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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (Original 2008; 2008. Auflage)
von William S. Burroughs (Autor)
Und die Nilpferde kochten in ihren Becken: Roman von William S. Burroughs (2008)
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Hardcover / first edition
Short account of the two authors' involvement in a murder within their group of friends. Interesting each author took it in turns to write the chapters, but this does not detract from the flow of the novel. A tale of women, drink, drugs, bisexuals, relationships, and sailors.
Jack Kerouac & William S. Burroughs'
And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 11, 2013
I was in Boston recently & I was astounded to find this. A collaboration between Burroughs & Kerouac?! Written in 1945, 5 yrs before Kerouac's 1st published novel came out & 8 yrs before Burroughs' 1953 Junkie?! What a wonderful find for a Burroughs enthusiast such as myself!
&, at 1st, I found it excellent. The story's based on an actual situation that involved a murder. This murder was committed by one friend of Burroughs' & Kerouac's against another. In James Grauerholz's Afterword, Grauerholz quotes Burroughs' biographer, Ted Morgan, as quoting Burroughs talking about the bk's originally not finding a publisher thusly:
""It had no commercial possibilities. It wasn't sensational enough to make it [...] from that point of view, nor was it well-written or interesting enough to make it [from] a purely literary point of view. It sort of fell in-between. [It was] very much in the Existentialist genre"" (p 195)
But it's precisely this "Existentialist" aspect of it, its non-"sensational"ism that appeals to me. Both Burroughs & Kerouac write about the events leading up to the murder & some of the events immediately after in a straight-forward, seemingly honest style. I appreciate that. The closest thing I can compare it to might be a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Unlike in 'real' life, it's not the lifestyles of those involved that're on trial here. In fact, NOTHING's on trial - not even the murderer.
& that's all well & good. I've always admired Burroughs' clarity of thinking, his ability to look at hard subjects in an unsentimental way, a way not mired in societal bullshit. But, in my review of Junkie ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2946147-junkie ), I've also noted this:
"Burroughs' romanticization of heroin use was all well & good for him - he came from a wealthy family & lived off a trust fund. He didn't have to resort to the most desperate tactics to support his habit. There was always the check from Mummy & Daddy to take care of it for him. &, later, the publishers."
&, once again, I find myself critical of both Burroughs' class privilege &, to a lesser extent, his 'rationalism'. The murderer confessed his crime to Burroughs 1st & Burroughs advised him to turn himself in - essentially saying that he'd be able to get off easy by claiming, somewhat accurately, that the victim was stalking him. Then the murderer spent time w/ Kerouac before following Burroughs' advice.
The police then arrested both Burroughs & Kerouac as material witnesses:
"Kerouac was arrested at the apartment where he lived with his girlfriend [..]; unable to pay his bail, he was held as a material witness." (p 190)
"As soon as Burroughs got word that he, too, was wanted as a witness, he contacted his parents in St. Louis. They immediately arranged for him to retain a good attorney, who walked his client in to the DA's office for questioning and then walked him out, free on bond." (p 191)
Now, what's wrong w/ this picture? Or, rather, what's so sickeningly 'normal' about it & so sickeningly 'normal' about the great W.S.'s safety net? Kerouac = no money = stay-in-jail; Burroughs = rich = out-of-jail-immediately. As prison activists say: "Them's that ain't got the capital gets the punishment". & as for the murderer?:
"Lucien was sentenced to the reformatory in Elmira, New York, on September 15, 1944, to a maximum of ten years' confinement. Ann Charters's biography of Kerouac states that Carr's friends expected him to receive a suspended sentence, so they were shocked when he was remanded to the corrections system. But as Burroughs told Ted Morgan, "I was there in the courtroom . . . . I walked out with Lucien's lawyer, who said [to me], 'I think it would have been very bad for his character, for him to get off scot free' - so his heart wasn't in the case at all, he didn't want him to get off. He was kind of moralistic about it." (That man may, however, have been right.)" (p 192)
Carr was released after 2 yrs. Not much of a sentence for murder. In the end, cd it've helped that his uncle was a Rockefeller? It's even claimed that Kerouac "seemed to admire the killing as a heroic deed". (p 203) In the novel, Burroughs' alter-ego, Will Dennison, upon learning of the murder, gives the murderer this advice:
""Do you know what happened to you, Phil? You were attacked. Al attacked you. He tried to rape you. You lost your head. Everything went black. You hit him. He stumbled back and fell off the roof. You were in a panic. Your only thought was to get away. Get a good lawyer, you'll be out in two years."" (p 163)
Burroughs, a 'paragon of clarity & honesty', advises another rich kid on how to lie to get away w/ murder.
"Phillip got up to leave and walked over to the door. I walked over and stood beside him. I thought that if it was true, I ought to put my hand on his shoulder and say something kind to cheer him up. But then I remembered how he was always trying to get money out of me." (pp 163-164)
Nowhere does Burroughs seem to care much that his friend has been murdered by a person who he uniformly depicts in the novel as annoying. In fact, only Kerouac, thru his alter-ego Mike Ryko, seems to express any caring AT ALL about the victim:
"And then I said, "Well at least we'll have a good drunk this morning." I was sorry I said that, so I said, "But God, it shouldn't have happened, huh?"
"Phillip shrugged again.
""Here's to Al [the victim] anyway," I added and held up my glass." (p 170)
The overall feeling is one of not giving 2 shits for the dead man. Then again, maybe Burroughs wasn't quite so detached after all:
"After Kammerer died Burroughs went to see Dr. Paul Federn, his psychiatrist at that time, every day for a week; then he went home to live with his parents in St. Louis for several weeks. Burroughs returned quietly to New York at the end of October [..]. Within a month Burroughs's underworld connections had introduced him to the effects of morphine [..].
"For Burroughs, as we know, this was the beginning of a lifelong struggle with addiction". (p 192)
Now I'm not advocating for drug addiction as a way of 'dealing' w/ remorse & I'm not advocating for prison &/or for long prison sentences, blah, blah.. But I am advocating for caring about the victim! &, I suppose, for recognizing that the murderer might've been a victim too. At any rate, 'justice' is NOT obtained w/ money - it's just bought off.
As for the novel? In the end, it's not really THAT great but it certainly has touches that'll interest many:
"The girl behind the desk encouraged us to sign one of the petitions, which was all about a current fight in the House and Senate over a new postwar bill. Phillip & I signed them "Arthur Rimbaud" and "Paul Verlaine," respectively." (P 67)
For those of you who don't 'get the joke' here: Rimbaud & Verlaine were poets who were lovers. Verlaine was older than Rimbaud. Verlaine, supposedly in a drunker rage, shot Rimbaud in the wrist &, eventually, Rimbaud had Verlaine put in prison for 2 yrs. Add to that that Rimbaud fought as a soldier in the colonization of Algiers. I've never really respected Rimbaud much b/c of his putting Verlaine in prison.
The novel ends w/ a Burroughs chapter. The last few paragraphs are:
"So we said good-bye and good luck and so forth. Then Danny asked me what had happened with Phillip, and I told him.
"Danny thought about it for a minute and said, "Well, he can go into politics when he gets out."
""Yeah," I said. "He ought to be good at that."" (p 184)
A little bit of prescient sardonic humor given that Phillip/Lucien became the head of UPI's news desk.
Burroughs didn't think much of this book, but fans of Junky and Queer will love it. The great thing about Hippos and the way it's written (with Burroughs handling one chapter and Kerouac the next) is that it prevented both authors from following their worst instincts. There was no room for self-indulgence: our fledgling novelists actually had a story to tell, and did a pretty damned good job of it. This book is one of Burroughs's more coherent moments, and frankly is the only item in Kerouac's oeuvre that I find readable.
Hippos is a riveting snapshot of mid-1940s New York City and the coterie of lollygaggers to which Lucien Carr and David Kammerer belonged. Despite the occasional (and forgivable) technical awkwardness of the writing, the real-life participants in the story are vividly represented: Edie Parker ("Janie") comes off as sulky and unpleasant, Carr ("Philip") as a spoiled, smug, thoroughly awful son of a bitch, and Kammerer ("Al") as exasperating but pitiable. It should be noted that Patricia Healy, who knew both Kammerer and Carr, vehemently disputed the notion (central to Carr's legal defense when he stood trial for killing Kammerer) that Kammerer was a relentless gay stalker, and contended that Carr was the victimizer in the relationship.
At this point, it's impossible to reconstruct the whole truth. What we do know for certain is that Kammerer had been a good friend of Burroughs and Kerouac...but, when Carr confessed to killing the older man, it was Carr's side they took. David Kammerer was banished to the same murky Beat limbo later occupied by Joan Vollmer and William Burroughs Jr., and the reader of this novel is faced with a troubling question: how, and why, do those closest to us become expendable?
Written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008, this story is set in NYC and has two narrators. Kerouac wrote the chapters told from the view of Mike Ryko, a sometimes merchant marine who has lived on and off with Janie for a year. She wants to marry while Mike seems to be indifferent to the idea and runs out the door with his friends whenever given the chance.
Burroughs writes the chapters labeled "Will Dennison". Will is from Reno, has some family money and a wife he visits once a year. He is unflappable whether being hit up for money or listening to a murder confession. He helpfully gives a detailed tutorial on how to prepare morphine for shooting up. Dennison is the only person who seeks out the company of Al, an older creepy stalker who is obsessed with good-looking teen Phillip, who is himself the most horrible of the bunch.
They move as a group; Mike, Will, Al, Phillip, Janie and Barbara, always asking each other for money, cigarettes or dinner, and though they're broke they manage to always be guzzling liquor. Aside from Mike and Phillip repeatedly sleeping too late to get chosen for a freighter, not much happens until near the end when Phillip snaps. This is still a worthwhile read if only to experience a very early Beat novel.
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Wikipedia auf Englisch (5)
More than sixty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, two novice writers at the dawn of their careers, sat down to write a novel about the summer of 1944, when one of their friends killed another in a moment of brutal and tragic bloodshed. Alternating chapters, they pieced together a hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and obsession, art and violence. The manuscript, named after a line from a news story about a fire at a circus, was rejected by publishers and confined to a filing cabinet for decades. Now, for the first time, this legendary collaboration between two of the twentieth century's most influential writers is being released. Both a fascinating piece of American literary history and an engrossing, atmospheric novel, it brings to life a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
Klassifikation der Library of Congress [LCC] (USA)
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