Lucien Carr, Beatnik Mentor, Dies at Age 79
A Long-time Reporter for UPI, Carr Provided Advice to Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Bouroughs
Lucien Carr, a former Columbia student and one of the founders of the Beat movement, died last week at 79.
Carr, who attended Columbia in the early 1940s, passed away on Jan. 28 )(2005) in Washington, D.C. from bone marrow cancer. As a student at Columbia, Carr was, according to Allen Ginsberg, "the glue" of the beatnik movement. After college, Carr maintained his ties with his Beat generation friends, helping them edit and publish their works. While he never achieved the fame of his beatnik companions, Carr went on to become a successful reporter, editor and mentor.
Carr started attending Columbia in the early 40s, after he left the University of Chicago because of an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He was known as something of a campus radical, introducing Ginsberg and Kerouac to the likes of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, writers who would later shape how the beat generation wrote poetry.
In 1944, Carr's life took a turn for the worse. He was convicted of manslaughter and forced to spend two years in prison after he stabbed and killed David Krammerer, his former Boy Scout leader and a man who had made numerous passes at Carr.
After his release from prison, Carr shocked his friends by leaving his bohemian circle for a position at the well-established United Press International. He worked there for the next 47 years. Carr began as a reporter, covering many of the most important political and national events of the second half of the 20th century. He rose through the ranks to eventually become UPI's senior editor, but still found time to mentor many young writers in the organization.
While at UPI, Carr maintained close ties with his Columbia writer friends. Legend has it that Carr filched a roll of UPI paper for Kerouac to write "On the Road," reportedly so that Kerouac would not have to turn pages and lose his train of thought. While this myth was recently debunked, it is now believed Carr may have supplied a roll for another Kerouac classic, "Dharma Bums," according to a report by Reuters. Carr continued to help his beatnik friends throughout his life, unofficially editing Kerouac's work and entertaining politically-motivated visits by Ginsberg throughout his career.
Carr is also credited with advising Kerouac and the other beats to always write spontaneously, as he put it, "first thought, best thought." He later became known for advocating brevity in journalistic writing.
Lucien Carr was married twice, and is survived by three sons. -- Maxwell Foxman/Columbia Spectator