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Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

And the Hippos were boiled in their Tanks


Months and years after I first gained awareness of William S. Burroughs' (http://realitystudio.org/ -- thanks to Ray of Rigadoon23 for making me aware of this website) and Jack Kerouac's (http://www.dharmabeat.com/kerouac.html) early collaborative novel, And the Hippos were boiled in their Tanks, I finally rolled over my eyes it.
I also am working over Junkie, or the edited version of it, re-reading this one.   Guys, couldn't you have tried a little harder with the Hippos cover?  Based on the covers of the two above, which book would you be drawn to?

And the Hippos were boiled in their Tanks reeled me in with its great frame of Kerouac's and Burroughs' fictionalized self-portraits, Mike Ryko and Will Dennison.  Any novel with the title, And the Hippos were boiled in their Tanks, and which uses the same phrase in its text, is already commendable.  (James Grauerholz's sterling afterword explores the possible sources of the Hippos title, along with discussing the Carr/Kammerer case which inspired the central events of the novel.) Rimbaud and "Phillip Tourian's" New Vision pepper the novel's trajectory to its ambiguous climax.  Some pages I lost track of which author wrote which chapter, a sign that Gysin's third mind here germinated.  Burroughs' writing, while not fully confident and crystallized, has a characteristically darkly dry and funny quality.  "Monday morning I got a letter from a detective agency to report to work.  I'd applied for the job about a month ago and almost forgotten about it.  Evidently they hadn't checked on my fingerprints and the fake references I'd given them."  Kerouac's melancholy descriptions of New York and picaresque accounts of merchant marine matters hold great appeal as well.  World War II, always over the horizon, influences the work in a lunar, tidal fashion.

Reading Junkie again, I was startled by its magnificence -- one great observation and character description following another.


  1. I agree with you about Junkie, it reads as good as the first time I read it,,,and was in fact the first book I read by Burroughs.
    Haven't read Hippos, saw it when it first came out as a hard back and thought I'd wait for the paperback. A good write up, you've got me interested.
    You're right about the cover, very bland.

  2. Ray, Hippos is a good window into both Kerouac and Bill's early thought/writing. Naked Lunch was the first Burroughs I read, when I was quite young.

  3. After reading Junkie, Naked Lunch came as quite a surprise, I just didn't get it at first...that soon changed though.

  4. Ray, I read the books in the opposite order -- Naked Lunch will warp your teen mind ha ha.