Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review of Kerouac: Visions of Lowell by John J Dorfner

One of my most recent Kerouacquisitions was Kerouac: Visions of Lowell by John J Dorfner. I picked it up last night and didn't put it down until I'd finished it! Granted, it's a 60-page book, but I was fascinated.

Dorfner really captures Jack's spirit in this 1993 Cooper Street Publications book, which includes a forward by none other than Allen Ginsberg (in Ginsberg's own sloppy handwriting - it's transcribed for comprehension). In the 70s and 80s, after being bitten by the Kerouac bug we all know so well, Dorfner traveled to Lowell, shooting "roll after roll of film, while walking the streets, and observing the neighborhoods." What resulted was this look at Jack's childhood in pictures accompanied by biographical information that Dorfner extracted from Jack's "Lowell novels," including lots of direct quotes from Dr. Sax, Visions of Gerard, Book of Dreams, and Maggie Cassidy.

Even Dorfner's original explanations sometimes channel Jack's writing style, and the book is replete with stories from Ti Jean's childhood:
Kerouac's Field and Track, where the Duluoz spirit lives on . . . The cinder track sets in back of Textile Institute, close to Jack's home on Phebe Street. Jack and his friends would run track here . . . against the timer he improvised, using parts of his old phonograph turn table.

Anyone interested in Jack Kerouac, or in the history of Lowell (the old pictures are fabulous, especially if you know Lowell today and can compare), will likely find this little book to be a treasure chest.

Now on to Dorfner's Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount. By the way, both of his Kerouac books are available via his website:

1 comment:

john j dorfner said...

thank you rick for this lovely review. very nice. also, i love that allen wrote that foreword for me...that's why i put it in the book just as he wrote it. he also loved the rocky mount book...that's why he wrote the foreword, he told my sister.