And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks – William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac Review

Progress on Alternate: 70,205 words

Current Review:

I adore the Beat Generation, so it makes sense that once this book finally surfaced, I had to have it. For those who don’t know, this is essentially a lightly fictionalised tale of Lucien Carr and David Kammerer, the murder that was so often cited as the beginning of the Beat Generation movement, or the catalyst for the Beats.

Kerouac and Burroughs worked together on this, but this is a very early book. This doesn’t feel like a Burroughs OR a Kerouac book. It sort of stands alone, without either of the unique styles we come to expect from them.

But it also has the incredible benefit of being about THAT EVENT. And telling the tale, essentially, from the eyes of two people who played (albeit comparitively minor) parts in the tale. And for that alone, it’s worth it.

It’s a very short book, with little of the life and inspiration usually in Beat works, but for me it still somehow works. Not quite as well as others do, but it works. Personally, of the two I tend to prefer Kerouac’s more spiritual style of writing to Burroughs’ gritty realism. However having said that, in this book they are writing as though they are not two people, but one. As someone who would struggle if they had to collaborate with other authors on a piece of writing, I think that in itself is pretty admirable.

-K Hart


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