East Hill Farm, Seasons with Allen Ginsberg by Gordon Ball
(Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2011).
In the late sixties and mid seventies Gordon Ball did a good job editing some of Ginsberg's journals while writing his own. He's meticulous. Get halfway through the book and it's still only the spring of 69. He was a movie maker. Gregory Corso taunts him by saying that all movie makers do is point a camera but he's a POET and he does something. Funny stuff.
He kept a journal and the book follows the journal authentically. It just goes to show how much a person can forget without some type of record. The book is spliced into more or less chronological incidents of life on Ginsberg's farm focusing on the personalities that resided or visited. This book is so detailed it's really refreshing.
I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings but I just couldn't wait for this book to end. It was like: oh know, he's gonna talk about his sexual relations again-he provides mondo detail about all the pseudonymous women he slept with-and there were plenty-good for him-but I thought this was about Ginsberg's farm? Maybe Ginsberg's farm was about sex, maybe sex is the crux of poetry, maybe poetry is the crux of sex. Maybe he wrote this memoir to impress his old lady.
Once Mr. Ball pissed me off. Barry Miles suggested that he go see the Mothers on Mother's Day instead of going to see Linda Ronstadt. He mentioned that he didn't like Zappa's "Suzy Creamcheese" put down of little girls, Zappa's stance turned him off. Okay that's fine, it's okay to have an opinion, and even I disagree with some of Zappa's pronouncements. But here we have a guy that details every sexual encounter he's ever had (for the whole world to see) (he uses pseudonyms and generally respectful) BUT Zappa's bad? If Zappa didn't write childish sex songs that make even diehards cringe-if Zappa hadn't written those songs, well he'd be stuck in the ghetto of "art rock" like Yes, ELP, Tull, Rush and their slimy ilk.
Then Mr. Ball mentions that a critic liked his film of two women sleeping together. Well of course the guy liked it! It would have to be a pretty awful lesbian sex film to get bad review. (Not only that, the Fillmore show that Miles wisely recommended was a legendary few gig performance by a specific brand of Mothers-not many people saw that particular ensemble featuring Ray Collins, Don Preston, Ian Underwood, Aynsley Dunbar, etc: he should be thankful).
But STILL the book reads well, it just got too long. Mr. Ball sounds like a nice guy. He was there and he was pretty much running Ginsberg's farm. It's a great book for dipping into and finally out of...The last chapter features Mr. Ball describing what he learned from Ginsberg. It's easily the best part of the book but I was just so bored at this point I rushed through it. Rereading it was fun though. You gotta let this book sit on your shelf for a while. Y'can't really just sit down and inhale it.
I came across what they call an opposing viewpoint. Billie Maciunas, a poet, wrote a memoir of her husband George Maciunas. She was living in Cherry Valley in 1978 so this is long after Mr. Ball is gone. "Now (publisher) Charlie Plymell relented, explaining that he was bitter because he never found success as a writer. He admitted that he was abusive to everyone including Allen Ginsberg, who had a rundown house he called "the committee on poetry" in Cherry Valley. "The Com-mittee" sounded like it was some sort of literary headquarters however it mostly served the function of party headquarters for the caretaker and his friends." (Maciunas, Billie. The Eve of Fluxus. Winter Park: Arbiter Press 2010, p.85)
// Ball talks about how AG got a phone call from Stella Kerouac describing JK's death. I always remembered a book saying: "Al! Jack died!" Corso on the phone. Who is right? It looks like Gordon Ball is correct. I looked in Dharma Lion and it said that AG got a call from Al Aronowitz, the same for the other bio-only Miles biography is the one that has it wrong with Corso getting the call. Well Miles was wrong about the phone call but he was right about going to see Zappa.//