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In my Beat Generation this past fall, we spent a little time discussing the use of the Beats as ad spokesmen during their cultural resurgence in the 1990s, from the (in)famous Gap ads proclaiming “Kerouac wore khakis” (shown at left) to William S. Burroughs selling Nike running shoes (follow the link above for video), however today I encountered a new and novel approach to marketing the Beats today while getting lunch.
I’d forgotten to grab reading material on my way out the door, and begrudgingly decided to pop into the school bookstore to pick something up (or try to, anyway). Looking for their tiny sliver of a poetry section, I stumbled across this display, commemorating National Poetry Month:
Now, mind you, I’m feeling a little generationally disconnected, so I’m not exactly sure whether this is supposed to be passing off berets with the Penguin logo on them as an ironically corny accessory, or rather it’s genuinely trying to appropriate a little of the Beats’ cool detachment (or whether there’s much difference between the two). Apparently, you have to buy two Beat books from a display which included several ancillary Kerouac books, Junky, John Leland’s terrible-looking Why Kerouac Matters, a few Michael McClure books and Philip Whalen’s Overtime (one of the few worthwhile books in the bunch, and a collection I thought was long out of print, though they seemed to have four or five copies). It’s a strange way to try to push poetry over on an unsuspecting audience, particularly foregrounding novelists like Kerouac and Burroughs, not to mention gently mocking the authors and readers alike with a ridiculous enticement (seriously, is anyone going to wear this, outside of a Friday-night beer-pong game?).
Oddly enough, earlier in the day, I was chatting with my office-mate who was relating some difficulties in getting Ginsberg’s “Howl” across to his classes that morning. Perhaps if they had this beret, everything would click into place?
Of course, I wonder if you can trade up prizes as if you were at a carnival shooting gallery: would four books win you a pair of bongos? eight books earns you a nice heroin habit? twelve books a trip to Interzone?
What better (or stranger) place is there to go on Easter Sunday than Kentucky’s own Creation Museum? Nowhere, of course, especially since the place was pretty empty. Aside from discovering that the universe is only 6,000 years old, we also learned that before all that pesky business with Adam and Eve and the apple (or mango-esque thing with pomegranate-like seeds), animals were vegetarians, plants had no thorns and there were no poisons or venoms. Oh, and apparently we have Noah’s flood to thank for all our oil!
Though I expected to be accosted by security guards for taking photos, we had no trouble whatsoever. Here’s the photographic evidence:
This comes in the middle of a scary alley that’s supposed to represent a non-Bible-centered world (complete with broken windows, graffiti, etc.). Oddly enough, it was the place I felt most comfortable.
Adam and Eve getting frisky
An unambigous Satan snake
We all know what happens next …
Creationists have a sense of humor, part 1
Creationists have a sense of humor, part 2
Tigers and Turtles Together
Somehow, Beowulf merits an appearance, too …
You’d think this would be the kitschiest thing we did this weekend, but believe me, the roller derby gave it some serious competition. Did I mention that there’s a petting zoo as well? Maybe that pushes it over the top.
I’ve got two readings here in Cincinnati in the next week or so:
• On Friday, April 3rd, both Jennifer and I will be reading along with many of our colleagues at “World Without End,” a reading sponsored by The Cincinnati Review, which begins in the Catskeller in the Tangeman University Center here on the UC campus at 8:00 PM. More information can be found here.
• On Tuesday, April 7th, I’ll be reading with Montgomery Maxton at the Cincinnati Public Library’s main branch at 7:00 PM, as part of their National Poetry Month celebration, “Poetry in the Garden.” Thanks to the intervention of Dana Ward, I was asked to step in at the last minute, and the readings offer a pretty luxurious time slot (30 minutes, plus time for Q&A), so it should be a lot of fun. You can find more info about that reading here.
Hopefully, I’ll see you at one or both of these events.
[clockwise from bottom left: CAConrad, Magdelena Zurawski, Aaron Kunin and Tom Orange]
Conrad, Maggie and Aaron were here in Cincinnati for the penultimate date of their Frank’s Bruised Mandarin tour (celebrating The Book of Frank, The Bruise andThe Mandarin, respectively); Tom saw them read in Cleveland the night before and came down for the reading at Dana Ward’s Cy Press HQ. The next day, they were bookshopping around UC and when I was finished teaching, I met them at Duttonhoffers (where we complained about the unnecessarily high prices within earshot of the owners) and chatted about Dallas Wiebe, Richard Brautigan and the Tom Clark-era Paris Review before grabbing a bite to eat.
This group shot was taken out front of a deconsecrated church, which is now (unfortunately) an Urban Outfitters, but let’s pretend otherwise. Two minutes later, we all went our separate ways. It was a nice change of pace to have so many literary visitors here at once —particularly Conrad, whose latest book is his best to date (though with two more coming out before year’s end, it might very well be supplanted), and who consistently puts on some of the most engaging readings I’ve ever seen.