Read Go by John Clellon Holmes Free Online
Book Title: Go|
The author of the book: John Clellon Holmes
Edition: Thunder's Mouth Press
Date of issue: December 31st 1988
ISBN 13: 9780938410607
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2947 times
Reader ratings: 5.6
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 571 KB
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Most people believe that On the Road (1957) is the first fictional portrayal of the Beat Generation. But it isn’t. No, the first Beat novel is Go (1952) by John Clellon Holmes.
In 1949, while Jack Kerouac was still revising and seeking a publisher for The Town and the City, a sprawling autobiographical novel in the Thomas Wolfe mode (with a few “beat” characters), John Clellon Holmes was working on a shorter, more concentrated fiction, bearing the working title of The Daybreak Boys: a roman a clef depicting the lives of his friends Jack Kerouac (Gene Pasternak), Allen Ginsberg (David Stofsky), Neal Cassady (Hart Kennedy), plus a few less significant, shadier figures of the era (Cannastra, Huncke) who connect these young artists to the darkness of crime, junk, alcoholism, and the death-wish which the young poets were never far from in the post-war Manhattan streets. Go was published in 1952, five years before On The Road.
It is an old fashioned sort of novel, in spite of its subject matter, an odd amalgam of the social chronicles of Balzac and the mad mystical dialogues of Dostoevsky. It depicts the rather conventional young novelist Paul Hobbes (fictionalized representation of the author) as he tries to complete a novel, hold on to his marriage to his wife Kathryn, and still explore the wild poetic world the these young poets, immersed in their “tea-parties” and be-bop bars, precariously poised between genius and enlightenment on the one hand, and madness and criminality on the other. Both the narrator and the author are somehow detached from the life around him, and this detachment itself becomes one of the themes of the book. Is art essentially reflective or ecstatic? Does the poet say to himself "come, stay" in this moment, explore its meaning? Or does he become the moment, shouting "go, go, go"' like a hipster digging a "real gone"sax solo, until life itself comes to a stop?
The two personalities that come most vividly to life are those of Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. Hart Kennedy (Cassady) is not the romantic, almost mystical figure that he is in Kerouac, but rather a transparent sociopath, subject to fits of violence (particularly against women), using his philosophy of being in the moment as a cloak for criminal and irresponsible behavior. It is David Stofsky (Ginsberg), though, who is the most memorable: desperately lonely and filled with love, consumed with both cosmic joy and dread, too neurotic to live in the moment but hungry for peace—an imperfect incarnation of God’s holy fool.
This is by no means a great novel, but everyone interested in the Beat Generation should read it. It balances the ecstatic visions of Kerouac and Ginsberg with the observations of a clinical middle-class eye. Holmes gives us a more realistic, less romantic, vision of the Beats, and this helps us put this generation of poets in perspective.
Holmes is especially good when he is describing bars, after-hours joints, and marijuana parties. To conclude, I give you this description of the end of one of the latter: The lights were out, an all-night bop program hummed out of the radio, and a single candle made a quivering finger of light upon the table. The room seemed full of dusky subsidings, a shambles of butts, strewn glasses and books, the sad mementos of a carouse that had swept on elsewhere.
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Read information about the authorJohn Clellon Holmes, born in Holyoke Massachusetts, was an author, poet and professor, best known for his 1952 novel Go. Go is considered the first "Beat" novel, and depicted events in his life with friends Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. He was often referred to as the "quiet Beat," and was one of Kerouac's closest friends. He also wrote what is considered the definitive jazz novel of the Beat Generation, The Horn.
Holmes was more an observer and documenter of beat characters like Ginsberg, Cassidy and Kerouac than one of them. He asked Ginsberg for "any and all information on your poetry and your visions" (shortly before Ginsberg's admission into hospital) saying that "I am interested in knowing also anything you may wish to tell... about Neal, Huncke, Lucien in relation to you..." (referring to Herbert Huncke and Lucien Carr), to which Ginsberg replied with an 11-page letter detailing, as completely as he could, the nature of his "divine vision".
The origin of the term beat being applied to a generation was conceived by Jack Kerouac who told Holmes "You know, this is really a Beat Generation." The term later became part of common parlance when Holmes published an article in The New York Times Magazine entitled "This Is the Beat Generation" on November 16, 1952 (pg.10). In the article Holmes attributes the term to Kerouac, who had acquired the idea from Herbert Huncke. Holmes came to the conclusion that the values and ambitions of the Beat Generation were symbolic of something bigger, which was the inspiration for Go.
Later in life, Holmes taught at the University of Arkansas, lectured at Yale and gave workshops at Brown University. He died of cancer in 1988, 18 days after his 62nd birthday.
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