Friday, January 29, 2010

Pulling a Ginsberg?

Shortly after moving to San Francisco, I went to the Beat Museum, and then to City Lights, where I bought The Dharma Bums, Naked Lunch, and Howl and Other Poems. I liked The Dharma Bums, but I didn't find it particularly earthshaking. I only got through the first third of Naked Lunch before giving up in disgust. But "Howl" resonated pretty strongly with me.

So when I heard that there was going to be a movie about "Howl," I was excited. And when I discovered that there would be a special screening at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema here in San Francisco, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, I bought tickets immediately.

Ed and I saw the movie last night, and we both enjoyed it very much. It is not a traditional feature film nor a documentary, and some might be underwhelmed by the unusual juxtaposition of courtroom drama, direct narration pulled from interviews, a reading of the poem itself, and animated sequences. But it worked for me. I wished there had been more hand-drawn animation and less computer animation, but I understand that that would have been prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. It would have been nice if the computer animation could have at least been made to resemble traditional animation more, because I found certain parts of the animated sequences too cold and slick. But that is my only complaint. James Franco is obviously much too attractive to portray Allen Ginsberg convincingly, but he managed to be the perfect movie star version of Ginsberg. And while I'm on the subject, I'll say that I find Jon Hamm far more attractive when he's portraying a lawyer defending artistic freedom than a womanizing advertising executive. Anyway, the movie is good, I liked it and recommend it.

But also, I'd like to share some facts about Allen Ginsberg's life. He graduated from Columbia with a BA in literature, and then lived in Manhattan for a little while before getting arrested as an accessory to crimes that his friends had committed. Instead of jail, he was sent to a psychiatric institute, and when he got out, he moved back into his father's house in New Jersey for a while. Then he moved to San Francisco. He had a nice apartment in Nob Hill and a job doing market research. He was gratified to find that he could handle a nine to five office job, but he felt stifled and creatively blocked. He was miserable and began seeing a therapist, who asked him what he wanted to do. He told his therapist that he wanted to quit his job, get rid of his nice apartment in Nob Hill, and just move into a small apartment with his boyfriend and write and read and fuck and smoke pot and just do whatever he wanted. So his therapist said, "Why don't you do it, then?" So that's what Ginsberg did, he quit his job and moved into a one room apartment with his boyfriend, and that's when he wrote "Howl."

Now, if you'll indulge me, (and if you're not willing to indulge me, maybe you shouldn't read my indulgent blog where I write about myself all the time) I'd like to share some facts about my life. I graduated from Middlebury with a BA in English, and then lived in Manhattan for a few months. (I lived at 208 East 7th Street. Later in his life, Allen Ginsberg lived at 206 East 7th Street.) But I couldn't find a job and I was very lonely, so I moved back into my parents' house in New Jersey for a while. Then I moved to San Francisco, to be with Ed. We lived near Alamo Square at first, and then we moved into a nice apartment in the Marina. I did an account management internship at an advertising agency, and then I worked as a content producer for a website, reviewing various Internet services. I was gratified to find that I could handle a nine to five office job, but I felt stifled and creatively blocked and lately, I have been kind of miserable. So Ed and I moved out of the Marina and into a studio apartment, and I quit my job.

Today was my last day. Now I am going to take some time off to read and write and just do whatever I want.


Ali O'H said...

i love ginsberg too. i bought howl @ shakespeare and company in paris 3 years ago. they had a sticker for city lights on the wall (a lot of pretentious british girls work there). i asked if they had any others. they didn't. i plan on getting to city lights some day, but have yet to visit san fran. i ended up reading the book/poems later that day in what i thought was a line for the pompidou. it was actually a line for the student library @ the pompidou. and i had basically stood there for an entire hour, with a bunch of parisian art students, reading american poetry, for no reason. (im an airhead but it was funny) i hope allen would have appreciated that.

i got very defensive recently on some poetry message board. someone had mocked the intellect of the beats and in particular allen. and i was like oh no you don't question allen for onesecond, sir.

also, i was looking at a slide show of celebs who read books on tmz once and dustan hoffman was reading a book with all the transcipts of AG's interviews called "Spontaneous Mind" so i asked my dad for it for xmas and got it. you should get it. iss good.

Ali O'H said...

On second thought scratch what i said about the brits, the girls have nothing to do with that part of the anecdote other than when i went to talk to them, one of them pissed me off. there were american girls there too, cute hipster ones. apparently some commie dude owns the place these days and allows young men and women to work there for free and have a place to live above the bookstore. if you or i were still 18 i think this would be a dream job. totally random thoughts! sorry!

Caitlin said...

Working/living at a bookstore in Paris sounds amazing. And actually, when I got home from seeing Howl I did some Googling and came across an excerpt from Spontaneous Mind and immediately added it to my list of books to read.

City Lights is definitely worth checking out. I am out of shelf space and need to not spend so much money since I don't have a job anymore, so I'm trying to borrow books from the library instead of going to bookstores. But if you wanted, I could pick up a sticker next time I make it over to City Lights, and mail it to you!