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And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  9,987 ratings  ·  681 reviews
More than sixty years ago, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac sat down in New York City to write a novel about the summer of 1944, when one of their friends killed another in a moment of brutal and tragic bloodshed. The two authors were then at the dawn of their careers, having yet to write anything of note. Alternating chapters and narrators, Burroughs and Kerouac ...more
Paperback, 214 pages
Published 2008 by Grove Press (first published 1945)
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Caddy Rowland
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know where to start with this review. This book meant so much to me. Yet, I know for many people it wouldn't be a good read. It's the only novel Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs ever wrote together, and it sat under floorboards for decades before finally getting published only a few years ago, now that all of the people it's about have died. Lucien Carr was the last, passing away in 2005. He had asked the person who published this not to do it while he was alive.

This book, while not
Oct 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Beat-lunatic's dream book. William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac's first book - and not only that but the only book that they wrote together. Written in 1945, the story is based on their friend Lucian Carr who murdered another friend of everyone's at that time.

Burroughs would write one chapter and Kerouac would write the other. If one just read the chapters or book you would notice the style of the writing right away. In other words it is very Burroughs and very Kerouac. Even as young
Paquita Maria Sanchez
The best part about this early beat novel is contrasting the temperaments of the two narrators: Kerouac comes off as a naive little boy catching fireflies, while Burroughs is a grumpy old junkie codger squashing the fireflies and grumbling to himself about how stupid they were for flying near him.
I assume any reader who has been through one or two books by either William Burroughs or Jack Kerouac (or both) has a more than occasional appetite for fiction that is beyond, or at least different from, conventional escapist entertainment.

So it’s slightly ironic to learn from the detailed afterword in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, written by Burroughs' bibliographer and literary executor James Grauerholz, that this mildly legendary yet long unpublished chapter-trading collaboration
Joseph Spuckler
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I "cheated" a bit with this book and used the audio edition. I started walking to work again and use the time to listen to a book. This version is read by Ray Porter. Porter changes his voice throughout the book reflecting the different authors. Kerouac and Burroughs alternate in telling the story of the death of Ramsey Allen.

Like many of Kerouac's real life writings, the characters are real but their names are changed. Kerouac is Mike Ryko and Burroughs goes by Will Dennison. Ryko and Dennison
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I began to get a feeling familiar to me from my bartending days of being the only sane man in a nuthouse. It doesn't make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.”

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is a fictionalized account of David Kammerer’s murder by Lucien Carr in 1943, cowritten by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. The crime shocked the public opinion, partly because Carr was a gifted Columbia student and partly due to his claim that
Paul E. Morph
As the first novel by both Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, in collaboration, this is a book of great literary significance, especially to anybody with an interest in the Beat Movement.

The two writers wrote a chapter each, alternately, and read their chapters aloud to each other before the other started work on the next one. Anybody familiar with either writer's work would easily be able to tell which chapters were written by which writer, even if they weren't told from the point of view
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Read this in a day! It's a quick read. Sure learned a lot about being a merchant marine. Also sad and interesting was seeing the corruption of the cops while Will was bar tending. Right after this I watched Kill Your Darlings. (Note: Ginsburg is nowhere in this book.)

I can't give an objective review of this book right now. I somehow got so immersed in this Beat culture all I can say is "This is great!" when maybe it's not.

Great glimpses of New York in the forties, especially having to dress
Robert Hobkirk
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kerouac and Burroughs wrote this novel together, writing alternate chapters, in 1945 when they were unknowns. They never were able to get it published, being unknown, and the publishers thinking it would have no sales appeal. Welcome to the book biz. It was finally published in 2008.

Both writers used simple sentences, Kerouac not going off on his poetic riffs. I couldn't tell who was writing unless I read the chapter heading. Like all of Kerouac's and Burroughs' writing, this story was based
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqai
Well, you can't say /nothing/ happens, I mean, they eat glass within the first 10 pages and there's, of course, murder.
DNF at 37%

This is so incredibly slow moving and dull, I just can't bring myself to read any more. I don't care about any of the characters, the writing is uninspiring and nothing has happened so far apart from a load of dudes getting drunk and talking about shipping out.
Dec 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was above all else an interesting bit of literary history. It was written in the mid 1940s, almost a full ten years before Kerouac and Burroughs became famous. It is written from the perspective of two characters, Dennison and Ryko, written by Burroughs and Kerouac respectively. It is fascinating to read their early work, and to see their styles play off one another. It is a fictionalized version of their experiences with the Kammerer murder by Lucien Carr, and they do it justice. In ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Two brilliant writers, one of them I still consider a favourite (10 years after picking up On the Road and losing my mind), write alternating chapters about a murder in New York around 1944, and you expect me to give it less than 3 stars? Well, I've thought about it a lot and I think it's only fair that it gets no more than that, despite Kerouac's marvelous storytelling (Burroughs was ever so clever as well.) The big story behind the book, which was based on real events, took a long time to come ...more
Nov 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Though definitely an invaluable literary artifact and of interest to Beat junkies, this is little more than that. Good literature? No, not even approaching the skill and depth of the authors' later works. Interesting, though, and a good story--how could it not be, based on facts? Just severely lacking on the technical side. There's a reason this wasn't published, there's a reason this wasn't the book that made either Kerouac or Burroughs famous, and honestly? It's better that way.

Still, a
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Geoff Dunk
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book I have completed so far this summer. I read the first 20 or so pages last night before bed and read the rest in the car today on the way to and from brunch with my mom’s side of the family.

It’s about 200 pages and it’s a fictionalized re-telling of the infamous “Columbia murder that gave birth to the Beats” and essentially inspired Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs to start to thoroughly document their times and travels. The murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr is a
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The introduction to this book mentions that "Hippos" existed for years in manuscript form, buried under floor boards. Could be apocryphal, as most "lost art" stories are. Dear estates of the late Messrs Kerouac and Burroughs: should've left this manuscript under the floorboards. Or maybe ran it past an editor?

My big problem with "Hippos" was that I couldn't feel sympathy for any of the characters. They had "no form or beauty that we should desire them." The protagonists spend the entirety of the
Neil McCrea
Oct 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beats
And the Hippos . . . is quite the hidden gem. A collaboration between Kerouac & Burroughs written in 1945 long before either of them achieved any literary success. The glimmers of future greatness are there, but perhaps more refreshingly the self-indulgences both writers are occasionally known for are absent. The Burroughs chapters have all of his trademark wry, black humor, and the Kerouac chapters lack some of his poetry but retain his pathos.

The afterward detailing the history of this
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, pulp-fiction
“And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks” is a fictionalized account of a notorious and then-famous murder among a small group of people of the Bohemian-cum-Beat Generation, spiritual heirs of the so-called Lost Generation of a few decades earlier. Later, many of them would become famous, the rest famous by association, but at the time they were nothing but a group of assorted nuts and fruits, idling away their days by drinking every sort of alcoholic drink known to man, writing mooncalf ...more
Rafael Angelo
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beat generation at its finest.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The strange case of Lucien Carr and David Kammerer. Murder, almost without consequence, unlike The Stranger, and Hippos makes for a pretty good companion piece - what with the matter-of-fact nearly emotionless aspects of the material, and how the social mores impact the punishment. Hippos was written (in 1945) about the same time as The Stranger, and before Camus' English translation. Hippos is a real case, though. And it's less about the murder and aftermath, and more about setting the scene, ...more
Talia Rosenthal
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And The Hippos was the first Kerouac novel I've read and through having no previous knowledge about the author or the Beats time period, I was mostly in awe of the scenes described in the book. Hippos was written about a murder in the mid 40's from the perspectives of two close friends of the victim and murderer. The change of writing styles between Burroughs and Kerouac from chapter to chapter made the novel engaging and all the more amusing. The stories told inclosed scandal and all kinds of ...more
Julie Rylie
I think one of the main reasons why I didn't reaaaally liked this book was because I read a portuguese version of it and the translation was not one the best let's say... I saw it was a version from 2013 but the language that was used was kind of vulgar, in the sense that besides general vulgarity it would or should have been translated by a person that lived in a different time and space in Portugal coz we don't speak like that since 1975 probably.

Translation problems aside, I was quite
Tünde Ecem
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
this book is a recounting of actual events: the case of lucien carr. that is the one thing that started the beat generation in 1944. this book is a fictionalized version of that event; it wasn’t published until after lucien carr died in 2005 because he didn’t want this to be a part of his life anymore - i can see why. there is also a movie adaptation named “kill your darlings”.

i liked this book. not because it was a literary masterpiece. i didn't consider it kerouac's or burroughs' best work
i surprise myself by giving this book five stars.

this being my first real foray into any beat prose stuff, it was totally unlike anything ive ever read. the sentences were so matter of fact and bland, but somehow they pulled me into the story, and illustrated the aesthetic of the whole thing vividly. makes me want 2 drink some beer in new york in the sun. maybe kill a man. u know.

& it was so explicit and direct but so so casual??? super interesting to read

anyway yeah! i can absolutely
Tristan Stewart
Although an enjoyable an entertaining read, felt incomplete by the end of the story. The book felt to short. Had potential to be greater than it actually was. Burroughs writing was simplistic and fact-oriented whereas Kerouac's writing was more dream-like and youthful, scattered even. Interesting to see the contrast. This as a whole was neither here nor there, unfortunately.

Interesting artifact of literary history. It's not that great a novel but it does have a certain ease and accessibility which makes it enjoyable. The Kerouac sections are the better written ones, by far.

It IS liberating to read mediocre prose by worthy writers, though, since you get to see what it's like to write work out of apprenticeship, as it were. Takes the intimidation factor way down
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“'And The Hippos’”, “Have you read ‘The Hippos’?”Reading is personal, like music, like socks, like learning..and so sometimes it’s hard to do...but it’s known when it comes into the wake, one should probably read And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks and make it a personal endeavor. I heard too much friendly “Hippo” talk and prattle about authors William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac to not read it. It’s a subtly, delicately gossiped about book-- a big (not fat), “big-deal” book.

It probably shouldn’t be a 5 star read, and it probably won’t be for many, but by the time I turned the last page (and read James Grauerholz’s afterword) I couldn’t help but hug it. The afterword lifted the book, somehow.

I knew the story from before, and the story itself isn’t super interesting (or clear, for that matter, but no one really knows all the facts do they?) and the writing is good, but not fantastic, and yet: IT WAS SO GOOD!!!

It’s short and easy to read and I just couldn’t put it
Carl Waluconis
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I "read" the audio book, narrated in effective fashion by Ray Porter, who does especially well on these sorts of hard-boiled (excuse the title pun) novels. This book is an early co-written novel, neither author being established at the time. The two handle alternate chapters with their views centering around the same incident, the homicide that first brought the original beat crowd into the news. Even so early in their careers, Kerouac and Burroughs have their distinctive writing voices intact, ...more
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William Seward Burroughs II, (also known by his pen name William Lee; February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th ...more
“I began to get a feeling (...) of being the only sane man in a nut house. It doesn't make you feel superior but depressed and scared, because there is nobody you can contact.” 62 likes
“All over America, people were pulling credentials out of their pockets and sticking them under someone else's nose to prove they had been somewhere or done something. And I thought someday everyone in America will suddenly jump up and say, 'I don't take any shit!' and start pushing and cursing and clawing at the man next to him.” 46 likes
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