Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Curation #46 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Beat Generation by Jack Kerouac




Item #46 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation. Published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 2005, this appears to be a first printing (paperback). It's in very good condition and the provenance is uncertain (although I seem to remember it being a gift from Crystal).

Kerouac wrote this 3-act play in 1957 but never got it produced in full during his lifetime. The third act was the basis for the 1959 film, Pull My Daisy, which you can watch here. The full manuscript sat in storage until it was "re-discovered" in 2005 in a New Jersey warehouse. The world premiere of Beat Generation as a play was performed by the Merrimack Repertory Theater during the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival/Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. I attended, and it was well done. Joey Collins, the actor who played Milo (Neal Cassady), was phenomenal -- the best I've seen (with apologies to Garrett Hedlund). You can read my review here.

This is an important addition to the Kerouac oeuvre, and deserves a spot on your own Kerouac bookshelf.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (27th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Curation #45 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac



Item #45 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this Grove Weidenfeld (a division of Grove Press, Inc.) copy of Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac (published in 1959, written in 1952 about 1930-36 Lowell, Massachusetts). It's a 1987 edition, 5th printing, and is in okay shape. I don't remember the provenance. The title page shows a subtitle: Faust Part Three.

Among Kerouacophiles I've met, Dr. Sax ranks right up there as one of Jack's best novels. It's both a memoir of his youth in Lowell, MA, and a fantasy novel. The back cover sums up the novel nicely:
In this haunting novel of intensely felt adolescence, Jack Kerouac tells the story of Jack Duluoz, a French-Canadian boy growing up, as Kerouac himself did, in the dingy factory town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Dr. Sax, with his flowing cape, slouch hat, and insinuating leer, is chief among the many ghosts and demons that populate Jack's fantasy world. Deftly mingling memory and dream, Kerouac captures the accents and texture of his boyhood in Lowell as he relates Jack's adventures with this cryptic, apocalyptic hipster phantom.
I love the opening lines:
THE OTHER NIGHT I had a dream that I was sitting on the sidewalk on Moody Street, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Mass., with a pencil and paper in my hand saying to myself "Describe the wrinkly tar of this sidewalk, also the iron pickets of Textile Institute. or the doorway where Lousy and you and G.J.'s always sitting and dont [sic] stop to think of words when you do stop, just stop to think of the picture better--and let your mind off yourself in this work." (p. 3)
Can't you just picture that "wrinkly tar" sidewalk? Jack is describing his writing technique right from the outset (e.g., "Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind" from Belief & Technique for Modern Prose; see also Essentials of Spontaneous Prose). As with all of Jack's novels, the prose is beautiful and at times playfully cryptic ("it's Sanurnday Sun Night"; "Frezels! Grawms! Wake to the test in your frails...."), and in this novel it's especially challenging (for me, at least) because of the fantasy elements.

Dr. Sax is the source of the famous story from Jack's youth about walking across the Moody Street Bridge with his mother one night and seeing a man carrying a watermelon drop dead (Book Four in Dr. Sax is titled, "The Night the Man with the Watermelon Died"; see p. 127).

There's a lot to say about Dr. Sax, but it's pretty much been said before so I'll leave that to the true Kerouac scholars. Suffice to say that Dr. Sax is Jack Kerouac at the height of his writing powers despite what the NY Times said about it. And that ain't no Harvard lie.







Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (26th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Beat Generation: An Original Play by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Curation #44 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Tristessa by Jack Kerouac



Item #44 in my Kerouac bookshelf creation project is this Penguin Books copy of Jack Kerouac's Tristessa. It's in very good condition, provenance unknown (probably an Amazon purchase), with a publishing date of 1992 and showing a 14th printing. This edition is 96 pages long and measures 5" x 7-11/16".

Tristessa was originally published in 1960, covering time in 1955-56 that Jack spent in Mexico city and focusing on his relationship with a prostitute named Esperanza (renamed as the title character as Jack was wont to do). If you're reading this blog post, it is unlikely that you need instruction on where Tristessa fits in the Kerouac canon, but we can at least report what Allen Ginsberg said about it in 1991 (from the back cover):
This entire short novel Tristessa's a narrative meditation studying a hen, a rooster, a dove, a cat, a chihuahua dog, family meat, and a ravishing, ravished junky lady, first in their crowded bedroom, then out to drunken streets, taco stands, & pads at dawn in Mexico city slums.
There's some beautiful descriptive prose here, juxtaposed with some dreary slice-of-life conditions. If you haven't yet read Tristessa, please do. I'm heading out today to spend some time with my Kerouacian brother, Richard, and perhaps we'll take turns reading Tristessa aloud.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (25th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Curation #43 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Heaven & Other Poems by Jack Kerouac



Item #43 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Heaven & Other Poems. The latest copyright of this Grey Fox Press publication is shown on the copyright page as 1977. This page also indicates "Fifth printing, 1990." This copy is in good condition. It's a little book, 5" x 7-5/8", and is about 60 pages in length. The provenance is unknown.

Heaven & Other Poems is a poetry book edited by Don Allen. It consists of the 8-page poem, "Heaven," and a number of other poems. Allen, in his editor's note, says "This book belatedly collects the poems Jack sent me and his letters and statements regarding his verse." Interestingly, the frontispiece is a comic strip titled "Doctor Sax and the Sea Shroud" that Jack drew for the Cassady children. The book concludes with letters and statement that Jack sent to Allen between 1957 and 1962.

Some of these poems were published elsewhere (e.g., two choruses from "San Francisco Blues"). Others only appear, to my knowledge, in this publication. The letters and statements from Jack to Don Allen at the end are Kerouac gold, giving important insights into Jack's mindset in that particular time period. As we've said before on The Daily Beat, Jack was an accomplished poet as well as a prose writer; Heaven & Other Poems provides strong evidence of that.






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (24th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Tristessa by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Monday, May 7, 2018

Curation #42 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Orpheus Emerged by Jack Kerouac



Item #42 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Orpheus Emerged by Jack Kerouac. It's an ibooks publication copyrighted in 2000 and showing that it's a first printing. It's in very good shape and is more of a novella than a novel, comprising 136 pages in a 6" x 7-3/4" book. Its provenance is that I bought it new from The Bookery in Ithaca, NY, on February 5, 2005. I know this because the receipt was tucked away in its pages and I sort of remember doing so.

Obviously, this was published posthumously by Kerouac's Estate. I panned it after my first read, but I am embarrassed to read that blog post given how much more I know about Kerouac now than I did in 2011 when I finally got around to reading it. Here's the link if you're interested in what a dumbass I was and am: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/orpheus-emerged.html.

This edition has an introduction by the legendary Robert Creeley and concludes with several informative short sections (excerpts from Jack's journals, a piece on the Beat movement, a short biography of Kerouac, and so on). As was his practice, this is a roman à clef novel and tells the story of Kerouac's early encounters with the original and seminal Beat characters like Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Carr (an underrated influence on the Beat movement) in the early forties at Columbia University.

I need to re-read this book and give an updated take on it. My bucket list is getting full of such tasks....






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (23rd item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Heaven & Other Poems by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Curation #41 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Vanity of Duluoz by Jack Kerouac


Item #41 from my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Vanity of Duluoz. This is a Penguin Books publication, copyrighted 1994, 5th printing. It's 5' x 7-5/8", 268 pages, and in okay condition. The provenance is likely that I bought it used from Amazon (which you can do via the link below).

Before we proceed, a brief primer on the name "Duluoz" is in order. Duluoz is one of Jack's pseudonyms for Kerouac in his novels, but it is an especially important one as we mentioned in our post about the preface in Big Sur where he envisions all of his novels comprising one vast legend a la Proust ("The Legend of Duluoz"). By the way, it is pronounced DOO-loo-awes.

Jack wrote VOD in 1967, late in his life (he died in 1969), and it is a reminiscence of his early years, covering high school (and of course football), Columbia University, naval service, and nascent Beat Generation days in NYC. It was originally subtitled, An Adventurous Education, 1935-1946. The book is dedicated to his wife, Stella (Stavroula) and Ellis Amburn but is written to his wife. It starts
All right, wifey, maybe I'm a big pain in the you-know-what but after I've given you a recitation of the troubles I had to go through to make good in America between 1935 and more less now, 1967, and although I also know that everybody in the world's had his own troubles, you'll understand that my particular form of anguish came from being too sensitive to all the lunkheads I had to deal with just so I could get to be a high school football star, a college student pouring coffee and washing dishes and scrimmaging till dark and reading Homer's Iliad in three days all at the same time, and God help me, a WRITER whose very 'success,' far from being a happy triumph as of old, was the sign of doom Himself. (Insofar as nobody loves my dashes anyway, I'll use regular punctuation for the new illiterate generation.)

I've only read this book straight-through once, but I remember liking it -- a lot. Kerouac's prose is still rollicking, but he is more mature in style and perspective. There's plenty of death here (not unusual for Kerouac) and it can be cynical at times. I believe it's the last of his books published in Kerouac's lifetime. Check it out if you haven't already done so -- it's essential Kerouac.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (22nd item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Orpheus Emerged by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Kerouacian sighting in Augusta, Maine

I just returned from Goodwill in Augusta, Maine, where I dropped off a couple of bags of clothes at the drive-through. The young man-bunned worker who collected my bags said, "I like your license plate."

Me: Oh, you know who Jack Kerouac is?

Worker: Yeah.

Me: Cool. The Dharma Bums is my favorite novel of his [hence my license plate: DHRMABM].

Worker: Mine, too. Visions of Gerard is a close second.

Me: It's high on my list, too. Many say Visions of Cody is his masterpiece.

Worker: I'll have to check that out.

And we said our goodbyes.

My mind was too blown by his mentioning VOG (a sign of a true Kerouacian) to even mention my blog or my book.

Next time.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Curation #40 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac



Item #40 in my Kerouac bookshelf creation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody. This is a 26th printing of a Penguin Book copyrighted 1993. The provenance is likely that I bought it used on Amazon. This is actually the copy of this book that I first read cover-to-cover (and haven't since but it's on the bucket list).

I've already opined about Visions of Cody in curation #39 (click here) so there is no need to expound about the book today. Let's let a quote suffice. Here's a passage from Cody that Jack snuck into his reading of On The Road on the Steve Allen show in 1959.
I'm writing this book because we're all going to die--In the loneliness of my life, my father dead, my brother dead, my mother faraway, my sister and my wife far away, nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world, a sweet attention, that now are left to guide and disappear their own way into the common dark of all our death, sleeping in me raw bed, alone and stupid: with just this one pride and consolation: my heart broke in the general despair and opened up inwards to the Lord, I made a supplication in this dream. (p. 368)
\
Yes, in my copy it looks like "faraway" is one word in the first instance and two words in the second.


Visions of Cody. Read it.



Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (21st item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Vanity of Duluoz by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf



Monday, April 23, 2018

Curation #39 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac


Item #39 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this 398-page paperback copy of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody. This is a McGraw-Hill Book Company publication copyrighted 1972 by the Estate of Jack Kerouac. The first McGraw-Hill paperback edition was published in 1974, but the printing number is hard to discern when it appears like this (and even if it were obvious, it doesn't help figure out when this particular book was printed):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 MU MU 7 9 8 7 6 5 4

The provenance is clear on this book. It was my second copy of VOC and I purchased it at Twice Told Tales in Farmington, ME, a great little used bookstore I used to frequent when I worked at the University of Maine at Farmington and typically bought any Jack Kerouac book they had on their shelves (which was rare -- "We can't keep them in stock."). I thought the cover on this one was rather unique.

This edition of VOC starts with an Allen Ginsberg essay titled. "THE GREAT REMEMBERER." Some view VOC as Kerouac's masterpiece. It was extremely experimental at the time, consisting of wild spontaneous prose sketches about Kerouac's experiences, particularly with the title character, Cody Pomeray (real-life Neal Cassady). A sizeable chunk of the book comprises transcripts of recordings Jack made of his rambling conversations with Neal Cassady.

Kerouac aficionados know that when Jack appeared on the Steve Allen show in 1959 to promote On The Road, he was holding a copy of OTR but reading, in part (he finished with the last paragraph from OTR), from an unpublished section of VOC ("Anyway I wrote the book because we're all gonna die..."). New readers of the book will find a chapter titled, "Joan Rawshanks in the Fog," what  Library of America called a "hallucinatory account of watching a Joan Crawford movie being shot on location in San Francisco" in an interview with UMass Lowell Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen (see Teitchen's take on VOC in that interview here).

As the NY Times said here in 1973, "...if you can stand some disorder, you will find some of Kerouac's very best writing in this book." It's Kerouac at his wildest and at peak power, and while it may be his most challenging book to get through, it's essential Kerouac for anyone claiming to be a fan or scholar. Some of his descriptions of places and events are delightful beyond my ability to explain them.

See you down the rabbit-hole....






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (20th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: another copy of Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Curation #38 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac



Item #38 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Book of Blues. It's a Penguin Books publication showing a copyright date of 1995 and that it's a 1st printing. 274 pages, this copy is in good condition except for some yellowing, dog-eared pages, highlighting, and annotations. The provenance is uncertain, although I probably purchased it used from Amazon.

John Sampas dedicated this book to Philip Whalen and to the memory of Lew Welch. As mentioned in a recent blog about San Francisco Blues, these poems reflect Kerouac's "system" of writing poems as if they were blues choruses, the length of which are constrained by the size of his breastpocket notebooks. Indeed, all of San Francisco Blues is here, along with 'RICHMOND HILL BLUES," "BOWERY BLUES," "MACDOUGAL STREET BLUES," DESOLATION BLUES," "ORIZABA 210 BLUES," "ORLANDA BLUES," and "CERRADA MEDELLIN BLUES."

Book of Blues begins with a stellar introduction by Robert Creeley and ends with a section titled, "NOTES ON DATES AND SOURCES" by John Sampas and, finally, a poem by Alice Notley, "JACK WOULD SPEAK THROUGH THE IMPERFECT MEDIUM OF ALICE." I don't know the backstory of concluding this book with Notley's poem -- maybe a reader can shed some light on it. It is a relevant and powerful poem, and Creeley's introduction mentions it.

As Creeley says, "these poems provide an intensely vivid witness of both writer and time." If you only ever think of Jack Kerouac as a prose writer and not a poet, Book of Blues provides evidence that he was indeed the latter.

Here's a teaser from the 9th Chorus of "ORIZABA 210 BLUES."

James Dean is dead?--
Aint we all?
   Who aint dead--






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (19th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Curation #37 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Pic by Jack Kerouac



Item #37 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Pic by Jack Kerouac. This is a Grove Press publication; the copyright page shows one date, 1971, and indicates that it is a "First Printing." Other than yellowing, it is in good shape. Size is approximately 4" x 7" and 120 pages. I am unsure of its provenance.

Pic was published in 1971 and, as the cover indicates, it was Kerouac's last published novel (although I suspect it is more a novella) -- at the time. There have been at least two published since: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and The Sea is My Brother. Pic is set in 1948 and tells the story of ten-year-old Pictorial Review Jackson from his first-person point-of-view. The back cover of the book indicates that it is written "in the black dialect indigenous to the North Carolina farm country," but many have criticized Kerouac's attempt at black dialect as stereotypical at best. Kerouac wrote pic around 1950 while he was also working on and thinking about On The Road.

I won't get into the plot, other than to say that it involves Pic's experiences as he travels around the country (North Carolina, New York City, California) after the grandfather he lived with dies. As he often does, Kerouac reuses some previously published content: for example, Chapter 13 is titled "THE GHOST OF THE SUSQUEHANNA" and is a modified re-tread of the old man Kerouac encounters near Harrisburg, PA, in On The Road.

Pic has its critics, but one fan is Brian Hassett, who opined about the novel here. I wouldn't steer you away from it, but unless you're a true Kerouacophile, I wouldn't seek it out ahead of Jack's other novels.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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: Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blogging frequency = 1 blog every 2.5 days over (almost) 10 years

I just realized that I could measure my blogging frequency by dividing the number of days since my blog's inception and dividing that by the number of blogs I've posted.

I started blogging in earnest on September 20, 2008. That was 3,496 days ago (coming up on 10 years!). I have posted 1,396 blogs since then. That's a rate of one blog post every 2.5 days.

I don't know what that means in the overall scheme of things, but it is one way to measure my prolificity at blogging about Kerouac and related matters.

Contacting The Daily Beat

Dear Readers:

If you are legitimately trying to start a 1:1 conversation with me (e.g., about guest blogging on The Daily Beat), you need to send me, at the very least, contact information (e-mail address) and your name. Otherwise, I will assume you are spamming me and will probably not reply. Remember that without an e-mail address, I can only reply publicly, and thousands of people would see your request.

Thanks.


Rick Dale

Curation #36 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac



Item #36 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Scattered Poems. This is a City Lights Books publication which I think was first published in 1970. This particular copy has no more recent copyright date, but Amazon lists it as 2001. There is no printing number. It is in good shape and the provenance is likely that I purchased it used from Amazon.

This is a small book: 4-3/4" x 6-1/4" and 76 pages. There are 38 poems here, selected by Ann Charters from journals & magazines they appeared in between 1945-1970 or from unpublished manuscripts. At the beginning is a short explanation by Jack of new American poetry from "THE ORIGINS OF JOY IN POETRY." Specific sources and publication dates for each poem are given at the end of the book.

Here are some titles of poem in the collection to tease you in case you haven't read it (I've also listed the source and year published):

PULL MY DAISY (Evergreen Books 1961)
DAYDREAMS FOR GINSBERG (Letter to Ginsberg 1955)
LUCIEN MIDNIGHT (Combustion 1957)
RIMBAUD (Yugen 1960; City Lights)
from OLD ANGEL MIDNIGHT (Beetitood 1959)
POEM: Jazz killed itself (White Dove Review 1959)
TO HARPO MARX (Playboy 1959)
FOUR POEMS from "SAN FRANCISCO BLUES" (New Directions 1961)

Typical Kerouac themes show up in this collection (death, jazz, friends, religious/literary/pop culture references, Buddhism, travel, hitchhiking). It's in Kerouac's famous spontaneous style ("writing whatever comes into your head as it comes"), so making "sense" of it is a challenge As with all of Jack's writing, it's important to read aloud and enjoy the sounds as well as think about meaning.

This is short enough for a straight-through read, but it is indeed a book of poetry and therefore lends itself to a more leisurely, skip-around approach.

The most authentic source to get this book from is City Lights, of course, but below is an Amazon link as well.




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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: Pic by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Monday, April 16, 2018

Curation #35 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac



The 35th item in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac. This is a 4th printing of a 2006 copyright book published by Penguin Poets. It's in good shape and the provenance is likely that I purchased it used from Amazon. It's a small rucksack-worthy yet lengthy book: 4-3/4" x 6" but over 413 pages.

As it says on the first page after Condo's introduction, these sketches were

Printed Exactly As They Were Written
On the Little Pages in the Notebooks
I Carried in My Breast Pocket 1952
Summer to 1954 December........... 
    (Not Necessarily Chronological)

As the inside front cover indicates, sketching is a technique suggested to Jack in 1951 by his friend Ed White: "sketch in the streets like a painter but with words." For two years as he traveled, Jack "sketched" -- in his little notebooks -- observations and descriptions and musings and related mindstuff in spontaneous glory. He typed it all up in 1957 from 15 handwritten notebooks, at which time he added some new sketches (hence the the title page says "Book of Sketches 1952-1957).

Jack talks about sketching in his famous piece, "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose": "sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image." So sketching is similar to the technique he describes in the beginning of San Francisco Blues (see my April 12 blog) except he doesn't seem to limit a piece's length to one notebook page. Interestingly, some of Jack's handwritten entries are included in Book of Sketches (e.g., the title page and the "Finis" and assorted doodles throughout).

Book of Sketches is dedicated to Jack's sister, Caroline Kerouac Blake ("Nin"). That makes it an important statement in itself, but the words are the thing here, and they tell of Kerouac's power to make anything he saw elegant and mesmerizing, from "PANORAMIC CATALOG SKETCH OF BIG EASONBURG (backyard)" to "FRISCO Embarcadero Sept 8" to "RESTING BY A WINDOW IN THE LOUVRES [sic]." This is pure Kerouac from his notebooks, unedited and raw and . . . beautiful.

I hesitate to call this a poetry book (Wikipedia calls it "spontaneous prose poetry," but you'll want to read it like one and skip around, savoring individual sketches. One could argue that it's all poetry, but then one could say that about Jack's prose. Either way, it's all A-number one top-notch wordsmithing from a master of the craft.






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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: Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Curation #34 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac


Item #34 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac. It is a Riverhead Books publication showing a copyright date of 1995 and this is the 24th printing. Desolation Angels was first published in 1965 and written in 1956 and 1961 (completed in 1964) about the time period 1956-1957. This particular copy's provenance is likely that I bought it used on Amazon, which you can do via the link below. It is in good shape with some yellowing of the pages.

Desolation Angels is typical Kerouac in its spontaneous prose style and roman à clef approach. It depends largely on journals he kept during the time periods covered: Book One (Desolation Angels) is about his time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the Cascades (more detail than his treatment of the same event in The Dharma Bums) and right after he came down; Book Two (Passing Through) is about his subsequent experiences in other places (Mexico, New York, Tangiers, France, London, and America). According to Joyce Johnson's introduction, Jack originally planned the two "books" to be published separately. She entered his life in Book Two as Alyce Newman. The book got panned by the New York Times (click here), but Kerouac fans generally love it. I did.

Kerouac trivia buffs know that there are several errors in maintaining the real-life characters' pseudonyms (e.g., in Book One Chapter 91 he calls Gregory Corso "Gregory" instead of "Raphael"). Others are noted on the Wikipedia page for the book (no, Wikipedia is not evil -- you just need to fact-check it).

During my first (and only complete) read of the novel, I underlined or noted the following:

Book One Chapter 32 
"Sad understanding is what compassion means-- . . . ."

Book One Chapter 36
"AND THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT MAYA MEANS, it means we're being fooled into believing in reality of the feeling of the show of things--Maya in Sanskrit, it means wile--And why do we go on being fooled even when we know it?"

"The simplest truth in the world is beyond our reach because of its complete simplicity, i.e., its pure nothing...."

Can you tell I was going through a Buddhist phase?

I also noted the following passage, probably because it mentions Hemingway:

Book Two Chapter 65
"God how right Hemingway was when he said there was no remedy for life--and to think that negative little paper-shuffling prissies should write condescending obituaries about a man who told the truth, nay who drew breath in pain to tell a tale like that!"

I hope Jack never read his obituaries.

Desolation Angels is a 400+ page book, so there is a lot of Kerouac here and a lot of ground covered in the telling. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to tackle it straight-through -- you will want to savor it.







Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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 Sketches by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Curation #33 from my Kerouac bookshelf: San Francisco Blues by Jack Kerouac



Item #33 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's San Francisco Blues. This is a Penguin Books edition with a copyright date of 1995 and no printing number. I've seen it shown as published in 1991 at Empty Mirror. That makes sense since it appears as part of Kerouac's Book of Blues, published in 1995.

This copy is in good shape. The provenance of this particular copy is likely that I purchased it used from Amazon, which you can do via the link below. SF Blues is a small book of poetry, 4-1/4" x 5-1/4" and comprising 80 one-page -- or less, as the 1st and 2nd Chorus are on the same page -- poems ("choruses").

As Kerouac says in the prefatory matter:
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.     In my system, the form of blues choruses is limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they are written, like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues chorus, and so sometimes the word-meaning can carry from one chorus into another, or not, just like the phrase-meaning can carry harmonically from one chorus to the other, or not, in jazz, so that, in these blues as in jazz, the form is determined by time, and by the musician's spontaneous phrasing & harmonizing with the beat of the time as it waves & waves on by in measured choruses.
     It's all gotta be non stop ad libbing within each chorus, or the gig is shot.
                                                                                                                 -- Jack Kerouac

According to a letter from Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, San Francisco Blues was written in March 1954 when Jack "'left Neal's . . . and went to live in the Cameo Hotel on Third Street Frisco Skid Row'" (Book of Blues, p. 271). These poems have no titles other than 1st Chorus, 2nd Chorus, etc. They all focus on San Francisco, exemplifying Kerouac's spontaneous style and powers of description. Click here for an interesting take on the book by Cedar Sigo at Poetry Foundation in which he imagines Kerouac writing these poems while looking down on the San Francisco streets from his window.

Kerouac was an accomplished poet, although it sometimes seems he is more acknowledged for his prose novels. If you haven't checked out Kerouac's poetry, this is as good a place to start as any. Keep in mind that you can read it in its entirety in Book of Blues (coming up in a future curation) along with a lot of other poems.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Curation #32 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac



Item #32 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans. It is a Grove Press/Evergreen Books paperback showing a 1958 copyright. There is no printing number, and penciled on the first page is "1st EDITION 1st Paperback issue." Unfortunately, this copy is in obviously poor condition, although the text is readable. The provenance of this copy is likely that I bought it used on Amazon, which you can do via the link below.

As the back cover says, in this book Kerouac
continues his chronicle of the "Beat Generation" with this beautifully written, sharp novel about the "subterraneans" of San Francisco, who are "hip without being slick, intelligent without being corny, intellectual as hell and know all about Pound without being pretentious or talking too much about it, they are very quiet, they are very Christlike."
This is a story about the poets, writers, and artists of mid-century America called "Beats," and it's the story of the author's -- Kerouac as Leo Percepied -- torrid and (spoiler alert) doomed affair with a beautiful black women, Mardou Fox (real-life Alene Lee). The actual story takes place in NYC's Greenwich Village and surrounds, but as with all of Kerouac's roman à clef novels (this is more a novella), the character's names are changed and, in this particular book, so are the locations. For example, Dante's bar in San Francisco is actually Fugazzi's in NYC; North Beach means Greenwich Village; the Black Mask bar is the San Remo; Montgomery Street is MacDougal Street; and so on. Last time I read the book I started a key to characters and places which you can see below. It is incomplete at this time.



Kerouac wrote this book in October 1953 about events that took place during the summer of that year. It wasn't published until 1958, after On The Road established Kerouac's place in American letters in 1957. It's a quick read -- 111 pages in this version.

Hollywood tried to capitalize on the Beat Generation with a 1960 film adaptation of the novel starring George Peppard as Leo and Leslie Caron as Mardou (yes, Leslie was white -- Hollywood didn't want to bank on an inter-racial affair in those times). I haven't seen it (bucket list), but I understand that it was neither a popular nor critical success at the time.

You'll find plenty of Kerouac's inimitable spontaneous prose in The Subterraneans, along with a keen slice-of-life look at bohemian culture in NYC in 1953 and a heart-wrenching memoir of a fraught love affair. My great friend Richard loves this book, and I have to agree that it is love-worthy as well as essential Kerouac for anyone calling themselves a Kerouac or Beat fan.

Read it again or for the first time -- you won't be sorry.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 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: San Francisco Blues by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Curation #31 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac



Item #31 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac. It is a Panther Book showing a copyright date of 1960 and no printing number. It says it's the "First publication in Great Britain." The book is in good condition: the pages are yellowed but the binding is tight and the covers are fairly undamaged. Clean text. The provenance is likely that I bought it used from Amazon. No link for that today since I included it in yesterday's post (which was about my other copy of Maggie Cassidy).

Since I explicated about the book yesterday, I will spare you a repeat. I bought this copy when I already had an old paperback of Maggie Cassidy. Why?

The answer is simple: I liked the cover. Call it "Kerouac porn" if you will, but I love the sexy covers of pulp fiction paperbacks from that era. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, or maybe it's from being conditioned this way from lusting over such covers on the store rack as a boy. Here are some examples if you're not sure what I'm talking about: https://www.pinterest.com/bigcid/sexy-pulp-fiction-covers/?lp=true . Perhaps it's misogynistic of me, but at least I get points for honesty.




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (12th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Monday, April 9, 2018

Curation #30 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac


If you've been following along, you know that today's curation item is #30 in sequence and it's a copy of Jack Kerouac's Maggie Cassidy. This particular copy is a paperback by Avon and the copyright page is pretty empty: no printing number and the only copyright date is the original 1959. I'm skeptical that this paperback is from 1959, although it is pretty old based on the yellowed pages. It's in fair condition -- binding and pages intact and no markings on the text. The provenance is likely that I bought it used from Amazon (see link below to get your own copy). This book was written circa 1953 but not published until after the success of On The Road, published in 1957.

As with Jack's other novels, Maggie Cassidy is largely autobiographical. To be more precise, it is a roman à clef, meaning it is based on actual events and characters but the names have been changed. Jack is known for this, and he is likewise known for playing pretty fast and loose with facts and chronologies; thus, while his novels give great insight into his life, one must be careful not to assume that he is presenting actual facts at all times. That is, he frequently took artistic license for various reasons (e.g., real life wasn't interesting enough).

Maggie Cassidy is about Jack's real-life relationship in high school with Mary Carney (AKA Maggie Cassidy). One can learn a lot from this book about living and growing up in Jack's hometown of Lowell, MA around 1939. While it is in one sense a teenage romance, Kerouac is able -- via his amazing eye for detail and descriptive prose -- to make this a compelling read. As the back cover says:
Once again Jack Kerouac's gift for mirroring the sense and essence of an era, for catching the breathing moments of life, his uncanny ear for truth -- all is richly revealed in this unique and nostalgic novel of a boy's first experience in love . . . of his exhilarating and bewildered search for the unawakened man still hidden behind the trembling, curious eyes of childhood.
I know that is marketing hype, but it is pretty damn accurate in my view. This is essential Kerouac, right up there with his best novels Visions of Gerard and The Subterraneans. Speaking of which, the back page of this book is an ad for Kerouac's The Subterraneans -- available for 35 cents from Avon Book Sales.

Henry Miller is quoted on the back cover, saying:
When someone asks "Where does he (Kerouac) get that stuff?" say: "From you!" He lay awake all night listening with eyes and ears. A night of a thousand years. Heard it in the womb, heard it in the cradle, heard it in school, heard it on the floor of life's stock exchange where dreams are traded for gold.

Amen, Mr. Miller.*







Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (11th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac (the second of two copies in my collection).

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


*I just read Tropic of Cancer for the first time and it's easy to see Miller's influence on Jack's writing.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Curation #29 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac



Item #29 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler. This book was first published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. in 1960. This particular copy is a 2nd printing by Grove Weidenfeld and I think its copyright date is 1988 (although the copyright page is -- as usual -- confusing to me). The book is in good condition. Its provenance is likely that I ordered it used from Amazon, which you can also do via the link below.

What can I say about Lonesome Traveler? It's great. It starts with an Author's Introduction (formatted somewhere between a resume and an interview) that includes the famous phrase, "Am known as 'madman bum and angel' with 'naked endless head' of 'prose.'" Then it's prime Kerouac presented in 8 short pieces (so it's misleading to call it, as on this cover, "A NOVEL"):


Piers of the Homeless Night
Mexico Fellaheen
The Railroad Earth
Slobs of the Kitchen Sea
New York Scenes
Alone on a Mountaintop
Big Trip to Europe
The Vanishing American Hobo


Some of this is familiar territory: the topics appear in other Kerouac novels (e.g., "Alone on a Mountaintop" is about Kerouac's time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the Cascades for 2 months in the summer of 1956; this is the same territory Jack takes up in Desolation Angels and also The Dharma Bums).  Some of these pieces were published in magazines prior to 1960 such as Evergreen Review (where "The Railroad Earth" appeared as "October in the Railroad Earth" in  Volume 1 Issue No. 2 in 1957 -- click here for the whole issue). You can hear Jack read the first part of this story accompanied by Steve Allen on piano here.

This is quintessential Kerouac and it belongs in your collection. And remember Jack's concluding words: "The woods are full of wardens."






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (10th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac (one of two copies in my collection).

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf
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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Curation #28 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Big Sur by Jack Kerouac



Item #28 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. It's a Penguin Books edition showing a 1992 copyright and it's a 4th printing. The provenance is uncertain, but it is likely that I purchased this used on Amazon. I've included a link below should you wish to do the same. This copy is in fair condition, with the usual dog-ears and creases and yellowing. I've hurt the value with my own annotations (something I used to do a lot of when I first got into Kerouac).

I don't know in which order I read Big Sur, but it was definitely after On The Road and The Dharma Bums, and it was early on. I remember liking it at first, but on re-reading, I really love this novel. It may be that I can relate more to the central issue -- Kerouac's mental health crisis -- since my own venture into that realm in 2013. And it may be that my in-depth involvement with things Kerouacian has helped me understand Kerouac a lot more than I did when I first read Big Sur.

For the uninitiated, Big Sur is a searing and painful account of Jack's experience when he tried to dry out at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin -- in Big Sur, California -- during the summer of 1960 (the book was published in 1962). It is notable for Kerouac's typical rolling and beautiful prose, but also for its dark and accurate depiction of his descent into a nervous breakdown. Also notable is the inclusion of a long poem Kerouac wrote at Big Sur in which he writes the sounds of the Pacific Ocean. It is aptly titled, "'SEA'". This novel is where the phrase "one fast move or I'm gone" originates (also the title of an excellent Kerouac documentary).

Insiders know that this is the book that starts with a preface where Kerouac describes his work as comprising
one vast book like Proust's except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed. Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work. On the Road, The Subterraneans, The Dharma Bums, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Tristessa, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody and the others including this book Big Sur are just chapters in the whole work which I call The Duluoz Legend. In my old age I intend to collect all my work and re- insert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy. The whole thing forms one enormous comedy, seen through the eyes of poor Ti Jean (me), otherwise known as Jack Duluoz, the world of raging action and folly and also of gentle sweetness seen through the keyhole of his eye. 
                                                                                                       JACK KEROUAC

Big Sur is a breath-taking place and I recommend a visit. Click here for a video of me reading from Big Sur in Big Sur on July 18, 2016. It was an epic experience and I've never felt closer to Jack. It was hard not to weep. I posted about our time in Big Sur here: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2016/07/reading-kerouac-at-big-sur-and-more.html

If you want to stay in Big Sur, I recommend the Big Sur River Inn (https://www.bigsurriverinn.com/). We had a wonderful two-night stay there in 2016.




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (9th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Friday, April 6, 2018

Just in case you have $10,000 to blow on a Jack Kerouac book

Click here for the eBay page

First edition, first printing hardcover of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Ten grand. Come on -- you know you want it.

Curation #27 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac



Item #27 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. It is a paperback Signet Book from New American Library/Times Mirror, 9th printing, with a copyright date saying the first printing was October 1959. This means Buddha only knows how old this actual book is.

Nevertheless, it has an interesting provenance. I got it from my great friend and Kerouacophile, Richard, as an unexpected gift in the mail (I wrote about it here: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2016/10/jack-kerouacs-dharma-bums-great-gift.html). As I pointed out in that post, on the first page was written, "Cindy Wolkin." I asked Cindy to contact me if she happened to read my blog. She didn't. But the story goes on. I tracked down a Cindy Wolkin on Facebook and direct messaged her, asking if she might be the previous owner. It turned out that she was, and that she had owned the book when she was 15 and was a big Kerouac fan. (Zuckerberg, get your shit together and don't ruin a good thing -- Facebook does have some redeeming values like tracking down the previous owner of a book). I wrote about finding Cindy in this previous post: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2017/02/follow-up-to-my-october-18-2016-post.html.

This copy is well-loved. Lots of cover creases, a taped binding, yellowed and worn pages, a few dog-ears. But, the text is unmarked and very readable (if you're careful with the binding).

Yesterday I opined about how The Dharma Bums is my favorite Kerouac novel and why. In case you don't believe me, here is a picture of my current license plate (it's an old picture of it --  I really do have current registration stickers -- in case MSP are reading this).




By the way, there is a 1E/1P hardcover for sale on eBay: https://www.ebay.com/itm/The-Dharma-Bums-Jack-Kerouac-1st-Edition-1st-Printing-FREE-SHIPPING/152967855506?hash=item239d983d92:g:RPIAAOSwnMBafwdQ. I find the price too low to believe, but you never know. I'm tempted but retirement moderates my temptations in such matters.

MAY YOU USE THE DIAMONDCUTTER OF MERCY.



Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (8th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Big Sur by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Curation #26 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac


Item #26 from my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. A Penguin Books publication, it shows it's a 39th printing. The copyright page both lists "Published in Penguin Books 1976" and "Copyright Renewed Stella Kerouac and Jan Kerouac, 1986." I'll let you guess the year this book was printed.

Provenance of this copy is likely that I bought it used on Amazon as a "give-away" (see yesterday's post for what that means: http://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2018/04/curation-25-from-my-kerouac-bookshelf.html). No, I really mean it. I'm not going to explain what a "give-away" copy means -- you'll just have to click that link to find out.

Faithful Daily Beat readers know that The Dharma Bums is my favorite Kerouac novel. I know, I know. That's not what the critics and scholars say. And it was written to capitalize on the momentum of On The Road. But Hell, it's got vegetarianism, sex, college, crap, fresh air, the dharma, drinking, materialism, finding a mate, watching television, freedom, compassion, resisting what is, the illusion of things, dogs being wiser than their masters, spiritual power, actions v. words, breakfast, appearances, food for the road, walking meditation, impermanence, and gifts. And that's just a list of what I picked out of the book to discuss in my own book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions (link over on the right). There's also Buddhism, hiking, hitchhiking, sleeping under the stars, train-hopping, friendship, mountains, climbing, wilderness, parties, cats, dogs, nudity, God, zen koans, boozing, the ocean, rivers, tea ceremonies, and don't forget -- poet extraordinaire Gary Snyder (appearing as main character Japhy Ryder).

HOW CAN YOU GO WRONG WITH ALL OF THAT 
AND TO TOP IT OFF IT'S IN KEROUAC'S PROSE!?

There's a link over on the right if you want to buy a copy of The Dharma Bums. It's a "must own" for Kerouac fans. When my birthday rolls around, feel free to get me a first edition, first printing, preferably signed by Jack. Yair!




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (7th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: a different copy of The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (given to me by my great friend, Richard).

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Curation #25 from my Kerouac bookshelf: On The Road by Jack Kerouac


Item #25 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is another copy of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. This is a Penguin Books publication with the excellent -- and appropriately lengthy -- introduction by famous Kerouac biographer Ann Charters explicating the background of Kerouac's classic and timeless novel. The copyright is 1991 and this is the 19th printing, so go figure what year this copy was actually printed. The provenance of this particular copy is likely that I either purchased it used on Amazon or from the wonderful Twice Sold Tales in Farmington, Maine (it's a bummer but they don't appear to have a website; however, they do have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TwiceSoldTalesME/)

 Since this dog-eared copy has nothing special about it from a collector's point-of-view, and it is only one of several versions of On The Road I have acquired over the years, why did I buy it? Simple. To give away. I always keep a give-away copy of On The Road on hand, along with a give-away copy of The Dharma Bums. Why? Well, from a general point-of-view, the former is Jack's most famous novel and the latter is my favorite, so they make good introductions to a Kerouac virgin. If you meet that criteria and promise to read On The Road, be the first commenter to ask for it and I'll send you a copy. You will have to provide me with your snail mail address, however, and trust that I will keep it private.

From a more specific point-of-view, my book -- The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions -- is a companion reader to these two novels. That is, my 100 "Kerouactions" relate to passages in order from the beginning of Bums to the end of Road. So, a complete gift package from me that includes my book really needs to have On The Road and The Dharma Bums with it. I have gifted that trilogy at least once. Links to all three books are over there on the right side of this blog -----> .

I'm not going into an exegesis of On The Road today, but will save that -- if it happens -- for when we get to my working copy (late on Bookshelf #1). Suffice to say that it is Jack's most famous work, it launched him to fame, it has stood the test of time, it is often included in lists of best novels of all time (e.g., it's #55 on the Modern Library's "100 Best Novels" list), and it rightly earned the title, "The Bible of the Beat Generation."

Dig the ride!

P.S. I dig the cover picture of Neal Cassady (L) and Jack (R).




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (6th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf