Beat Manifestos


The Hasty Papers is a handsome reproduction of the newsprint lit rag that painter Alfred Leslie—Cedar Tavern habitué and auteur of the Jack Kerouac film Pull My Daisy—put together 40 years ago. Leslie tried hustling people like T.S. Eliot and Fidel Castro to contribute. They didn’t. But someone named Meyer Liben sent in a 6000-word rant that begins “Waz inna name, Spearchick? . . . Many a man hugs his name, furtively, alley-wise, fearful lest it be recovered from him by force, a night-thing stolen.” Manhattanite Kenneth Koch gave a 2400-line poem, “When the Sun Tries to Go On,” that begins, “And, with a shout, collecting coat-hangers/Dour rhebus, conch, hip,/Ham, the autumn day, oh how genuine!” David Lehman claims in the introduction that Koch’s work is the literary equivalent of action painting. More-well-known De Kooning-like poets John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara are included in this volume, as well as the beat verse of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (whose account of viewing Mexican flying horses was “written after a Chinese dinner in Chinatown! Feb. 8 1960”).

Most of this is junk. But great junk. Literary artifacts that foretell the psychedelic Johnny’s-in-the- basement-mixin’-up-the-medicine mid ’60s. The volume also includes curious documents that are too crazy to foretell anything, such as Hannelore Hahn’s history of stilts and Pontus Hultén’s analysis of the painting of Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, and Dwight Eisenhower.

The book is illustrated with 400 black-and-white stills that resemble clips from some vintage episode of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. Two cops contemplate an ancient Greek statue of a hermaphrodite. A shot of Moses with the Ten Commandments is paired with one of a woman hooked up to an ancient Medusa-like hair-curling machine. These photos weren’t in the original Hasty Papers. Apparently a 1966 fire across the street from the Flatiron Building burned up all the copies of the journal. The Host Publications volume is Leslie’s reinterpretation of the magazine, including his poem “The Story of the Hasty Papers” written in “Pushkin’s sonnet form.” This volume is for neohipsters to linger over while sitting in the windows at some West Village Starbucks—the closest establishment our era has to the Cedar Tavern circa 1960.