For me, New York City in the late 1940s has always been a place of special resonance: a city experiencing post-war boom, ex-soldiers on the GI Bill, the bomb, bebop, and the early writings of the east coast Beats.
None of them knew it at the time, but Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and others were living lives that would one day become the stuff of legend-much of it self-created. The parties, relationships, visions and philosophy of the late 40s seeped deeply into their early works:
Burroughs transmuted his 103rd street lowlife into Junkie; Kerouac’s New York appeared in The Town and the City and On the Road; and Ginsberg’s Howl, though written much later, is full of references to the period. From the start, the Beats were all about mythologising their lives in their art.
But there was one writer who came at the scene from a particularly intellectual angle. John Clellon Holmes met Jack Kerouac in 1948, and his roman à clef Go is considered one of the first Beat novels. Holmes lived with his wife, Marian, in an apartment at 681 Lexington Avenue, and his pad would be the place where he and Jack Kerouac formulated the term ‘Beat Generation’.