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