I don’t usually include an editor’s note but I decided to make an exception on this occasion. Thank you to everyone who submitted for The Beat Writers’ Issue to celebrate the birthday of Jack Kerouac, it has been a real labour of love. We are delighted to feature the work of Eddie Hearne, Caroline Healy, John P Brady, Andrew McEneff and David Levingstone.
As the title suggests to fully experience Eddie Hearne’s To Be Accompanied By Highway 61 Revisited this story should be read while listening to Bob Dylan’s fantastic sixth studio album. The story within a story aspect to Eddie’s piece works really well, he draws on the self-reflective nature of writing and the huge role real life experiences have to play in the writing process.
Caroline Healy’s work Omni(m)potent is a master class in originality, it is a very beautiful and thoughtful piece exploring relationships, subjectivity and internal dialogue. No Beat Issue could be complete without a strong female voice!
John P Brady’s Streets of San Francisco takes us right into the heart of Beat country where his narrator like a young Jack Kerouac goes in search of the elusive pearl, looking for the heart of Saturday night – you’ll have to read it to see if he finds what he’s looking for.
Andrew McEneff’s enthusiastic and inspiring essay The Lost Beat Generations of Ireland takes a look at what Irish literature has lacked to date and more importantly how that is changing!
David Levingstone’s wonderful photography provides the perfect visual accompaniment to these writings!
The Bohemyth has been up and running for nearly 5 months now – I want to take this opportunity to thank any one who has liked or shared a facebook post, followed us on twitter, favourited a tweet or retweeted a tweet – your support means everything.
To all of our writers, contributors and readers thank you for letting me be a part of this – without you there would no Bohemyth. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the talent and loveliness that shores up in The Bohemyth’s Inbox. You are all Cool Happy Genius Heroes!
xxx Bon Anniversaire Ti Jean xxx
Photography: David Levingstone is a photographer, art director and bearded man from Tipperary living in Dublin, more of his work can be found on Flickr. David currently works for Getty Images.
To Be Accompanied By Highway 61 Revisited
– By Eddie Hearne
John Catskill was dozing in a Las Vegas hotel room. When he awoke, one eye first, tentatively, a blurred vision of two empty bottles of Corona, one half-full bottle of water, and a near to empty litre bottle of vodka on the bedside locker, unfurled the first memory in his mothball brain. It was a scene that was not lost on him. It would be framed like a snapshot in his mind. And it was these snapshots that he liked to ponder over, and airbrush, and adjust ever so slightly so that they’d resemble a sombre middle-America movie. His phone lay beside him on the pillow. He needed a soundtrack. Who better than Bob Dylan? To the opening bars of Like a Rolling Stone he pulled himself into a sitting position, reached for a hotel notepad, and a hotel pen, and began to write…
My stomach was doing pirouettes but the air-con felt good. My back was sunburnt. The very thought of how hot it was outside was draining the last drops of vapour from my already dangerously dehydrated body. How hot was it? Hot enough to bake bread maybe.
Which reminded me; Brown bread, with two hands removed in a desert grave. Or so I’d read in a newspaper yesterday. The story concerned a young Irish student who had gotten into trouble with the wrong people. They’d sawn off his hands for good measure.
The thought of it, I was half dead myself. I’d been travelling around for the past two weeks. I’d flown into San Diego from JFK, and then caught a bus to LA. After that I’d continued on to San Fran before renting a car and driving to Vegas. My clothes needed washing. I could have done with a shave but didn’t have the money for razors, not after last night, when I’d bet on black and it turned up green!
Thankfully I was going back to New York the next day.
John looked at the playlist. The next song was Tombstone Blues. He’d gotten his soundtrack right anyway. He sipped his water to stay on the right side of alive…
But last night, yes, last night. What a blast that was. It flew by like a rocket ship orbiting a strange neon planet. And when the little thing landed – the rocket ship that is – I found myself standing at the casino bar in the Flamingo. It was late, or to be more precise it was early; maybe hitting five in the morning. And there I was looking into the eyes of the sweetest little gal in all of Vegas.
We talked for a while about who knows what. I felt like I was fifteen years old again; tripping over those precious words that don’t come easy when you’re pursuing a girl like none you’ve seen before. Then to my surprise we stumbled onto books. It was my doing I suppose.
We began with Kerouac. We agreed on Kerouac. Everyone does though, don’t they? It isn’t cool not to. She was young, I thought innocent too, but she knew books. Who knew books at her age?
‘I’m reading Junot Diaz,’ she said.
‘You look a little Spanish,’ I said.
But for me it was the perfect way of getting around to it; after I’d typed Bukowski into her phone. What a name to spell when you’re sizzled. It must have taken me four attempts.
But yes, getting around to it.
‘I’ve written a book y’know,’ I said.
Her neat little fingers were locking her phone at the time. Fingers of an angel I might say if it wasn’t such a cliché. Ah to hell with it. They were the fingers of an angel. I was falling in love with those fingers. They could march up my chest in an early morning summer bed and tap me on the chin to say hello. At which point I’d smile and remind her about the time we met in a badly-carpeted casino in the melting heart of the Nevada desert.
That would be ten years from now. She’d be thirty-two and I’d be five years her senior. We’d have conducted a cross-country affair, married in a Colorado chapel, and be ready to bring a second beautiful child into the world – the beauty donated from her gene pool.
‘You wrote a book?’ she replied, swaying gently in front of me.
It was a question that I still wasn’t used to answering. It was my book, my beloved first self-publication, the inpouring of my soul, the outpouring of my grieving, written beneath a down-pouring of rain. And I remember her mouth when she said it, and her teeth too, such white teeth, smiling teeth, tipsy teeth, protecting her slender tongue, from which she rolled syllables so delicately I wanted to catch them and wrap them and sell them in a gift shop for things of such finesse.
‘Yeah,’ I laughed, seeing the funny side of it.
She was making me giddier than a sugar-fuelled little-leaguer. Where had she been for the last two nights? I thought. When I’d stumbled up and down the strip, half-blind from the neon lights and the free vodka they ply you with at the roulette tables. Where had she come from? She was the work of a love-struck artist. She was moulded from the clay of sacred soil and coated in the pairings of a golden harp.
Bob knew what John was talking about. Now he was singing about Queen Jane. She was his Queen Jane. John would have worshiped the ground she walked upon. He continued writing…
‘You really wrote a book?’ she said, her thin legs, wrapped in skinny jeans, planted now.
‘Yeah. Come ‘ere. Type this into your phone,’ I said.
She typed. I watched. They were definitely the prettiest fingers I’d ever seen. We waited. I knocked back another Washington apple skin. We were both beyond drunk. Her finer details were fading in my brain. Her face was still there but not in its entirety.
As John scribbled his stomach rumbled. His liver felt like a cleaner’s cloth being wrung dry of a barroom floors deposits. He tore off another page and continued to write…
‘That’s it?’ she said, leaning into me.
I nodded, and crossed my arms. I was as smug as a rosy-faced fat kid who’d just won at hop scotch.
She zoomed in. She enlarged the screen with two perfect fingers.
‘Can you see it?’ I asked.
With eyes squinted she read, ‘Diary of a Fallen Man.’
Just like that she said it, and upon hearing those words presented to me with such splendour I believed my life path to be altered forever. I felt like writing a new book. Something so full of romance they’d stack it with the chic-lit and erotica. She was inspiring me to go somewhere beyond pessimism, to a land filled with happy-clapping positivity.
On my travels I’d seen an old Cadillac deserted on a California desert road. That’s how I felt at the time. But not now, no, now I was re-energised, now we were zooming down the Pacific coast, polished and sleek, with the top down, a full tank of gas and my leather seats moulded to her slim frame and… what?
Cars, he thought. Track four; From a Buick 6. It was planted in his subconscious by Bob.
John was now feeding grapes into his mouth with one hand. He’d bought them in a general store in Death Valley. It was before he’d passed the Shady Lady Ranch whorehouse and laughed so hard he made grape juice in his nose.
He ripped another page from the pad…
‘I’ll read it in the morning,’ she said.
I could tell she was impressed. I mean who writes books anymore? I had a new shirt, Banana Republic jeans, and eighty dollar shoes. It wasn’t as if I looked like a writer. After all it was only part-time. By day I worked in a legal firm. Money came in and money went out. But there I was writing stories on Bally’s Hotel note paper.
Nothing about me made sense. I was living a double life. John Catskill didn’t even know who John Catskill was. But maybe he would, ten years from now.
Yes, ten years from now, drinking coffee in bed with Crystal. She told me her name was Crystal in an email she’d sent the previous night. I’d forgotten her name. I often did. I was a low life at times – But only when I was drunk.
Where was I? Oh yes, drinking coffee, in that same summer bed, with white bed sheets, and outside the Colorado crickets asleep.
Her fingers would march south then, to where my naked body is halved by a patchwork quilt. She’d give me those eyes. We’d make love twice. We’d come twice. It’s easy when you’re in love. There’s electricity. Then I’d tell her that in a different life we were high school sweethearts and that we kissed beneath the portable stand in the football field at the exact same time that Bob Dylan was writing Ballad of a Thin Man.
‘I think you’re really pretty,’ I told her.
She laughed. I was being too obvious.
‘You’re being too obvious,’ she said.
‘Am I?’ I replied.
Then she laughed some more and rocked towards me. I caught her before she fell.
‘What are you laughing at?’ I said, and accompanied her with a smirk of my own.
‘I don’t know,’ she said.
We both laughed. Washington apple skins will do that.
When she finally managed to say it she said, ‘I dunno, it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.’
‘Are you quoting Bob Dylan?’ I asked.
‘Yes. But I don’t know why,’ she replied, her nose scrunched up from laughing.
I noticed it then, the crystal stud in her nose. If I’d remembered her name I would have made a smart remark about it. Instead, when we’d finished laughing, I asked her where her ancestors were from. They were Spanish she told me – which explained Junot Diaz – and she was some part Irish, some part Native Indian and a little Italian.
I told her she looked mostly Spanish and Native Indian. Her face was small and round and tanned. Her eye’s spun, but when they stopped they landed on mine, and lingered, and she smiled, and I ran my fingers along her arm, while her older sister who was soon to be married, and who was sitting on a stool at the bar, looked on disapprovingly.
But I didn’t care. They could all stare. Her hairdresser friend who said my hair was fine could stare. The girl with a nurse’s gait who wanted everyone to guess her age could stare. My travelling companions Sal Paradise and Nick Belane could stare. They were fictional of course. I travelled alone.
The barman who I tipped for putting an extra shot of alcohol in my Washington apple skin could stare.
I touched her arm and looked into her brown eyes and felt her skin smooth and warm. She did the same. She ran the back of her hand against mine, and for that split second we both knew. We were both in on it. The story was already been written by a young writer in a lonely Vegas sick bed.
John felt like he was ready to give up. There was no sense to it. If he couldn’t find a publisher then he thought he would just quit. But he continued to write. He might have been the first person ever to wake up with a hangover in Vegas and write a story about a Colorado beauty.
But the music lifted him. Highway 61 Revisited. It was upbeat and reminded him of a box of fire-crackers exploding.
The cleaner would most likely need to replace the note pad…
I had ideas about running away with her. I wondered if her parents would disapprove. Not that I’d give them reason too. I’d work the land, and drive a harvester, and every evening we’d sit down for dinner after I’d scrubbed my nails clean with the hard bristles of a nailbrush, and talk of how each other’s day went.
‘Are you here tomorrow?’ she asked.
I told her I would be.
She took her phone out of her pocket and I spelled out my email address.
‘Maybe we can meet up tomorrow?’ I said.
‘Definitely,’ she replied.
But it was Vegas. Anything could happen before that. I could wake up with the blues. Just like Tom Thumb.
John felt awful. It was a struggle but he moved the pen across the page. And on those small sheets of paper each memory was entrapped in ink and each moment engraved, like that moment when her friends stood to leave and she said had to go, and he went to kiss her cheek but she turned and gave him her lips.
And as Bob blew the last note on Desolation Row John Catskill did the only thing he could when he knew he’d never see her again.
He immortalised her in words.
Eddie Hearne, originally from Waterford lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. His short story In Dreams won the Irish Writers Centre Lonely Voice short story competition in August 2011. He is currently working on his debut novel entitled The Play (which can be read on authonomy.com) A lover of the short story form he has also put together a collection of short stories entitled Irish, American tales. When not writing he enjoys watching 1950’s movies, paying for his sins in the gym, frequenting Dublin’s many pubs and travelling. His favourite authors include Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Hubert Selby Jr. and Jim Thompson.
– By Caroline Healy
I am omnipotent.
I see everything. I hear everything. I know everything.
At times it can be quite a d
Take Shirley for instance.
The things I know about her; you wouldn’t believe.
You might assume that we are friends.
When you know everything about everything and
everyone, you would be surprised how hard it is to make friends.
It doesn’t bother me anymore, though. You get used to
Anyway, Shirley. Yes. Shirley, Shirley, Shirley.
I know she hates herself.
Wonders periodically why she even exists.
She hates herself with complete commitment.
The passionate dislike she feels for herself is in direct contrast to
the passion she feels for Dave.
Dave, Oh Dave, the love of her life, the light of her life,
the one person who makes her feel like getting out of bed in the
morning. Her reason for being. Dave. Dave. Dave.
Dave: who beats her, night after night, in their one
bedroom apartment, with a prosperous view overlooking the
Nobody else knows about this, of course.
Apart from Dave and Shirley.
Nobody but me, that is.
Knowing everything is loud sometimes and sometimes
I’m not sure which I prefer more.
Dave hits Shirley, Shirley loves Dave, Shirley hates
It’s simple really.
See in the corner there, the corner of the room, where
the walls meet at an almost perfect right angle, there is a beetle,
under the floor boards, pushing a crumb. It’s impossible to see
him, as he is sheltered beneath the timber, it’s impossible to hear
him as he is so tiny, but I know he is there.
It’s not only people and their loud pulsating that I know
about. It’s the colour of the couch, the exact feel of the leather,
the exact number of spoons in the drawer in the kitchen, the
make and model of the car in the front yard.
It’s all in the details….and sometimes detail is all.
At the docks a ship has come in, its cargo of fish reeks. Five
dockers work long hours to unload this catch. Kev, Timmy Small,
Peter, Big Johno and Frank; they chat amicably about the football, the
page three model in the Sun and the cuts to their wages. Then, when
their shift is over, three walk aimlessly to the pub to spend their pay
and two more go the long way home, along the train track. When they
are sure that no body is looking, they hold hands, whispering sweet
nothings to each other. I see you.
Whispers, stolen moments, beatings and beetles pushing crumbs.
sitting in the
at the fertility
clinic, her partner
afraid to tell
her that he
wants to leave
her. Afraid that
out his mouth.
he is, waiting to
see a black man
about making a
baby. A black
man; a fertility
specialist. It does
not sit right with
but me that
Jimmy is a little
racist. He is
like the sparing
skim of fresh
butter he puts on
his toast every
about the black
doctor, the skim of
butter or Jimmy‘s
reluctance to have
a baby. She is
what Jimmy said,
about the possibility of
having a defective
wrinkles her brow,
what does that
even mean? In he
heart of hearts she
knows what it
means, it means
that she is to
blame. A defect
from her; she is at
She is the one
who may not be
able to reproduce
and all she wants,
the only thing she
wants, is to be like
She hates Jimmy sometimes. He is normal, like
everyone else. But Miriam is too weak to stand up and tell
them what she really thinks. Tell them to leaver her alone.
It’s what she wants to do, I know because I can hear the
words reverberating around in her head.
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off…all of you just fuck off!
I like Hannah the best.
If I chose to have a friend, it would probably be her.
She tells people exactly what she thinks.
She likes boys and girls, it’s not a matter of sex, it’s a
matter of SEX. She is not fussy and doesn’t discriminate. She
simply wants to fuck and when this happens, she chooses
whoever is most convenient. People might say she is afraid of
emotional commitment, I would argue that she is just honest.
She has a small flat on the ground floor of an old
She likes tea pots and mismatched crockery.
She has had a few steady boyfriends, none of them good
enough, each one a little more impotent at life than the next.
She wonders sometimes how she manages to gather such
a mish-mash of walking eunuchs around her.
She has recently started dating women but finds them
the same, needy, self-conscious, forever looking to input into her
I know quite a bit about Hannah, I spend a lot of time
listening to her thoughts.
I spend a lot of time with Hannah, in her head, listening
to what’s going on.
Her honesty, especially with herself is refreshing.
It breaks the monotony for me, the constant string of
lies that people tell.
Dwane arrives. Hannah’s new boyfriend.
He is an ASShole.
He likes to look at brutal pictures of women on the
internet. Would like to do the same to Hannah. He is even
thinking about it as he walks to her front door.
She is hot, he thinks to himself.
He smiles; one of his front teeth are crooked.
I can hear his thoughts.
They are loud, screeching.
I want to warn Hannah,
but of course I can’t.
I’m just the observer really.
Hannah has made spaghetti carbonara for tea, she thinks it
might be the type of thing that Dwane eats on a regular basis;
large bowls of carbohydrates. She doesn’t really have any
deeper interest in Dwane other than the fact that she thinks he
has a hot body. Everyone needs sex, right? And Hannah is no
I’m just an OBSERVER.
Dwane reaches for her.
I’m just an OMnI(m)potent OBSERVER.
I see everything.
I hear everything.
I know everything.
Except what’s going to happen next…..asdfjkl;asdfjkl;asdfjkl;a
Caroline Healy is a writer and community arts facilitator. She has recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast. She published her first collection of short stories, entitled A Stitch in Time in August 2012, having won Doire Press’s International Chapbook Short Story Competition. Her work has been featured in publications such as Wordlegs, Prole and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice. Caroline is completing the edits to her second short story collection, The House of Water and is working on her second young adult novel entitled The Wolf Mirror. You can follow Caroline on Twitter @charliehealy8 and check out her wonderful website: www.carolinehealy.com
Streets of San Francisco
– By John P Brady
I turned and mounted the steep hill on Taylor Street. I was in San Francisco at last. I didn’t look back as the car disappeared behind me; we had spent every moment of the last 3 days together travelling from San Diego. They were good people but now our paths diverged. My road was another and I had to follow it.
I entered Amsterdam Hotel and proceeded to pay for my accommodation. The goth girl on the desk put on Stone Temple Pilots as I waited to check in. A French guy in a floral shirt scrambled around in the office behind her.
“Is that Soundgarden?” I asked her.
“No, it’s STP,” she responded.
“Same band,” I commented trying to rise her.
“Excuse me, you’re talking to a fan,” she defended.
And quite a lady she was – just my type, with an edge to her. I imagined her dancing seductively in a dark rock club. Her punk/rock/chick look persuaded me to ask her for some local knowledge.
“So where does a guy go to have fun in this town?” I asked in an unapologetically thick Irish accent.
She immediately scribbled on a map the location of all her favourite rock hangouts, describing each one to make sure my decision would be an informed one. Grateful, I thanked her and grabbing my guitar and bag, headed for the second floor.
I needed to wash so looking in the bathroom I found a bathtub with a shower. The bath was blocked and almost full of the vilest liquid I could have imagined. It wouldn’t have been wise to get in, so I showered standing on the edges, slipping as I went. Water overflowed from the bath and covered the floor.
Soon afterwards there was a knock at my door. The French guy from reception rushed into the room saying there was a problem in the kitchen. We looked into the bathroom to see the several inches of water that had collected on the floor ripple gently.
“Okay, we have a problem,” the he asserted.
Soon I was helping him attack the bath with a large plunger.
“Ah, is no good,” he sighed. ‘I worry for the kitchen.’
It was clearly a job for him. It was time to get out and see the city so I prepared to leave. The French guy wore an impressive 70’s shirt which I had to comment on.
“That shirt you’re wearing is superb,” I mentioned.
“Ah thees one! Somebody leave it behind and I just wear it!”
Well, as the Yanks say: “That’s how I roll!”
It was time to find these dungeons of rock that San Francisco proudly hid amidst its great hills and corners.
After a quick step down by Union Square I grabbed a quick slice of pizza and moved towards the party streets. Bums were everywhere. Some I thought had arrived into the city just like me with a little money and just fell on hard times. America really forgets its poor.
I saw a suitably underground bar and went in. It was packed with stoned punters who wore mostly black. Neil Young sang out proudly on the jukebox. “Be on my side/I’ll be on your side…”
The barman poured me ale and I searched for a seat. I saw room in a seedy corner by a pool table. I gestured to the guy sitting there to ask if it was okay to sit. He looked deep into space and completely ignored me. I sipped deep into my first beer in San Fran.
The guy next to me raised a hand suddenly and held it there, almost touching my head. I stole a glance to see what variety of maniac he was. He gestured to an unscrupulous character at the other side of the pool table that looked back menacingly. Obviously my choice of seat was not popular with everybody. He approached and stood over me staring fixedly with empty eyes. I decided it was time to move.
I passed the legions of “cool kids” who each wore more unusual clothing that the last. The bar appeared to be divided in two, stoned rockers one side, coked-up hipsters the other. I left for another bar.
I went out into the fresh San Francisco night and noticed the chill from the mist which descended over the bay each evening. I saw the Edinburgh Castle on my right. Outside to the left of the bar, sat six or seven teenagers. They were puffing on joints and taking photos of each other
“Hi Mom, I’m high,” said one girl while posing for her hairy friend’s camera.
To my right a circle of older punters was forming. One tall guy with grey hair stood fidgeting in his pocket.
“Are you on stage now, man?” one of the others asked him.
The grey haired man produced a dope pipe, and began puffing hurriedly. He grumbled to the affirmative.
The group of guys puffed on American style joints and miniature pipes on the main street as a homeless black crack-head looked on. His eyes screamed for a hit. The grey haired guy reached into his pocket and parted with a roach to cheer him up. The crack-head grasped it frantically and putting it in his mouth, tried to puff.
“No you have to light it first…wait a minute…there you go,” said the grey haired man.
A moment later they went inside the bar, leaving the crack-head swaying alone, puffing relentlessly. I followed along inside, intrigued.
The grey haired man walked to the stage and picked up a bass guitar with the authority of a true musician.
The music began and I leaned against a post drinking ale, totally captivated by what I saw. It was progressive and delicate, soft and strong. Hippies of all ages swayed to the music, others watched with reverence.
The music ended and I snapped out of my haze and went outside. During the road trip from the Mexican border, I had not been on my own even for a moment for 4 days and now the feeling was strange. I went back to where I was standing before watching an endless stream of hobos passing. A mixed group of fashionable mid-twenties in front of me looked to be deciding on their next move.
I used my shamelessly lost Irishman line once again.
“So where does a guy go to have fun in this town?”
“You have an accent!” a girl responded as the five of them turned around in unison.
“Where are you from?” another asked.
They were eager to show me the city.
“Come with us we’re goin’ out now!”
Moments later I was in the back of a Chrysler careering through the streets of San Francisco with Lia, a beautiful Persian-American girl, on my lap. This is it!
We arrived at a club and I soon realised that Lia, clearly the single girl of the group, knew everybody there. I was introduced to super good-looking girls who smiled broadly and snobby gay people who would barely talk to me.
This mass introduction lasted a few minutes before I lost everybody and stood alone again. I began to wander around what I realised was just another soulless R’n’B club which held only negative pretentious vibes.
I listened as the DJ played 40 seconds of a classic song before applying tasteless alterations then changing the track and repeating the process. I walked around and wanted to leave.
Lia was from Iran originally and she was a dynamic representation of Persian beauty. She was the only person from the group that I had made any connection with. She wasn’t exactly easy to talk to as she was fond of affecting a persona which she felt she needed for whatever reason. Crucially, I hadn’t seen her for the last 20 minutes. I walked around alone.
I had firmly decided to leave when suddenly she returned. She looked into my eyes and held my gaze. I felt compelled to get close to her.
She drank more and more and sensing that I was still sober she urged me to drink up. The temptation of Eve. We began to dance and any barriers that we had were now gone. When I moved to kiss her she resisted saying that she didn’t kiss guys that were leaving in two days.
The time passed and now it was just Lia, her friend, Karen and a guy she knew.
We went outside. Karen and the guy began making out with vigour. Lia kicked me in the leg in a playful, drunken fashion.
“You’re just here ‘cos you want a piece of American ass!” she shouted.
“I don’t want American ass,” I announced, “I want Persian ass.”
This promoted another installment of girly violence.
A few bruises later and we were in a taxi, Lia and I along with Karen and her guy.
We pulled up at an upmarket apartment block and I reminded myself that you never really know who you’re talking to outside a bar. It turned out that she owned her apartment, a well decorated, plush place within walking distance of the centre. Inside there was considerable comfort, soft tones and designer furniture, making her abode a pleasure to be in.
We sat on the couch. Still no love and it was getting late. Karen and the guy were dry-humping like animals right next to us. She reached into his pants and rummaged around. A few minutes later they got up and said they were leaving, going to her place apparently.
Lia put on the latest sensation, a Scottish group that had made a name in the US. We sat on the sofa as Lia continued casual conversation and gradually we began to make out.
She had a sofa bed which seemed less pressurised than going to her room, also it was nearer.
A peaceful night later and it was morning. We hit the make or break moment. If the conversation died here I was going for the door. But things went smoothly and soon we were heading out for morning coffee.
The day ran with huge momentum as Lia took me over to Haight-Ashbury the site of the great flower-power revolution. We shopped in the vintage stores, ate Mexican food in a noisy restaurant and became very fond of each other. When we arrived at the Downtown bus stop she lay back on the grass verge and lying over her, I kissed her tenderly.
During the crowded bus journey we barely took our eyes off each other. We then walked silently through the streets towards her apartment each moment uncertain. When we arrived she threw the door open without really offering an invitation. She didn’t need to. Then we were in the elevator, going up.
John P Brady is an Irish writer, journalist and teacher. He has had stories published in Roadside Fiction, The Galway Review and others More of his writing can be found at JohnPBrady.com. Originally from Ireland, he now lives in Sicily, Italy, where he teaches English and writes a blog about expat life. Follow John on Twitter @JohnPBradyIRL
The Lost Beat Generations of Ireland
– By Andrew McEneff
Ireland never produced a Beat Generation and it is for this reason alone literature in our country is still struggling to find its contemporary ecstatic groove. As America was giving birth to On the Road in 1957 and the Beats were yo-yoing from coast to coast, from New York to San Francisco and back again, vastly rolling out freedom, individuality, polyamory, sex-parties, drugs, bebop and rock n’ roll – and spreading the Word of a new literature that deemed “The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!” – we were sat at home by the fire, bog-sodden and Church-heavy, guilt-bound to the family and the sad green land, intoning very different prayers, isolated from each other and utterly terrified of ourselves.
As sun-kissed American minds surged forward, joyously and recklessly exploring the promises and challenges of their liberating adventures, our imaginations were being sadistically and systematically repressed, our very emotions and desires beaten out of us. Instead of producing proud, free-thinking, confident and wildly assertive men and women capable of giving voice to their profane beatific sensual desires, we produced a generation of insecure and fearful subjects who were emotionally, morally and artistically retarded. One critic looking back over this bleak time in our cultural history even felt justified in making the following comparison, “If Stalin and Zdhanov crippled a generation of Soviet writers with injunctions to map out a scenario of ‘Girl meets Tractor’, then DeValera and Corkery had their own subtler but no less rigid prescriptions for Irish writers.” The second Irish name that you mightn’t recognize is in reference to Daniel Corkery (1878-1964), an Irish Language revivalist, politician, writer and teacher. Corkery had three such prescriptions, “No writer could truly claim to be Irish unless his work contained three specific notes (i) Nationality, ( ii) Religion (Catholic, of course) and ( iii) and the Land.”
In Ireland Church-State time stood still. Life stood still. And in the shadows of a dominant rural Revivalism change in literature was slow, incredibly and painfully slow. Our tortured colonial history is in part to blame for this. We know that. We were humiliated and controlled and told we weren’t yet ready for the modern world, and we obeyed. There was the added complication that there was a need to find something essentially Irish to celebrate first, being only a newly free Republic, before the destructive up-rooting of a vertiginously Godless American Capitalism invaded us and damned our souls eternally. But because of this complex historical and cultural subjection there is an absence and a terrible silence in our literature of the gloriously alternative underground voice. We never got a whiff of the freedoms or a chance to fully embody for ourselves that great revolutionary spirit that was sweeping across other nations at that time. But maybe now is the time for life and literature here to be inspired by some of the Beat’s wild exuberance: to self-explore and experiment, on all fronts, in all areas. Watermark by Sean O Reilly and Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse by Philip O Ceallaigh were certainly steps in the right direction as is the best of Kevin Barry, but we need more! More! We need to go further! And yet some of the same insidious problems are reoccurring. In the fifties “Ireland as a society was imploding on a central vacuity. Economic stagnation and emigration which amounted to a ‘human haemorrhage’ of 500,000 persons between 1945 and 1961…” A young generation abandoned ship and they are doing so again. So it is deeply troubling to think that something similar might happen and that we are going to be similarly disinherited. But I really don’t want to be writing about another missed opportunity in ten or twenty years’ time.
And yet, there is cause for optimism in the present as even from our Dark-Aged past there have been one or two angelic exceptions that soared up against the odds. The total suppression of desire is an impossibility and if that is so it can only ever be thanks to the courage of individuals, necessarily isolated individuals: outsiders. The only novel that comes anywhere near to having a Beat flavour in Ireland is of course The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy. Written by an American and published in Paris by Grove Press in 1955, that horny and hilarious and critical book was banned in Ireland and the U.S.A. But after Donleavy there is only one writer that stands out in my mind that has carried something of the Beat ethos into an Irish context and it is to our greatest shame that his work is still being so unjustifiably ignored. If you’re reading this and the name Desmond Hogan doesn’t mean anything to you then you should get acquainted with his work, especially his short stories, immediately. Desmond Hogan has travelled. He has been on the road a very long time. He is our very own courageous solitary Beat itinerant visionary. Larks Eggs: New and Selected Stories and Old Swords will give you some idea of his beauty, value and worth. His work is rare and singular, exuberant and extraordinary, there’s the high modernist attention to formal innovation and linguistic brilliance coupled to a content obsessive in its detailing and documentation of nature, art, youth, popular-culture, sexuality, Beatific travels and the wild and free, dangerous and damaged characters that are encountered along the way. From his travel writings entitled The Edge of the City he writes, “In autumn of 1976 when I went to San Francisco from Dublin…By a Victorian house with an owlish face I found a diagram illustrating the horrors of Hell. I never really returned to Dublin after San Francisco. In a sense I wandered.” Two names from sixty years of ‘writing’ from this country? We need to start adding to the list. But we also need to read and to love and cherish and celebrate what has gone before us. And we need more! Our literature is still not the feast it promises to be. So maybe being belatedly Beat in this country has been a blessing in disguise because it is now, quite simply, up to us.
So the question is what would a Beat writing in Ireland look like? How would it sound? What utterances, both critical and affirmative, would it be capable of making about our culture and the way we choose to live in it? And what demands will it make of our youth and generation? In order to live differently, to think differently, to feeling differently, to live marginally and most importantly, to live energetically against the staggeringly life-denying and murderous prescripts of the moral majority, we have to become what Jack Kerouac sought in his friends, we have to become our own ‘courage-teachers’ and to find others out there who are trying to live the same mad crazy dreams. I mean my friends, your friends and all those other searchers and fellow seekers and travellers who we haven’t met yet, I mean seeing and listening and giving expression to the eternal recurrence in Dublin and throughout the world of “…the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” Now is the exciting time. And perhaps for the trip we could keep in mind some of Jack Kerouac’s own ideas on what you need and how-to-do-it from his significantly titled ‘Belief & Technique for Modern Prose’, “…Number 4. Be in love with yr life…6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind…9. The unspeakable visions of the individual…14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time…15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog…17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself…19. Accept loss forever…24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language and knowledge…28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better…30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven…”
Number 24 is something we could all really do with pausing on and feeling how deep it goes. No fear or shame in the dignity of our experience, no fear our shame about the language we use, and no fear or shame about our knowledge. The alcohol and drugs, the music and the parties don’t daunt us, not in the least, but sex and self-confidence and the terror and ecstasy of true individuality keeps us strangely at odds with ourselves and yet those are the original and most gratifying of all intoxicants. The beauty of our dirty angels in the street, our wild mad lives, our crazy mad stories and all the mad shit we get up to, the enthusiasm to live it creatively, to share girlfriends, swap boyfriends, the break-ups break-downs and break-throughs, the bleary eyes at five in the morning still hooked and reading life-changing lines and page after page of all those radically genius and mind-blowing books, the places we’ve been to and fallen in love with here and around the world, the heroes and heroines of the past and the present, and everything that presents the true promises of innocence and youth and experience, not as palliative diversions, but as real and alternative challenges to the pathology of normalcy that always has the power to corrupt us and wear us down, to break our fucking hearts. We can’t let ourselves be beaten again by circumstance or lack of self-confidence. But we have to be cautious, potential capture and traps are all about. As the angel-headed and exuberantly experimental militant philosopher Felix Guattari writes:
The way to have a lust for life, to maintain commitments, to forget
oneself is not simple or obvious. “What for?! has incredible power…
Is it worth trying to keep everything up, taking up the heritage of generations,
keeping the machine running… making Literature or art? Why not break
down, burst and leave it all in the lurch? That’s the question. Giving
way to it is always only so far away…
The answer of course is at the same time both personal and
collective. In life, one can only hold on to momentum. Subjectivity
needs movement, directional vectors, ritournelles, rhythms and refrains
that beat time to carry it along. The most singular and personal factors
have to do with social and collective dimensions.
I bought Felix Guattari’s book Chaosophy in City Light Books in North Beach San Francisco, my friend bought a copy of Desert Islands by Gilles Deleuze and we went into Vesuvios and read bits of them and drank and the words and being there made us ecstatic and happy. Afterwards we went wandering through Chinatown and then through the fast streets in a yellow taxi we rode all the way up to Haight Asbury as the city and bay turned to dusk. Up there were the remnants, the broken wreaks of the hippy-movement, the sad crazy insane ones who never broke out, who never got free, who got stuck and spun in the void. Origins change and weaken and become something else once they have been explosively discharged, but it’s only in retaining the best from the past and looking to the future that hope and optimism is continually regained. I took that book I bought there and those feelings with me back to Dublin and I do believe that something Beat, something philosophic, something explosively youthful and real is out there bubbling under our horizon: writers are out there cooking-up things that will add to the feast. It’s the Beat ethos and the inspirational energy and creativity of the Beats that we need here, to force us, to fuel the expressions of our desires, to start our own origins for different universes of reference, better and more precious than the ones that are being bought and sold in our faces and behind our backs. With self-generating momentum and with the help of different sources and encounters outside of ourselves we might inject some desperately needed newness and freshness into the content of Irish literature so that it no longer bears false witness to the contemporary problems that are specific to our time.
In his essay “Remember Jack Kerouac” William S. Burroughs says something that reminds us about something that perhaps we already know but are still too fearful to admit to ourselves, “What are writers, and I will confine the use of this term to writers of novels, trying to do? They are trying to create a universe in which they have lived or where they would like to live…Sometimes, as in the case of Fitzgerald and Kerouac, the effect produced by a writer is immediate, as if a generation were waiting to be written. In other cases, there may be a time lag…In any case, by writing a universe, the writer makes such a universe possible…Writers are, in a way, very powerful indeed. They write the script for the reality film…Now if writers could get together into a real tight union, we’d have the world right by the words. We could write our own universes…Writers could take over the reality studio. So they must not be allowed to find out that they can make this happen. Kerouac understood this long before I did. Life is a dream, he said.” Man, can’t you dig it? What dizzying joy those words should bring. I hope those words and what it all means makes you emotional and gives you courage and something of a feeling artistic responsibility. Imbue your creations with the feelings of growing forward into life and not backwards into death.
Irish fiction in the twentieth century has been quite conventional
in subject matter and technique, despite Joyce and Beckett and in
spite of what has been going on elsewhere in the world. Too much
is about Ireland, the sow that eats her farrow, about a priest-ridden
God-forsaken race…Too much is in the mould of a cosy realism. The
exceptions are too few and far between.
So the content of our literature has to change, and change utterly. It is still broadly speaking in a shameful state, and the great stuff seems to be little known or ignored. But it’s going to take great writers and great writing to give us what we so sorely need in this country. I know a lot of very good writers and soon some of them will be great, so I have hope. In The Stinging Fly, on wordlegs, The Bohemyth, Bare Hands Poetry, The South Circular and in the recently arrived Penny Dreadful to name but a few platforms there’s a new generation of writers coming to the surface and finding their voice. In our cultural imaginary there’s an on-going struggle for dominance for what will be the primary contents and expressions of our Post-Christian souls or for souls, read, our ethical substance. Some people will become the avatars of reactionary ideals; some will have the look and words of casual nihilism; some will be fashionably vacuous and so on and so on…they’ll all gravitate and find each other and their self-levelling groups and effect the world accordingly. My hope is that some of us are still revolutionary in spirit, that some of us are already saying and doing very un-commonplace things, creating a new gallery of beatific characters of the here and now that are being driven and given momentum by new precepts, affects and ideals about sex love poetry philosophy and freedom and the place at these have in our lives. There’s a crazy trip ahead of us and I’m already looking forward to meeting some of you on the road.
Andrew McEneff is a short story writer, essayist and film-maker living and working in Dublin. His short stories have been published in Commotions: New Writing from the Oscar Wilde Centre, ‘College Green’, Icarus: 50th Anniversary Edition and on wordlegs.com. He is working on a collection of short stories and two novels. This is his first published piece of non-fiction.
Categories: Issue 19