Category Archives: books

Art and Life: Notes on some Conversations with Allen Ginsberg

It begins with the personal. “Life is full of strange experiences,” he says. Allen Ginsberg finds the extraordinary in the everyday. “Each one has his inner nature that he has to satisfy,” says Louis Ginsberg, attempting to account for the … Continue reading

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Notes on Gregory Corso’s “Variations on a Generation”

The Beat Generation was never supposed to become so big, says Gregory Corso, and that’s why it has such a stupid name. If they’d known they might have spent more time thinking about it. Perhaps not. It doesn’t make sense … Continue reading

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The Imperfection of Henry Miller

Henry Miller has made a vow not to alter a line of what he writes because perfection is no longer his object. He wants to get to know his own mind, with all its faults and weaknesses, and share with … Continue reading

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A Life for Wandering Through

Paris in the 1930s was a place where you could simply be an artist. It didn’t matter if you produced any significant work or not. For example, Henry Miller tells us that an acquaintance of his, called Sylvester, will never … Continue reading

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Hegel, Reason, and the Unhappy Consciousness

As the sun sets in Canto II of Dante’s Inferno, the pilgrim, Dante himself, explains that he is not worthy to undertake the journey, through Hell and Purgatory, to Heaven. I lack the strength and skill, he says. The poet … Continue reading

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The “Specific Shape” of Stories (Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§678-679)

For Hegel, the limitation of religion is that it relies on “picture-thinking.” A religion is based around the interpretation of a number of stories, images, and rituals designed to show the human spirit the truth about itself and its place … Continue reading

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Conscience and the Perfection of Religion (Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit §§677-678)

Conscience holds the moral truth within itself. Instead of waiting for the day of judgement, conscience judges its own actions in the here and now. But conscience is fooling itself. The universal law that the moral self-consciousness holds within itself, … Continue reading

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Notes on Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin

The sun is shining and Berlin belongs to Hitler, is the almost final thought of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin. Christopher catches his reflection in a shop window and is horrified to see that he is smiling: sunshine is still … Continue reading

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Notes on David S. Wills: Burroughs on Civilisation, Hallucination, and Telepathy

For William Burroughs, the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a dividing point in history, marking the moment that Western civilisation finally ended. Could you really call a people capable of such an atrocity “civilised”? And so without civilisation, … Continue reading

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Beats and Hippos

And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks is an early work of the Beat Generation, written in the winter of 1944-45 by William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac together, or separately in that they take it in turns throughout the … Continue reading

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