It’s Robert Crumb‘s Birthday. He turns 73 today. Happy Birthday, Robert!
R. Crumb on Allen Ginsberg:
Allen Ginsberg kissed me once. It was in 1989, before I knew what was going on and I couldn’t stop him, he kissed me on the mouth. [laughs]
I like Howl. Howl’s great. It’s like the beatnik manifesto
of the ’50s, y’ know, it really says it all. It’s got that beatnik attitude of
that time in America. It’s quite eloquent. But after that, he didn’t really do
anything that struck me as particularly interesting. But he was like a
spokesman for the hippies in the ’60s too. He would lead the hippies in all those Indian chants. He tried to lead them in the direction of spirituality, an
East Indian kind of spirituality with meditation and chanting and all that.
R. Crumb on Jack Kerouac:
When I was 17, I read On The Road, and it sickened me, because my
reaction was, “Oh God, these guys are out there having so much fun. I’m
not having any fun at all. I’m just sitting here in my parents house. But them
— the girls, the adventures, they’re just like having a fuckin’ lark On The
Road.“I liked his writing. I still like his writing, I think he’s a
great writer. He has a very particular, specific genre that he does of that
time. He’s very much of his time, you know, the non-conformist in the post-war
era. But I like Kerouac. I haven’t read everything that he’s written. Sometimes
I intend to go back and read more of his stuff, but I haven’t read anything
he’s written in a long time.
R.Crumb on William S Burroughs:
“I love Burroughs also; a great writer. But his best writing is his straight-ahead prose. Hewrote all this crazy fantasy stuff, which I think he was encouraged to do by this other beatnik writer, Brion Gysin, who, for some reason Burroughs admired.
Gysin was, I think, a jive-ass, bullshit kind of guy. Burroughs, I think he
lacked confidence in his own writing, because when he wrote straight prose it
didn’t sell well. When he wrote Junkie, and that came out, it
didn’t sell well in the beginning. And then he wrote this other book, Queer,
around the same time in the early ’50s and he couldn’t even get that published.
That wasn’t published until the 1980s. And Queer is a great
book. Both Junkie and Queer are great. They’re both written in
this very dry, prose style. And his little thin book called the Yage Letters, which were letters he wrote back to Allen Ginsberg while he was in
South America looking for this psychedelic Yage plant. That’s a great book;
great stuff. But the problem is, there’s not enough of that, not enough of his
straight-ahead prose. He just didn’t think it was any good because he either
couldn’t get it published or it didn’t sell. So then he wrote this gimmicky
thing called Naked Lunch, which is mostly fantasy stuff and not very
interesting to me, and that sold well. He made his reputation on Naked
“He was a very eccentric character; very eccentric ideas and thoughts. He tried all kinds of strange, avant-garde psychotherapies. He was into psychic experimentation. He built himself an orgone box based upon the theories of Wilhelm Reich. He latergot involved in Scientology and had this E-meter and used it as a way to psychically clear himself. He said it was his electrical Ouija board. [laughs] He tried other stuff too, like out of body experience. I can relate to all that stuff because I’m interested in all that fringe, psychic experimentation also. But he was very serious about that stuff.
“The sad thing about Burroughs, the tragic thing. was he abused
himself so badly with substances. It’s amazing that he was still a very sharp
thinker into his late years. His intellect was still pretty good even though
he’d used drugs and heroin– and he didn’t stop that until he was about 60 or
something–and then he became a bad alcoholic. I heard these tapes of him
giving recitals, reading his stuff to audiences, and he’s so drunk you can
barely understand him, he’s slurring his words so badly. It’s really sad.
Still, he lived until his mid-80s. He was a tough guy. He appeared to be kind
of wimpy, but he was tough.”
from that interview (on Allen and the Beats):
(Allen was a) classic, classic example. He became a guru, total guru of the hippies – and loved it, ate it up. He’d get up there on stage, and, you know, just chant OM or something in his robes and everything and they loved him, ate it up. He was a hero, they were all heroes, all those people from the Beatnik-histter era, you know, they were our antecedents and the people we looked to. Like Kerouac – it killed him, it destroyed him, they wouldn’t leave him alone, they pestered him to death, he couldn’t escape from them hippies they climbed over his fence to get at him. He just wanted to sit quietly and drink in his house with his mother aor whatever and they hounded him to death.
Here’s Crumb’s 2010 Paris Review interview
Here’s Crumb on NPR’s Talk of the Nation in 2013
In fact, all of the Crumb brood….
Here’s Crumb (more recently) talking comics in San Francisco in May 2015
oh and ps. Jesse Crumb, Robert’s son, turns out to be a pretty talented artist himself. From the 1995 set (with Erica Detiefsen) – Beat Characters – Diane di Prima, Ted Joans, Kenneth Rexroth, David Meltzer, microphone (poetry and jazz), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Tuli Kupferberg, and Allen Ginsberg
In fact, all of the Crumb brood…..