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Who Was Lucien Carr?
I've received a few inquiries
about Lucien Carr since the release of Gary Walkow's docu-drama,
"Beat", about the life of William
S. Burroughs and Joan Vollmer, played by Keifer Sutherland
and Courtney Love, respectively. The independent film premiered
at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas this year. For more
info on the film, "Beat" as well as other Beat Generation
film information, go here.
What does this have to do with Lucien Carr, you ask? The film
begins in New York City on the night Lucien Carr murders David
Kammerer. There is apparently little information available in
regards to Carr, regardless of his involvement with the Beats,
so I did some research and put together a brief history of events:
First matter of fact; it was Lucien Carr who introduced Allen
Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac
and William Burroughs
Carr wasn't homosexual but had
unfortunately caught the eye of a rather troubled and much older
man named David Kammerer. Kammerer was Carr's Boyscout Scoutmaster
during his youth and later followed Carr wherever he went. Lucien
never let on to anyone that Kammerer was constantly making advances
toward him and the two actually spent a lot of time together.
Carr was content to have a friendship with Kammerer but was in
no way interested in him (or any man, for that matter) sexually.
On August 13, 1944 3am, in Riverside Park, near Columbia University's
campus and the Hudson River, Kammerer again tried to win Carr's
sexual favour. When it was again refused he attacked him. Carr
was no match for Kammerer's size and strength and in self defense,
stabbed him to death (ironically) with a Boyscout pocketknife.
In a panic, he tied Kammerer's hands and feet together with his
own shoelaces, filled his pockets with as many rocks as he could
find, and rolled his body into the Hudson River. After much deliberation
about what to do and solicitation of advice from Burroughs,
Kerouac and family members,
Carr turned himself in to the authorities. He was sentenced to
20 years, but served only 2 years in prison at Elmira Correctional
Facility in upstate, NY, which incidentally is 20 miles from
my hometown of Pine Valley, NY.
Kerouac moved in with Carr (now out of prison
for some time) after leaving Neal
Cassady in California and returning to New York City in 1951.
This was shortly after the publication of his first novel, "The
Town and the City". Carr was living in a loft apartment
on West 21st and was working (to the dissaproval of the Beats)
for the United Press.
Kerouac had been inspired at that time by a
new writing technique somewhat credited to William
Carlos Williams and dubbed "Spontaneous Prose"
by Kerouac, in which the
writer simply writes or types as fast as possible along a line
of thought, expression, or general storytelling with "no
discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated
statement". I know this comes across as quite esoteric,
but pretty much boils down to the simple concept of writing as
fast as one can as the thoughts stream through their consciousness,
not trying at that time to come up with the perfect word or phrase.
Kerouac had once been the speed-typing champion
of the greater Boston area and this technique suited him quite
well. His only complaint was that he was slowed down by having
to insert new sheets of paper so often. Lucien Carr, being employed
at the United Press, brought home a roll of teletype paper and
suggested he try that. Kerouac
was delighted that he only needed to insert one end of the roll
into his typewriter and could go on for days. The novel Kerouac
wrote in this fashion would become his second published (in 1957)
and one of his most popular, "On The Road".
Lucien Carr isn't considered
a beat writer or a true member of the "Beat Generation"
by most, but he is responsible for the "meeting of the minds"
of its most prominent writers and visionaries and was associated
directly with many of them. He's now retired from a successful
career with the United Press and lives in Washington, D.C.
Additionaly, Lucien's son is
Caleb Carr, author of many popular novels such as "The Angel
of Darkess", "The Devil Soldier", "Killing
Time", and the enormously successful thriller, "the
You can see an early photo of
Carr with Kerouac in The Beat Page photo gallery here.