The Soft Machine is a novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1961, two years after his groundbreaking Naked Lunch. It was originally composed using the cut-up and fold-in techniques from manuscripts belonging to The Word Hoard. It is part of The Nova Trilogy
Allen Ginsberg’s “Celestial Homework”: A Reading List for His Class “Literary History of the Beats”
“Argh, you’re all amateurs in a professional universe!” roared Allen Ginsberg to a young class of aspiring poets in 1977 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Their offense? Most of the students had failed to register for meditation instruction. The story comes to us from Steve Silberman, who was then a 19-year-old student in that classroom and a recipient of Ginsberg’s genius that summer.
Only three years earlier, in 1974, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman launched the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa Institute (now Naropa University), in Boulder, Colorado. The Institute—founded by Tibetan teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche—was modeled on ancient Buddhist learning centers in India and described by Waldman and poet Andrew Schelling as “part monastery, part college, part convention hall or alchemist’s lab.”
Ginsberg taught at Naropa until his death in 1997. The class in which he had his outburst was called “Literary History of the Beats,” at the start of which he handed his students a list called “Celestial Homework” (first page above, second and third pages here and here). Silberman describes the list thus (quoting from Ginsberg’s description):
This “celestial homework” is the reading list that Ginsberg handed out on the first day of his course as “suggestions for a quick check-out & taste of antient scriveners whose works were reflected in Beat literary style as well as specific beat pages to dig into.”
It’s a particularly Ginsberg-ian list, with a healthy mix of genres and periods, most of it poetry—by Ginsberg’s fellow beats, to be sure, but also by Melville, Dickinson, Yeats, Milton, Shelley, and several more. Sadly, it’s too late to sit at Ginsberg’s feet, but one can still find guidance from his “Celestial Homework,” and you can even listen to audio recordings from the class online too.
Silberman has done us all the great service of compiling as many free online versions of Ginsberg’s recommended texts as he could. You’ll find them all here, with author bios linked to each photo. Unfortunately, some of the links have gone dead, but with a little bit of searching, you can work your way through most of Ginsberg’s list. Silberman reports another Ginsberg epigram from his 1977 class: “Poetry is the realization of the magnificence of the actual.” The works on the “Celestial Homework,” Silberman comments, “are gates to that magnificence.”
Via Open Culture
Radio Free Albemuth
Bring award-winning Philip K Dick movie Radio Free Albemuth to a theatre near you:
May 19, 2013 - Jul 3, 2013 (45 days)
Decades Later And Across An Ocean, Stoner Gets Its Due
Sometimes you need some distance to appreciate a classic.
That was certainly the case for John Williams’ novel Stoner. When it was originally published in 1965, the only publication to mention the book at all was The New Yorker, in its “Briefly Noted” column. The novel received admiring reviews over the years, but sold just 2,000 copies and was almost immediately forgotten.
Fast forward to today and the book is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. It is a best-seller across much of Europe, including the Netherlands, where it has been the best-selling novel for the past two months. But it is not the action-packed thriller or steamy romance you might expect to be topping the charts. It is a quiet, slim novel about a young man who leaves a hardscrabble farm in Missouri to become a literature professor in 1910.
“It sort of pays tribute to a man whose life is, in one sense, utterly ordinary, but, in another sense, rich as anyone’s life can be,” said Edwin Frank, who runs New York Review of Books Classics, which republished Stoner in 2006.
But in the mid-1960s, Americans weren’t drawn to that style.
“That kind of realism was not in any sense fashionable at that point,” Frank said.
So the novel and Williams, who died in 1994, faded into obscurity, forgotten to all but a few aficionados.
When New York Review of Books Classics republished Stoner, it was reviewed quite well, but sold modestly at first — until it caught the attention of Anna Gavalda, one of France’s best-selling novelists. She had to read Stoner in English — there wasn’t a French translation — but she says she still felt a deep connection with the book.
“I think it’s a book I could have written myself because I feel really close to the author and the narrator, who, in my opinion are probably a bit of the same person,” she said.
John Williams’ other works include Augustus, winner of the 1973 National Book Award.
Gavalda liked it so much that she asked her editor to buy the rights, so she could translate it herself. And the book took off.
“My books sell really well in France,” she explained, “so when all the other European editors saw that it was me who translated this book, they were all curious about why Anna Gavalda translated it, and so they all bought the rights.”
Back in New York, Frank can only speculate as to why Stoner has so moved European readers like Gavalda.
“[Stoner] resonates I think, partly, because of the art with which the story has been told,” he said. “So even as he sets the scene in Columbia, Missouri, at the same time, it could be anywhere.”
One Night at The Aristo aka Film Three in our Beat series - is now finished and will be screening to the public for the first time at The 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
The film - based on a short story by William S Burroughs - has been our most challenging so far.
Filming took place in the UK and North Africa, we had the largest cast to date and some long and tricky dialogue scenes to film, we had to build our most extravagant set so far which involved a jazz band playing live songs specially written for the film and post production was a challenge as we attempted to use a bank of old VHS machines to create some extraordinary visuals.
14167 Films would like to say thank you to the cast and crew for all of their work on the film.
The Road to Interzone: Reading William S. Burroughs Reading
by Michael Stevens
“The Road to Interzone is a partially annotated bibliography of the reading of William S. Burroughs. (…) In 2000, I set out to catalogue every published literary reference Burroughs made throughout his career. The document you hold in your hands is the result. It stands as a testament of an obsession and more importantly, the raw material for an investigation into what John Livingston Lowes called: ‘the shaping spirit of the imagination,’ the source materials of what was to become Burroughs’ literary legacy and the skeleton for an interpretation of the operational processes of influence and the function of artistic inspiration. (…) The Road to Interzone seeks to identify the literary influences that made WSB’s legendary canon of work possible.”
“A fascinating and richly helpful piece of literary archeology, tracing as broadly as possible the sources William Burroughs had available to him as he wrote. Both the title and the method echo the classic Road to Xanadu, John Livingston Lowes excavation of Coleridge’s reading: Coleridge, like Burroughs, being more than a little interested in drugs. It is a work for which all Burroughs students should be grateful.” —Larry McMurtry
Release date: September 1, 2009
Second Edition : Sold out.
***All New Updated Third Edition Available September 2013***
© 2012 by Michael Stevens
A Few Feelings Were Decades Waiting for Daylight
We built this simple yet unexplainable abstract mechanism.
We built this dandelion wire so complex it can’t be told.
It is ancient superfuture audiovisual.
A play-by-play of the country, of city life, core, crust, and mantle.
Here hard world between each word vaguely situated uneasy forms come into focus, and then easier energies fill the letters who make worlds and anthems retro-real & modern. And then the once scary ones become sexy, the old junk becomes art.
Sense the space, the parts, the rooms chock full of ritual objects. Real magic writ large with firewater and eye, writ large in keeping faithful in covering the grid and columns which are certainly cracked,
where on the inside some name or another is etched & from thin air always a spiral.
Pop culture is the good book gravitas, a metaphor collage in a stand-off production bearing super-sly titles, hiding whitewashed sarcophagi and dancing skulls full of flowers, conscious
beyond words comes the poetry human
Lusting twisting chanting,
floating a bit then pounding that fist into the ferociously complex ground. Doesn’t it turn you on something fierce, unruly as a god?
Readers draw in poetry like the odd song that really gives you the shivers and goosebumps, and what language usually wants language usually gets.
One poetic reality inspires another to conceive and shift the poem because we tend toward wisdom and secrets, we lust and as readers get high on the music. In imagined social poetry our moods and nature are enthusiastic because words are life.
It’s the same old Soma, same-o what the elders told ya.
The pulse takes the Neolithic receptors to India where revolution is more than a number. And on the tea dawn acts like agriculture another pulse created. Out high might highly reassess consciousness, fashions, knowledge kneeling with dawn under venerated verb, vine, organic herb and umbrella.
In brain as in India: the is of agriculture, or curing of the states.
A tranquilizer split in half for society’s swerving nerves.
Words on the make.
On the make: words.
Shiny begins to elaborate…
A reader snapped a photograph of the sign at the The Albion Beatnik bookstore in Oxford.
After ten hours, the sign has been viewed nearly 9,000 times online as digital readers share their love of bookstores. Here’s more about the Albion Beatnik at For Book’s Sake (be sure to read the entire review):
Opening some time around midday and usually closing after midnight, this is a place where you can sit in dilapidated red buttonback sofas and choose the poet mug you want to drink your (very strong, very good) coffee out of (I’m always Sylvia Plath. Fortunately there are two Plath mugs so I rarely have to resort to actually wrestling the other clientele or settling for Seamus Heaney) … It’s a place where zinesters meet to pillage material for handmades, politics students tap out theses whilst stopping to explain Bukowski or canvas customers on a point of Marxist theory, and poetry groups (the Backroom Poets, Oxford Improvisers, Oxford University Poetry Society and many both more and less official) meet to plot whatever it is poetry groups meet and plot about.
Posted by Jason Boog on May 10, 2013.
“An Anthology of Chance Operations” - edited by La Monte Young & Jackson Mac Law, 1963
A collection of Fluxus scores, poetry, dance instructions, and other work. Includes Henry Flynt’s first essay on conceptual art, as well as contributions by people like John Cage, Terry Riley, Walter De Maria, Ray Johnson, and Yoko Ono.
click HERE to download in its entirety as a pdf
IN NATURE, NOTHING IS PERFECT AND EVERYTHING IS PERFECT. TREES CAN BE CONTORTED, BENT IN WEIRD WAYS, AND THEY’RE STILL BEAUTIFUL.