Kerouac became disembodied in 1969 at the age of 47. Neal Cassady, who inspired Kerouac’s best known novel, “On the Road,” did so a year earlier. Unlike his two friends who lived faster and died younger, Ginsberg almost made it into the new millennium. He died in 1997.
The movie, “Howl,” stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg and, takes place during the Beat era — an era that owes its name to Kerouac. Who were the Beats? Where does Colorado fit in?
William S. Burroughs was mentor to the group of writers who would later be called the Beats. Burroughs, who was fascinated by life’s seamy side, learned the word “beat” from Herbert Huncke, a Chicago junkie. Hunke used the word as a synonym for poor. It was Jack Kerouac who modified its meaning, making “beat” a combination of poor and beatific, “like sleeping in the subways … and yet being illuminated and having illuminated ideas about apocalypse and all that.”