys, I’ve been active in the Berkeley Vietnam anti- War manifestations, mainly showing up, talking tranquilly to cool the Revolutionary Radical Righteous Hysteria freaks & singing peaceful Mantras (I’ve learned some new Zen ones from Snyder) on the parades to marchers & police both—Got in the middle of a ____________ Happening, the Hell’s Angels (genuinely anticommunist motives but all sensitive dumb paranoid) versus the marchers—now made friends both the Angels & cooled them out—sang mantras to them too—while Neal and friend novelist Ken Kesey turned them on to LSD—we had a big party 2 nites before the threatened riot scene & that (plus threat of state troops) cooled everything for peaceful communion march thru spade section of Oakland.

I see Neal all the time, he and Anne his love slave dearie stay over here in Julius’ bed several nites a week.  Neal has entered new space-age d__________ -- all his old energy still full steam but after 13 years railroad 2 ½ years jail and now divorced and years of _________ pot and then all the reincarnation spiritualist cult m______________ and several years of obsession with the racetrack where he lost about $10,000 -- and now several

 

8.

 

years omnivorous absorption of amphets by mouth (“Jumpers” he says) and company with huge crowds of young Zonk-minded admirers, lovers of his legend, like, devotees of his energy & speed – he’s become a sort of fantastic _________________ talking (on 7 or 8 levels of s_______________ association) Teacher plus the fact that for 2 or 3 years he’s gone into the LSD mind too, also omnivorously more than ever Barbara Rubin & friends led—super expert master of Acid  & D or T etc—in company with a huge clownish utopian gang at house—commune in peninsula backroads woods of a novelist, friend Ken Kesey who is taken over appreciating h____ in his later phases as Jack once did—I think I told you or you heard about their big bus?  -- all painted psychedelic ultraviolet orange green blue covered now with swastikas and hammer sickles and U.S. Eagles & every conceivable identity emblem painted neatly along sides of bus – and they go on trips to Idaho or L.A. everybody on acid including Neal the super-driver (it’s on the road in a mad 60’s dimension) hallucinating the gas pedals turned to spaghetti, but able to find his way thru side phantom cockroaches & deliver everybody safely—him sweating & talking furiously with tape microphone hanging over his head in driver’s cab

 

9.

 

and more cameras g________ and radio hooked to loudspeaker atop the bus (where 6 or 7 youths & maids dressed in red white blue striped sweatshirts & pants & grass)—and on this trip, said Neal the bus had no clutch, brake or reverse—he got all the way to Idaho and back, and thru a Calif. forest fire burning on both sides of the road.

Bob Dylan here a week & I see him everyday & talk about poesy & fame & Eden desolation—we may do something together, he produce a record of my mantras or a TV show or I act in a movie or who knows.

I wrote a lot poems, letters—and a huge first manifesto to end the bringdown on the subject of pot. Maybe we’ll break thru soon, I do think—on many levels—work hard—

 

Love

Allen

 

Steven’s made a huge hundred foot scroll ilust. of Book of Dead—but he doth take too much speed & he is not in best (or worst) of health.


(IN HUNCKE’S HAND:)

Izzy—

It is only out of desperation and at this point dire necessity – I find it possible to sell this letter.  Still since sell it I must—I can’t think of anyone I’d rather sell to.  Huncke

(Back of page 9 in small handwriting:)  Bought from Herbert Huncke April 5, 1966

 

        

photo by Anne Charters

photo by Anne Charters

 

 

 

3 Letters from Joan Burroughs to Jack Kerouac

February 28, 1950

Dear Jack,

It's been almost a month since Kells brought us your book—first one I've read in about four years (since Benzedrine).  Sincerest congratulations, especially on Huncke and Cliff and Poultney-cum-Brandenberg.

I deeply resent your making me Bill's sister, but we'll skip that.  Anyway I hope the book sells and sells.

Are you really planning to come to Mexico next month?  I think you'd like it here—at least it would be in remarkable contrast to N.Y.

My love to Allen and everybody,

Joan

 

July 9, 1951

Dear Jack,

Forgive me for reading your letter before forwarding it, but I was so instructed by Bill, who left a week ago on an exploratory trip to Panama and maybe Ecuador—exploratory and also mildly amatory—with an amiable kid from school here.  Mexico was becoming impossible, due to the intolerance and greed of Gobernacion, among other things, so Bill is going to case the situation further south and send for us when he settles somewhere.

As usual no one's plans mesh with any one's else.  I may be here in August, and if so have plenty of room for you—but I'm by no means sure.  Buill said he'd send for us in two or three weeks, which I doubt, but I can't tell you for sure that we'll be here through August.  I'll inform you of any developments, but that's how it stands right now.

Sorry about the troubles with your wife, publishers, etc.  I know a guy who's an astrologer, who says it's a beat year for everyone, if that's any comfort.

Received letters from Allen and I'm forwarding them.  Bill's manuscript is all loused up, unless he took a complete copy with him, but I'll do what I can to straighten it out and send it up.

Maybe we could all try Panama, Ecuador, or even Peru.  Write me when you change your address, so I can keep in touch with you.  Bill is now just c/o American Express, Panama City, Panama but maybe you should write to me and let me forward it, in case he goes elsewhere.

Yours,

Joan

 

July 26, 1951

Dear Jack,

The latest on South America is that it's no good.  Quote from Quito—"Panama was godawful, and I have never been brought down by anyplace like Quito brings me down."  So they're coming back here, but first they're making a trip up-river, into the head shrinking country, to score for some strange Indian drugs.  Bill says this will take a month, so that probably means two or three.

Why don't you come down here anyway, if you have carfare?  We have a 3 room apartment, of which at present we use only one room, and there is one awful extra bed, Mexican size.  You should be able to eat and drink a little here for ten dollars a week.

It's pretty hard to get any kind of job here, for an American—against the law—but you might find some tutoring or something.  Also you might be able to get something with the News here.  Maybe Lucien could suggest some phony reference from his organization for you to show here.  Or there might be some work around the school—I don't know about that.

You didn't say whether Lucien was still planning to come down or not.  I forwarded your letter and his to Bill in Panama, but I don't believe he got them.  Don't know whether Bill plans to stay in Mexico, D.F. when and if he gets back from Ecuador with an unshrunk head, but I guess he wants to stay in this country, from the disenchanted reports he sends from South America.

There are still some fairly nice people around, although quite a few have finished their G.I. bills and gone back to the states, or been drafted.  I don't know any eligible girls at all—what most of the anthropology department did on arrival was to find some hardworking Mexican girl and set up housekeeping with her—some of the old timers have a couple of kids by now—and they seem pretty well satisfied.

Have you heard anything from Edie and her golf pro?

Hope to see both you and Lucien in a couple of weeks then.

Yours,

Joan

Orizaba 210, #8

Mexico, D.F.

 

(via: New York Public Library—Archives & Manuscripts—The Jack Kerouac Papers 1920-1977—Transcribed by Jerome Poynton)

 

 

Bilingual Editions from Les Editions Derrière la Salle de Bains

New Orleans, 1938 — Herbert Huncke English/French edition.   Les premières lignes : « Je me souviens d’une nuit à la Nouvelle-Orléans sur St. Charles Street – à marcher. Il avait plu – les rues scintillaient – la nuit se reflétait dans les flaques d’eau. Les bruits de gouttes de pluie qui tombaient et éclaboussaient les feuilles de magnolias. Les rues étaient désertes – à peine une automobile qui passait. Je traversais une ruelle quand je jetai un coup d’œil et vis un homme s’approcher. Il faisait ma taille. Robuste et trapu, à la limite d’être gros – portait un pantalon noir et une chemise blanche dont les trois premiers boutons étaient ouverts – révélant une épaisse toison de poils noirs. Il avait le teint basané. Ses yeux étaient petits et marron foncé – ses cheveux noirs et gras, peignés en arrière. Ses mains étaient dans ses poches – une cigarette pendait du coin de sa bouche. En se penchant légèrement vers moi, il me demanda une allumette. »

New Orleans, 1938 — Herbert Huncke

English/French edition.  

Les premières lignes :

« Je me souviens d’une nuit à la Nouvelle-Orléans sur St. Charles Street – à marcher. Il avait plu – les rues scintillaient – la nuit se reflétait dans les flaques d’eau. Les bruits de gouttes de pluie qui tombaient et éclaboussaient les feuilles de magnolias. Les rues étaient désertes – à peine une automobile qui passait. Je traversais une ruelle quand je jetai un coup d’œil et vis un homme s’approcher. Il faisait ma taille. Robuste et trapu, à la limite d’être gros – portait un pantalon noir et une chemise blanche dont les trois premiers boutons étaient ouverts – révélant une épaisse toison de poils noirs. Il avait le teint basané. Ses yeux étaient petits et marron foncé – ses cheveux noirs et gras, peignés en arrière. Ses mains étaient dans ses poches – une cigarette pendait du coin de sa bouche. En se penchant légèrement vers moi, il me demanda une allumette. »

In Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs Premières lignes : In Naked Lunch I wrote: “I am not an entertainer“. I was wrong. That was before I started giving public readings. As soon as anyone gets up in front of an audience to read his works, he becomes a performer and entertainer. I immediately discovered that only a very small percentage of my work is suitable for public readings, perhaps one percent. Dans Le festin nu j’ai écrit : « Je ne suis pas un amuseur ». J’avais tort. C’était avant que je ne commence les lectures publiques. Du moment où on se lève devant un auditoire pour lire ses écrits, on devient un homme de spectacle, un amuseur. Je me suis tout de suite rendu compte que seul un très faible pourcentage de mon travail est propice aux lectures publiques, peut-être un pour cent.  

In Naked Lunch — William S. Burroughs

Premières lignes :

In Naked Lunch I wrote: “I am not an entertainer“. I was wrong. That was before I started giving public readings. As soon as anyone gets up in front of an audience to read his works, he becomes a performer and entertainer. I immediately discovered that only a very small percentage of my work is suitable for public readings, perhaps one percent.

Dans Le festin nu j’ai écrit : « Je ne suis pas un amuseur ». J’avais tort. C’était avant que je ne commence les lectures publiques. Du moment où on se lève devant un auditoire pour lire ses écrits, on devient un homme de spectacle, un amuseur. Je me suis tout de suite rendu compte que seul un très faible pourcentage de mon travail est propice aux lectures publiques, peut-être un pour cent.

 

Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs to Edie Parker—Letter

Previously unpublished letter from Joan Adams Burroughs to Frankie Edith Kerouac-Parker © Timothy Moran.  

     

                                                                                                           December 29, 1947

Dear Edie - 

                Since it's the end of the year and all, I thought I'd better get with it and write to you at last.  Every now and then for God knows how long I've started a letter, but you know that routine.  I'd appreciate, though, if you'd write sometime and tell me how things are shaping up in Detroit.  I don't even know whether you're married, or working, or even if you're in Detroit at all..

                I've really had a mad year, although now perhaps I've come to a resting point - maybe. Was it after you left (I think so) that Bill (Burroughs, of course) finally got nailed for a couple of forged prescriptions?  It was all very desperate, as he had quite a habit by that time and it was a couple of months before his case finally came up. The only way I could get him out on bail, unfortunately, was to call his psychiatrist and he promptly informed Bill's family, which led to a good deal of unpleasantness.  Finally though, in June, the damn thing came to trial, and he was lucky enough that he got a suspended sentence on condition that he go home to St. Louis for three months.  That was pretty good, of course, but it left me in rather a spot - emotionally as well as financially.

              Huncke stayed around and raised some money making parked cars for the luggage, and after a while we began taking in a few desperate characters as boarders until before long I was running quite a pad.  Everything in the damn place was hot, as were, of course, a couple of cars out front.  Inevitably, people kept going to jail until finally, due to that and also the ever present back rent, we got tossed out.  There simply wasn't an empty apartment in the city, so we bounced around from one hotel to another until Whitey, a sweet but stupid character with whom I was having a light affair at the time, blew his top and tried to lift a Howard Johnson's safe.  He was picked up immediately - so there I was looking for a job, an apartment, a lawyer for Whitey, and money for the lawyer.  I was completely broke, so I left Julie with my aunts on Long Island and stayed with a nice kid named McCarthy.  I finally got the lawyer, who was obviously no good, but Whitey insisted on having him.  In the mean time, however, I'd been taking so much benzedrine that I got way off the beam, with the result that I finally landed in Bellevue Psycho Ward.  (Just before Whitey's trial - I later learned he got 5-10 years in Sing Sing!)  Dad came down and got Julie.  Anyway, I was all clear again a couple of days, but it took me a week and a half to convince those stupid doctors that I wasn't completely mad.  Everything was timed nicely, though, because just before I got out at last, Bill got back in town. His family agreed to set him up in a small way provided he lived away from New York, so we had planned to go to Texas where he'd spend part of the Summer.  As soon as I got out of the nut-house, we drove down to the Rio Grande Valley, stayed awhile with some friends of Bill's and finally bought a nice broken-down 99 acre farm a little north of Houston.  We stayed down there for awhile, starting repairs on the house, and then headed north ten days before Christmas.  We drove to N.Y. where we stayed a few days, and then Bill went to St. Louis and I came up here to get Julie.  She and I are going back to Texas by train on January 2nd and Bill will be back down here by then.

                    This is all very vague and sketchy, but do write me back and let me have your news. Although we are not married (Bill got a divorce, but I haven't yet), make it Mrs. W.S. Burroughs, New Waverly, Texas.

 

                                                                                                Love,

                                                                                                Joan

 

 

Below is a short reading of an excerpt from Herbert Huncke's 'Guilty of Everything'. Herbert describes Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs & his great respect & love for her. Joan, of course, died at age 28 & has become just a footnote in somebody else's story. Huncke told me she was the smartest one of them all. I don't doubt it for a minute.  —LW

 


Huncke reading at SUNY Buffalo in 1966

Herbert Huncke reads 'Whitey' & part of 'Detroit Redhead' at the SUNY Buffalo Spring Festival in 1966. Only known recording—transferred from cassette.

Part 1:

Sound quality pretty good—some clipping & distortion.

Student Q&A after 'Whitey' has Huncke fielding questions like: "What's hash?" "What's 'cracking a crib'?"

Photo: Louis Cartwright

Part 2:

Sound quality OK—some clipping & distortion. Cuts off before the end of the piece.

Photo: David Sands



Bilingual edition of Huncke's 'New Orleans, 1938 published

'New Orleans, 1938' & 'Nouvelle-Orléans'—1st bilingual (American / French) edition of Huncke's beautiful short story 'New Orleans, 1938' from Les Editions Derrière la Salle de Bains.

« Je me souviens d’une nuit à la Nouvelle-Orléans sur St. Charles Street – à marcher. Il avait plu – les rues scintillaient – la nuit se reflétait dans les flaques d’eau. Les bruits de gouttes de pluie qui tombaient et éclaboussaient les feuilles de magnolias. Les rues étaient désertes – à peine une automobile qui passait. Je traversais une ruelle quand je jetai un coup d’œil et vis un homme s’approcher. Il faisait ma taille. Robuste et trapu, à la limite d’être gros – portait un pantalon noir et une chemise blanche dont les trois premiers boutons étaient ouverts – révélant une épaisse toison de poils noirs. Il avait le teint basané. Ses yeux étaient petits et marron foncé – ses cheveux noirs et gras, peignés en arrière. Ses mains étaient dans ses poches – une cigarette pendait du coin de sa bouche. En se penchant légèrement vers moi, il me demanda une allumette. »

The man who set the Beats going

(reblogged from Tony O'Neill's post on Guardian Book Blog  August 2007.) 

Herbert Huncke is little remembered these days, but he set the template for the Beats in both art and life.

Recently, I was lucky enough to see a rough cut of Huncke and Louis, Laki Vazakas' documentary on Beat godfather Herbert Huncke. It's a truly powerful piece of filmmaking, and one that got me thinking about Huncke's neglected place in the Beat canon. The man whom William S Burroughs called "an actual genius", the man who introduced the Naked Lunch author to his greatest muse (opiates), the man who inspired Jack Kerouac to use the term "Beat" in the first place - he is too often the forgotten face of the Beat Generation. Hiss biography is a vivid one: a teenage runaway who landed in New York's Times Square in the late 30s and became a heroin addict, hustler, petty criminal - and writer.

Huncke lived to a ripe old age without ever applying the brakes. He supposedly turned up to his appointment at the methadone clinic the day after his 81st birthday, and tested positive for heroin, marijuana, cocaine, methadone and Valium. "Why did you do it?" his frustrated doctor demanded. "I've been doing it my whole life," Huncke replied. "Why can't you just let me be?"

Unfortunately - but perhaps unsurprisingly - Huncke's work often exists in the shadow of this lifestyle. As Laki Vazakas said to me when we discussed his work, "Many people are dogmatic about drug taking, and this has led to Huncke's unfair pigeonholing as 'Huncke the Junkie' or 'the Junkie Muse' [the second phrase lifted from Huncke's New York Times obituary], two terms which show more about the prejudices of those who said them than the quality of the man's writing."

Later developments in the Beat canon - William Burroughs's cut-ups and sexually charged surrealist sci-fi, Allen Ginsberg's epic poetry, and the automatic writing of Jack Kerouac - often seemed deliberately obtuse. But the earliest examples of Beat literature - the early novels of both Burroughs and Kerouac - were wonderful examples of clarity and focus. Queer was probably Burroughs's most emotionally naked writing, while On The Road can still be easily read and digested in a way that Visions Of Cody cannot. It is with these books that Huncke's writings should sit.

In his lifetime he produced four books, Huncke's Journal, Elsie John and Joey Martinez, The Evening Sun Turned Crimson and Guilty Of Everything. In each of these works he mined the field of autobiographical writing, but - like Burroughs in Junky, or Kerouac in On The Road - elevated the form into high art. He was also capable of truly beautiful prose:

"Lay out the binding gauze - row upon row - mix the jellied fluids. Cleanse the injectors - open sacks of formaldehyde - rubber tubings - red rubber gloves. Hone the scalpels. The first slice is important and should be clean and true. Basins to catch the freshets of red blood - soon to pale and turn pale hue - wads of cotton to stuff the asshole - the nostrils - puff the cheeks - fill out the hollows."

Huncke's real skill lies in the place were art and life meet. His lifestyle WAS his art: the drugs, the prostitution, the homelessness, the years spent in jail - it all bled onto the page and created a new kind of poetry. He was the American Genet: a man with one foot firmly in the criminal underworld and one in literature. When taken as a whole, his writings (collected in The Huncke Reader, 1997) provide a blueprint for the origins of the Beat Generation, the writers that would open up the world of literature to the poetry of the street. They also contain some of the most beautiful, vital and thrilling writing to come out of post-war America.

While academia still argues about the relative worth of the Beat canon, those of us who do not see literature as a butterfly to be pinned, mounted and left to rot in a display case know what we know. While the likes of Ginsberg and Kerouac were tied to an ideology that turned into the 60s movement - the idea that the world COULD be changed, that LSD, meditation, and free love could somehow topple the powers that be, it was Huncke, with his saint-like simplicity, who really hit the nail on the head. Raymond Foye recalls Herbert talking to him during the final weeks of his dizzying, exhilarating life, and musing: "I wish I could say I'd hit upon the answers to the great mysteries of life. But it doesn't make any more sense to me than it did on day one."

 

'I Look Like an Old Dyke.'

'Beat. Beat Dope. That Dope is Beat.'

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Some Photos from Hilary Holladay's recent reading/signing of 'American Hipster: A Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement' @ The Beat Museum & Alley Cat Bookstore in San Francisco.

This first bio is a great introduction to Huncke, highly recommended for those unfamiliar with his role within & influence on the Beat movement & particularly his relationship with the big three:  Burroughs, Ginsberg & Kerouac.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz about this book - I suspect it might be due more to publisher malaise & distribution shortcomings rather than reflection on the book itself, which is definitely a worthy read.

If an author comes to SF to do a reading you would think that the publisher would at least make sure that City Lights had a copy or two of said author's book !  (They hadn't even heard of it !)  Damn, son !  

 

Has anyone read it yet ?  Interested in your feedback etc.

 

 

'Evil New York - What a Town'

In the process of digitizing a pile of Huncke related cassettes.  Workshops, conversations, telephone calls, discussions & so forth.  Across the years.  

Just came to a part where Herbert recites:  

'Evil New York

What a town

Jumpin' outta windows

Without a crown.'

Hahhahaha !  So good to hear his voice.  Reminding me of . . . so much.

We'll be uploading some new/old audio soon.  Some edited & some raw Huncke unplugged.   

- LW

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Jan Herman, Herbert Huncke, American Hipster, etc.

Herbert Huncke, Beat Hipster Sans Pareil

From Jan Herman's post at 'Straight Up Herman'. 

One morning there was a knock on the door of my room in the Tenderloin. It was Huncke coming to say good-bye. This was during the late-’60s. He said he was leaving town and could use a loan for the road. If I could spare 25 bucks, he’d be grateful. I didn’t know him well, but he was always cordial, and I was pleased that we were friendly. We sometimes spent a couple of hours gabbing in Janine Pommy Vegas’s tiny North Beach pad, where the two of them lived for a while not far from my job at City Lights. I never expected repayment, of course. Hell, I considered it an honor that he put the touch on me.
Many years later — it must have been in the mid-’70s — I saw Huncke again in New York at Books & Co., the Madison Avenue brainchild of Burt Britton on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He was with his compadre Louis Cartwright, who was taking photos, as I recall. Huncke must have sent me some of them, because not long afterward I got a note from him saying, “Long time no see. Let’s remedy the situation but soon. Louis hopes the photos are satisfactory. Sorry, there isn’t one of you single-o. Call soon — yes.”

 

Regrettably, we never did get together. But in 1990, six years before Huncke died, I was asked to review his autobiography, Guilty of Everything, for The New York Times Book Review. I don’t know whether he ever read what I wrote. Hope so.

 

 

Jan Herman's NYTimes 1990 review of 'Guilty of Everything':

THE BEATNICK'S BEATNICK

GUILTY OF EVERYTHING

The Autobiography of Herbert Huncke.

Foreword by William S. Burroughs.

Illustrated. 210 pp. New York:

Paragon House. $19.95.

Given Herbert Huncke's multitude of crimes, ''Guilty of Everything'' is an appropriate title with a faintly sardonic ring to it. As a triple threat - narcotics addict, gay hustler and petty thief - at times Mr. Huncke became a pariah even to friends who were outcasts themselves. During a stretch in Dannemora State Prison in New York, he recalls, ''not one person in a period of about five years so much as sent me a penny postcard.'' For all that - or precisely because of it - Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac declared him innocent of something. They placed him at the heart of the Beat mythology (though Neal Cassady made by far the greater legend). Kerouac claimed to have borrowed the very term ''beat'' from Mr. Huncke, while Mr. Ginsberg regarded him as the prototypical hipster, a seminal figure of alienation and suffering, more sinned against than sinning.

Unlike Harold Norse's recent ''Memoirs of a Bastard Angel,'' which covers some of the same subterranean territory, Mr. Huncke's autobiography does not breathe literary gossip on every page. Nor does it possess anything resembling Mr. Norse's graceful prose or fastidiousness. It reads like an oral history of urban survival and offers an uncommon tale of the streets from which the 75-year-old author is lucky to have emerged.

Herbert Huncke arrived in New York at the beginning of the 1940's, already an addict who had been hooked on heroin for the first time at the age of 15 in Chicago. He headed straight for Times Square and, when not in jail over the next decade or so, made 42d Street his headquarters. A sparrowlike man of astonishing endurance, Mr. Huncke became a ubiquitous figure in the midtown tenderloin, darting through its hidden alleys and hanging out with such colorfully nicknamed grifters as Russian Blackie and Detroit Redhead.

In 1946 he met William S. Burroughs, who turned up hoping to sell a shotgun and some morphine. Although Mr. Huncke initially distrusted the future author of ''Naked Lunch,'' suspecting him of being an F.B.I. agent, they were soon injecting morphine together. ''I gave Burroughs his first shot,'' Mr. Huncke writes. Through Mr. Burroughs, he met the other future luminaries of the Beat Generation and became, in the words of Mr. Burroughs's biographer, Ted Morgan, ''a sort of Virgilian guide to the lower depths.''

During the good times - to stretch a phrase - Mr. Huncke dealt drugs to support his habit, forged prescriptions, broke into cars, burgled apartments and turned tricks. He also shipped out briefly as a merchant seaman in what seems to have been his only legitimate occupation besides recruiting interview subjects for Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the sex researcher. During the bad times, he wandered the snowbound streets of Manhattan with ''shoes full of blood,'' as Mr. Ginsberg subsequently described him in ''Howl,'' a harbinger of today's homeless legions.

Recalling the harsh winter of 1948, Mr. Huncke writes: ''I lived in cafeterias and slept in all-night movie theaters, trying to stay away from the cops on their beats. . . . I'd walk the underground tunnels down around Penn Station, into the station restrooms, nodding on toilet seats. . . . Sometimes I'd roll a stray drunk, maybe steal a suitcase . . . anything so I could make it till morning. . . . I only wanted a place to live or die in out of the cold; not to be found a corpse crouched in a doorway.''

It is a mind-bending irony that he now longs for the old days, lamenting the increased sordidness of the current drug scene like any New Yorker complaining about a decline in the quality of life. He not only recalls when a dapper addict ''used to be a role model'' - an ethos that apparently has gone to hell - but he wonders, ''What's become of the enthusiasm, the interest in doing new things, in trying to further mankind?''

For the record, ''Guilty of Everything'' is largely a rewrite of ''The Evening Sun Turned Crimson,'' Mr. Huncke's collection of autobiographical vignettes published a decade ago by a small press. Some of the stories about his Chicago childhood, his Times Square experiences and the counterculture poets of the 60's have been streamlined or eliminated, while new narrative material has been added to create a memoir with more drive and cohesion.

Although too many details of Mr. Huncke's life remain maddeningly vague, this is an honest book, as Mr. Burroughs notes in the foreword, and ''never more entertaining than when recounting some horrific misadventure.'' There is no lack of those.

THE PRAYERS OF A PRISONER

Early in 1964 I was picked up for possession of drugs and ended up doing a six-month bit at Riker's. I wasn't out a month when I was picked up again. . . . Jail in the beginning was an experience and then gradually it became a way of living for me which took up long periods of time. I adjusted to it and accepted it as part of my routine. . . . I established a daily pattern for existence while laying up in the cell awaiting my trial date. . . . I developed a prayer system wherein I kept asking for God's help and, at one point, requested a miracle. . . . What happened was exactly this. My lawyer advised me, because I told him I was compiling my writings presently into a journal to be published the following year, to make a statement to the effect that the purpose of my book was to have it act as a warning against using drugs. . . . I made the statement and apparently delivered the goods since the judge passed sentence of six months - suspended the sentence - and I walked out of the courtroom.

From ''Guilty of Everything.''

Jan Herman has written on arts and culture as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and the Chicago Sun-Times, and for MSNBC.com, where he was a senior editor. He is also the author of A Talent for Trouble, the biography of Hollywood director William Wyler, out in paperback from Da Capo Press; the co-author of Cut Up or Shut Up; and the editor of Brion Gysin Let the Mice In, among other books. His correspondence with Beat, post-Beat and Fluxus writers and artists is in the cleverly named Jan Herman archive at Northwestern University Library. His blog, Straight Up, is posted at artsjournal.com.

From The Jan Herman Archive @ Northwestern University Library Collections:

Jan Herman (Jan. 2, 1942), editor, publisher, author and journalist, founded NOVA Broadcast Press as well as the journal San Francisco Earthquake (1967-1971.) He published Beat, post-Beat and Fluxus writers and artists such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, Norman Mustill, Claude Pelieu, Mary Beach, Liam O'Gallagher and Nanos Valaoritis. He worked with Higgins at Something Else Press, becoming the editor (1972-1974). He co-wrote Cut Up or Shut Up, with Carl Weissner and Jurgen Ploog, and published other experimental fiction. He is also the author of A Talent for Trouble, the biography of the director William Wyler.

As a journalist, he was a reporter and columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News and the Los Angeles Times (1981-1998), a National Arts Journalism fellow at Columbia University (1998-1999), and a senior editor at MSNBC.com (1999-2003). 

 

The Jan Herman Archive consists of the files of the NOVA Broadcast Press which published San Francisco Earthquake (1967 1969), a little magazine featuring avant-garde writers and concrete and beat generation poets of the 1960s. Many of them were connected with Fluxus.

Included are correspondence, manuscripts, graphics, and photocollages by such authors as Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Henri Chopin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Walter Lowenfels, Claude Pelieu, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, and Carl Weissner, as well as a significant amount of Herman's own work.

 

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Brion Gysin Let the Mice In
By Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Ian Sommerville