Fantasy Fiction posted April 22, 2012 Chapters: 3 4 -5- 6 

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Lost in a Book becomes a hipster

A chapter in the book Lost in a Book

The Happening

by Deejharrington

In 1920, the bookstore, "Lost in a Book" is opened. The years and the changes are described by the store, herself.
Welcome back! It's been a busy day for us. There has been a steady stream of ladies asking for a new book," Twenty Hues of Grey" or something like that. They appeared embarrassed. I don't know what the book is about, but maybe I should take a peek.

Where was I? Oh, yes, Ms Marge had just taken over. I mean that literally. To describe her as a whirlwind would be an understatement. Just after she received the keys, my face-lift began. First, my exterior was completely changed. New windows, a fancy sign (thank goodness, she didn't change my name), and an aluminum awning was added. I must admit I enjoyed not having the sun fading my complexion. The remodeling inside was quite a shock. Gone were the wooden shelves, replaced by plastic cubes stacked up to my ceiling.

The biggest change was when Ms Marge had the workmen tear down the old stock room/office. I was bewildered. What was she going to do with the new space? But, soon the room began to take shape. She had them build a small stage at the back and placed small round tables and chairs all around. Each one had a wine bottle with a candle inserted in the neck. A coffee bar was put into place. My walls were painted black, which wouldn't have been my first choice. But, it turned out to be appropriate for what Ms Marge had planned.

After all was completed, a large sign was placed in my window and flyers were given to each customer. A poetry reading was to take place the following Saturday evening. If I remember correctly, it was called a "happening." I was ecstatic! We would be providing a venue for new poets. My walls tingled with anticipation.

When the night arrived, I was a little apprehensive. The youngsters began to arrive around ten o'clock, past our usual closing time. I was to discover that was just the beginning of unusual occurrences. It was a few couples at first, but soon my new room was brimming. Every single one of them dressed head to toe in black. All the girls seemed to have long straight hair and dark eye make-up. The boys wore little beanie caps and with hair on their faces. I was to learn, they were called goatees. Some came with guitars or bongo drums. I watched, fascinated to hear the first recitation.

Ms Marge came on to the stage. I hardly recognized her. She had dyed her hair jet black and wore a shape-less black dress with, you guessed it, black hose. Her introduction went something like this; "Hey, all you Jacks and Jills. It's a real gas to see all you hip cats at the first "Lost in a Book" poetry happening." The crowd began snapping their fingers and saying things like, "Man, this is goin' be a blast.", "I can dig it, that's crazy", and "No squares in sight, nobody copping a bit here."

What language were they speaking? It would take me weeks before I could translate what was being said." Jack and Jills": ladies and gentlemen, "a real gas": lots of fun, "copping a bit": pretending to be hip, "hip cats" was another way to say hipster, a person who was a fan of jazz music and the lifestyle. Marijuana was a part of said lifestyle. Our club would be covered in a blue haze from the smoke. I think even I was over-come with a "contact buzz."

After some research and listening, I learned that Jack Kerouac first coined the name "Beatnik." Some think it meant that these youngsters were beaten down. After all, we had just survived World War Two and witnessed the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But, Jack defined them as, "down and out, but who had intense conviction," "Characters" who were "staring out the dead wall window of our civilization." His book, "Aftermath: The Philosophy of the Beat Generation" was invaluable in helping me understand what was going on under my roof.

Now, let's go back to that first night. A few black-clad youngsters climbed on to the stage and read poems, free verse, from wrinkled papers they had pulled from their back pockets. I admit it was nothing like I'd ever called poetry. But, as the night went on, I began to understand that they were expressing their disgust at the materialism and greed that seemed to be taking over our world. This was a generation that did not possess the naive optimism of the past. This was a new view of the present and the future. They viewed poetry as a performance art rather than poetry-on-a-page.

After about an hour, a thin young man entered my club. He was tall, dressed in hand-me-down clothes, wearing black glasses. He looked like any other college student. A hush spread across the room as he took the stage. Quietly, he began to read from a notebook, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving/hysterical naked. Dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry/ fix,/ angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,"

I was mesmerized, fascinated, totally enthralled! Who was this unassuming young man? Where did these ideas, images, and words come from? I would become very familiar with this poet laueate of the Beat Generation. Of course, you recognize the lines as the beginning of "Howl and Other Poems" by Allen Ginsberg. In 1956, it was published by City Lights Bookstore. It was quickly banned for obscenity. But "Howl" won the fight and now is translated into more than twenty-two languages. Bah! What do those censors know? Illiterate imbeciles.

Allen would be a frequent visitor to our store. Always dressed in second-hand clothes, humble and unimpressed by his own fame, he never moved from his lower eastside apartment. He became a world traveler and wrote for many years. He donated most of his money to the non-profit organization, "The Committee on Poetry." They assisted struggling artists and writers. An individual to the last, in the prestigious "Who's Who", he always listed his lifetime partner, Peter Orlovsky, as his spouse.

A generation lost its voice in 1997.

But, to quote Michael Schumacher, "Somewhere in the world, a kid is picking up 'Howl and Other Poems' and beginning the next journey down the corridor of imagination from which a more patient and generous world just might evolve." I believe Allen would have approved.


Our narrator, the bookstore experiences the Beat Generation
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