eighty-five.

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac (1945)


In 1944 both Burroughs and Kerouac were charged as accessories to murder, after one of their friends murdered a much older homosexual suitor. After the event, the two, then unpublished author, co-wrote a book based on the days before the murder. They couldn’t get the book published in the beginning, and later on they also promised the murderer that the book wouldn’t be published. It was finally published in 2008, long after all the people involved were dead.

The story is narrated by Will Dennison (the chapters are written by Burroughs) and Mike Ryko (the chapters are written by Kerouac), and follows them around New York in the days before the murder. Will Dennison is occasionally working as a detective, but also deals on the other side of the law. Mike Ryko is trying to find a ship to work on, but drinks too much. The pretty boy, Phillipp, is fed up with his much older suitor, Al, and wants to ship out with Mike, but the trouble is that they never find a suitable boat for their plan to run off to France.

It was great to read a not confusing story by William S. Burroughs. I read Naked Lunch a few years ago, and it was so confusing that I have been dreading to pick up Junky, although it has been on my shelf for too long now. Jack Kerouac is, as always, brilliant.

The afterword by James Grauerholz explains the real circumstances concerning the murder and gives a great insight in the life of the Beat generation.

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