March 15, 2004

"When I Was Cool." I had to drive from Chicago back home to Madison today, and I was glad to turn on the car radio to find the very beginning of a Fresh Air interview with Sam Kashner about his book "When I Was Cool," which I've been reading--along with a bunch of other things--for the past month. The interview got me half the way home and was just great, with Kashner telling the story of being enamoured of the beatniks, going to study at the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics, and then finding them all old men, somewhat addled and shambling, and himself not quite so much a student as an apprentice.

Ah! Too bad there weren't video cameras everywhere, because that could be the perfect reality show, combining The Apprentice and The Osbournes!

You can listen to the show here today, and click on the archive after today. Memorable revelations from the interview:

1. William Burroughs said he would never have been a heroin addict if he had realized how badly constipated it would make him when he got to be an old man.

2. Allen Ginsberg made a pass at Kashner and, after Kashner declined, started to find Kashner's poetry terrible. Kashner is still angry ... about the poetry critiques.

3. Ginsberg's guru ordered him to shave off his beard because he was too attached to it--and he did!

4. Kashner's first assignment was to finish one of Ginsberg's poems and when it turned out to be a poem about having sex with Neal Cassady, Kashner went to the Boulder Public Library to ask for information!

5. It was Kashner's job to do Ginsberg's laundry, and the method he used was to ship the dirty laundry in a box home to his mother. She did the laundry and shipped it back!

Oh, listen to the interview. And read the book.

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