“[A] well-written and appealing debut novel… Many poets, including Eileen Myles, Bob Rosenthal and Sparrow make appearances, but it is Allen Ginsberg who figures most prominently. A fictional interview at his East 12th Street home feels very realistic and imbues the sometimes irascible Ginsberg with avuncular wisdom… Closs, who has done a great deal of research on the subject, seamlessly weaves Beat history and literature into his novel—just enough for the cognoscenti, but not so much as to overwhelm newcomers to the Beat Generation.”
—Martha E. Stone, The Gay & Lesbian Review
Since my previous post about receiving a postcard from City Lights Bookstore founder, poet and painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti in response to sending him a copy of Beatitude, several people have asked, “What was on the other side of the postcard?” The flip side featured this iconic and brilliant photograph of several cadets reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), taken by Gordon Ball in 1991.
Ball, an English professor at VMI, was a filmmaker in the 1960s when he first met Ginsberg and became manager of the poet’s Cherry Valley Farm in upstate New York. He went on to edit Allen Verbatim: Lectures on Poetry, Politics, Consciousness and nearly all of Ginsberg’s journals. In East Hill Farm: Seasons with Allen Ginsberg (Counterpoint Press, 2011), Ball recounts his adventures tending to a “ragtag group of urban castoffs” in Cherry Valley—Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky and Herbert Huncke, for starters—and discussing “poetry, Kerouac, sex, and America’s war in Vietnam” during downtime with Ginsberg.
Ball’s photographs of the Beats have appeared in numerous books, magazines, newspapers and, in the case of “Cadets Read Howl,” postcards.
Visit Ball’s website here.
On Sunday, June 3, Allen Ginsberg would have been 86. As anyone who’s read Beatitude knows, I’m a huge fan. Though Ginsberg passed away in 1997, I was fortunate enough to meet him on several occasions. I saw him read at MoMA and I also interviewed him.
Those experiences inspired my take on him in Beatitude, in which he plays a pivotal role. He is, in some sense, the hero of the book, or at least the one who sparks the ultimate insight about friendship and love. Beatitude features two previously unpublished poems by Ginsberg—”Like Other Guys” and “Carl Solomon Dream”—which I was able to include thanks to the assistance of Peter Hale at the Allen Ginsberg Estate and the generosity of The Wylie Agency, Ginsberg’s literary agency.
Emanuel Xavier (left) & Donnie Mather
Sunday was also the grand finale of New York’s annual Ginsberg-inspired Howl! Festival, a countercultural extravaganza of art, dance, poetry, performance, music and mayhem held in the heart of Ginsberg’s former East Village neighborhood, Tompkins Square Park. Kicking off the finale—officially known as Low Life @ Howl! Festival—was a bravura reading of Ginsberg’s “America” by Emanuel Xavier, my fellow Rebel Satori Press poet and author, and Donnie Mather, founding artist at The Adaptations Project.
A perfect way, really, to say: Happy birthday, Allen!
I was thrilled to discover a stack of 10 copies of Beatitude in The Strand, New York’s landmark independent bookstore (“18 miles of books”), and, had I been alone, I would have left the store happy just knowing that. But I wasn’t alone. I was with my best friend John, who suggested I offer to sign the books.
Being a deferential author, I resisted, but, being a best friend with my best interests at heart, he persisted. Finally, I relented and somewhat self-consciously explained the situation to a woman at the Information Desk.
“We’d love to have you sign your books!” she said excitedly. And so I did, after which she placed a sticker on the cover of each that said “A Strand Signed Copy.” You can find them on the first floor, Gift Ideas Table 2.
Thanks, John! I owe you. Again.
On June 4, Beatitude will officially receive the 2012 Gold IPPY for Best LGBT Fiction of 2011 in the Independent Publisher Book Awards ceremony in New York City. In advance of the date, here’s the official press release. Photos from the ceremony to come!
One of the best surprises I’ve ever discovered in my mailbox: A postcard from Lawrence Ferlinghetti! I had sent a copy of Beatitude to the poet and co-founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore because I thought he might be interested in the subject matter of the novel as well as the two previously unpublished poems by Allen Ginsberg. Turns out he was—enough to take the time to send me a postcard!
In 1956, Ferlinghetti published Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems as Read more
Now this is bliss! My debut novel, Beatitude, has won the 2012 Gold IPPY Award—the Independent Publisher Book Award—for Best GLBT Fiction.
The 16th annual IPPY Awards drew nominations from more than 2,000 independent authors and publishers vying for gold, silver and bronze medals in 72 categories. Created in 1996 to honor the year’s best independently published titles, the Independent Publisher Book Awards “reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.”
The IPPY Awards bash takes place on June 4 and kicks off BookExpo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s largest annual event in North America, held this year at the Javits Center in New York.
You can read the list of all IPPY winners here.
Publishers Weekly is showcasing the book trailer I produced for Beatitude. The black-and-white, one-minute trailer features appearances by Johnny Depp and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom figure in the novel. You can watch the trailer on Publishers Weekly here or on my author site here.
The Beatitude Book Club Reading Guide is now available, with 22 questions guaranteed to stimulate inspired conversation about life, love and the Beats. If your book club is in the New York metro area, the author himself might join you. All you have to do is ask. Hit me up via the Contact page.
Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsberg, 1959
A New York Times article by true crime author and journalist David J. Krajicek recounts the “violent death” that caught Beat Generation writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs in its gravitational pull 10 years prior to their debut on the literary scene.
In 1944, 19-year-old Lucien Carr, who had introduced Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, stabbed David Kammerer, 33, to death in Riverside Park in response, Carr claimed, to Kammerer’s alleged unwanted and aggressive advances. Stricken with remorse, Carr consulted with Kerouac and Burroughs, who advised him to turn himself over to police. Carr plead guilty to manslaughter and served two years of a 20-year sentence.
In 1945, Kerouac and Burroughs co-authored a thinly veiled mystery novel about the incident, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, the title of which was inspired by a late-night newscast about a fire at the St. Louis Zoo. In Beatitude, Hippos serves as the inspiration for Harry and Jay to write a book together. The incident itself is also the basis of the movie Kill Your Darlings, now filming in New York, with Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg.
On Saturday, March 24, I’ll be sharing a table and reading from my novel Beatitude at the Rainbow Book Fair, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center 208 West 13th Street, New York. If you go, be sure to stop by table B24 and say hello. I’ll be happy to inscribe a copy of Beatitude. I’m also one of 40 authors scheduled to read. I’m in the 2-2:30 p.m. block. We each get four minutes so don’t blink! Hope to see you there!
March 12, 2012: Jack Kerouac’s 90th birthday and, appropriately enough, the date of my first reading from Beatitude, at Barnes & Noble, 82nd and Broadway, NYC. A huge thanks to everyone who came out! It was great to see Read more