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January 26, 2009
Distinctly different from their later works, Burroughs and Kerouac's collaborative 1945 novel (unpublished until 2008) reimagines their experience when one of their friends killed his lover. The narrative switches back and forth between authors as each write interweaving chapters through the eyes of the characters Mike Ryko (Kerouac) and Will Dennison (Burroughs), cataloguing the descent in Al and Philip's relationship. Ray Porter's impressive reading captures such distinct performances for the alternating chapters that one has trouble believing the Dennison and Ryko chapters are read by the same person. His tone and attitude evoke a sense of grittiness inherent in the text. His strong delivery of the straight narrative along with convincing and consistent vocal characterizations keep the performance lively and engaging. Given how the edgy and almost pulp fiction writing is so different from the two authors' typical works, listeners may be more impressed with Porter's performance than the actual text. A Grove/Atlantic hardcover (reviewed online).
- John Walsh, The Independent "The appearance in print of And the Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac is a literary event, not only because it drew two of the three leading Beat writers into confederacy, but because the book told a story – of male friendship, gay obsession, and murder – that came to fascinate a score of American authors... It's a fascinating snapshot from a lost era. If you're looking for the link between Hemingway's impotent post-war drifters in The Sun Also Rises, the barflies and Tralalas of Last Exit to Brooklyn and the zonked-out kids of Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, look no further."
- Kirkus Reviews In alternating chapters, Burroughs and Kerouac serve up a noir vision of Manhattan... Of the two, Kerouac, then in his early 20s, is the more developed writer, though Burroughs, an absolute beginner, already shows some of the interests and obsessions that will turn up in Naked Lunch and elsewhere, to say nothing of an obviously field-tested understanding of how syringes work... For his part, Kerouac recounts wartime experiences in the Merchant Marine, along with notes on the bar scene that would do Bukowski proud."
- Andrew Martin, Open Letters Monthly [Hippos] significantly predates Kerouac's major novels and illuminates his dynamic and productive literary friendship with William S. Burroughs. ... it is very charming. ... The conceit of switching back and forth between narrators every chapter also keeps things speeding along--it creates the illusion that one is listening to a radio broadcast from one station, only to have the frequency changed every few minutes, with the narrative sometimes overlapping and the two voices bleeding into another."
- Timothy Hodler, Details Illuminates the links between Sam Spade and Sal Paradise, noir nihilism and Beat exuberance."
- Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News If you care about either of these beat masters ... I don't see how you can fail to enjoy [And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks]. Slight as it may seem at first glance, it's an invaluable document of literary history, glimmering with nascent genius."
- Richard Labone, Between the Lines Naughtily sexual and emotionally grimy, written is a prose style that is deadpan-dry and larded with hardboiled atmosphere. This oddly titled novel is an engaging literary and historical curio."
- Jackie Crosby, Minneapolis Star-Tribune Spellbinding. ...with spot-on dialogue and descriptions of seedy bars and jam-packed apartments, the authors serve up a fascinating look at a time of late night parties, casual sex and a devil-may-care approach to life."
- Marcus Niski, The Sydney Morning Herald An eccentric, engaging, and readable novel... What makes the novel particularly fascinating, however, is its ability to provide a window into the early autobiographical styles of both Burroughs and Kerouac as emerging, unpublished writers."
- Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times (London) As an insight into the formative years of the Beats, it's fascinating."
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