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When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  271 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
First student of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Sam Kashner tells with humor and grace his life with the Beats. But the best story is Kashner himself -- the coming-of-age of a young man in the chaotic world of the very idols he hoped to emulate.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended
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ebook, 368 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 474)
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Lee
Aug 24, 2008 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

When I was Cool by Sam Kashner is a well-written and entertaining book about the often abusive and disappointing experiences of a young man whose higher education is in the hands of the men he most admires, the poets of the Beat Generation.

The author exposes the discrepancies between his hero worship of these men and their actual lives as viewed from inside the institution they created: The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Though often compassionate in his expose of these men, he is
...more
Brian
Sep 04, 2008 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1975, the 19-year-old author, with the support of his kind and loving Jewish family, left the suburbs of Long Island and moved to Boulder, CO to become the first--and for several months, only--student at the inaugurated Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute, a Buddhist institute of higher learning founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The first task for Kashner by his teacher Allen Ginsberg was to complete a poem Ginsberg had written about fellating Neal Cassady in ...more
Lee

When I was Cool by Sam Kashner is a well-written and entertaining book about the often abusive and disappointing experiences of a young man whose higher education is in the hands of the men he most admires, the poets of the Beat Generation.

The author exposes the discrepancies between his hero worship of these men and their actual lives as viewed from inside the institution they created: The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Though often compassionate in his expose of these men, he is no
...more
Khris Sellin
This is a book for those who give a sh*t about the Beats. I don't. (Hated, hated, hated "On the Road" and couldn't get through 2 pages of Naked Lunch.)
Anyway, some of the old Beats decide to start the so-called Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and the author was their first-ever student.
Many of the reviews talk about how uproariously funny this book is. Yeah, if you find it funny reading about William S. Burroughs' son, Billy Jr., drinking himself to death and his self-absorbed father
...more
Nate Jordon
Feb 07, 2008 Nate Jordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I have to howl about this book is obviously biased, in more ways than one: 1) I'm currently in the MFA program at The Jack Kerouac School and 2) I'm what you'd call a "disciple" of The Beats. Many of the people Kashner writes about I see on a regular basis. I even told Anne Waldman I loved her after a little too much wine at a spaghetti dinner at her house last year (see upcoming poem "Drunk at Anne Waldman's House" appearing soon in Pistol Whip Magazine). She gave me a hug and we spun arou ...more
Katie
Jan 08, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know something's good when, upon finishing, you immediately go to your Norton Anthology of Poetry from college and look up referred texts, and then on to YouTube for interviews with the main subjects.

I don't have any knowledge of the Beats, next to nothing except names and titles. And most of those didn't match, to be honest. I could throw out the names of Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg; I knew "Naked Lunch" had something to do with it - but did either of those two write it? Not sure.

What
...more
Cheryl
Jul 25, 2007 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
WHEN I WAS COOL: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School.
A Memoir by Sam Kashner. HarperCollins 0060005661 336pps $25.95

A memoir of a then skinny, naive teenage boy, from a liberal, fairly well-off Jewish family, who goes from thinking Walt Whitman had something to do with food - Maybe the Whitman Sampler box of chocolates. to being the author of 3 nonfiction books and a novel. Kashner convinces his parent to allow him to enroll in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodies Poetics, (of which he was the
...more
Richard
There are a lot of things to like about Sam Kashner's coming-of-age memoir, "When I Was Cool." First: Mr. Kashner wasn't cool and probably knows it. Second: he doesn't go through detox or recovery. Halleluia! A memoir without a recovery center or AA meeting. Third: his affection for these old lions, of whom only Peter Orlovsky is still with us. Fourth: the look at their everyday lives, from hemorrhoids to the keystone cops comedy of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Fifth: Mr. Kash ...more
Brooke Stoker
I love love LOVED this book. Picked it up from my library book sale for 10 cents. I took a class on the Beats in college and this was a wonderful outsider/insider's perspective. Made me laugh multiple times and its margins are thoroughly scribbled on. Yes.
Peggy
Nov 04, 2010 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a fun look back at some crazy times and wild people. The author applied to and was accepted at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (a part of Naropa University in Colorado). When he arrived at the school, he discovered he was the first and only student. More students would arrive a year later. Kashner spent two years at the school marveling and sometimes wondering at the antics of his mentors: Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Anne Waldman and a host of other ...more
Shane
May 11, 2015 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If your a fan of Burroughs, Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. then, you have to read this.
Either way Sam Kashners stay as their only pupil proves to be an often hilarious account of the Beats in their later years.
Laura
Aug 14, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I LOVED loved LOVED this book.

Sam was a nice Jewish boy from Long Island thrust into the world of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs -- after their major heyday. He was the only student of the unaccredited "School Of Disembodied Poets" at Naropa University in Boulder, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche - himself a fascinating character.

Sam is like a deer in the headlights around some of these men who he revered - and he sees their clay feet - lovingly.

I laughed out loud at some p
...more
Kelly
a young idealistic student and Beat-worshipper goes to Boulder to become the first student at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodies Poetics. what he finds instead is a chaotics world of learning from his idls while babysitting Burroughs' son, keeping Corso from doing drugs, and typing up manuscripts for Ginsburg. told in a very intimate and easy-going narrative, this is a book for those of us who have idolized these writers, lived in Boulder, or just like a rollicking-good Coming-of-Age story. ...more
Leslie
Aug 28, 2011 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
A good footnote for anyone interested in the Beats. Allen Ginsberg and a few others started the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the author, Sam, was their first, and for a while, their only student. He got to know his heroes as human beings and became close to Allen and a few others. None of them seemed very happy, especially William Burroughs and his son, Billy. He graduated two years later and went on with his life, but Sam's experiences are scary, amusing, sad, and interesting.
Kimberly Ann
I enjoyed this book for the most part. Kashner writes from an interesting perspective about the Beats-- as a fan, friend and student. His writing makes its characters come alive in their older years. My main problem with this book is an editing problem. Kashner will give a provocative fact, metaphor or image, and then repeat the same fact, metaphor or image shortly after stating it. This annoyed me to no end. Other than that, it was a good, quick read.
Kerstin
This is a well-written and really interesting story, but it definitely does not paint a flattering picture. I bought it because he talks about Billy Burroughs a lot (close to the end of Billy's life, after the transplant, when he was living in Colorado)...he was even apparently in charge of "keeping Billy out of trouble" for a time. Uh oh. But certainly worthwhile.
Maddsurgeon
Sam Kashner went to the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where he learned poetry (among other things) from giants such as Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso. Kashner is an excellent storyteller and the book is part history lesson, part coming-of-age story. Recommended to anyone who ever dreamed about meeting their idol in the flesh.
Elizabeth
Sep 16, 2009 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
I was never into the Beats; I just happened to pick this book up at random from the library. So, with no sense of hero worship to guide me, I read a story of some sad middle-aged men, alternatively shambling and raging through life. I suppose I chose three stars because I can't really decide what I thought of this book.
Amelia
Aug 21, 2008 Amelia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amelia by: Betsy Beasley
Shelves: memoir-biography
I was in a real Beat Poet phase as I was reading this, and this memoir definitely made me want to enroll in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. I was actually kind of disappointed when it ended, because I wanted to read more anecdotes about Kashner's experiences with Ginsberg, Burroughs, and all the rest.
Amy Eighttrack
Dec 22, 2012 Amy Eighttrack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Beat writers
I loved this book! Being a lover of all things Beat, that's a natural for me.

Sam Kashner is a great writer, though, with a good ear for detail and storytelling. He lovingly fills in a more rounded, human side to some legendary figures of culture and literature. A sublime and poignant memoir.
Kelly Doherty
Jul 01, 2011 Kelly Doherty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I took a class from Sam in college about the Beats. Oddly, he never really spilled the beans he spills here in his book. A fun read. Parsing together the things he told us in class with his personal recollections.
Alisa
Mar 02, 2008 Alisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
If you are a Beat-Geek, you will of course find every detail fascinating. If you are mildly interested in the Beats, you will find this book interesting enough to finish, and you will feel a little more informed.
GK Stritch
Nov 19, 2013 GK Stritch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Telling the truth is a pretty hard thing," said Thomas Wolfe, and I say that's exactly what Sam Kashner does with this excellent memoir, absolutely loved it . . . and he does so without going for the jugular.
Melinda
Aug 10, 2013 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Big hearted and hilarious, this "nice Jewish boy"'s coming of age amongst the aging wild men of the Beat poetry movement is easily imagined as an uplifting seriocomic indie film. "Penguin dust!"
Monica Cecilio
Jan 27, 2016 Monica Cecilio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Talk about "killing the Buddha". I loved this book. Sweet, funny and sad at times, it's an homage to the author's mentors and unexpected heros.
Glenn
Jan 21, 2008 Glenn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sam thinks he was more important than he was. I was there and Sam has forgotten how much the Beats gave all of us. It was never about him.
Marsmannix
Nov 13, 2012 Marsmannix rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
great background info on the Beats. if you want to learn more about the Beats, read this, then springboard off of it.
Mitch Smith
Jul 29, 2013 Mitch Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read for those seeking an understanding and experience of the beats as they aged out of their own generation.
Linda
Jul 11, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very amusing. Too bad the Jack Kerouac School / Naropa U. turned down Kurt Cobain's application to be a student there.
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