Jerry Cimino, founder of the Beat Museum, at Henry Miller Library for their Under the Persimmon Tree lecture series last Sunday. 

When many people think of The Beat Generation,  they think of the same four things: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” Neal Cassady and Lawrence Ferlighetti. The icons who passed the torch to the hippie movement in San Francisco have been honored in San Francisco's Beat Museum, founded by Jerry Cimino. He spoke in Big Sur at the Henry Miller Library about everything you need to know about the legendary poets, writers and artists. Here are 8 things, according to Cimino, you likely didn’t know about the Beat Generation.

1.    In the original scroll of On the Road, the first line addresses the death of the father of the main character, Jack. The line was changed to “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up” probably it was edgier and would attract more readers. “Dean” is Kerouac’s real-life friend Neal Cassady.

2.     The original Beat Museum was located in Monterey, spawned from Cimino's wife’s  bookstore.

3.     The term “beat” came about after World War II. Kerouac reconfigured  the definition from tired or exhausted, to beatific, meaning blissfully happy.

4.     The first edition of “Howl”was printed in England by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a Big Sur resident, to avoid prosecution from the U.S. government. Later, he thought he might get arrested for "Howl" so he sent a pre-released copy to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). The publicity surrounding the Howl obscenity trial gave the Beat Generation massive attention. 

5.     Many argue that  poet Charles Bukowski is not a Beat. That was confirmed by Beat Generation expert Cimino: Bukowski was officially not a Beat and was loathe to be identified as such, but at the same time Cimino says he was “the most Beat guy you would want to know.”

6.     Jack Kerouac didn’t speak English until he was six. His native language was French; he was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents.   

7.     Jack Kerouac was a sexual partner with Allen Ginsberg when Kerouac was drunk. Cimino said Kerouac never wrote about it.

8.     Beat figure Neal Cassady partly inspired the character R.P. McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but questions surround that claim because the book was published before they met. Kesey revealed that the story is half true; he hadn’t met Neal when he wrote the book, but his McMurphy was inspired by Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road.

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