Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Curation #68 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Baby Driver by Jan Kerouac



Item #68 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover (no dustjacket) 1981 St. Martin's Press first edition first printing of Jan Kerouac's Baby Driver. Yes, you read that right. Jan. Not Jack. More on that later. This copy is in good condition and the worst aspect of it is that it has no dust cover. It's 208 pages and about 8-3/4" x 9-3/8". The provenance, I think, is that I got it used from Amazon. On the inside cover is an Ex Libris decal indicating it belonged to a Bert Fischer at one time. Bert, if you respond to this post, I'll send you a free signed copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

A memoir, Baby Driver (the title comes from a Paul Simon song) is the first book by Jan Kerouac, Jack Kerouac's only -- to our knowledge -- child. Her mother was Joan Haverty Kerouac, Jack's second wife. Here's a picture of Jan in case you've never seen one.



I won't bother getting into the whole Kerouac estate controversy in which Jan was embroiled, or the fact that Jack disavowed her -- seeing her twice in his life and talking to her another time on the phone. We've covered those topics in past posts.

What I want to say is that Jan Kerouac certainly inherited her father's writing genes, as she was a powerful wordsmith -- but in her own right and not a clone. There's a good recap of Baby Driver in this review by Krysten Bean on Empty Mirror: click here.

Baby Driver may not be everybody's cup of tea -- it's pretty gritty at times. Jan didn't shy away from adventure, travel, or drugs & alcohol (partly why she died at 44) -- and she doesn't shy away from those topics in her book. She can be witty (darkly so) and she not only inherited Jack's writing genes but also his memory: the details in this memoir are astounding.

Click here for some thoughts I had on Baby Driver in 2012.








Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (18th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Trainsong by Jan Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Curation #67 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Satori in Paris & Pic by Jack Kerouac



Item #67 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback with a 1985 copyright by Grove Press. The printing number line is 00 01 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12, whatever the hell that means. This copy is in fair condition, 238 pages, measuring about 13.5 x 20.5 centimeters (notice how I used the metric system there in honor of the Paris connection). The provenance of this book is uncertain.

We already curated a stand-alone copy of Pic here, so there is no need to go into the content of that Kerouac novella. This leaves us with Satori in Paris, which originally appeared in Evergreen Review in three installments and was first published as a book in 1966. I re-read Satori in Paris in preparation for our September 2017 trip to Europe, which included several days in Paris. While this particular Kerouac novel is not highly acclaimed (note this NY Times review), I rather like it. The story concerns Kerouac's trip to Paris and Brittany in June 1965, supposedly to do some genealogy on the name Kerouac but, as you can guess, Jack's drinking and interacting with French people (remember, he spoke a version of French from a young age) and sights takes center stage.

Despite the title, don't expect a lot of focus on Buddhism throughout (satori means sudden enlightenment). What you will find is lots of French terms and place names and even a passing reference to a hero of mine, Robert F. Kennedy.

Satori in Paris is a bit hard to describe. The overall tone is a bit cynical, similar to what you find in Vanity of Duluoz; this makes sense since both books were written by an older, jaded Kerouac. There's still that magical rip-roaring prose, though, and it's a change from the usual Lowell/New York/Mexico settings Kerouac often wrote about.

Here are a couple of teaser paragraphs:
Methinks women love me and then they realize I'm drunk for all the world and this makes them realize I cant [sic] concentrate on them alone, for long, makes them jealous, and I'm a fool in Love With God. Yes.

But I'm not a Buddhist, I'm a Catholic revisiting the ancestral land that fought for Catholicism against impossible odds yet won in the end, as certes, at dawn, I'll hear the tolling of the tocsin churchbells for the dead. 

But, as I unpin my little McCrory suitcase (Monkey Ward it actually was) key, I realize I'm too drunk and mad to open the lock (I'm looking for my tranquilizers which you must admit I need by now), in the suitcase, the key is pinned as according to my mother's instructions to my clothes--For a full twenty minutes I kneel there in the baggage station of Brest Brittany trying to make the little key open the snaplock, cheap suitcase anyhow, finally in a Breton rage I yell "Ouvre donc maudit!" (OPEN UP DAMN YOU!!) and break the lock--I hear laughter--I hear someone say: "Le roi Kerouac" (the king Kerouac).

I'll leave it to you to read the book and figure out what Jack's satori was all about.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (17th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Baby Driver by Jan Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Monday, June 18, 2018

Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch & the Beat Generation




Just scored this copy of Aram Saroyan's book, Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch & the Beat Generation. I've always wanted to read more about Lew Welch, being a big fan of his poetry (I reviewed Ring of Bone here). 

I won't curate this book since it wasn't on my Kerouac shelf at the time I started curating, but in the way of information, it's a hardback 1979 first edition first printing by William Morrow and Company, Inc. This copy is in very good condition and is one of the few 1E/1P hardcovers in my collection.

I'll report back after I read it and let you know what I think.

Kerouac fans know the Kerouac connection here. Jack and Lew were friends. Lew played a prominent role in Jack's Big Sur adventure (detailed in, of course, Big Sur, where Lew appears as Dave Wain). and he was on that cross-country road trip with Jack and Albert Saijo that produced Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road. Lew also appeared in Desolation Angels as Dave Wain.

Curation #66 from Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac




Item #66 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 2003 Penguin Books 16th printing of Jack Kerouac's Book of Haikus. It's 200 pages and about 4-3/4" x 6". This copy is in good shape and the provenance is unknown.

This is, as the title suggests, another book of Jack Kerouac's poetry. It begins with an instructive 31-page introduction by editor Regina Weinreich titled, "The Haiku Poetics of Jack Kerouac." As opposed to Trip Trap, which claims to be haiku but seldom even observes the 3-line rule, this collection is mostly 3-line haiku. Yet they do not conform to the 5-7-5 syllable rule, but, rather, are what Jack called "Western Haiku": "simply say a lot in three short lines."

As Weinreich says in the introduction, this collection "should give a range of Kerouac's haiku production." The book is divided into six subsections:

BOOK OF HAIKUS
I. Book of Haikus
II. Dharma Pops

NOTEBOOKS
III. 1965: Desolation Pops/SPRING
IV. 1957: Road Haikus/SUMMER
V. 1958-1959: Beat Generation Haikus/AUTUMN
VI. 1960-1966: Northport Haikus/WINTER


Book of Haikus is further evidence that Kerouac was an accomplished poet and not just a prose artist. But we've said that before when curating San Francisco Blues, Book of Blues, and Mexico City Blues, so now it's just a matter of delving into Jack's poetry and seeing for yourself!

Here are a few from the book to tease you into action.

Poor tortured teeth
    under
The blue sky



Leaves skittering on
       the tin roof
--August fog in Big Sur



The little sparrow on the eave drainpipe
My heart flutters



The falling snow--
     The hissing radiators--
The bride out there



Happy reading!





Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (16th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Satori in Paris and Pic by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf




Thursday, June 14, 2018

Curation #65 from my Kerouac bookshelf: You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac



Item #65 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover 2009 Chronicle Books 1st printing of You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac. It's in great shape and small as books go: 96 pages and about 6" x 5-1/4". The provenance is that I bought it from Amazon (I think).

This is a compilation of a couple of pieces Kerouac is known for and which you can read online. Hence there is no real reason to own the book other than fandom or for the foreword by Regina Weinreich or the pictures scattered throughout. The pieces are available at the following links:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose (appeared in Evergreen Review Spring 1959)

Essentials of Spontaneous Prose (appeared in Evergreen Review Summer 1958)


Someone -- the estate, I guess -- thought it was a good idea to compile these two pieces. The reason it takes 50 pages is that the individual items are on their own pages -- with artistic fonts and flourishes -- and, as mentioned above, there are pictures of Jack throughout that likewise take up an entire page. There's a caption key for photos at the end with page numbers, yet the book doesn't have any page numbers! There may be a picture or two here you haven't seen, such as the one of Jack shoveling snow.

Given that you can read both pieces online, I can't recommend owning this book unless you are a true Kerouac fan. Or you don't do Internet. Or you just have an urge to spend some money.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (15th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Curation #64 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac



Item #64 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 1990 Grove Press 8th printing of Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues. It's 244 pages, about 5-1/4" x 8-1/8", and in fair condition (bent page corners, creased cover). The provenance is uncertain, but it's probably a used Amazon purchase.

Jack began writing Mexico City Blues in 1955 while living in Mexico City. It was first published in 1959, although individual poems appeared in poetry journals before that. Consisting of 242 choruses -- poems limited to the size of his notebook pages where he wrote them -- Mexico City Blues is considered by some to contain some of Kerouac's best poems. Nevertheless, it met with a poor review in the NY Times (click here), although one must consider the fact that the review was written by Kenneth Rexroth, who was no fan of Jack's.

In the intro to his San Francisco Blues, which we previously curated here, Jack says:
San Francisco Blues was my first book of poems, written back in 1954 & hinting the approach of the final blues poetry form I developed for the Mexico City Blues.
Here is Jack's note from the beginning of Mexico City Blues:
NOTE
     I want to be considered a jazz poet
     blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam
     session in Sunday. I take 242 choruses;
     my ideas vary and sometimes roll from
     chorus to chorus or from halfway through
     a chorus to halfway into the next.

I haven't read it, but I'm told that for a critical look at Mexico City Blues you can't go wrong with James T. Jones' book, A Map of Mexico City Blues: Jack Kerouac as Poet. Put it on the list you are keeping of potential birthday and Christmas presents for me.

We've opined in previous curations and other posts about Jack's talent as a poet and not just a prose writer; Mexico City Blues is more evidence of that talent.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (14th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Curation #63 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch



Item #63 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback City Lights/Grey Fox 1998 (no printing number) edition of Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch. It's in very good condition, 68 pages, about 5-5/8' x 8-1/4". Provenance is unknown, but given that a number of poems have red checkmarks next to them and I don't remember doing that, I presume I bought it used, probably from Amazon (which you can do below but I don't recommend paying $2,484.79). This edition includes introductory pieces by Welch and Saijo and four letters from Welch to Kerouac.

Trip Trap is a set of poems handwritten by Kerouac, Saijo, and Welch during a road trip in Welch's car from San Francisco to New York City just before Thanksgiving in 1959. They were first published in 1973, after Kerouac and Welch had died (1969 and 1971 respectively). Saijo died in 2011.

This is great stuff from three masters. I've written about Saijo (click here) and Welch (click here) before. Don't expect traditional 5-7-5 haiku format, or much that even resembles Kerouac's "Western haiku" (3 lines, no syllabic restrictions).

There are entries like this:
Whore candy

And this:
The new moon
         is
the toenail of God

And this:
The whole world
must become
     crazy because
     we don't want
           anyone to arrest
           anybody anymore


It's a poetry potpourri, plus you have the introductory pieces from Welch and Saijo as well as Welch's letters to Kerouac. I recommend it.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (13th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf