Sunday, February 9, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 213: Seymour Krim, Making It! (#213)

Seymour Krim, "Making It!" (1961) from The Cool School: Writing from America’s Hip Underground:

I'm on record as disliking the Beats. Not so much the poetry or the style, but the political stance of detached purity that really ignores the reality of oppression that others  might experience. Like Thoreau buggering off to Walden Pond--knowing that his women relatives would take care of him--there's a certain blindness to Kerouac's On The Road, to his adventures with the poor and the minorities while still failing to see how those adventures were impossible for them.

And Seymour Krim shows very nicely one more lack the Beats have, which is an awareness of women as people. See, Krim's piece is a dialogue/rant between someone who has accepted the bourgeois measure of success--money, a job, status, women--and someone who holds on, tenuously, to the artistic and spiritual goals. Notice that "women" are one of the objects/goals of life, not subjects of their own lives.

That said, the LoA headnote makes much to-do out of Krim's marginal status: he started off as an establishment book reviewer, so his attempts to slip into Beat think-pieces never quite got the attention that (some people think) they deserved. Krim certainly seems to have the style down: at times, this piece feels like it would be better read aloud as slam poetry at a coffee shop.
Columbia professor, poet, painter, ex-Trotskyite, Partisan Review editor, G. E. engineer, Schenley salesman—they all live in the same world for a change and that world says, go!
That sort of breathless rant works best over a short piece and at eight pages, I definitely felt myself start to slip away. Krim's piece certainly speaks to an important issue about how we define success, both socio-culturally and personally, and how those definitions of success may not jibe. 

And while I'm sensitive to the idea that monetary success may be an endless trap of getting and spending, I'd love to see Krim make this case to some of the working poor who didn't have jobs as book reviewers.

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