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That’s what [Nicholas, |Artie]
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x’s own_____. , ____Lange
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Let’s You and Him Fight_______on reality?
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foreword, and ”never more entertaining than when recounting some horrific misadventure.” There is no lack of those.
THE PRAYERS OF A PRISONER
Early in 1964 I was picked up for possession of drugs and ended up doing a six-month bit at Riker’s. I wasn’t out a month when I was picked up again. . . . Jail in the beginning was an experience and then gradually it became a way of living for me which took up long periods of time. I adjusted to it and accepted it as part of my routine. . . . I established a daily pattern for existence while laying up in the cell awaiting my trial date. . . . I developed a prayer system wherein I kept asking for God’s help and, at one point, requested a miracle. . . . What happened was exactly this. My lawyer advised me, because I told him I was compiling my writings presently into a journal to be published the following year, to make a statement to the effect that the purpose of my book was to have it act as a warning against using drugs. . . . I made the statement and apparently delivered the goods since the judge passed sentence of six months – suspended the sentence – and I walked out of the courtroom.
From ”Guilty of Everything.”
Jan Herman has written on arts and culture as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and the Chicago Sun-Times, and for MSNBC.com, where he was a senior editor. He is also the author of A Talent for Trouble, the biography of
excerpts from an interview with Huncke appear in Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1978
John Tytell’s interview is in the unspeakable visions of the individual 3.1–2 (1973): 3–15
Ted Morgan’s biography of Burroughs, Literary Outlaw, 1988, contains a portrait of Huncke
in the essay “‘Why Do We always Say Angel?’: Herbert Huncke and Neal Cassady,”
in The Beat Generation Writers, ed. A. Robert Lee, 1990, Clive Bush analyzes Huncke’s relation to the other Beats
in The Herbert Huncke Reader, 1997, Jerome Poynton’s “Biographical Sketch” and Raymond Foye’s “Introduction”
Hilary Holladay’s entry for Huncke in ‘Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons & Impact’ – (pdf version here). Here’s an excerpt from the Huncke entry:
When Huncke used the word “Beat,” he always maintained that he meant down and out, exhausted—and he knew what that felt like—but his trademark word could be used in so many ways that it is no wonder Kerouac appropriated it. Always attuned to people who could teach him some- thing, Kerouac admired Huncke’s talent as a story- teller and recognized his psychological complexity. Huncke was a true hipster, as Beat as people come, but his genuine compassion for his friends and his pained awareness of life’s fleeting nature were equally important to his makeup. These character- istics found their way into Kerouac’s expanded notion of “Beat” as sympathetic and spiritual as well as tired and broken down.
With his haunted gaze and velvet voice, Huncke appeared, virtually unretouched, in many of his friends’ novels and poems. Kerouac called him Junkey in The Town and the City (1950) and Elmer Hassel in On the Road (1957), and Burroughs re- named him Herman in Junky (1953). Ginsberg immortalized Huncke and his blood-soaked shoes in “Howl” (1956). Huncke also surfaces in John Clel- lon Holmes’s novel Go (1952) and Irving Rosenthal’s novel Sheeper (1967) and in poems by John Wieners, Janine Pommy Vega, and Marty Matz.
Huncke himself finally published a book at age fifty. Diane di Prima published Huncke’s Journal (1965) through her Poet’s Press. The collection contains stories and vignettes that Huncke scooped up and handed to her when she asked him for a manu- script. Less affected than Jean Genet, an obvious influence, Huncke is a storytelling shaman who evokes his own and other people’s feelings with great skill and delicacy. His next publication was a limited-edition chapbook, Elsie John & Joey Martinez (1979), which his friend Rlene Dahlberg published through her Pequod Press. The following year, Cherry Valley Editions published a collection of stories, The Evening Sun Turned Crimson (1980). Raymond Foye’s Hanuman Press published a short version of Huncke’s autobiography, Guilty of Everything (1987), as a miniature book. Paragon House released an expanded edition of the autobiography in 1990. The most comprehensive collection of his work to date is The Herbert Huncke Reader (1997).
In the 1980s and 1990s, Huncke was buoyed by the Beat renaissance. At the Rare Book Room, a small bookstore on Greenwich Avenue owned by Roger and Irvyne Richards, he and Gregory Corso held forth for young men in love with all things Beat. In 1982, Huncke attended the Naropa Institute’s conference marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of On the Road’s publication. Jerome Poynton, a new acquaintance who later became one of Huncke’s close friends, recalled his conference interview with the wizened cult figure: Asked about the writing workshop he was supposed to lead, Huncke quipped: “I don’t know what a writing workshop is, but I don’t like the sound of that word ‘work.’”
“He’s the oldest living junkie in New York,” Ginsberg said, “and an old sidekick of Burroughs and Kerouac. He turned Burroughs on to junk and he’s waiting in line at Manhattan General to get in so he can cut down on his habit. He’s been waiting for four days and he thinks he can get in in about twenty minutes, and he needs his suitcase which is in his hotel room, so can you go up to the hospital and get his key, and go to the hotel and get his suitcase and take it to him? He’s wearing a white sweater. Hurry!”