2004-05-31: When I Was Cool

When I Was Cool

My Life at the Jack Kerouac School (2004)

by Sam Kashner (~1957)

This is a strange book, about a strange time, and by a strange guy (at least he was then).

In about 1976, Kashner, an insecure Jewish boy from Long Island, dropped out of Hamilton College, after about six weeks, and convinced his parents to send him to The Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics, a new part of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He was attracted by the idea of learning from his Beat idols, such as Ginsberg, Burroughs.

Escorted by his father, he arrived and became the first student and Ginsberg’s apprentice. Perhaps predictably, things were not as he had imagined. Kashner tells the stories well, but in the end they are about the Beats as old men, and about Kashner’s coming of age (for lack of a better term).

I wouldn’t have read this book, if I hadn’t heard Kashner interviewed by Terri Gross, and that he had briefly attended Hamilton College. It was OK.


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