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The Economy of Friendship

By Harriet Staff

Ellen Pearlman reviews the new book of letters between Kerouac and Ginsberg for the Brooklyn Rail. As one might expect, the review takes the form of a highlights reel, and though Pearlman doesn’t quote the texts at length, she gives us a nice summary of the trajectory of the friendship, in terms of emotional and economic life. For example, the two borrow money for each other for years, until Kerouac becomes famous and becomes the primary lender:

Ginsberg finally published his seminal poem “Howl” in October 1956, while still pleading for money from Kerouac, who delivered, knowing all too well fame is one thing and cash another. With his increased success, Kerouac withdrew more and more from society into the comfort of his Memere, and alcohol. By 1959 he grew drunk and abusive, while Ginsberg was cheerleading the cause of “The Beat Generation.” Mentally exhausted and spiritually discouraged, Kerouac hated the “lionized manure” surrounding him, proclaiming, “I’m not a Messiah. I’m an artist.” By 1960 the fissure between the two widened, the letters grew less frequent, and in the book’s final correspondence dated October 1963, Ginsberg asks Kerouac, “Will you love me ever?”


Posted in Poetry News on Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.