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March 30, 1928|
Bronx, New York City
February 26, 1993 (aged 64)|
Bronx, New York City
Carl Solomon (March 30, 1928 – February 26, 1993) was an American writer. One of Solomon's best-known pieces of writing is Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient.
Solomon was born in the Bronx of New York City. His father's death in 1939 had a profoundly negative effect on his early life. Solomon later said of the time, "I drifted into indiscipline and intellectual adventure that eventually became complete confusion." Graduating from high school at fifteen, Solomon then went to The City College of New York (CCNY) for a short time before joining the United States Maritime Service in 1944. In his travels overseas, Solomon became exposed to Surrealism and Dada, ideas that would inspire him throughout his life. In Paris, he witnessed Antonin Artaud give a screaming poetry reading—this so impressed him that he would remain a disciple of Artaud for much of his life. It was shortly after this period that Carl Solomon was voluntarily institutionalized, a gesture he made as a Dadaist symbol of defeat.
It was in the waiting room of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey that he met Allen Ginsberg, who was there after being admitted in 1949, after Ginsberg was arrested for having stolen goods in his apartment and the vehicle he was in. It was through Ginsberg that Solomon would gain his fame. Ginsberg later dedicated his poem Howl to Solomon. It uses the phrase "I'm with you in Rockland" as a refrain to each line in the third section, "Rockland" being an alternate name for that hospital. The first section of the poem immortalizes a few of Solomon's personal exploits, such as the line, "...who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy."
It was at Ginsberg's insistence that William S. Burroughs' first novel, Junkie, was published by Ace Books. Solomon's uncle, A. A. Wyn, was the owner of Ace Books, a purveyor of pulp fiction and non-fiction paperbacks. Solomon worked for Ace and was responsible for the Publisher's Note from the first printing of Junkie, as well as the Introduction to the 1964 reprinting.
One of Solomon's best-known pieces of writing is Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient. It is an account of the shock-therapy treatment used to treat patients in asylums, drawn directly from personal experience. It was written with Antonin Artaud somewhat in mind, because he had received the same treatment himself, when he was unjustly institutionalized by the French government. This piece was included in the 50th-anniversary Howl facsimile, as part of an appendix.
In the late 1960s, Solomon published two chapbooks of prose poems with Mary Beach's Beach Books, Texts & Documents, distributed by City Lights Books: Mishaps, Perhaps (1966) and More Mishaps (1968). Emergency Messages (published in 1989), features selections from the two books, along with some of Solomon's other autobiographical, critical and poetic writings. During his life, Solomon was also a frequent contributor to New Directions Annual, American Book Review, and The New Leader.
- Ginsberg, Allen. "Notes Written on Finally Recording 'Howl.'" Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995. Ed. Bill Morgan. New York: Harper Collins, 2000.
- 'Junky' Restored by Allen Ginsberg.
- Collins, Ronald & Skover, David, Mania: The Story of the Outraged & Outrageous Lives that Launched a Cultural Revolution (Top-Five Books, March 2013).