Oracular Burn: Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle on George Whitman

by on Feb.10, 2012

Oracular Burn

You’ve heard that George Whitman died this past December in Paris. He’s buried at Pere Lachaise, on the lawns among our literary lions, somewhere between Apollinaire and Unica Zurn. He was 98. I knew him for a decade. Never reaching Paris late and catching the last Metro to its brass dead center marker Kilometer Zero, set outside his bookstore, a crow’s flight across the wash from Notre Dame, sneaking through locked doors with a secret hinge to push books off one scarred wooden display table then sleep on that like royalty—argues a wasted life. We were always welcome. On his steps, George had “Live for Humanity” carved in stone.

Now, you will find innumerable memorials to George, especially recounting his wild young years with Ferlinghetti or Corso. But that was child’s play. For his wild years never ended. Which means a lot around here. At 93 he was still going at it hard when he invited me up to watch him “trim” his hair. Defining nonchalant, George torched his long white mane with a lit twist of newspaper, smiling cryptically, patting out the char with both hands bare.


Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, George Whitman (RIP Dec. 13, 2011), Shakespeare & Co., Paris, France. Photo credit: Alexander Nouvel, 2005

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