‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Book Review: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

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kerouac-burroughsA long abandoned novel collaborated between two of the Beat Generation’s most eminent writers: William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, the novel tells the tale of a group of misfits and their debauched drunken mis-adventures.  Glass-eating drunken brawls, public nudity, sex, drugs, violence, excess, homosexuality, queer bars, this book has it all.

The novel was based upon the killing of David Kammerer who was obsessed with Lucien Carr. Carr stabbed Kammerer to death in a drunken fight, in self defense by some accounts, then dumped Kammerer’s body into the Hudson River. Carr later confessed the crime, first to Burroughs, then to Kerouac, neither of whom reported it to the police. After Carr turned himself in to the police, Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as accessories after the fact. Kerouac served some jail time because his father refused to bail him out but Burroughs was bailed out by his family. (Kerouac married Edie Parker while in jail, and she then paid his bail.) The title itself comes from a news broadcast heard by Burroughs, covering a fire at the St. Louis Zoo, and in which the announcer broke into hysterics on reading the line (although James Grauerholz, in his afterword to the 2008 publication, indicated that the origin of the title is unconfirmed and may have been related to a zoo incident in Egypt, or possibly even a fire that occurred at a circus.)

Told in alternating chapters from different points of view through fictionalized versions of themselves, Burroughs and Kerouac recount the story of this murder and along the way provide, in my opinion, one of the most important historical narratives of what BEAT truly is. I can see why this particular book was overturned for publication during its time, as there is a fair bit of vulgarity and depravity, well, depending on your point of view.

If you’ve ever enjoyed works such as “On the Road”, “Naked Lunch”, HOWL, then I urge you to go out and find a copy of this text.  Written many, many, years before Burroughs and Kerouac became symbols of BEAT, you can see this text as a practice swing so to speak, all of the staples of their more famous works hover around the edges of this posthumous text.

Written by thebeliever07

November 23, 2008 at 10:12 am

One Response

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  1. I liked Ferlinghetti before you liked Kerouac/Burroughs.


    November 25, 2008 at 12:04 am

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