The best thing about this collaboration between Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is its gruesomely comic title: “And the Hippos Were. And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is an incomparable artifact from the early days of the Beats, a fascinating piece of American literary history, and a. And the Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is now published for the first time. A barely encrypted roman à clef, it is narrated by Will Dennison.
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It was the end of some things, the start of others, and above all a landmark piece of history that involved some of the most famous writers of the twentieth century.
A first stab at Beat
Kammerer was thirty-three, much older than the young future Beats. When Kammerer and Carr left the bar at three in the morning, to walk and talk by the Hudson River, it was the ib time anyone would see Kammerer alive. According to Carr, Kammerer tried to sexually assault the younger man, and Carr defended himself by stabbing his attacker twice in the chest with a small Boy Scout knife. Tansk that was where the story ended between the two parties, as Carr went to seek refuge with Burroughs.
Burroughs, a good friend of Kammerer, simply told Carr to get a good lawyer and turn himself in. Next, Carr went to visit Kerouac, who responded differently, helping Carr to dispose of the murder weapon, and then taking him on a tour of the city to talk about what happened. They went to a museum and yheir a movie, The Four Feathers.
But two days later, Carr broke under the strain of guilt and turned himself in to the police. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested. Nonetheless, it boilfd much. Kerouac was now married, Carr was gone from the circle, and all of the writing of the time centred on the infamous event.
Kerouac and Burroughs, thd, wrote a novel called, strangely, And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks. The novel would prove to be a thorn in the side of Carr, who emerged from prison a reformed man with little interest in his Beatnik past, and instead had the desire to go straight, without anything to remind him or embarrass him for a horrible incident.
In between, there was a description, by Kerouac, in Vanity of Duluozbut the truth was heavily distorted. Kerouac talked about it with Ann Charters, for his biography.
And two years later, excerpts of Hippos appeared in a magazine and Burroughs had to sue to protect Carr, who was trying to work a stable life as a journalist. A short excerpt, too, came in Word Virusbut still there was no great effort made to bring about this near mythical text. For many years, Burroughs maintained that the title of the novel came from his memory of a radio report about a fire at the St.
Louis Zoo, when the announcer burst into fits of laughter when attempting to read the line. Most of the rejections came, presumably, because of the totally inappropriate subject matter. This was before Kerouac and Burroughs were famous, able to say what they wished, but they still had elements of their future selves hidden in the text.
And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks
Taking it turn about, chapter-by-chapter, the two friends each wrote from the point of view boilsd a different protagonist. It seems they limited one another, although not necessarily in a bad way.
They could only write what they knew, after all, and they both new different things, both in terms of facts and of style. One can hi;pos when reading portions of the book where something was written by Kerouac or Burroughs.
But neither author goes to tannks extremes reached in his own books. The result, we now see, is perhaps not a classic work of literature, but certainly an interesting one, and not the epic failure that Burroughs tried to have us all believe with his dismissive comments in the eighties. Instead, there is now something else for Beat fans to read, to learn a little more about Beat history, now that all the players in the scenario are safely entombed beyond the grave.
There are no more hurt feelings, no more treading carefully.
It sort of fell in-between. Indeed, And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks has reached a time when it will be loved, and that raises real questions over its literary merit. When was hard-boiled ever really tannks and out literary?
Posts Website Twitter Facebook. And the Hippos is quite engaging.
Highly recommended for those compelled by the Beats, I found myself laughing out loud many times, definitely worthwhile. Drove past th Street and Riverside yesterday, past the mighty Hudson, and tried to image all these characters and events. Text formatting is available via select HTML. kn
And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks. Beats Online A few good Beat websites.
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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs
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