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Monday, March 27, 2006


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Xarker, I don't think Neal Cassady was Ginsberg's lover. I think Ginsberg's lover in that crowd was Gregory Corso, n'est-ce pas? I thought Neal was married to a woman named Caroline and was a heterosexual speed freak. But I have a vague memory of that from reading Cassady's autobiographical "The First Third" (in which he probably lied a lot) a long time ago, so don't set your watch by me. P.S. Those of us on the Far Right Coast are jealous of your being in San Francisco.


I know this is blasphemy, especially since I'm basically a travel writer, but I never finished On the Road. I honestly found it a bit boring - lots of field notes, not much of a narrative arc.

Hunter S. Thompson makes me want to go on every sort of binge. Great travel writers like Tim Cahill and Ian Frazier tell me what makes a place tick in a way that news stories don't - and they make me laugh. Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer, two of my generation's top writers, have written fictionalized travelogues that are almost spiritual.

But for some reason, Kerouac kind of bored me. I admire his spirit but don't really dig the writing.

Ginsberg, what little I've read, captures more of the wild love of life.


Ben, You are right. I appreciated the speed-fueled, more-adjectives-for-your-book-buying-dollar sort of writing that Kerouac did. It was sort of a poke in the eye to American icons like Hemingway. But as Truman Capote said of "On the Road": "That's not writing. That's typing."

I'll tell you a story about Ginsberg. At Spoleto (Festival USA, here in Charleston, S.C.) about 10 years ago, my mother and I went to a performance by Martha Graham Dance Co.

Graham, who came out onstage grandly in a turban to take applause at the end, was about 96 then.

Anyway, Mama and I sat down and I looked left and Allen Ginsberg was sitting next to me. He was here to do some sort of poetry/opera/performance/multimedia thing called "The Hydrogen Jukebox." I saw it. I think I fell asleep.

Anyway, I said Hi Mr. Ginsberg, I know you won't remember me, but I interviewed you once in Charlottesville, Va. He said no, he didn't remember me.

I introduced him to my mother, who was I guess 80 at the time. He and my mother started talking about Martha Graham dancers and the old days of the company and the dancers they both remembered and saw in New York in the 1950s and the dancer from Florence, S.C., who was a friend of my mother's and also a friend of Ginsberg's. My mother had no idea who Allen Ginsberg was otherwise, but they just yakked and yakked and it was truly bizarre.


That sounds quite surreal. My only similar brush with fame was when I sat directly in front of Magic Johnson at a UNC basketball game. I'll spare you the details of how this came to pass, but I listened to him and Dean Smith's wife chatter for the whole game about "Michael and Juanita."

Yes, that would be the Jordans.

By the way, to move slightly closer to the subject, I recommed that everyone read Jonathan Safran Foer's "Everything is Illuminated." Phenomenal.

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