Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Memory Babe (Kerouac) archive, Part 1

On Monday, a friend and I are meeting in Lowell, MA with the express purpose of visiting the Memory Babe archive at the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center, part of the Lowell National Historic Park.

Click here for a link to the contents as posted by the Cosmic Baseball Association 14 years ago. My understanding from talking to librarian Martha Mayo in Lowell last October is that the archive is accessible, whereas there was a time when access was being litigated and, according to some, access was being denied. I don't want to open up that whole can of worms because it always ends up in the same place: accusations and vitriol. And Jack rolls over in his grave every time it happens. Don't even try to go there with comments about this post: they won't get published.

Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac is an early, oft-cited, and comprehensive Kerouac biography. As such, this archive is of note, Does the book contain mistakes? Of course. All biographies do. Is there controversy surrounding the author and his longstanding battle with the Sampas family over various estate-related issues? Yes. So what?

Gerry may be a controversial figure in the minds of some, but that doesn't discount the merits of his work. The archive includes over 150 people on tape, including Kerouac friends, family, and intimates who are no longer alive! How can one not be excited about that treasure trove of information?

With regard to the author himself, I count him as a friend. He has never been anything but gracious towards me, and his knowledge of Kerouac and the Beats never fails to astound me. But that is irrelevant to the case at hand and I only bring it up for the sake of transparency. The merits of the archive itself are why we're visiting it.

Suffice to say that, assuming we get access, there are a myriad of materials of interest. The Center is only open 1:30 - 5:00, so we will have to prioritize what we look at and listen to.

If there is something in the archive that  you think we should give particular attention, let us know with a comment. No promises.

I'll post Part 2, a follow-up to our visit, next week.

No trip to Lowell is complete, of course, without a visit to Jack's grave. I'll post pictures.

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