Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Mixed Media: ‘Kill Your Darlings’ (2014)

The Mixed Media Column from the September 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kill Your Darlings by Austin Bunn

Director John Krokidas and writer Austin Bunn’s 2013 film Kill Your Darlings draws on Jack Kerouac’s novel Vanity of Duluoz, portraying the early years (1943-44) of the ‘Beat Generation’ in New York City of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan).

We meet Allen Ginsberg at home in New Jersey with his poet father Louis and his mother Naomi. Louis was a socialist, his parents had been active in the Yiddish Arbeiter Circle, and he went with his father to lectures by Eugene Debs, IWW founder and Socialist Party of America Presidential candidate. Louis named his first son after Debs: ‘He was magnificent. All the ironies of the capitalist system came blazing forth. He was a brilliant man.’ Allen’s mother was a member of the Communist Party.

Allen goes to Columbia University studying to be a Labor Lawyer, meets Lucien Carr (‘blond, eighteen, of fantastic male beauty’ (Vanity of Duluoz), William Burroughs (Harvard educated St Louis patrician), and Jack Kerouac, ‘the stocky Breton with blue eyes and coal black hair’ (Gerald Nicosia, 1983), football player, poet, Merchant Marine, and originator of ‘First Thought Best Thought.’ Jack and Lucien liked to sing together folk songs, Leadbelly’s country blues, communist work songs, and with Ginsberg and Burroughs ‘they would have Dostoyevskian confrontations, endure horrors out of Kafka’ (Nicosia). Their artistic endeavours are inspired by Yeats, Whitman, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, the pleasures and wild sensations of marijuana, alcohol, Benzedrine and the Bebop Jazz music revolution of Charlie Parker (Bird).

Kerouac was a ‘Canuck’, a French-Canadian from the textile manufacturing mill-town of Lowell in Massachusetts, 13 miles north of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Ann Charters described Lowell as ‘poor, dirty and rundown, both working-class and obstinately bourgeois, belligerently provincial.’ In the 1920s and 1930s Lowell entered economic decline when companies relocated to the South where labour was cheaper, and in 1931 Harpers Magazine called it a ‘depressed industrial desert.’

Kerouac’s first language was ‘joual’ the French of the ‘Canucks’, a dialect of working-class Quebec French, and he would overcome the handicaps of his working-class ‘Canuck’ origins to become the greatest writer since James Joyce, ‘not even 72 hours a week of underpaid mill work could keep these people in their place’ wrote Nicosia. Ginsberg overcame being a ‘spindly Jewish kid with horn-rimmed glasses’ (Vanity of Duluoz) to become the poetical heir to William Blake, a 1960s Counter-Cultural guru and New Left icon. As Dave Kammerer says in the film ‘under the right circumstances he might change the world.’
Steve Clayton

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

Just tidying up. Bear with me.