You might know him better as Elmo Hassel from ‘On the road’ - or as junkey in ‘The town and the city’ - maybe as Huck in ‘Visions of Cody’ and ‘Book of dreams’ (all written by Jack Kerouac) - or as Herman in ‘Junkie’ (William Burroughs) - or perhaps as Ancke in ‘Go’ (John Clellon Holmes), but Herbert Huncke, born in 1915, was a writer in his own right.
On his cd From dream to dream mr. Huncke reads selections from his book Adventures and strange experiences as well as pieces from two of his previous works, The evening sun turned crimson and Guilty of everything.
Mr. Huncke’s work is autobiographical in nature and while the famous friends are there, Burroughs, Ginsberg, et al, it is the unknown, uncelebrated characters such as Elsie the hermaphrodite & Alvarez the sick junkie that are the reason d’etre of his stories. It is mr. Huncke’s interest in these marginal members of society and his sympathetic treatment of them that make his writing ‘beat’.
He has been a junkie and a dealer, a Times Square hustler and a merchant mariner, has done time in Riker’s Island and Sing Sing prisons, and has no reluctance in talking about these experiences in his work.
In the late ‘20’s and early ‘30’s, mr. Huncke was a teenage runaway. He hopped freight trains and hitchhiked across America dozens of times. Always on the move in search of new experiences, it is not unlike the lifestyle he had his entire life until his death in 1996.
‘I have always thought of myself as a good talker...’ says the narrator in his story ‘The savior’. Mr. Huncke was an old man-who-loves-to-talk; he considered himself a storyteller rather then a writer.
These days global networks of communication and information continue to make the world smaller - but the spaces between people are just as large. That is why mr. Huncke’s contribution is so valuable, both historically and socially: he fills in the gaps.