So, I found something I’d thought I’d lost ages ago between three moves: The Beat Generation cd’s. I used to love these things, back in those mad days when I was a teeanger/early twenty something. And it’s interesting now, listening to these with the current OMG HIPSTERS thing trailing around the internet and the media landscape.
The above title, btw, is a quote that comes from the CD’s….spoken in an interview with some random Greenwich Village beatnik who is explaining how he ran up and down the street buying sherbet in random places.
Anyway, I also watched PealJam:20 this weekend as well on Netflix. It’s an odd congruence of things…a lot of the early bits of this movie focuses on the media asking over and over again what grunge is, and interviewing grunge acolytes. It smacks of almost an exact copy of all the stuff on the Beat Generation CD’s that don’t involve Burroughs, Ginsberg or Kerouac reading poetry. It’s almost identical…and it’s almost identical to the whole media response of the whole Hipster thing going on now, and almost identical to the what-are-hippies things that went on the 60’s.
Things are just spinning around, returning, changing, transforming back. It’s all crazy to watch and to think about…
Another interesting thing- there is a marked difference between the big name actual Beats like Ginsberg and friends and the Beatniks that were interviewed and reading their poetry just off the street or in a coffee house. It’s fascinating the sheer levels of quality, but also of emotional verisimilitude and depth. Ginsberg reads America and you can sense this playfulness, this melancholy, the word play, the rhythm of his words, the tone of his voice. It’s a beautiful reading, as well as Kerouac reading his Railroad Earth poem which is just transcendent and depressing and raw and real. They both talk very openly about sex and drugs and being down and being hungry and starved, and trying to work some job just to make a few bucks, and getting drunk and fighting in bars.
There is a combination of sadness and nostalgia, of regret and love and loneliness. A powerful cascade of emotions that crawl out and sing to the real beating heart in us and doesn’t try to do one thing or another, doesn’t try to be heavy handed or poetical or anything. They’re just expressions of complexity, of emotional rawness.
And then you compare this to the random beatniks in coffeehouses shouting poetry about machinery of death and how working for the man kills you and they all sound the same. Soundbytes of pop philosophy as poetry screaming. The angry feels all fake, the philosophy culled from idiotic platitudes. It’s like the skimmed through the start of Howl and tried to copy it, but leaving out all the poetic beauty and haunting melancholy.
Listening to this makes me pine for being part of a writing scene. A movement in the old sense of the word, not in the current let’s just slap -punk on the end to everything and start a manifesto and all write about X thing but different! Like the Lost Generation and things like that…
And listening to them all talk about how they’ve starve and etc and never knew if money was going to come to them at all and how they wrote what felt real to them, never knowing if they’d ever make a single dime…well, that makes me think of the big damned thing that’s wrong with Genre right now.
Everyone talks about money, about writing to market, about honing your craft for publication and five cents a word. The genre landscape is littered with tons of people just trying to make a buck, just trying to talk business business business, just ignoring the actual beating heart and bloodied bones of the whole thing.
And this is also doubly why I will never call the self-publishers indie. They are the worst, far worse than anyone else about it all being about the dollah dollah bills cash money blingbling put on that ring. Everywhere I turn they’re talk about how to make more money, how to tap into X hot market by writing Y.
Fuckit. I’m going to write damnit I’m going to write what I write and I’m not going to write for a buck or a million or whatever because in the end, what’s true is that word- that word flickering on screen, that word pixellated or e-inked, or pushed onto paper so rarely these days from the bellies of giant massive book machines. That word is the real even if the word is filled with lies because in the end the real is an emotional core not a truthcore, it’s a core that sings to the end of ages.
That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be published or anything like that, or send stuff to high paying markets, etc, etc. I’m just not going to hustle and shake and try to predict what to write just to make money.