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

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