The death of William S. Burroughs, whose book, Naked Lunch, influenced my writing, inspired me to make my second column about dead beatniks and beatnik websites.
The Beat Goes Online 8/21/1997
by H.B. Koplowitz
Poet Allen Ginsberg and writer William S. Burroughs were seminal figures of the Beat Generation. Both died of heart attacks earlier this year. But their legacy lives online in the Web pages of beatnik aficionados.
Ginsberg, 70, died April 5 in New York City. Considered the poet laureate of the Beat Generation, his raw lifestyle and poems, including “Howl” (1956), embodied the beatniks of the 1950s. In the ’60s, he helped Timothy Leary popularize LSD, attended Ken Kesey’s Acid Test parties, and coined the term “flower power.” A Buddhist and pacifist, he was a calming influence at antiwar protests.
Burroughs, 83, died Aug. 2 at his home in Lawrence, Kansas. The stone-faced author is best known for his experimental stream-of-consciousness novel Naked Lunch (1959). Like “Howl,” it became the subject of a precedent-setting obscenity trial for its explicit sex, drug use and violence. He influenced artists such as David Bowie, Lou Reed and Patti Smith, and in later years became a visual artist, wrote screenplays and appeared in the films Drugstore Cowboy and Twister, as well as a Nike TV ad.
One of the most cited Beat Generation Web sites is Levi Asher’s “Literary Kicks.” Dedicated to Ginsberg and On the Road author Jack Kerouac, “Literary Kicks” has tribute pages to both Ginsberg and Burroughs, with links to other online memorial pages created after their deaths.
The site also has pages on Neal Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso and other beat luminaries, along with beat news, films about the beats, Buddhism, the origin of the term “beat,” and beat connections to such rock groups as the Grateful Dead, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and, of course, The Beatles. There’s also a link to “The Germ,” a Web site on the Pre-Raphaelites, a rebellious group of post-Romantic/pre-Bohemian painters and poets that lived over a century ago in England.
Asher is a 35-year-old computer programmer, Deadhead and fiction writer who lives in New York City. He is part of a loosely knit community of creative writers who have used the Internet as an alternative outlet for their works. His “Queensboro Ballads” website consists of stories and short prose packaged in the form of an early ’60s folk-rock record album.
He also has arranged live fiction/poetry readings featuring other Web writers, and recently co-edited an anthology of Web writings, Coffeehouse: Writings From The Web, that was just published in book form.
“The William S. Burroughs Files” is the oldest Burroughs website, having begun in 1991 as a newsgroup list of Burroughs recordings. Creator Malcolm Humes has turned it into a multi-media Web page cataloging Burroughs’ diverse works, with links to other Burroughs information, audio and video.
The site has a memorial page with a comments/guestbook area for Web surfers to share their thoughts, memories and anecdotes about Burroughs. Humes, 35, dabbles in computers and alternative music. According to his Web page, he lives “in a storefront in Berkeley which makes a nice huge space for playing music and working on other creative pursuits.”
“Like if it’s got anything to do with wild bohemian cats and chicks, you’ll probably find it here,” says Colin Pringle, webmeister of “The Wild Bohemian Home Page.” The site includes a beat generation archive, with articles about or by the beats and beat generation related sites. There’s also a “Hip Dictionary” and Who’s Who of hipdom.
But the site is more focused on the ’60s, with links to pages about hippies, Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead, Hells Angels, Rainbow Gatherings and Woodstock. Pringle, 44, was born in Glendale, Calif. His family moved to Dallas, Texas, where he gravitated to the hippie scene and altered states of consciousness. He moved back to the West Coast in 1987.
A new cop on the cyber beat is Christopher Ritter, creator of “Bohemian Ink,” which bills itself as “an on-line review of the history and future of experimental literature & poetry.” The site has extensive information on Burroughs and Ginsberg, along with links to other beat artists.
“Bohemian Ink” also keeps up on “Modern Boheme” with news and links to “Indies” and “Current Experimentalists” including Nicole Blackman, Eric Bogosian, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, David Mamet and Henry Rollins. It has links to other literary online publications like “Pen & Sword” and “Alt-X,” and publishers of alternative literature like PsychoTex Books & Music and ZERO Press. There’s also links to sites on neo-futurists, performance art, spoken word reviews and slam poetry (“the bully brother of spoken word”).
According to a bio found in “Pen & Sword,” Ritter is 23 years old and lives in Dayton, Ohio, where he is a full-time student and part-time coffee bar tender who enjoys experimental writing.