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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Jack Kerouac , William S Burroughs
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Aug 2009 Penguin Modern Classics

In alternating chapters that reveal a nascent period in their development as two of the twentieth century's most influential writers, Beat Generation icons William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac's And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks is an electrifying true-life mystery, including afterword by James Grauerholtz in Penguin Modern Classics.

This is a hardboiled crime novel, and a true story. In 1944, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, then still unknown writers, were both arrested following a murder: one of their friends had stabbed another and then come to them for advice - neither had told the police. Later they wrote this fictionalised account of that summer - of a group of friends in wartime New York, moving through each other's apartments, drinking, necking, talking and taking drugs and haphazardly drifting towards a bloody crime. Unpublished for years, And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks is a remarkable insight into the lives and literary development of two great writers.

William S. Burroughs' (1914-97) first published novel was the largely autobiographical Junky, which remains a classic depiction of drug dependency.

Jack Kerouac (1922-69) was an American novelist, poet, artist and part of the Beat Generation. Most of his life was spent in the vast landscapes of America or living with his mother, with whom he spent most of his life. Kerouac's best known works are On the Road and The Dharma Bums.

If you enjoyed And the Hippos were Boiled in their Tanks, you might like Kerouac's On the Road, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'The novel that kicked it all off'


'An insight into Kerouac before he went on the road and Burroughs before his drug use spiralled out of control, this is a major literary event'


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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (Penguin Modern Classics) + Naked Lunch: The Restored Text + Junky: The Definitive Text of 'Junk' (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (6 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141189673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141189673
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The legendary novel whose true events inspired the film KILL YOUR DARLINGS "A combination hard-boiled murder mystery and existentialist lament- think Dashiell Hammett meets Albert essential document of the Beat Generation." -Gerald Nicosia, "San Francisco Chronicle" "[A] persuasive portrait of "la vie boheme" in all its aimlessness and squalor." -Amanda Heller, "The Boston Globe" "A literary curiosity, a genuine collectible." -Carolyn See, "The Washington Post" "Reveals two giants-to-be in the development stages of their craft...With its evocative rendition of now-vanished saloons, bygone diners, and other landmarks of yesteryear, Burroughs and Kerouac may have inadvertently done for 1944 Greenwich Village what Joyce did for 1904 Dublin." -George Kimball, "The Phoenix" (Boston) "The appearance in print of And the Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac is a literary event, not only because it drew two of the three leading Beat writers into confederacy, but because the book told a story - of male friendship, gay obsession, and murder - that came to fascinate a score of American authors... It's a fascinating snapshot from a lost era. If you're looking for the link between Hemingway's impotent post-war drifters in The Sun Also Rises, the barflies and Tralalas of Last Exit to Brooklyn and the zonked-out kids of Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, look no further." --John Walsh, "The Independent" "In alternating chapters, Burroughs and Kerouac serve up a noir vision of Manhattan... Of the two, Kerouac, then in his early 20s, is the more developed writer, though Burroughs, an absolute beginner, already shows some of the interests and obsessions that will turn up in Naked Lunch and elsewhere, to say nothing of an obviously field-tested understanding of how syringes work... For his part, Kerouac recounts wartime experiences in the Merchant Marine, along with notes on the bar scene that w --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

William S. Burroughs was born in 1914. His first published novel was the largely autobiographical Junky, which remains a classic depiction of drug dependency. He died in 1997.

Jack Kerouac was born in 1922. In 1947, he hitchhiked across America and wrote his most famous novel On the Road. He died in 1969.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At Last 22 Oct 2009
I am not a big fan of the Beat Generation, apart from the poetry - especialy Allen Ginsberg, but when I first heard that this book was going to be published I thought I must get a copy of this when it comes out in paperback - and now I have. Like a lot of people my age I look at the whole beat phenomenom and think strange, and I have never got into Kerouac's On The Road, the only novel of his that I tried to read but I was interested in what he and Burroughs had written about this infamous murder. Before Burroughs and Kerouac were famous they collaborated in writing this semi-fictional work on the Lucien Carr - David Kammerer case in what can only be described as a crime pulp style.

Writing alternate chapters William Burroughs wrote as Wil Dennison and Jack Kerouac as Mike Ryko they cover the normal day to day activities and events leading up to the murder. These include heavy drinking, getting jobs, women (no lurid descriptions of sex), drug usage etc. Indeed the lives of the characters leading up to the murder, and shortly thereafter. At the time they wrote this they did pass it around different publishing houses but it was never accepted for publication, possibly beacuse it isn't that particularly literary or sensational enough, and also because they were a long way from becoming household names. Nowadays this is more of a period piece showing mid 1940s New York and has a certain novelty factor in todays market - but don't let that put you off.

This book still makes fascinating reading, and those really into the whole Beat Generation or interested in true crime may find this of interest.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting, yes. 6 Nov 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If, like me, you are a big fan of Burroughs and Kerouac's eh 'solo efforts'; if you have raced through 'On The Road' while pitifully short on gas, and shot up on 'Junk' when you knew you shouldn't; if you have searched through 'Cities of the Red Night';if you have broken down in 'Big Sur' and shifted your way through all those frozen moments of 'Naked Lunch' then you will probably want to buy this book. It is the heretofore unpublished collaboration from 1944 between these two greats of Twentieh Century Literature, written as alternating chapters, one by Burroughs followed by one by Kerouac and on like that, from the point of view of William Dennison and Mike Ryko respectively. It tells the story of a crime from the point of view of two mixed up in it. It is apparently based on actual events. I wouldn't call it a work of juvenalia exactly, there is a lot to like here, but it doesn't reach the heights (or the depths) of either writer's later stylistic flourishes. It is in fact a pretty conventional novel. The main enjoyment for me was in seeing the differences between the two writers even at this embryonic stage, spotting the germs of what they would become. But I don't want to dissuade anyone from buying this at ALL! If you like the two writers' work then buy it by all means. I really enjoyed reading it. All I would say is 'Don't start here' if you've never before read Burroughs or Kerouac.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An insight 5 Jun 2014
By Tim
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love Kerouac's 'On The Road' and enjoy some of Burroughs works. This gives a great insight to a big event in their lives as they saw it and reading this gives the works of these two authors (and others such as Ginsberg) a whole more meaning and breadth to those new to these writer's works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Early Days of the Beats 15 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The recent film 'Kill Your Darlings' (2013) covers the background events which inspired this novel, whose chapters are written alternately by Burroughs and Kerouac. It wasn't published at the time, and was written 10 years before the works which made the two writers famous. Neither had yet adopted the distinctive styles which made their names. But the chapters by Burroughs, which are much better than Kerouac's, have a dark, sardonic humour which is typical of his personality. Despite the murder at the end, the narrative rambles, giving an accurate portrayal of the drunken, irresponsible, disorganized lives of the young beat generation. A book for those intrigued to know about the world from which their better known later writings emerged.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic 22 April 2013
By Eimear
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well written, not exactly riveting to begin with but gives a great insight into other books by Burroughs and Kerouac.
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