Boys Playing With Girls
An older man I didn't know, who had come in with [John Clellon] Holmes, interjected, "Celine is such a cynic though, and his attitude toward women is terrible. [He says] 'Women are all housemaids at heart.' "
The tension between the boys club known as the Beat Generation and the women associated with those boys has become well-documented. The Beat boys are variously labeled as misogynistic and homosexual thereby establishing a stereotype of gender exclusion.
The chroniclers of the women's movement inside the Beat Generation have demonstrated that, like the male stereotypes, the women of the Beat generation are difficult to typecast. Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters, Carolyn Cassady's Off the Road and Joan Haverty's Nobody's Wife are just three examples of reports by different types of women associated with the men of the Beat vortex in the 1950s.
Johnson had an eight month love affair with Jack Kerouac just before and after fame came crashing in on him. She is a writer and editor who went on to get married, have a child and become successful in her literary career. Carolyn Cassady was Neal Cassady's second wife. Cassady attempted to lead the most "conventional" life; she spent the 1950s raising three children and coping with the various traumas promulgated by her husband. Joan Haverty was Kerouac's second wife and mother of the daughter he disavowed, Jan Kerouac. Haverty got married again, had twins and seems to have lived a somewhat solitary, isolated life. She died in 1990.
John Clellon Holmes provided a taxonomy of the roles women could assume in the 1950s: "wife, mother, spinster, courtesan, whore, [and] ballbreaker." In her essay, "Muses or Maestros? Women of the Beat Generation" (1997), Angela D. Baccala wryly points out, "The Beat women somehow shrugged off the first three." But as the three examples given above indicate, many Beat women were wives and mothers.
Despite some of the revisionism that attempts to completely centralize the women associated with the Beats, the irony in the title of Johnson's memoir (Minor Characters) suggests a prevailing attitude. Calling these women "muses" is like winning the "Miss Congeniality Award" at a beauty contest. In addition to chronicled evidence, which is not always reliable, there is our basic or common intuition that suggests women did have a profound impact on the boys of the Beat Generation.
The result of this particular cosmic baseball game affirms the truth of the notion that women played a significant and important part in their interaction with and influence on the men of the Beat Generation. In keeping with this season's theme of re-emergent matrifocality, the Vestal Virgins, the Cosmic Baseball Association's team of interesting women outplayed the Dharma Beats, the CBA's team of Beat Generation personalities, primarily because of the strong arm of Virgin pitcher Sylvia Plath, the game's Most Cosmic Player (MCP).
NOTE: The Dharma Roses, a cosmic baseball team of women associated, in one way or another, with the Beat Generation was active in the Underleague during Seasons 1999-2000. Click for more info.
Selected Game Data
Homeruns John Clellon Holmes
Triples Charles Plymell
Doubles Lucien Carr, Lissa Roche
Stolen Bases None
Caught Stealing None
Double Plays Beats-1; Virgins-2
Errors Beats-1 (Lucien Carr- dropped ball)
Left-on-Base Beats-3; Virgins-6