Lucien Carr

In those years at Columbia, we really did have something going. It was a rebellious group, I suppose, of which there are many on campuses, but it was one that really was dedicated to a ‘New Vision.’ It’s practically impossible to define. Maybe it a term we just told ourselves.

-from The Portable Beat Reader

Lucien Carr was part of the Columbia University student circle with whom Kerouac and Ginsberg hung out in their college days. Into literature and poetry, taking Benzedrine, and smoking pot, these students were a little rebellious, but even more so were dissatisfied with the social structure as it was post-WW2. They were seekers of a new philosophy, and inspired by Rimbaud’s poetry (particularly Seasons in Hell) and attempting to put their literary and spiritual quests into some label or definition, they came up with a “New Vision.”

According to the Portable Beat Reader, Burroughs “discouraged their more extravagant antics, like their candlelit exercises writing poetry with their own blood, and urged them to read one of his favorite books, Oswald Spengler’s Decline and Fall of the West, in an effort to help them develop a more substantial historical context for their ‘New Vision.'”

During Carr’s friendship with the other beats, he was the object of obsession by a man named David Kammerer, who pursued him so incessantly (including threatening Carr) that it broke whatever threshold Carr might have had regarding a level head. Carr stabbed and killed Kammerer, and was later sent to jail. This was around the same time Burroughs accidentally shot and killed his wife, Joan (who had filed for divorce with Burroughs, after falling in love with Carr).

There is currently in production a biopic called Kill Your Darlings that is about this event and the young searchers of a new writing style. Kerouac and Burroughs worked together on And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks, which is about the Carr-Kammerer events as well. The novel was written in 1945. The book was not published until after Carr died in 2005.

These incidents put a bad rap on the beats. After Carr’s jail sentence, he stayed friends with the original Beat circle, and eventually found a steady job as a news service editor.

Carr is known in Kerouac’s books as Kenny Wood in Town and the City, Julien (Love) in Big Sur and Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody, Sam Vedder in Subterraneans, Damion in On the Road, and Claude de Maubrus in Vanity of Duluoz.

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