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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks Hardcover – November 1, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lucien Carr, college roommate of Allen Ginsberg and friend of both William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, killed David Kammerer in 1944. Ginsberg began and then abandoned a novel based on the incident; Burroughs and Kerouac collaborated and completed this one, which has remained unpublished until now. Writing alternating chapters from alternating points of view, the eventual Beat icons adopted a hard-boiled voice without adopting the conventions of a crime novel. Where most crime novels start with a murder, Hippos leads up to it, and the only tension is generated by the reader’s knowledge of what happened in real life. But if it isn’t successful as a crime novel, it’s fascinating for the glimpses it provides into the authors’ lifestyles (the aimless partying is more On the Road than The Big Sleep) and its indications of the writing styles they would later develop. Interestingly, while references to Rimbaud suggest a parallel to the poet’s volatile love affair with Verlaine, the portrayal of Carr, aka “Phillip Tourian,” is not romanticized—in fact, he would have been a great character for Hammett, Cain, or Chandler to work with. --Keir Graff


“A combination hard-boiled murder mystery and existentialist lament– think Dashiell Hammett meets Albert Camus…an essential document of the Beat Generation.” –Gerald Nicosia, San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] persuasive portrait of la vie boheme in all its aimlessness and squalor.” –Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe

“A literary curiosity, a genuine collectible.” –Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“Reveals two giants-to-be in the development stages of their craft…With its evocative rendition of now-vanished saloons, bygone diners, and other landmarks of yesteryear, Burroughs and Kerouac may have inadvertently done for 1944 Greenwich Village what Joyce did for 1904 Dublin.” –George Kimball, The Phoenix (Boston)

"The appearance in print of And the Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac is a literary event, not only because it drew two of the three leading Beat writers into confederacy, but because the book told a story – of male friendship, gay obsession, and murder – that came to fascinate a score of American authors… It’s a fascinating snapshot from a lost era. If you’re looking for the link between Hemingway’s impotent post-war drifters in The Sun Also Rises, the barflies and Tralalas of Last Exit to Brooklyn and the zonked-out kids of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, look no further.” —John Walsh, The Independent

“In alternating chapters, Burroughs and Kerouac serve up a noir vision of Manhattan… Of the two, Kerouac, then in his early 20s, is the more developed writer, though Burroughs, an absolute beginner, already shows some of the interests and obsessions that will turn up in Naked Lunch and elsewhere, to say nothing of an obviously field-tested understanding of how syringes work… For his part, Kerouac recounts wartime experiences in the Merchant Marine, along with notes on the bar scene that would do Bukowski proud.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[Hippos] significantly predates Kerouac’s major novels and illuminates his dynamic and productive literary friendship with William S. Burroughs. … it is very charming. … The conceit of switching back and forth between narrators every chapter also keeps things speeding along—it creates the illusion that one is listening to a radio broadcast from one station, only to have the frequency changed every few minutes, with the narrative sometimes overlapping and the two voices bleeding into another.”
—Andrew Martin, Open Letters Monthly

“Illuminates the links between Sam Spade and Sal Paradise, noir nihilism and Beat exuberance.” —Timothy Hodler, Details

“If you care about either of these beat masters … I don’t see how you can fail to enjoy [And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks]. Slight as it may seem at first glance, it’s an invaluable document of literary history, glimmering with nascent genius.”
—Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News

“Naughtily sexual and emotionally grimy, written is a prose style that is deadpan-dry and larded with hardboiled atmosphere. This oddly titled novel is an engaging literary and historical curio.” —Richard Labone, Between the Lines

“Spellbinding. …with spot-on dialogue and descriptions of seedy bars and jam-packed apartments, the authors serve up a fascinating look at a time of late night parties, casual sex and a devil-may-care approach to life.” —Jackie Crosby, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“An eccentric, engaging, and readable novel… What makes the novel particularly fascinating, however, is its ability to provide a window into the early autobiographical styles of both Burroughs and Kerouac as emerging, unpublished writers.”
—Marcus Niski, The Sydney Morning Herald

“As an insight into the formative years of the Beats, it’s fascinating.”
—Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times (London)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802118763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802118769
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, the release of this book is nothing short of a literary event: two literary icons known for their convention breaking novels collaborating in fiction and basing their book on a real life murder that happened within their circle of friends. "...HIPPOS..." is not as amazing as Kerouac publicly recalled it being, nor is it really the "minor work" that Burroughs dismissed it as. 64 years after it was written, this book takes on a new importance outside of it's literary merits. The work is instantly fascinating to me (as I think it will be to any fans of these writers) because it is an important early step in these artist's development. We can really get a sense of the early Beats relationships in the book, their wild energy and their literary fascinations.

Kerouac and Burroughs wrote this book from two points of view. The Kerouac is the character Mike Ryko and Burroughs character is Will Dennison. For those of you aquainted with the circle of the Beats, Lucien Carr is the character Philip Tourian, David Kammerer is Al Ramsay, Edie Parker is Janie and Celine Young is Barbara....and so on.

A note to the Kerouac fans....This was written before TOWN & THE CITY and has neither TCs sweeping Wolfean images or ON THE ROAD's spontanious bop prose. One can barely detect Jack's love for words in this book. His writing at times is a little whispy (which hints at his Wolfean tastes) but Jack never dives into the full breadth of nostalgia of which all Kerouac fans know he's capable. His writing is more clipped and economic.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In 1944, Wm Burroughs was part of a group of friends who would eventually be known as the Beat Generation. One of these men was Jack Kerouac. Lucien Carr, another friend, was going to ship out to France as a merchant marine with Kerouac. When that failed, Carr's firend Kammerer (who was obsessed with Lucien and had followed him from St. Louis to Chicago and then Chicago to New York) resumed his stalking and it ended in an attack in Riverside Park where Carr stabbed Kammerer with a pocket knife, bound him, weighted the body, and tossed him into the Hudson River. Carr went to Burroughs and confessed. Burroughs told him to get a lawyer and turn himself in. Carr then went to Kerouac and with Abe Green, they disposed of the knife and some of Kammerer's things. Carr eventually confessed to the DA and Kerouac and Burroughs were arrested as material witnesses. Carr plead down the 2nd degree charge to manslaughter and served two years. The other two men were not charged. They wrote this book in 1945, but it was not published until 2008.

Admittedly, I have no affinity for the Beat style of writing, so reading this story was very rough. I think if I had seen "Kill Your Darlings" first, it would have been a lot easier to follow the story especially since the novel changes all of their names! I want to love the book because the whole story fascinated me. Torrid affairs, homosexual stalker, super-intelligent young men (Carr was at UChicago until a suicide attempt and others were at Columbia) and a constant state of uncertainty. This was war time, yet none of these men were fighting. Still, they all lived from day to day, as if they understood the temporary nature of all of their lives even at such young ages.
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Format: Paperback
"And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks," by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, with forward by James Grauerholz (220 pgs., 1945, 2008). This is the first novel written by members of what became known as the Beat Generation. It was written by Kerouac & Burroughs near the end of World War Two & was never published. They each wrote alternating chapters.
The novel is closely based on the murder of one of their circle of friends by another of their circle of friends. In real life, Lucien Carr IV, then 19, stabbed to death David Eames Kammerer.
David & Lucien met in St. Louis, MO when David was 25 & Lucien was 11. A strange mentorship grew between them. David & Burroughs were friends since they were just 9 & had met in elementary school in St. Louis. Kerouac met them when he was a freshman at Columbia University in NYC. This book is about the normal day-to-day meanderings of a group of young men & young women seemingly just hanging out.
Kerouac keeps waiting to ship out on the merchant marine vessel, but never does. Burroughs is the only one with a job. Women are always around. They are all jumping in & out of bed. Yet, in a seemingly chaste sort of way. Kerouac's first wife, Edie Parker is here. All the names have been changed.
There is always tension whenever Lucien & David meet. Lucien wants David out of his life. They still always get together. David loves Lucien in a purely chaste way. Bisexuality is always present in this book. In this novel, Lucien kills David with a hatchet in a drunken stupor. In real life, Lucien stabbed David to death with a knife. Lucien was sent away for a couple of years. Later, he became Louis Carr, the top writer& editor for UPI. This novel was never published.
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