January 28, 2005
Beat' Generation Catalyst Lucien Carr Dies
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Lucien Carr, a muse and catalyst of the "beat generation" who brought Jack Kerouac together with other writers to spark a counterculture revolution, died on Friday in Washington.
He was 79.
Carr, a retired senior editor at the United Press International news wire service, died at George Washington University Hospital of complications from cancer treatment, said his longtime companion Kathleen Silvassy.
Carr was a student at Columbia University in New York in 1944 when he introduced Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, who formed the literary nucleus of the countercultural "beatnik" movement of the 1950s.
"The beat scene was a circle of friends who just happened to have three of the most important writers of in the last 50 years in America, plus some extraordinary minds, including Lucien," said Dennis McNally, author of the Kerouac biography "Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation and America." Kerouac's legendary speedwriting of the breakthrough novel "On the Road," by supplying a Teletype roll for the manuscript. "I didn't steal it,'' he told a co-worker at UPI. "I just stuck it under my arm and brought it home."
But McNally said he inspected the manuscript recently and found it to consist of individual sheets of paper taped together. It was possible Carr supplied the roll for another Kerouac novel, "Dharma Bums," he said.
"Lucien's impact on Kerouac's thinking and writing was considerably more important than whether or not he supplied the roll," McNally said. He said Carr helped instill a notion of "first thought, best thought," in which the beat writers strived to be closer to the roots of inspiration and write spontaneously.
Carr served two years on a manslaughter conviction for stabbing dead an older man, David Kammerer, who had a romantic crush on Carr, and throwing his body into the Hudson River in 1944.
The conviction cast a pall over the emerging beats who were striving for authenticity in the gritty urban streets of America, and probably kept Carr from playing a more public role for the rest of his life, McNally said.
The killing and Carr's friendship with Burroughs were portrayed in the 2000 movie "Beat." Carr was also portrayed as Kenneth Wood in Kerouac's novel "The Town and the City."
Carr's 47-year UPI career began after his prison term and spanned most of the second half of the 20th century. "Lou Carr was a great editor: calm and unflappable as he handled bulletins and any political crisis that came in Washington," said former UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas. "Young reporters were in awe of him -- some of the veterans as well."
Carr is also survived by three sons, Simon, Ethan, Caleb -- a writer whose works include the murder mystery "The Alienist," and five grandchildren.