Is it okay to not fully dig the Beats? To celebrate Kerouac's birthday, Huck presents a massively subjective, grammatically flawed exchange fuelled by caffeine and cynicism.
Is it okay to not fully dig the Beats? To celebrate Kerouac's birthday, Huck presents a massively subjective, grammatically flawed exchange fuelled by caffeine and cynicism.
In April 1951, Jack Kerouac hammered out On The Road on a single scroll of typewriter-fed paper in a nicotine-fuelled, maniacal three weeks. Or at least, that’s how the story goes. Love it or hate it, the book went on to become a touchstone for every generation that’s ever come of age since. Dog-eared copies still pass hand-to-hand, backpack-to-backpack at hostels around the globe, accompanied usually with a wink and whispered promise that it may just hold the key to our collective crisis, a bible by which we may learn how to live.
But if Kerouac was our saviour, he wasn’t alone. Along with his clique of literary pals – Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and the muse-like Neal Cassady sitting firmly at the core – Kerouac’s jazz-inspired, stream-of-consciousness style became the embodiment of spontaneity in a world gone stale. They were the Beat Generation, a crew of misfit poets and writers aggrandised by their canonised status.
But what happens when you dare to question the canon? Is anyone allowed to call shit on the Beats?
In an experimental tribute to free-flowing thought, we decided it would be fun to put the Beats on trial, to go beyond the rose-tinted myth and prod around a little – maybe stir things up a tad with a cynical old spoon.
The following conversations – unedited and painfully grammatically incorrect – took place over the course of three days via instant messaging and email. The Beats may have used the US Postal Service and Benzedrine to fuel their verbose exchanges, sending soul-searching letters back and forth for years and years, but we’ve got Gchat, Wikipedia and instant coffee to propel ours.
FOR THE MOTION:
Tetsuhiko Endo is an American writer who has been on the road, both in his own country and around the world, for the last decade. He has few roots, a small family, and no place to call home. Much of his work fixates on the ugliness that lurks behind the facade of American hegemonic culture.
AGAINST THE MOTION:
Michael Fordham is a British writer with a strong affinity for all things Americana. With an estranged American family, he went through his own Beat period wandering the roads of America before he had even heard the name Kerouac.
THE BEAT GENERATION ARE DONE AND DUSTED; THEY’RE NO LONGER RELEVANT TO THE YOUTH OF TODAY.
METHOD OF COMMUNCATION: Gchat. On two Apple Mac desktops, an arms-length apart. Preceded by the kind of salubrious pub lunch that makes everything one says sound a lot like gospel.
Fordham: I gotta rebuttal for that of sorts. The Beats are sure done and dusted, but they will always be relevant, because the relevance is encoded in their way of being with the words they had written. They believed in living the stories, the mythology, that they were creating, rather than simply reflecting a literary idea of the world, and for me, that is a beautiful jewel in the heart of the beat thing.
Endo: i think the key word in all of this is “mythology” because the image they had of America, and unfortunately the image that their ilk still has of America is a fallacy, and an ugly one at that. I actually don’t think the beats are done and dusted. I fucking wish they were. No, i think my generation still has many of the same ridiculous notions of where they come from and what their purpose is as Sal and Dean and all the rest of those poor, feckless losers. That’s why i think they are still popular.
Fordham: Mythology is the thing, true, but for me Kerouac’s beating heart is deeply intertwined with a Thoreauvian, pre 20th century way of being American. For me there’s a working class, roots and culture way of looking at America that isn’t at odds with the realities of America in the twentieth century…the other thing of course is that the class aspect is really important, especially viewed from England…you gotta remember that when the beat stuff was being produced and published the huge, vast majority of English literature came from the same old Oxbridge educated establishment that it had, and continues to be published from…this is an aspect that’s never talked about and that continu=es to inspire. Sure there were the Angry young men like Allan Sillitoe and Jon Osborne the playwright but these guys were far from removed from the educated masses..beat literature was appealing because of its naivety and its down home romance, and for that’s why it continues to be relevant… fuck Zadie fucking Smith.
Endo: ha! like that last line.
Fordham: Liberating literature from the universities can only be a good thing..and liberating literature from itself can only be better. The notion that you can’t write a respectable literary novel unless you went to Oxford/Harvard/NYU etc is still amazingly prevalent…the beats showed that is was possible to sing a song of America not from the cloisters, but from the road…and for that it tapped into the imagination of foreigners stuck here in this little European landscape, listening to this mad bebop revolutionary weirdness. I spoke to a guy who used to sell records down Ladbroke grove, Honest Jon, an old Jazz head, who told me he got into Kerouac and Charlie Parker at the same time, when he was about thirteen visiting his student brother in Leeds, he reckoned hearing Bird was like hearing the future. You imagine what that sounded like in 1957…it was the future!
Endo: watch out that you don’t project too much on the states though. “naiveté”, “down home romance” this ain’t the damn Jeffersons, man. You’re absolutely right in that class is a huge part of this. These guys aren’t American “old money” but they are part of an, at the time, emerging middle/upper middle class that is, as my writer friend Tim Davis likes to day, “not poor enough to not give a fuck and not rich enough to not give a fuck.” So they become culture vultures, reaching desperately back into this supposed “Great American Wilderness” for elements that confirm with their stereotypes of everything their lives aren’t.
And as for liberating literature? What’s liberating in that book? Kerouac was an upper middle class white kid on the cusp of a generation in which upper middle class white kids were them most privileged people in the history of the damn world. As long as we’re on the topic, class AND race are, to me, the central themes of this book. Far from rebellious, this is an incredibly satus quo text that support the ideals and prejudices of the American WASP, middle and upper classes. You don’t have to look that hard to see that keruouac is intoxicated with the image of dark skinned folk are in the fields breaking their damn backs, while he and his friends live young and free. The fact that his book sees these people — the mexican migrant workers, the old black field hands — at times even interacts with them and still holds them up as paragons of a simple, idealized happiness, noble savages essentially, is morally and spiritually reprehensible. The book’s great irony is that Kerouac can’t rebel against anything because his entire kushy lifestyle is made possible by the working poor and minorities that he so naively envies. He is all that he considers fucked up.
Fordham: Yep..but at the heart of it all is the work. You strip away the tons of bullshit (this film included) and at the heart of it is the work that stands up to me as an ongoing way of being in the world that resounds… I understood Kerouac to be, at least in aesthetic, a French Canadian blue collar guy whose family moved to Connecticut and climbed a little…but they let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story, eh?
The other thing for me though is the bravery of these guys…at the end of the second world war there was SUCH a huge economic boom in America, so that everything appeared on the surface at least to be chrome clad and gilt edged…I mean you could buy a 300,000 dollar Cadillac in 1957, the whole culture was exploding in excess and economic freedom like it never had before, so for these guys to somehow paddle against that very appealing, very seductive flow was something that took real guts and a well of creative and critical energy that was pretty rare…I’m no literary historian, but I feel like that every time I go to California, especially San Francisco: to place yourself out at the edge of things and critique this huge 100 year old behemoth took nerve. Here in Europe, we had a tradition of critiquing the establishment. We’ve been modern for a hundred years. To urge yourself against the prime time, chrome clad boomtime while Sputnik was spinning above Iowa was pretty heroic, baby
Endo: You know, framed as an anti capitalism critique, it kind of works, if you squint. that’s not a dig, i agree with some things, but i think it was precisely this generation that grew up to be the Mad Men of the ensuing decades. And I think, going back to class and race, there was never any other option. quickly about the canadian, anyone who refers to poor white labourers and “okies” and goes running back to his aunt/mother every time he needs money is not blue collar by american standards, no matter ho hard he and his friend pretend to be. So on one hand we have this guy railing against a system which deserves all the criticism that can be heaped on it, but on the other hand he is the guy who benefits and will continue to benefit from this system at the expense of all the “negroes”, “okies” and “fellahin” that he puts on a pedestal while subtly disdaining.
you didn’t leave because of my monster intellect did you?
just lost loads of copy
I reckon that the romanticising of the huddled masses whether they’re black, brown, jewish, mormon or whatever is part of a huge American tradition, its the way that America has always sung the song of itself, from Whitman all the way to DeLillo.
Endo: “sung the song of itself”… that’s damn good
Fordham: And the thing is, that you can read romantic descriptions of marginality, of vagrancy of the other all the way through US literature…i read Steinbeck’s East of Eden for the first time and there’s an amazing description of Adam’s time as a hobo and the blessedness of the hobo like its something that America will always be heir to
Endo: yes, they romanticise, but they do so in a way that robs the working class, whoever that may be, of an actual voice. Instead, we get Disney versions of them. That’s my issue with on the Road, it’s like the “It’s a wonderful life” ride version of America
Fordham: its just that at the same time, America lauds the dollar and the absence of the dollar in the same breath. it’s like the terms ‘Jazz’ ‘improvisation’ ‘hip hop’ and ‘art’ in America; there is so much weight of bullshit heaped upon the signifier, that the signified gets lost in the play of images…the Beats are victims of our lack of bravery to live fully
Endo: I think they laud the dollar in private and laud the working class in public. Do you know that our Labour Day isn’t actually on the rest of the world’s Labour Day because it seems socialist?
Fordham: Yep..I would love to learn about American socialism/communism. But there’s nowhere on the planet that would publish such a tome
Endo: ha… once again though: whose lack of bravery? I think not being able to live how you want is a very upper middle class anguish. Everyone else is just trying to get by. they should be neither vilified nor deified for just grinding out a living
Fordham: I think what we’re seeing now is just another romance of the ever receding cultural history of America…in the same way that Hipsterism has nothing to do with the beats, the possibility of living an improvisational existence and to live with ever-expanding horizons that aren’t restricted by the ability to own one’s own fucking home is always a question. I mean how can everyone be a homeowner? Aren’t there other ways of living that aren’t about how many material possessions you pile up… To say these things in 1957 was pretty brave… Working class people are struggling to get by because in a lot of ways they have swallowed the pill of capitalism, or rather it was forced down their grandfathers’ throats a long time ago and they don’t have the reflux capacity to puke it out
Fuck the working class. I am working class, but fuck the working class. I am generation deep in the pain of trying to buy houses!All around me, people buying houses
passing on the misery of a mortgage to your kids!
But I digress
Endo: i think that’s true. the pill of capitalism goes down easily. i know i buy into it in more ways than i want to admit. There ways to oppose against the current, but they aren’t rooted in fetishizing minorities and working class. they are rooted in real rebellion; In Molotov cocktails or, on the other hand, the really nitty gritty boring shit of participatory democracy (to paraphrase Chomsky). I’m talking about being an informed citizen, going through public archives to find all the ways that the government or big business is trying to fade you. Real rebellion seems impossible to people like the beats who were too well off
Fordham: Real rebellion is to live truly, and I believe that at the heart of much of the song that the beats were singing is a call to live truly…but then again, I’m probably talking more about Whitman and Thoreau rather than Kerouac and Burroughs… I mean fucks sake, Burroughs was an heir to an absolute fucking fortune, right?
Endo: i can’t comment on Burroughs, but Kerouac couldn’t find rebellion with both hands and a fucking phone book.
THERE WAS NOTHING POLITICAL ABOUT THE BEATS; THEY WERE JUST A BUNCH OF APATHETIC KIDS.
Method of communication: Email. Via a crappy internet connection between Nova Scotia, Canada (where Michael Fordham is indulging his love for big beards and plaid shirts) and Bourdeilles, France (where Tetsuhiko Endo is holidaying like a good, newly landed Brit).
On 23 September 2012 17:33, Michael Fordham <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I think if you choose to take the political implications of the beats you’re always going to come to the conclusion that they were indulgently self interested and therefore apparently politically naive: but the whole point is that the way of living they espoused through direct engagement with the world WAS a deeply politically resonant way of being. Remember the context : the most magnificent and unprecedented boomtime in the most unprecedented and magnificent superpower there has ever been. The Yanks had demonstrated the ability to unleash the power of the atom and lay waste to cities in a moment – and the Russians were catching up fast. The beat way of being was thus DEEPLY subversive of the chrome clad flow of things – even if it was a pie eyed, youthful sort of rebellion with the body if not necessarily the mind. To paddle against the flow of all this aspiration was courageous. And if their kids, the Boomers, let the side down then I don’t think you can blame the beats. I think they glimpsed a vision of hope and freedom that the hippies went and fucked up and whose kids and grandkids have never quite managed to conjure the vision properly again…
On 25 September 2012 10:57, tetsuhiko Endo <email@example.com> wrote:
It’s interesting talking about the beats as subversive because although I see your argument, I have always seen On The Road as a sort of love letter to America, and the Beats, as well as their successive cultural spawn, as people who were deeply obsessed with the notion of the US as a land of freedom and opportunity — an essentially “good” place. It’s not. It never has been. The story of America, politically, socially, and economically, is one of all out, pseudo-darwinian struggle to make a guap. It’s climbing up the grooved, greased poll of the free market; clawing over the bent and broken bodies of the less fortunate then kicking downwards at their gnarled hands and striving for a light that mysteriously moves upward the higher you go. It’s about undercutting your opponents, turning PR into gospel, and making sure darker skinned people always do the hard work. Beats and Hipsters are people who are smart enough to realise this on some level, but not smart enough to do anything about it. Instead, their vague but uncomfortable realisation throws them into a sort of metaphysical crisis because they realise that their very beings as middle class (there’s that word again — American middle class, not British middle class) children are predicated on it. The only reason they can BE beats or hipster or whoever, is because there are other people living hand to mouth. It’s guilt then, White Guilt, but also a deeper sense of class guilt and socio/cultural counterfeitedness (new word) that makes these young, educated, wannabe leftists idealise the poor, the working classes, the music spawned by suffering (eg: jazz blues) and the notion of suffering in general. Perhaps its cathartic for them. But on some level I think they must realise that they are the products and the future perpetrators of a system that they know to be utterly corrupt.
On 25 September 2012 11:22, Michael Fordham <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
When it comes down to it, one’s view of the relevance of the Beats – be it in literature, politics or just purely aesthetic – will be drawn firmly along the lines of how one feels about America. We’re all politicised and aestheticised by experience and if you choose to see America as this great Darwinian demon and the beat thing as being ultimately reflective of that – then I have no counter argument. Problem is, though, that I would argue that the whole world, humanity itself – is driven by the demons of which America is the ultimate expression. We are all Americans. You, from a Japanese heritage, me, from an English heritage – P fucking Darwinian Diddy and his African heritage. America is essentially made up from pioneers forced into being more deeply what they were when they left the old lands. They didn’t become racist genocidal maniacs because they found themselves in America. In a way, beat culture sought to get back to a more expansive, Whitmanesque aesthetic of the inclusive American mob. Conflating contemporary hipsterism with the Beats is flagrantly, ridiculously wrong in any case.
On 25 September 2012 11:42, Tetsuhiko Endo <email@example.com> wrote:
If I could take one sentence from all of this, it would be “we are all Americans.” Brilliant. I am not qualified to comment extensively on Whitman but from what i have read of him, I find some of it a bit half-baked in the sense of it being too easy, too wishy washy. That is not to say that it is not wonderful, beautiful writing. Because, jesus, it is. My problem with referring to him is that he seems to canonise a time and a place that I don’t think ever existed. His primordial world with which humans live in harmony is sort of a Beat fever dream. I mean, don’t you remember the Levis “Go Forth” commercial on TV? They took his words verbatim from the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers” and used them to sell jeans, damnit. Any poem that can double as an advertising jingle is questionable at best.
Hipsters are very much related to the beats though. Certainly some of their cultural cues are different, but even the name “hipster” harkens back to the term coined by the beats. I think there is less to hipsters, especially given that, as I understand it, they coalesced mostly around music in NYC in the late 90s (correct me if I’m wrong, i don’t claim much knowledge about their origins) but I think they are permeated by the same sense of helplessness cum apathy in the face of the American or, as you mentioned, global struggle for advancement. I think they come from the same social/economic/educational spheres and I think their incredible obsession with themselves and with, god help us, “the authentic” is almost scarily similar to the beats.
On 25 September 2012 12:10, Michael Fordham <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
It’s the fetishising of the nobility of the huddled masses that strikes me in Whitman, and how the individual can affect and reflect that. In a way, you can draw a line between Whitman, Thoreau, right through literature all the way through to the beats and on to contemporary protests like Occupy and the various anti-capitalist movements. It is wishy-washy in its political sentiment but what is common is that these guys believe in putting your body on the line, as well as your political aesthetic. You bring the drug fucked into the equation and it all breaks down, because there’s nothing as recapitulated into the economy of greed as the drug trade. Similarly contemporary hipsterism is deeply entrepreneurial, vacuously acquisitive and conscious of the free floating play of fashion and technology. What seems to be missing in any idea of contemporary hipsters being anything LIKE the beats is that there’s no improvisation, no live-in-the-moment, non-productive play. Which brings us to music, and, conveniently, to things like skate and surf, which, are all about the latter.
On 26 September 2012 13:25, Tetsuhiko Endo <email@example.com> wrote:
Sport, especially with regards to activities like skating and surfing, can be a form of improvisational performance art. As the jazz musician is given a chord progression to work within and then given free reign to improvise, so is the surfer given board and wave, and allowed to go wild. Ditto for the skater. I would argue that none of the so called “extreme” sports, with the possible exception of street dancing, have achieved the artistic heights of jazz, but perhaps they just need snobbier people writing about them. My point is that physicality in itself is a form of sponteneity, but it has also been by and large shackled into a system of “productive play”. Athletes represent large franchises, ie: teams or clothing sponsors, and their physical abilities are used to move merch. In the surf world, this is referred to as “living the dream.” Of course, there are athletes, or perhaps, better described as kinetic people, (kinetic obsessives?) who exist outside this paradigm — the so called ‘soul surfers’ for one — but the fact remains that even non-productive play has been subsumed in varying degrees into the hegemony of the market.
On Sep 26, 2012 14:52, Michael Fordham <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Interesting point: there seems to be some sort of internal dynamic to things out there. Stuff that begins as expression of play, spontaneity and improvisation become gradually co-opted into easily monitored channels – usually defined by big money organisations. Therefore, Hollywood ‘doing the beat thing’, is just another recapitulated form of spontaneity. Slater recently contended on camera that he didn’t give a shit about what happened to professional surfing – and this is the BIGGEST POSTER CHILD EVER of professional surfing – because surfing remains what it is to him as a surfer. it seems therefore that Slater the product, the ambassador, exists alongside Slater the individual, the simple surfer. The market has the ability to divide even an individual’s identity. The point here is that discovery of one’s true identity – authentic, unmediated living in other words – was at the Zennish heart of beat culture. One thought. One mind. One universe. What’s happened out there is SO far away from this integrated conception of self and world, inside and outside. But that does not denigrate the impulse for that kind of integration. In the same interview Slater mentions that Dane Reynolds eneters competitions because he enjoys the performance aspects of it all. Multiple millions watch the US open of surfing on NBC – fifty thousand on the beach – and he gets to demonstrate all the things he has ever honed, all the improvisational aspects of being a performance surfer to global audience. The fact that Dane has never WON a competition is testament to how the world of pro surfing actually works. Everyone knows that Dane Reynolds is probably the greatest living surfer right now in terms of performance, but NIke-sponsored Julian Wilson wins. That’s not to denigrate Julian’s brilliant skills – it’s just that improvisational brilliance is simply not valued as much as box ticking – doing the moves that win points.. Slater is a genius at winning surf contests and is preternaturally talented in the water. And so is Julian Wilson. Slater looks better than everyone in the water. Until Dane paddles out. Dane does it all with a certain, unpredictable, gobsmacking immediacy that I think – is somehow more true to the unruly aspects of surfing. Staying ahead of the curl. Forever walking the line between the now and the next moment. That’s the beat heart of surfing.
On Sep 26, 2012 16:05, Tetsuhiko Endo <email@example.com> wrote:
Wha? The beat heart of surfing? That statement makes my gorge rise. But then you have a point in that surfing, like being a beat, is more about posing than anything else. The beats didnt connect with the culture they came from so they embraced another, mostly fictitious and disgustingly idealized version of whitmanesque, orientalized, wannabe jazzman transcendentalism with about as much depth as a middle school emo club. Fashionable, adolescent rebellion that all but the most pampered mama’s boys grew out of before their first mortgage. Good intentions maybe but feckless exocution. The best surfers, like the best jazzmen have flawleess, semi divine exocution. Thats what separates these things – actually creating something that on some level is beautiful and true instead of just sittinf arround, doing drugz and talking about it. Some of that still exists in ‘extreme’ sports. But I think there is much less of it than most of us want to believe. Excuse the spelling mistakes, I wrote this on my phone while matriculating. And my thumbs are fat.
Michael Fordham: The real legacy of the Beats is that they made literature into the stuff of life. They believed in putting their bodies on the line, living the words that they wrote. I believe that there is something expansive and beautiful at the heart of the Beat impulse. It’s a challenging, soaring romance with itself and with an idea of America that is truer to its star-spangled ideal than the contemporary reality. There’s something nihilistic too, something anachronistic and something contradictory for sure. But isn’t that sort of conflict inherent in any creative act – in any endeavour to put something out in the world? For me, the beats encompassed something that should be lauded – they foregrounded the spontaneity, the here-and-now. They asked a question of us. How do you live? The fact that the rest of the world doesn’t give a fuck about the beauty of the eternal moment, that most people still aspire to their little version of an American dream (a dream of aspiration rather than geography)- these things shouldn’t detract from what the Beats tried to do.
Tetsuhiko Endo: The Beats never meant anything to anyone except themselves. Like all teen ‘rebellion’ their so-called movement, like hipsterism now, was being different for the sake of it — to prove to their betters, and indeed themselves, that they could be different. It’s so self-obsessed it makes my teeth hurt. They got over it, they grew up and bought into the nascent American nightmare like most of the white, comfortably middle class, self-obsessed people in the states. That aint rebellion, that’s doing what all your friends do. That’s fashion. Remember those latin migrant workers that Sal posts up till it gets a bit too rough with in the first part? They went on to organize in the 60’s and 70’s into labor unions that fought the blatant exploitation that Sal so marvelously takes for granted in his little brown sojourn. That’s real rebellion — fighting a battle you know you won’t win, but doing it cuz you can’t stand for things to get any worse. The problem with Dean and Sal and all of their spiritual descendants today is that that, in the grand scheme of america, divided like Vonnegut said into winners and losers, they are winners. They always have been and thus they ever shall be. They know they can go off and travel the country and do nothing whiling complaining about the horrors of the nine to five lifestyle because they can always fall back into the nurturing bosom of the very system that they supposedly hate. None of this is to say that the middle and uppper classes can’t lead real political change, they can and they should. But it ain’t gon’ happen when they suffer from such a blatant miscomprehension of how their society functions.
If you still want more Beats, pick up a copy of Huck 35 – The On The Road Issue.
Or head down to the Photographers’ Gallery, London, for Taking Shots: The Photography Of William S. Burroughs, until 30 March 2014.
 Thoreauvian |thôrō |ˈvīən|: Of or relating to Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862), leading American Transcendentalist, grooming specialist and prolific dabbler. Thoreau is perhaps best remembered for building a cabin by Walden Pond then sitting in it for two years and writing about living simply, free from government dependence. He also had a righteous neck-beard.
 Oxbridge |äksˌbrij|: Conflation of Oxford and Cambridge, two elite universities that continue to feed the British establishment with double-barrelled folk who often affect the wearing of tweed. A mythical place where boys and girls wear collars even when they don’t have to wear collars.
 Sillitoe, Allan (March 4, 1928 – April 25, 2010) and Osborne, John James (12 December 1929 – 24 December 1994): English writers labelled the ‘Angry Young Men’ of the 1950s because their ‘kitchen sink’ plays and books refused to kiss establishment ass.
 Smith, Zadie (October 25, 1975-): A British novelist who the female members of the editorial team happen to quite like. (See: //White Teeth//, 2000).
 Harvard University: A place that aspires to Oxbridge status, but fails the elocution test.
 New York University (aka NYU): A college for rich kids who couldn’t get into Harvard.
 Parker, Charlie (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955): Virtuoso jazz saxophonist and, along with Miles Davis, one of the most entertaining heroin users to ever live. Also known as: Bird.
 The Jeffersons (1975 – 1985, 11 seasons, 253 episodes): An American sitcom in the 1970s starring a predominantly black cast. Though perhaps not as influential in African American social history as, say, the //Cosby Show//, it did have ‘Movin’ On Up’ as a theme song. Nuff said.
 Noble Savage: A term espoused by many enlightenment philosophers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, to describe non-white people living in a supposed state of happiness, simplicity and natural grace.
 San Francisco |san frənˈsiskō|: A city that is wonderful in every respect except that it is filled with people who think it’s wonderful in every respect.
 Sputnik |ˈspətnik; ˈspoŏt-|: The first manmade satellite to orbit the Earth, launched October 4, 1957. ORIGIN Russian, ‘fellow traveller’.
 Mad Men (2007-): An American TV show about advertising executives in 1960s America. Apparently not as boring to watch as it sounds. (See: Jon Hamm knowswhat’sup).
 Okies |ˈōkē|: A pejorative term used to describe poor, white, often Oklahoman migrant labourers in the 1930s. John Steinbeck wrote a book about them called //The Grapes of Wrath//, which is summarised neatly by Nelson Muntz in //The Simpsons// episode 105.
 Fellahin |ˌfeləˈhēn, fəˌlä-|): Plural for //fallāḥ//, a term used to describe farmers in the Middle East during the Ottoman period, later adopted by Kerouac when referencing anyone who isn’t white. It sounds much nicer than ‘sharecropper’. ORIGIN Arabic, ‘tiller of the soil’.
 Monster Intellect |ˈēgō|: Tetsuhiko Endo enjoys a borderline narcissistic personality disorder.
 Whitman, Walt (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892): American man of letters, and devotee of bushy facial hair. The first editions of his most famous work, //Leaves of Grass//, were self-published. Patti Smith is a fan. End of.
 DeLillo, Don (November 20, 1936-): American novelist whose book //Underworld// contains 1,000 different characters – seriously. Depending on who you ask, his name can be pronounced like the Disney movie alien ‘lee-low’, the classic item of inflatable pool furniture ‘lie-low’, or a garbled melange of the two.
 //East of Eden// (1952): John Steinbeck’s epic family saga that concentrates on a pair of feuding families in early Twentieth Century California. Elia Kazan’s film version featured James Dean as Adam, the central anti-hero of the book.
[19a] US Labour Day: The first Monday in September. Annual holiday to ‘celebrate the achievements of workers’. Also one of the largest retail sale days of the year in the USA.
[19b] Rest of the World’s Labour Day: May 1, commemorating the deaths of workers at the hands of the US Military during the Pullman Strike in Chicago, May 1894.
 Hipsterism |ˈhipstərism|: Difficult to define global phenomenon (See: Williamsburg, NYC / Shoreditch, East London). A population of trend-obsessed, tech-literate people – hailing from any age, class or creed – unified by a propensity for a kind of entrepreneurial otherness, mystifying and infuriating to many. Hipsters often proclaim their creativity despite a glaring lack of evidence of said creativity, save for the donning of ‘ironic’ fashion elements, haircuts and vehicles. These can range from asymmetrical, demi-mohawk trims, to oversize vintage spectacles, to really crappy shopping bicycles and utterly shit Japanese cars from the 1970s. Hipsterism, specifically, is the creed of ‘unique’ lifestyle choices adopted across the globe in a near-uniform manner, usually through the scattergun abuse of every social media platform known to ‘Generation Y’ – whatever the fuck THAT means.
 Chomsky, Noam (December 7, 1928-): An American academic who set out to be a linguist, revolutionised the field, and in the meantime became the quintessential voice of leftist dissent. Reportedly not a very popular guest at dinner parties, but a hero to HUCK publisher, Vince Medeiros, nonetheless.
 Burroughs, William S. (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997): Drug addict, crack shot and writer. Threw great parties, as long as he wasn’t playing ‘William Tell’. (See: shot his wife in the head).
 Yank or Yankee |ya ng k|: Term for Americans of uncertain origin. In America, used to refer to people from North of the Mason Dixon Line. In the rest of the world, used with a smirk.
 Baby Boomers: The generation born after the Second World War who are obsessed with talking about how great everything was before they were born.
 Guap |ˌgwäp|: A large amount of money. Apparently a Spanglish bastardisation of the phrase ‘pretty penny’, as the word ‘pretty’ in Spanish is //guapo/a//. E.g. //“Shorty see the drop, ask me what I paid and I say yeah I paid a guap” – Mims.//
 American Middle Class: British ‘Working Class’.
 British Middle Class: Who knows.
 White Guilt: (See: ‘Live Aid’, Bob Geldof, Kony 2012 et al.)
 P Fucking Darwinian Diddy (November 4, 1969-): Rap impresario Sean John Combs. Also known as Puff Daddy, Puffy and P. Diddy. Shorter in person than one would think.
 Pioneers! O Pioneers! (1865): Poem by Walt Whitman. “Come my tan-faced children, Follow well in order, get your weapons ready, Have you your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?”… for we are off to buy a pair of jeans!
 Slater, Robert Kelly (February 11, 1972-): Most successful competitive surfer in history. Has the rare distinction of having played himself on //Baywatch//.
 Reynolds, Dane (September 7, 1985-): Generally considered to be the best non-competitive surfer alive in waves under ten feet. Other hobbies include making questionable music and drawing like a six-year-old.
 Wilson, Julian (November 8, 1988-): Pro surfer. Looks like he should be playing himself on //Baywatch//.
 Vonnegut, Kurt (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007): Chain smoker, author and journalist. One of the few American writers to enjoy a large amount of literary respect despite writing about time-travelling soldiers and Earth-destroying weapons that freeze all liquid oxygen.