Friday, May 25, 2018

Curation #48 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac

Item #48 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's The Town and the City. It's A Harvest Book by Harcourt, Inc., copyrighted originally by Harvest in 1970 and this edition looks to be 1983 with no printing number discernible. The provenance is unknown but I likely bought it used from Amazon. This copy is in okay shape, 499 pages, 5-1/4 x 7-7/8".

The Town and the City is Jack Kerouac's first published novel (Harcourt Brace). It hit the shelves in 1950 but brought him little in the way of the critical acclaim or broader recognition that On The Road did 7 years later (read the 1950 NY Times review here). It's a Wolfean story of the Martin family from Galloway (Lowell, Massachusetts, the "town"), "whose five sons and three daughters are each endowed with an energy and vision of life that drives the narrative from the early part of the century to the years following World War II" (from the back cover).

Jack draws on his own family and friends for characters using pseudonyms as usual, but his writing style is much more traditional in this novel. His powers of description are evident, and there are hints at his spontaneous style to come as well as the Beat Generation values which bear fruit in his later writing. New York City settings play a prominent role in the story (the "city"), as do familiar beat characters like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Carr, etc. (via pseudonym).

This is an important book in that it establishes Jack's early skills as a novelist and provides an insightful contrast to his later-developed style. If you're a Kerouac fan it's essential reading, but I suspect you'll like it if you're a fan of a good novel.

Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (29th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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