Huncke, Herbert

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Huncke is credited with introducing the term "beat". He met Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs in the 1940s and introduced them to the "seamier" side of life. Huncke appears as a character in Kerouac's On the road, Burrough's Junkie, and John Holme's Go.

From the description of Herbert Huncke papers: [ca.1989-1992] (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 36572397

Author and friend of Allen Ginsberg.

Huncke was born 9 January 1915.

From the description of Herbert Huncke papers, 1946-1971. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 496102561

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Herbert Huncke was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1915, but moved as a young boy to Detroit and then Chicago where his father owned H.S. Huncke, a company that distributed machine parts.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Though Huncke grew up in a comfortable middle class household (a history he recounts in some of his pieces of writing, most notably "Love" and "Song of the Self"), his family life was not particularly smooth and he often ran away from home. When he was 17 he went to New York for the first time and, after a few years drifting around the country working odd jobs, he relocated to the city more-or-less permanently in 1939.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Over the next several years, Huncke, a junkie, drug-dealer, hustler, and small time thief, became deeply involved in the street scene that had emerged around Times Square. Though he left New York for a time during World War II to serve as a merchant marine, his return to the city meant a return to drugs and the demimonde of 42nd Street. It was as a bisexual Times Square hustler that Huncke drew Alfred Kinsey's interest and in his capacity as petty thief and mover of stolen goods that Huncke first became affiliated with the William S. Burroughs. In 1945 Burroughs approached Huncke's roommate about selling a shotgun and a cache of morphine syrettes. Though initially Huncke was deeply suspicious of the clean-cut Burroughs, the two became close friends and Huncke was adopted into Burroughs's group of young friends, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Huncke, with his history of prostitution, drug-use, and other criminal activity became a sort of talisman of authenticity for the young writers. They adopted his hipster street lingo--Huncke reputedly coined the term "beat," and his drug-fueled lifestyle and used him as an urban hipster muse (Huncke appears as a character in many of Kerouac's works, as well as Burroughs's Junky, and is mentioned in Ginsberg's "Howl.").

BIOGHIST REQUIRED In the 1940s Huncke began to write more seriously himself, composing many of the stories and journal entries that he would later publish. In 1947 he briefly moved to the Texas farm where Burroughs and his wife Jean Vollmer were growing marijuana. He returned to New York where, in 1949, he was arrested for theft and did a stint in Sing Sing. He was released in 1954, but ran afoul of the law again the next year and landed back in prison, where he remained until 1959.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Upon his return to New York he reconnected with his beat friends, living for a time in the same building as Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky (with whom Huncke had a brief affair). He moved around New York's Lower East Side for most of the rest of his life. He met Louis Cartwright in the 1970s and Cartwright became Huncke's lover and primary caretaker for most of the remainder of Huncke's life. Huncke enrolled in a methadone program in an attempt to kick his heroin habit, but the program was never fully successful.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Though he began his writing in the 1940s, he found it very difficult to write in prison, so did very little writing during the 1950s. He gained some popularity giving live reading in New York City, but was not published until 1965 when Diane DiPrima's Poets Press published excerpts from his journal. His story "Alvarez" was published in Playboy in 1968 and he had small editions of his work released through small presses with Elsie John and Joey Martinez released in 1979 and The Evening Sun Turned Crimson in 1980. His autobiography Guilty of Everything: The Autobiography of Herbert Huncke was released in 1990 and a posthumous collection of his work, The Herbert Huncke Reader was published in 1997.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Herbert Huncke died in 1996 at the age of 81.

From the guide to the Herbert E. Huncke Papers, 1946-1973., (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Herbert E. Huncke Papers, 1946-1973. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997. Allen Ginsberg papers, 1937-1994. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Huncke, Herbert, 1915-. Herbert Huncke papers: [ca.1989-1992] UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Allen Ginsberg papers, 1937-1994 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Ann Charters Papers., 1966-1982. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Huncke, Herbert. Herbert Huncke papers, 1946-1971. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Rosenthal, Irving, 1930-. Irving Rosenthal papers, ca. 1950-1996. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-2010. Papers, 1954-1971. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Hanuman books. Hanuman books records, 1978-1996, (bulk 1986-1994). University of Michigan
referencedIn Allen Ginsberg papers, 1937-1994 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
creatorOf Huncke, Herbert. Letters : to Eila M. Kokkinen, 1971-1987. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997. Film and video archive, 1938-2001. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Kerouac, Edie Parker, 1923-1992. Edie Parker and Henri Cru papers, 1883-2004. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Peter Orlovsky Papers, 1954-1971. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Irving Rosenthal papers, ca. 1950-1996 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Charters, Ann. person
associatedWith Dahlberg, Rlene. person
associatedWith Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997. person
associatedWith Hanuman books. corporateBody
associatedWith Kerouac, Edie Parker, 1923-1992. person
associatedWith Kokkinen, Eila M. person
associatedWith Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-2010. person
associatedWith Rosenthal, Irving, 1930- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Nepal
Nepal
Subject
Beat generation--Biography
Beat generation
Drug abuse
Authors, American--20th century--Biography
Poets, American--20th century
Prisoners
American literature--20th century
Drugs
Narcotics
Occupation
Authors
Function

Person

Birth 1915-01-09

Death 1996-08-08

Americans

English

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