My review of The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats

The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats is composed of the writings of many who were, knew, or were influenced by the Beatniks, as they came to known.

The article by Douglas Brinkley titled The American Journey of Jack Kerouac is my best deep dive into Jack, and I am sympathetic to him. If only he exercised more Buddhist admonitions for compassion and self-control over his drinking, who knows, he might have given us a better model to emulate. Allen Ginsberg took that assignment upon himself and helped create a model for seeking youth to follow.   

It’s a welcome and timely read for me, as I’ve belatedly begun reading and trying to map out the influence they had on my hippie-yippee generation. Generation is the wrong word. I’m sick of the wholesale labeling of people born into a certain era as good, bad, or indifferent, especially as GREAT in some way or other. The so-called GREATEST GENERATION, meaning my father’s WWII generation, was also the very same Beat generation. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, et al were all a few years older than my father, who was a gunner on a Fletcher Class Destroyer who splashed a few Japanese planes in some of the big fights. At that same historical moment these still unlabeled Beats began their palling around and writing. Jack even served hazardous duty in the Merchant Marine for a time, from 1942 until he was discharged as a “schizoid personality” in 1943, perhaps because he announced he’d never kill anyone, even in self-defense.  

In fact, all these men and a few women, beat or not, were individuals, as different as they were similar. Jack even distanced himself from his fellow Beats in the sixties and rather than advising and mentoring the oncoming Hippie “generation,” again composed of many elder mentors like Tim Leary, et al, he turned into a sour, politically conservative alcoholic mama’s boy, expressing too little of his vaunted Bodhisattva compassion. I’m grieved to note that lack of compassion included his daughter, making him a deadbeat dad as well as an ingrate to so many who’d helped him. We must separate the man from his art and not deify our heroes as any more perfect or moral than mythic Greek Gods.   

Mythology can be fun, but it can lead us astray if we take it too seriously. Jack, for one, created a mythic persona to obscure much of how he wrote, even who he really was. His spontaneous prose style of writing was, according to numerous witnesses cited in this book, revised through countless drafts before a final draft was hammered out on his famous “scroll” fed through his typewriter, so he wouldn’t have to break his flow by inserting another page. How many earnest writers have been misled by this aspiration to be ‘spontaneous’ at all costs and got swamped by unedited gibberish? It sure didn’t work for me.     

My Review of Charles Bukowski’s Book Post Office

I’d seen and enjoyed some of Bukowski’s work with Ron Crumb’s comix but hadn’t read any of his books or poetry. When a reviewer compared MY book, CHICAGO RAGE to HIS writing, I just had to dive into his POST OFFICE and look for resemblances. It’s a novel, but reputed to be autobiographical, a window into his mindset, as are my memoirs that read as novels.  

His main character is either drunk or hung over all the time, whereas I’m only an occasional imbiber who favors psychedelics over the hard stuff. His fascination and lustful desire for the female body matches mine, however he shows little empathy for those he beds beyond his own gratification. Well, okay, he paints a stark portrait of the all-too-common man, too many of whom I’ve written about. I suppose he’s being honest about his motivations, but even a guy down on his luck, enveloped in an alcoholic haze, ought to have some flicker of interest in his broader horizons.

His portrayal of the hostile workplace is spot on. Employees are verbally abused and ground down, used up, their only reward is to be thrown away as worthless empty shells to be replaced by fresh meat for the grinder. The American work culture is remorseless and often as pitiless and deadly as a fascist labor camp. De-fanged labor unions may be powerless to address these issues head on because achieving broader goals in the Realpolitik power-play with entrenched management often necessitates compromise and sacrifice for the greater good. I’ve been there.

I couldn’t identify or sympathize with his character’s lack of effort at understanding womankind, much less his sad-sack workmates, until his divorce. Then his character, still valuing booze over the affection of his ladies, makes more of an attempt at some show of minimal gratitude for all he’s received on a one-way street of emotional and financial support. That gets a low-key BRAVO from me.

But then there is the birth of his child and the death by booze of an ex, sad tales of distracted interest that should inspire the reader to forswear drinking and wrap his/her arms around those precious beings in his/her own life.

Yes, the book is worth reading, adding to the sum of our experience and as a warning not to emulate a near-sighted drunk. I hope the real Bukowski is more of a Mensch than his cartoon character. Maybe I’d like to have a beer, even get drunk with him some time. Or maybe we ought better to trip on LSD or Magic Mushrooms and explore the death culture from another angle.

Welcome to my World

What’s that? You don’t want to come in? Too scary? You prefer the fantasy of Puffy the magic cyclops to the flesh-eating monster he really was? Sorry to hear that because I’d rather not stoop to such drivel. So spake the old man in me, the mane of mine father.

My publisher got this reply from a Review group: “our membership did not download any copies of Chicago Rage. This is not because the work does not have merit, but because most of our membership comes from the community of fiction readers, more directly, Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

And so, my writing career ends with a whimper.  Hell, no! These readers must not be my audience.

My preferred audience may not even have internet access, or they still dwell in the remote pine barrens I once called home. It’s not like I’m the only one howling in the wilderness. The wolves howl back. No, they don’t log in first, they just howl the old-fashioned way, with their throats. God, I miss ‘em. But I’m here now, among the super sensitive, over civilized beings who’ve taken over planet—spaceship—Earth.

Okay, let’s lighten up. There are other ways to get reviewed. I have to shake those trees until an apple hits me on my head. Although brain damaged, I’ll carry on!

Chicago Rage Tumbleweed Books

 Ronald Schulz, Books and Bluster | Facebook