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Beatitude by Larry Closs

Besides all the circumstantial similarities, I thought that Jay actually looked a little like Kerouac, the Kerouac who stared from the black-and-white photographs on the covers of his various books. Same dark hair. Same strong handsome face. Some sad soulful eyes. But there was something that went beyond the physical resemblance. Something that sprang from somewhere inside, something sensed but not seen. A tenderness.

I was very flattered to be asked by Lori from TNBBC to take part in this book tour. For one it feels good to support indie writing, but also the main subject matter of Beatitude happens to concern the ‘Beat’ poets, which is a period I do have a certain fascination with. Particularly now, as the novelty and estrangement of the Beats has faded, so their reassessment in present-day is proving to be quite interesting. Already I’ve reviewed two contrasting examples of this here on the site – Huncke by Rick Mullin and Sideways: Travels With Kafka, Hunter S. and Kerouac by Patrick O’Neill

Author Larry Closs has larger ambitions beyond simply reassessing these works. His character Harry Charity is described at one point in the book as being someone who thinks too much and indeed the story of Beatitude itself charts not only his fascination with the life of Jack Kerouac – the meaning behind his writing, the people in his life, even the kinds of typewriters he used to furiously pound out his intensely personal vision – but how he allows this near-obsession to become intertwined with his own feelings for someone he loves dearly. He pores over footnotes from the biographies of his literary heroes just as avidly as he does the stolen moments he shares with the kindly Jay. The opening scene of Harry and Jay witnessing the unveiling of a preserved work of Kerouac is comparable to pilgrims visiting a shrine. If both men share this strong devotion to the writing of Kerouac, is it not possible that this passion could translate into love for one another?

Harry works as an editor for a successful New York magazine, lives in his Upper West Side apartment with his cat Flannery and in the wake of successive occasions of heartbreak refuses to socialize with colleagues and friends. Life alone is manageable. Then he meets a new member of the design team, Jay, and following an awkward promise to join him at a party – much to the surprise of the other co-workers in the office – Harry finds himself falling for his new found friend. Their shared interest in Kerouac encourages his feelings and the two fall into an easy pattern of reminiscing about the Beats, exchanging trivia and discussing their own artistic ambitions. When Jay’s relationship with his girlfriend hits a bump, Harry dares to hope that something more lies behind the couple’s problems.

The marginalization of the Beats and their descriptions of fluid sexuality in a time when discussions of sex acts themselves were taboo – cf the Howl obscenity trial – was no doubt an aspect of their notoriety. But Harry at one point advances another theory as to what made the Beats special, arguing in a clever title-drop moment that ‘beatitude’ is what Kerouac thought was the real meaning behind the word used to describe him and his peers. “To be Beat was to be in love with life, to exist in a state of beatitude, to exist in a state of unconditional bliss.” While he knows this information, applying its wisdom to his own life takes Harry much longer. His infatuation with Jay is soon paralleled with a previous doomed love affair, revealing why Harry is so emotionally wounded when we first meet him. As he slowly but surely warms to life once more, discovering the means to not only express his feelings but his thoughts in an artistic fashion, Beatitude becomes a richer and more hopeful story about moving on.

Intimate and moving, and with its 90’s setting presenting the tail-end of the Beat generation’s presence on the public stage, Larry Closs has written an intriguing fable about people can sometimes become confused by the intensity of their passions.

Please continue to the next stage of this blog tour to Mandy of Mandythebookworm’s Blog to read Larry Closs’ article Two Roads Diverged: How the Beats did and didn’t inspire Beatitude.

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So there I was, minding my own business, when Lori from TNBBC’s The Next Best Book Blog threw me a cyberspace lifeline. Namely – this:

 

I really appreciate the gesture and am interested in how the Award allows recipients to promote other bloggers, that folk may not have had a chance to enjoy. So here are the rules for recipients. (And sorry Lori, I’m just going to copy and paste from your post here) –

  • Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Right so I think I have scratched the first item off the list – although if I haven’t made myself clear enough Lori, I really appreciate your support of the blog, many thanks – so seven things about yours truly.

  1. My party piece is singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’ from The Producers.
  2. I watched the entire first season of ’24’, in a single sitting. My brain was so traumatised by the experience, I was deluded into a feeling of excitement when Lou Diamond Philips appeared onscreen.
  3. I wore blue Converse shoes to my own wedding.
  4. My drink of choice is Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
  5. The perfect book is Hope Mirlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist.
  6. For my German oral exam I recited the ‘One Ring’, verse from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Der Herr Der Ringe!
  7. Brussels is my favourite city, as it has everything I enjoy – good food, comics and beer.

Right so, and now a list of blogs I have discovered recently.

TNBBC  itself of course, which is an excellent site for promoting both bloggers and independent publishers.

It’s Bloggerin’ Time a fine account of all things comic-book-y.

Teatime Brutality a sadly defunct blog, or so it seems, that features some amazing and impassioned writing about fandom. His account of the meaning behind Grant Morrison’s sprawling Final Crisis series is reason enough to trawl through the archive.

Word of Mouse Book Reviews Blogging affords us not only the opportunity to write about what we enjoy, but to meet other writers with similar interests. Since I began writing for this site Stacey at ‘Word of Mouse’, has been a constant support, even organising a ‘cultural exchange’, of Canadian/Australian fiction. This is a great site for reviews of children’s fiction.

The Geek of Oz Another comic book site (what? I’m a nerd!) with a particular focus on Marvel Comics. I am eagerly awaiting the review of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s Australian gig.

Too Busy Thinking About My Comics A comic book review site that takes the time to really discuss the many aspects of this much derided medium. A real revelation and one of my favourite discoveries this year.

the Little Red Reviewer Is another blog I discovered through the comments function of this site. A fellow book blogger, though with better taste in reading material than myself.

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review Fantasy got me first addicted to reading and it’s a crutch I never fully gave up on. Graeme’s reviews remind me why.

Several Deadly CINEs Film discussion written with dry humour and passion.

Primate Typings Get ready for the monkey invasion….I meant ape, I MEANT APE!! (‘thunk’)

The Comely Banking Crisis If I could choose to return to anywhere in the world, it would be my second home away from home Edinburgh. Still an Athens of the North, this blog is an account of all the cultural happenings in the ‘Burgh.

Blurred Lights Tv, book, film reviews – this site has it all, courtesy of genial blogmeister Jason.

And that’s it from me. Check these folks out, drop ’em a line and let them know how special they are.

Later peoples.  

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