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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
More than sixty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac sat down inNew York City to write a novel about the summer of 1944, when one of their friends killed another in a moment of brutal and tragic bloodshed. The two authors were then at the dawn of their careers, having yet to write anything of note. Alternating chapters and narrators, Burroughs and Kerouac pieced together a hard-boiled tale of bohemian New York during World War II, full of drugs and obsession, art and violence. The manuscript, called And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks after a line from a news story about a fire at a circus, was submitted to publishers but rejected and confined to a filing cabinet for decades. This legendary collaboration between two of the twentieth centuries most influential writers is set to be published for the first time in the fall of 2008. A remarkable, fascinating piece of American literary history, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is also an engrossing, atmospheric novel that brings to life a shocking murder at the dawn of the Beat Generation.
Distinctly different from their later works, Burroughs and Kerouac's collaborative 1945 novel (unpublished until 2008) reimagines their experience when one of their friends killed his lover. The narrative switches back and forth between authors as each write interweaving chapters through the eyes of the characters Mike Ryko (Kerouac) and Will Dennison (Burroughs), cataloguing the descent in Al and Philip's relationship. Ray Porter's impressive reading captures such distinct performances for the alternating chapters that one has trouble believing the Dennison and Ryko chapters are read by the same person. His tone and attitude evoke a sense of grittiness inherent in the text. His strong delivery of the straight narrative along with convincing and consistent vocal characterizations keep the performance lively and engaging. Given how the edgy and almost pulp fiction writing is so different from the two authors' typical works, listeners may be more impressed with Porter's performance than the actual text. A Grove/Atlantic hardcover (reviewed online). (Dec.)
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October 31, 2008
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