Underground Classics

Candy by Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg — NEL, 40p
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina — NEL 40p
Junkie by William S. Buroughs — NEL, 30p
Opium by Jean Cocteau – NEL, 30p
Big Sur by Jack Kerouac – NEL, 40p
Jail Notes by Timothy Leary – NEL, 50p

The Underground Classics series produced recently by New English Library is a re-publication of some famous and difficult to obtain books, including some works by members of the ‘beat’ and ‘underground’ generations. It is good that many of these are available again, for they allow people who did not read them in the past, or were too young, to read some of the most important ‘new’ writers to emerge in the last twenty or so years.

Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, often described as one of the greatest sexual satires of our time, is one of the titles. When it was originally published here a few years ago, only an edited version was available. But times have changed and the text of this new edition is complete. The book is a combination of black, black humour and sexual athletics, resulting in a very funny novel, sending up the role-playing and hypocrisy of the heterosexual world.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me is a novel written by the late Richard Farina, who died in a tragic motorcycle accident in California in 1966 — two days after the book’s publication. It is a sadly neglected work, being an important document describing the contemporary ‘hip’ scene in the States (which was later to cross over here) during the early sixties. The film that has been made of the book is hopefully to be released here soon.

Junkie was William S. Burrough’s first novel, and possibly, to many, his most accessible. Originally published under the pen name William Lee, the narrative tells of the author’s own history of escalating drug addiction, ending in his cure, apparently partly due to Burrough’s discovery of hallucinogens. A frightening but important book.

Opium by Jean Cocteau is another book concerned with drug addiction. This time it is the author’s account of his experiences whilst ‘hooked’ on opium, with details of his extraordinary life and thoughts, along with descriptions of the acute suffering he went through during the ‘weaning off’ treatment. It is a fascinating book, that still has much relevance today. The drawings that illustrate this edition are the same that appeared in the original version.

Jack Kerouac, the author of Big Sur, was the first and most important writer to emerge from the ‘beat generation’ of the fifties. The effect of his novel on a generation still cannot be measured. And the freedom he gave other writers because of his success, is something modern literature will always be in his debt for. After his death a short while ago, many of his works were re-issued, this being the latest. It is a lyrically told story of a searching for meaning in the complexes of America and a tale of spiritual yearning and final awareness. Big Sur was sadly underrated when it first appeared, despite the inclusion of one of Kerouac’s best poems at the end of the book, which also is included in this edition.

Jail Notes by (Dr) Timothy Leary is an account of the author’s prison experiences, after being sentenced to a possible ten-year term for possession of marihuana, and before his escape from jail in September, 1970. Leary is someone you either take seriously or you dismiss completely, there is no middle way. His views on homosexuality (in other works) leave a lot to be desired, but his explorations of the uncharted depths of the human mind have meant Leary has had to make many brave sacrifices.

Soon to be published is Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller, which has recently been made into a feature film, although at present it is without a certificate to be shown in this country.

Denis Lemon

Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.
Denis Lemon

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Author: Denis Lemon

1945-1994. Denis was one of the founders of Gay News and was perhaps most famous for being sued by Mary Whitehouse when, as editor, he published a poem in 1976 by James Kirkup that she felt was 'blasphemous'. He was fined £500 and sentenced to 9 months in prison suspended for 8 months. The Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence. He died of complications from AIDS in 1994 and was survived by his partner Nick Purshouse.

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