Hey, Insomniacs! I’m getting a slow start on the week after spending Monday driving back from Asheville, North Carolina. I played a solo singer/songwriter gig there over the weekend and had a real blast bumming around that great little mountain town with my girlfriend. Check out my YouTube channel to see videos from the show.
On the way home through the Smokies we were challenged with intermittent rain and dense fog, and there was plenty of time to think back on the weekend when we were slowed down. I recalled that Jack Kerouac had spent time in the area — Thomas Wolfe, Asheville’s literary saint, was Kerouac’s hero, and Kerouac made a number of trips to North Carolina to visit his sister’s family in Rocky Mount.
I’m a huge fan of the Beat Generation writers and I’m particularly pleased about recent articles, books and other media that continue to give them credit for their culture-changing artistry while also dropping the hero-worship that’s masked their less-savory qualities as naturally-flawed human beings: Kerouac was a deadbeat dad, a conservative reactionary and an alcoholic who drank himself to death; Burroughs murdered his wife in a very sketchy accidental shooting.
We celebrated Burroughs’ Centenary last year and I joined in with plenty of posts about the writer. I think of Burroughs as one of the most important satirists of the last century, but I totally understand why many people find him to be plain creepy. Talking about the beat scene on our trip back to Nashville, my girlfriend reminded me of a recent This American Life episode that found host, Ira Glass, confronting his own resistance to Burroughs by playing an audio documentary presented by Iggy Pop that opened his mind to the author and his work specifically because it didn’t shy away from the dark shadow cast by Burroughs’ often-tragic life and horror-filled writings.
Here’s that episode in honor of Burroughs 101st birthday this February (February 5, 1914).