The Beats : From One Woman’s Point of View

The real Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner
The real Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner

Early in The Beats: A Graphic History  Harvey Pekar chronicles the lives of Beat Generation icons Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Of Burroughs (in a chapter credited to Mr. Pekar and artist Ed Piskor) the book states “… he’s had an influence on several art forms and in that respect, was not only one of the most important Beats, but one of the major, stylistically unique writers to emerge since the Second World War.”

In a chapter in The Beats called “Beatnik Chicks” with art by Summer McClinton, Joyce Brabner (writer, comics fan and Mr. Pekar’s third wife) writes: “I found Kerouac and his cronies loathsome. Drive across the country. Drive back. Roll a joint. Roll around with women. Dispose of each when done and get back in the car. Fascinate your buddies with epic tales of road trips told in run-together sentences laced with amphetamine argot, jazz jargon …”

The real Elise Cowan (shown here with a young Allen Ginsberg)
The real Elise Cowan (shown here with a young Allen Ginsberg)

“Elise Cowan is dazzled by a seductive young charmer named Allen Ginsberg … Eager to please her presumed soul mate, she types his long poem “Howl” and does him other favors . It takes awhile for Elise to realize they have no future together. Allen is queer. iI takes a too-long while for Elise’s friends to realize her spiralling depression and bizarre behaviour … Elise drinks, she does drugs, she wanders the streers, she doesn’t seem to care who she drags home to her bed, she crosses the country … how much different was what Elise did from what was celebrated in Beat Boy books …. Elise’s parents decide their unladylike daughter must move with them to Miami. In response Elise hurls herself through a closed glass window and falls to her death.”

In all fairness, Harvey Pekar (who died in 2010) describes William S. Burroughs’ proclivities in the book including the infamous incident when Mr. Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his longtime lover, Joan Vollmer, while both of them were drunk. 

Quotations from The Beats: A Graphic History  copyright 2009 by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle

Hope Davis (as Joyce Brabner) and Paul Giamatti (as Harvey Pekar) in the film American Splendor
Hope Davis (as Joyce Brabner) and Paul Giamatti (as Harvey Pekar) in  2003’s American Splendor
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