Seymour Krim

Thanks to Mark Cohen of Missing a Beat for the bio.

Seymour Krim.

b. May 11, 1922, New York

d. Aug. 30, 1989, New York

You thought you heard of them all. But Seymour Krim is the Missing Beat.

Oh, he was a Beat, alright. He lived in Greenwich Village, wrote for the Village Voice, had no dough, no wife, no regular work, drank at the White Horse Tavern and proclaimed his debt to Jack Kerouac’s On The Road for the green light that signaled not WALK but TALK — and he did.

Krim let loose with a barrage of words that his work as a literary critic had no use for. And like a Hollywood movie hero discovered that what the world really loved was his wretched poor self and not that respectable front he wore for disguise.

At least, at first.

His Beat-inspired, proto-New Journalism essays began appearing in the Voice in 1957 and in 1960 he edited The Beats. That same year his terrific essay about the end of Bohemian values, “Making It!” appeared in The Beat Scene. Then in 1961 a collection of Krim’s articles, Views of a Nearsighted Cannoneer, was published with a foreword by Norman Mailer who wrote that “in the work of Seymour Krim lives one of the truest beats of how horrible, how jarring, how livid and how exciting was this city.” James Baldwin called the collection an “extraordinary volume” in his review for the Voice and Saul Bellow published the lead article from it, “What’s This Cat’s Story?” in his own journal, The Noble Savage.

Krim kept writing and published two more collections — Shake It For the World, Smartass (1970) and You & Me (1974) — taught writing at Columbia University and at Iowa, won a Guggenheim and a Fulbright and managed to piss-off both Mailer and Jimmy Breslin and alienate so many in New York’s literary and publishing worlds that when he died in 1989 at age 67 he was already largely forgotten.

What’s This Cat’s Story? the best of Seymour Krim was published in 1991 and included a foreword by James Wolcott.

Since then he has been left out of every Beat anthology you can name, but his defenders keep his name before the public. In 1994, Krim’s “For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business” was published in The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, edited by Phillip Lopate. Wolcott’s Vanity Fair column mentions Krim often. Literary critic Vivian Gornick called Krim “the Jewish Joan Didion” in her book, The Situation and the Story, and Gornick included “Failure Business” on her list of The Ten Greatest Essays. Krim’s What’s This Cat’s Story? is his intellectual autobiography, and in 2001 it was republished in Editors: The Best of Five Decades, edited by Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford.

A new, 2010 collection of Krim’s work, Missing a Beat: The Rants and Regrets of Seymour Krim, investigates the Jewish subject in his essays.

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