Hammond Guthrie


The Beat Hotel
by Barry Miles

With the July 2000 Grove Press release of The Beat Hotel, author (Barry) Miles revisits 9 rue Git-le-Coeur, an historic set of decaying digs amid a rat infested slum on the Left Bank of Paris, "a decrepit rooming house with hole-in-the-floor toilets shared by all..." circa 1957-1963. A spectral time in diminutive spaces where life's more literate mysteries were eloquently explored with improvisation, magickal intent, opiate indulgence and -- to paraphrase the late Erato Gregory -- "by waiting for no one."

Madame Rachou's dimly lit warren of age-stained cubby-holes and gossamer-adorned nestings became the hot-plate hearth home and oracular laboratory for author/artist -- William Seward Burroughs III, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Brion Gysin, Ian Sommerville, Harold Norse, and Sinclair Beiles, along with the spectral shadows of the lesser known.

This is where Burroughs spoon finished the pages of his Naked Lunch, where Ginsberg first began howling Kaddish for his mother Naomi, and where Corso penned The American Express, his first and only novel. It was from this essential base of operations that Gysin and Sommerville's stroboscopic Dreamachine and the initial cut/up texts in Minutes To Go were released upon the hearts and minds of the relatively small underculture of like-minded writers and artists who were listening -- "Towers Open Fire!," they screamed from the balcons. And, it was here, in this perfectly dank hovel of plastered stone that the close-cut fragments of the era referred to as "Beat" made its final call from subterrania.

Miles' Beat Hotel well remembers this proclamation, and le raison' du "Here To Go" for today's audience of time's beaten past with a sensitive pen and intimate knowledge of the players therein shared by few. What an astonishing array of form and set-founding artists passed, and rather quietly I might add, through these instrumental doors of perceptive experimentation.

When one reads Miles' engrossing account of this communal and highly individual period of wood-shedding within the slums and back streets of Paris, reflect back upon the far better known, and completely infamous, paregoric ala arab boy den of indulgence that Burroughs had previously established in Tangier as the Beat-beach and redoubt du jour -- where the uniquely creative, truly word-breaking, and highly influential camaraderie among this same group of friends pales like ash blowing across the graves of unsung heroes.

Apart from the few existing works published by Mary Beach and the few other limited editions that appeared during this residency -- the transient doings and the experimental results formulated by the hotel's renowned inhabitants have remained little more than an out of focus image -- even for those of us who weren't on the set -- yet heard the echoing resolve from points unknown.

A close friend to so many of these prolific and well-respected artists, Miles' superbly illustrated book pedagogically and humorously fills what has, up until now, been something of a black hole in Beat history. For artists, students and friends of the Beat Generation, The Beat Hotel is an essential read.

Other works by (Barry) Miles:

1970 - "The Rebirth of Joy" by Miles, a mimeo edition of the article
that Peter Owen left out of Joe Berke¹s Counter Culture. nd. [1970]

1973 - A Catalogue of the William S. Burroughs Archive. Ollon, Switzerland
and London, Am Here Books and the Covent Garden Press.

1974 - Reich. Dragon Press, London. [unauthorized off print of Image
magazine article. Probably originating with Compendium Bookshop, Camden.]

1977 - [w/ Pearce Marchbank] The Illustrated Rock Almanac. Paddington Press,
London. [Marchbank did the graphic design, words by Miles]

1978 - Bob Dylan. London. Big O Publishing.
Bob Dylan In His Own Words. London, Omnibus Press.
The Beatles In Their Own Words. London, Omnibus Press.
[w/ Joe Maynard] William S. Burroughs, A Bibliography 1953-1973.
Charlottesville, Virginia. Bibliographical Society of the University of
Virginia Press.

1980 - Rolling Stones, An Illustrated Discography. London. Omnibus Press.
Pink Floyd, A Visual Documentary. London. Omnibus Press.
David Bowie In His Own Words. London, Omnibus Press.
David Bowie Black Book. London. Omnibus Press.
John Lennon In His Own Words. London, Omnibus Press.

1981 - Pink Floyd. The Illustrated Discography. London. Omnibus Press.
The Jam. An Illustrated Biography. London. Omnibus Press.
The Pretenders. An Illustrated Biography London. Omnibus Press
Talking Heads. An Illustrated Biography. London. Omnibus Press
The Ramones. An Illustrated Biography London. Omnibus Press
The Clash. An Illustrated Biography London. Omnibus Press
The Two Tone Book For Rude Boys London. Omnibus Press
The Police, a Visual Documentary. London, Omnibus Press.
Mick Jagger In His Own Words. London, Omnibus Press.

1982 - The Beatles In Their Own Words. London. W.H. Allen.

1985 - Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll. London. Bobcat Books.

1988 - Pink Floyd, A Visual Documentary. 21st Anniversary Edition. London.
Omnibus Press. [updated]

1989 - Ginsberg: A Biography. New York. Simon & Schuster.
Ginsberg: A Biography. London. Viking Penguin

1992 - Two Lectures on the Work of Allen Ginsberg. Turret Papers, London.
[one of 500 copies, pamphlet]
William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible. London, Virgin Books.

1993 - William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible. New York. Hyperion Books.
Zappa. A Visual Documentary. London, Omnibus Press.
Frank Zappa In His Own Words. London. Omnibus Press.

1994 - The Rolling Stones. A Visual Documentary. London. Omnibus Press.

1997 - Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. London, Secker & Warburg.
[w/ Charles Perry] I Want to Take You Higher. The Psychedelic Era 1965-
1969. Chronicle Books. San Francisco, in association with the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

1998 - The Beatles, A Diary. London. Omnibus Press.
Jack Kerouac, King of the Beats. A Portrait. London, Virgin.

1999 - Jack Kerouac, Roi Des Beatniks. Paris, Editions du Rocher [different
text, only edition]

2000 - The Beat Hotel. Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1957-1963.
New York, Grove Press.
Ginsberg: A Biography. [Revised, updated edition] London, Virgin Books.

2001 - The Beatles Diary. Volume 1: The Beatles Years. London, Omnibus
Press.
[New edition with extra material by other authors, redesigned]

2002 - In The Sixties. London, Jonathan Cape.

 

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