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When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School Paperback – February 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"When I Was Cool" is funny, full of heart and candor and (somehow) not at all pretentious (no one who admits Corso scared him enough in a backwoods cabin to make him cry and run fleeing back down to Boulder could be too concerned with trying to make himself look good -- not even ironically).
Other reviewers have complained among other things about "obscure literary references." There are none. The closest we come is when Kashner himself admits to dropping one to impress Burroughs and Ginsberg -- and the point of his story seemed to have been precisely how sort of pathetic it was that he'd do such a thing. Another reviewer, complaining of inaccuracies, wrote "*Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" isn't about his friends who died of heroin overdoses, it's about friends who died in a variety of ways", which is pretty much exactly what Kashner had written in the first place: ". . . 'People Who Died,' a necrology of all the friends Carroll had lost, SOME to heroin" (my emphasis) [pg. 138]. And to the reviewer who suspiciously wondered how Kashner could've possibly remembered whole conversations from so long ago: he was an aspiring writer living among his gods, which is to say you know he wrote EVERYTHING down.
One thing that Kashner did get wrong, however, was referring to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche as "the leader of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism" (pg. 53). Trungpa wasn't the head of Kagyu, and it's kind of a big deal to say so.
Its not the last book that will be written about Naropa or any of the characters, but it's the only book written by the first (and for a long time only) student of the Kerouac school, and is sometimes lovely, often funny, and very easy - it's "a report of an intimate nature," i.e., gossip.
So, what exactly were these men like? For a quick answer, read the chapter in which Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, and Orlovsky take Billy Borroughs, the son, to the doctor. Anyone who has run a pointless errand with eccentric relatives will recognize the dynamic. They don't, by the way, get treatment for Billy but they respond to his wishes and leave him, feverish and alone, at a bar. Who says the Beats were self-absorbed?
I also give Kashner high marks for style, particularly for his skilled use of images from popular culture. These, especially his movie references, clarify and amuse, which is certainly Kashner's goal for this sweet and funny book.
There are flashes here of great insights into the personas of Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso
You see the psycho-sexual strands of Ginsberg/Orlovsky partnership played out in their gaudy technicolor glory (this is also a weakness...more on that later) and you get a real sense of G. Corso's suspicions and insecurities but to me the real value of this book is the insight it sheds on William Burroughs and his life during this period (tearfully reading Jack London) and in particluar his tempestous relationship with his son Bill Jr.
These insights were valuable to me as a huge Burroughs fan and were the main things I took away from this book...especially because most accounts of WSB's life and work in the 70's focus exclusively on the NYC Bunker period...
some negative aspects of this book are:
as R.Rhodes mentions in the review further down the page there is somewhat of a high school note-passing he has a crush on him style narrative that is tiresome
Anne Waldman and the whole who did or didn't sleep with Bob Dylan angle is irritating as is the narrator (unfortunately)
he seems like a genuinely decent guy but his tone is fairly off-putting most of the time and he and his observations are ultimately not that interesting.
I would recommend for diehard Beat collectors and/or Burroughs fans only
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fun, but also sad, narrative of the aging giants of the beat literary movement.Published 17 months ago by Blue Heron
I bought this book before I attended Naropa's Summer Writing Program in 2013 because I wanted to learn more about the university's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Aimee Voelz
The only student at the Kerouac school for Poets...Wow! I'm envious...This book is rich with personal anecdotes and inside glimpses of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso and other Beat... Read morePublished on February 3, 2014 by yoelarry
Not quite a tell-all, but more intimate than expected, this "student" was involved in the inner circle of the poets who gathered around Allen Ginsburg at Naropa in the beginning... Read morePublished on October 2, 2013 by Bruce Maxson
Anyone lucky enough to have spent intimate time with the founders of the Beat Movement could publish an interesting book about it, but Kashner is an extremely good writer and... Read morePublished on November 14, 2011 by César Chávez
When I first saw this book, I had no interest in reading it. I figured, here's another person getting published on the coattails of the Beats. Read morePublished on June 5, 2011 by Publicagent
How many of us felt a cosmic bond to the "beats" and their rebellion, their mysterious charm and their jaded lives!? Read morePublished on March 23, 2009 by D. Hudgins
This book really goes beyond what we really need to know. It is fun to read.Published on September 23, 2008 by Laura Lynn