Allen wanted to see everything, do everything, and meet everyone. 267

Bill Morgan, I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg

Recently, I have read biographies of Goethe and Proust.  Today I finished this 600-page documentary account of Allen Ginsberg, which doesn’t compare to the other two in the sheer amount of notes I generated.  Something I got from this book, though, which I had never thought about before, is this advice from  William Burroughs: every book should be read for a particular purpose; it should be read for a reason. So,  why did I read this biography of Allen Ginsberg? Here are two reasons:  To better see how Allen was a bodhisattva/writer and a woe-is-he neurotic.

Allen the Bodhisattva/Writer

“Whether it was a college student who drove him from an airport for a reading, or someone who stopped to chant with him on a street corner, or a cabdriver who took up uptown to meditate, each has a story of how Allen took the time for him or her.”  [Xvi]

He was right-brain in dealing with conflict:  “Would you like a Fig Newton?”

He made connections as a way of life:  He introduced everyone to everyone.

He was an indefatigable tourist, curious about EVERYTHING.

He was for the most part a great documenter of his life (and packrat, too).

“Came to your door, you were out, I sent you my book, Howl, did you get it, did you read it?” [228-229]

He shows me how to Risk Linking to get published.

“One of Allen’s most endearing qualities was his commitment to remain steadfast and faithful to his friends, no matter what they  might have done to him in the past.” [302-3]

He also had the admirable ability to live on a  shoestring, especially when traveling.

He was incredibly generous to his friends and strangers with money and time. 

“The main thing he tried to do was to get [the students] to express their secret lives in whatever form came out.”  [216]

He had an amazing career: poetry, photography, music, teaching, interviews, creating and transcribing journals, and attending to correspondence.

“Allen wondered at Israeli nationalism and found that Israeli Jews spoke only of being Jewish. He found their self-focus maddening, and he compared it to a bunch of Texans constantly talking about Texas.” [341]

Allen the Neurotic

He craved attention.

He was masochistic.

He was delusional about friends, about being a rock and roll star. Here’s one from Morgan’s text:   “Allen saw no similarity between his growing obsession with Peter and Burroughs’s most recent obsession with him…”  [191]

“He felt like a sick junkie hooked on Neal, demanding as much affection and attention from him as his wife received.”  [176]

He allowed, even encouraged bedlam at his apartments, which made it impossible to write, which is what he said he wanted to do.

Regarding men his relationships were marked by possessiveness and obsession [shades of La Recherche].

In his youth, he was mercurial, flighty, suicidal.

He had so many youthful attachments, marked by grasping, but this continued into old age, with his fixation on young, straight guys who could never give him what he wanted.  All this banging his head against the colossal concrete wall of samsara!  “In San Francisco he gave up in despair, after being rejected for the umpteenth time in a week by boys half his age.” [427]

I wasn’t thrilled with how he was a protector of Trungpa.

He was classic enabler of Peter Orlovsky.

Gene Petrik was right! So many of the Beats had lives not worthy of emulation but compassion.

— Monday 5 March 2007

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