And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

Years before Burroughs and Kerouac catapulted to respective literary fame with Naked Lunch and On the Road, the two men collaborated on a fictional retelling of a real-life case of murder that is only now seeing the light of day. In 1944, a drunken brawl spurred their friend (and future influential Beatnik) Lucien Carr to kill David Kemmerer, whose ongoing advances he had spurned, and the resulting fracas -- in which both Kerouac and Burroughs were arrested as accessories to the crime because neither reported it to the police -- resulted in this hard-boiled tale of Manhattan's grimy, sexually teeming underbelly. Alternating chapters, the two young writers fashioned a novel with prose so spare, atmosphere so thick, and language so bone dry it would have been right at home with the Gold Medal or Ace Double paperback-original houses, had they existed at the time. There's some eerie foreshadowing as Burroughs's stand-in, "Will Dennison," rejects complex emotional entanglements with the female sex by wondering "why can't we do away with women altogether," while some characters mock the half-French ancestry of "Mike Ryko," shared with his alter ego. Hippos, summarily rejected by publishers upon the manuscript's completion more than 60 years ago and more or less dismissed by both writers thereafter, should be considered more an entertaining (if somewhat melancholic) curiosity than a standout achievement on either writer's part. Diehard Kerouac and Burroughs fans, however, should seek this volume out for its insight into what these brash young talents would later become.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.