Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac?

The title of this post is the question I try to ask myself every time I post here on The Daily Beat, given that I have frequently proclaimed it as "the most Kerouac-obsessed blog on the planet." Sometimes I publish a post and it is not explicitly obvious that the post relates to Jack Kerouac, in which case I try to remember to make that connection explicit.

I hope when I do the latter that I am not being insulting to Kerouac aficionados. I have to keep in mind that some folks stumble on my blog posts who don't know a thing about Kerouac, and therefore would likely not know the connection to Jack. Since that connection is the sine qua non of this blog, I feel compelled to spell it out when it's not explicit.

For example, I might post about Allen Ginsberg. True Kerouac fans know the Kerouac connection there, but even quasi-fans might not, let alone non-fans. Therefore, I may point out what is obvious to many (i.e., for example, that Ginsberg was one of the Beat Generation core members, friend of Kerouac, etc.).

I hope all of the above made sense. And I hope that my use of that is, for example, and et cetera in one parenthetical did not overly violate writing decorum.

My mission here is to keep the spirit of Jack Kerouac alive. To that end, every post I publish needs to have some connection to him, even if it's tangential at best.

Like I always say, "everything connects to Kerouac." If you doubt it, comment with some obscure topic and I'll do my best to connect it to Kerouac in a reply.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1963

Allen Ginsberg

On this date in 1963 -- December 11 (my birthday!) -- Jack Kerouac wrote from Northport, NY, to his friend John Clellon Holmes. With this letter, Kerouac sent a blurb for Holmes' book, Get Home Free, saying he liked it and that some parts of it were "great." Then Jack complains about Allen Ginsberg and the "bohemian beatniks" that hang around him:
Meanwhile, Allen G. is already here, I had no time to send him to you, as a matter of fact I dont even particularly wanta see him with his pro-Castro bullshit and his long white robe Messiah shot--I mean, actually too much mixup, I wanta stay home and think and read and write--Enough talk I've had these last 6 years around NY--He and all those bohemian beatniks round him have nothing NEW to tell me--I am Thomas Hardy now and that's that, back to my moor and my house (Ker) i' the moor (ouac)--Period. (p. 427)

(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)

I don't have a lot to say about that excerpt, except to point out Jack's oft-expressed desire to be left alone to focus on reading and writing (and thinking). And, of course, his frequently stated disdain for aspects of the very countercultural movement he helped create.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update #2

Now that we have a whopping 13 responses, here is the breakdown from my survey asking respondents to pick their favorite Kerouac book from a list:

On the Road               38.5%
Visions of Cody          23.1%
The Dharma Bums     15.4%
Dr. Sax                         7.7%
Desolation Angels       7.7%
The Subterraneans      7.7%

There's a lot wrong with this survey. Too many choices for one item. Not a big enough response. No restriction on voting multiple times. No way to tell if a respondent had actually read all the choices and thus made an educated choice (versus, for example, picking the one book they had read).

Consequently, one cannot put any stock in the results, despite them looking pretty much as expected. But the point was fun (see original post), after all, and not science.

If a few more votes drift in, I'll provide another update.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1964

James Joyce

On this date -- December 8 -- in 1964, Jack Kerouac wrote a letter to his friend, John Clellon Holmes. Jack was living in St. Petersburg at the time. He addressed Holmes in the greeting as "Dear John Boyo."

We can glean several important points from the letter.

1. Jack had been reading about James Joyce and was feeling motivated to return to his writing.
I've just finished reading the life of James Joyce and feel it's worthwhile after all to study and struggle through life and suffer and shit and sweat, while people laugh at you, rich or poor, famous or not-famous, and come to the margin of the sea at the end of life and say: "I've got my life work done, annaliviaplurabelle is the belle of all belles forever." Yowsah, John, it made me feel like getting back to my work.... 
But now, in the peace of this, my new Florida study, I'm starting to churn for new work, to add to that long shelf Duluoz Legend, fill in the gap thar between Maggie Cassidy and On the Road and don't think for one minute that I feel inferior to James Joyce because my lifework arrangement is in installments that are eventually going to number in the twenties and that are cast as "narratives in time" rather than as universal and linguistic mellings in 2 long "poems" like ULYSSES and FINNEGANS WAKE. No sir, I got my lil old bangtail way, to arrive at the same sea margin satisfied. (p. 439)
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)

In case you didn't know (I didn't), Anna Livia Plurabelle is a character in Finnegans Wake. I've never successfully made my way through an entire Joyce work, and never even gave FW a spin. "Sea margin" is a nautical technical term about engine power needed to reach a certain speed given the wind, wave, and other factors. Jack may have been using that term as a metaphor for getting things right and reaching your ultimate destination successfully.

2. Kerouac's book, Desolation Angels, was making progress toward publication.
As you know, I guess, "Desolation Angels" is going into galleys now at Coward-McCann's. Twice as long as when you [illeg.] read it (another novel added on to it, the sequel.) I think I told you all this. (p. 439)
We could say a lot here about DA, but I will save that for another post.

3. Jack spent some time in jail.
I've been drunk, John, drunk on Scotch and beer chasers. Enough, now I'm through with that and going back to my private philologies. I went to jail on Thanksgiving night for putting a bun on in honor of the pilgrims. The cops saw me piss in the street. First time in jail. Okay, so I ain't spending no more money on the businesses of St. Petersburg but staying home to work on my private philologies. (p. 440)

I think it's worth noting that here, as in other letters, Jack acknowledges that he has a drinking problem and wants to remedy it.  It's too bad he wasn't able to do it -- the Kerouac canon might be much larger than it already is. By the way, philology is the study of literary texts (I had to look that one up).

4. Jack wanted his address kept secret (this was a postscript).
Keep my address secret--I'm too happy to be back with my books! J.

There are three reasons I can think of for Jack desiring such privacy. One is that he was sorely tired of the hassles caused by fans and the media seeking him out. Two is that he needed privacy in order to read and write (see #1 above). Three is that he liked to keep his whereabouts unknown from ex-wife Joan Haverty, in case she wanted to modify Jack's child support payments for their daughter, Jan (born in 1952). Reasons one and two I can understand, but number three is not okay in my book. You make a child, you support that child. Period.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Kerouac favorite book survey results update

Yesterday we launched a survey via Google forms asking respondents to pick their favorite Jack Kerouac book from a list. While we have limited numbers of respondents so far, there is currently a neck-and-neck tie between On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Visions of Cody (33% each).

If you still haven't taken the survey, click here.

Yes, I voted and you likely know how.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

My Favorite Kerouac Book: A Quick Survey

Just for fun, I created a one-question survey in Google Forms asking respondents (that's you) to pick their favorite Kerouac book from a list.

I hope you'll respond. I will share the results here at The Daily Beat. I think you are able to take the survey multiple times, but please don't do that.

Here is the link: My Favorite Kerouac Book: A Quick Survey.

All you need to do is click on the link, pick a book, and submit your answer. I'll do the rest.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Jack Kerouac on this date in 1968

1968 Mercury Colony Park Wagon

On this date -- December 5 -- in 1968, Jack Kerouac wrote to Tony Sampas, brother of Jack's wife, Stella. That same date he wrote Tony another letter dictated by Stella. These are the last two surviving letters from Kerouac in 1968.

In Jack's letter to Tony, he wrote a description of their move from Lowell to St. Petersburg in a "Lincoln Mercury stationwagon" driven by Red Doherty and Joe Chaput with Jack's mom (Mémère) on a mattress in the back with Stella on pillows and two cats ("with pre-tranquilized catfood"). Their furniture followed in another truck driven by Jim Dumphy.
I stayed awake all the way, drinking and yelling and playing harmonica and watching that old road, as usual, and I insisted on riding shotgun near the window because I told old Joe he was skinnier than I am, and Red was skinny--We piled right in--I was amazed when I thought of it a week later--Of course it cost money but we got here safe and fast like a long, soft river . . . . (p. 526)
(Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 edited by Ann Charters, Penguin Books, 1999)

Can't you just picture it? Jack says they went 90 most of the way and made it in less than 24 hours. They got stopped for speeding in South Carolina but the cop took pity on them when he saw Mémère and Stella and the cats in the back.

Once they got to St. Petersburg, Jack put Red and Joe up in a motel for a couple of nights while they waited for Dumphy, who had lost his way. They
went out and played pool and drank by the Gulf of Mexico waves at the Red Barn club, Red Doherty played partners all night with a cute young women detective (!) but me and Joe won most of the games . . . . (p. 526)

There's still a Red Barn Tavern in St. Petersburg at 5300 Haines Road North, but I doubt if it is the same place -- it's 5 miles from 5169 Tenth Avenue North where Jack and Stella and Mémère had mid-November 1968, but it's not "by the Gulf of Mexico waves."

Speaking of young women detectives, I am reading the first of Michael Connelly's Detective Renee Ballard series, The Late Show. It's not Kerouac, but it's pretty good.

What were you doing on December 5, 1968? I was about to become a teenager and had no idea Jack Kerouac existed, although at some point I may have seen his name in the Playboys we hid from our parents. We didn't read the articles . . . .