Monday, May 5, 2014

Ginsburg* + Ginsberg* (for Ginsberg* or Ginsburg*)

I saw the movie Kill Your Darlings recently, followed by a Q & A with co-screenwriter Austin Bunn. The film tells the story of a rather salacious murder that made the front pages of the New York Times in the summer of 1944. Lucien Carr, who was a student at Columbia University, had stabbed David Kammerer, his former professor and suitor—or molester and stalker, or somehow all of the above, depending on whom you talk to—and dumped his body in the Hudson River. Carr (played by Dane DeHaan) lived in the same dorm as Allen Ginsberg during freshman year and was the one who introduced him to William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg is portrayed, if a tad disconcertingly, by Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame, and despite the obvious differences, just like in the HP franchise, it's sometimes hard to figure out who the bad guy is. It's a fascinating, complex, and uncertain tale, which dovetails nicely with the nascent stirrings of the "Beat Generation" and those of its iconic literati. While the movie may or may not hew closely to whatever facts are known in the case, one minor detail struck me as kind of ironic. In an early scene, we see Louis Ginsberg, Allen's father, reciting one of his own poems: "Until we know the only thing we have..." Allen completes the line: " what we give away." His father corrects him: "Is what we hand away. Have, hand. Consonance." Allen: "Give, is. Assonance." His father gets the last and prescient word: "I wrote the goddamn poem. Go write your own." The reason this seems ironic to me is that the title of the film is based on the well-known advice to aspiring writers: "Murder your darlings" (often attributed to other, more famous people, but in fact coined by British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch). While this phrase is sometimes rendered "Kill your darlings," I think the former would have made the superior title as it contains a bit more assonance and better meter. At any rate, please murder (or kill) whatever typos you may come across in your catalogs today. We uncovered 35 cases of Ginsburg* + Ginsberg* in OhioLINK, and in 238 WorldCat. And while many of those are the genuine article, some will turn out to be false hits (two discrete individuals with their names spelled differently, albeit correctly), so do keep that in mind.

(Allen Ginsberg in Frankfurt, Germany, 1978, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

No comments: