#tbt: Letters of Note
Written by Bwog Staff
For this week’s #tbt, Bwog went through some Columbia alums’ mail. (Okay, not exactly, since these particular letters have been published.) In order to find out what they thought about their time here, we did some investigative reporting, by which we mean looking up “Columbia” in the index. Here, for the first time in
This first gem comes from a letter Allen Ginsberg wrote to Jack Kerouac, in which he described his sex life at Columbia. Remote, passionless sex with no emotional contact? Yes, that must be Columbia. Ginsberg eventually gave up the random blow jobs for a committed relationship with Peter Orlovsky.
Notorious for his anti-academic attitude, William Carlos Williams didn’t even have to attend Columbia to be fed up with it. He did give readings on campus, and his poetry was published in The Columbia Review. His non-nonsense attitude towards poetry eventually gained his work a place in the “table of values” he mentions here. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could give the same speech to professors who grade papers too harshly? You may reject my comma placement and my use of the word “problematic,” but YOU DO IT AT YOUR OWN PERIL!
During Hunter S. Thompson’s time at Columbia, he was trying to establish himself in the world of journalism, and it worked out pretty well for him. He wrote this letter to an old high school teacher, presumably because everyone from his hometown in Kentucky was worried about him in the big city. We, for one, miss the days when a paid internship at Time could cover half a year of Columbia tuition. It’s comforting to know that before he was a great author, Thompson dreamed of “becoming another D. H. Lawrence” just like the rest of us. As for living in “abject poverty”…does McBain count?
Federico García Lorca was born into a powerful family in southern Spain, so maybe it’s not surprising that he corresponded with Carlos Morla Lynch, a Chilean diplomat. His view of Columbia seems much sunnier than the other authors’, probably because he was a freshman in GS at the time he wrote this. Okay, so maybe not all of our days are spent “greatly amused as if in a dream,” or for that matter, “relaxed and happy.” But the image of New York as “a city of unexpected happiness” makes us want to go out and explore. Spring break is on the way…what better time to go below 96th or above 125th?
Ginsberg, Allen and Kerouac, Jack. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters. New York: Viking, 2010.
Lorca, Federico Garcia. Selected Letters. New York: New Directions, 1983.
Thompson, Hunter. The Proud Highway. New York: Ballantine, 1997.
Williams, William Carlos. The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1984.