Thursday, June 21, 2018

Curation #69 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Trainsong by Jan Kerouac



Item #69 (heh heh) in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover 1988 Henry Holt and Company first edition first printing copy of Trainsong by Jan Kerouac. It's in very good shape (with dust cover), 210 pages, and about 5-1/2" x 8-1/2". The provenance is uncertain.

Trainsong is Jan Kerouac's second book, and it continues her autobiographical saga started in her debut book, Baby Driver (curated yesterday here). It is just as colorful and gritty, and helps further establish Jan's writing credentials. If you're interested in Jan's life, the only biography I know about is Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, edited by Gerald Nicosia. I reviewed that book here.

I wish I could have met Jan, but I feel like I know her from reading her memoirs. I recommend them whether or not you are a Kerouacophile.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Excerpts from Parrot Fever by Jan Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

860,619 pageviews

A little less than 40,000 more pageviews and we will have hit a cool million. I am still pondering what to do to celebrate. Any ideas from Daily Beat readers would be appreciated.

Curation #68 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Baby Driver by Jan Kerouac



Item #68 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover (no dustjacket) 1981 St. Martin's Press first edition first printing of Jan Kerouac's Baby Driver. Yes, you read that right. Jan. Not Jack. More on that later. This copy is in good condition and the worst aspect of it is that it has no dust cover. It's 208 pages and about 8-3/4" x 9-3/8". The provenance, I think, is that I got it used from Amazon. On the inside cover is an Ex Libris decal indicating it belonged to a Bert Fischer at one time. Bert, if you respond to this post, I'll send you a free signed copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

A memoir, Baby Driver (the title comes from a Paul Simon song) is the first book by Jan Kerouac, Jack Kerouac's only -- to our knowledge -- child. Her mother was Joan Haverty Kerouac, Jack's second wife. Here's a picture of Jan in case you've never seen one.



I won't bother getting into the whole Kerouac estate controversy in which Jan was embroiled, or the fact that Jack disavowed her -- seeing her twice in his life and talking to her another time on the phone. We've covered those topics in past posts.

What I want to say is that Jan Kerouac certainly inherited her father's writing genes, as she was a powerful wordsmith -- but in her own right and not a clone. There's a good recap of Baby Driver in this review by Krysten Bean on Empty Mirror: click here.

Baby Driver may not be everybody's cup of tea -- it's pretty gritty at times. Jan didn't shy away from adventure, travel, or drugs & alcohol (partly why she died at 44) -- and she doesn't shy away from those topics in her book. She can be witty (darkly so) and she not only inherited Jack's writing genes but also his memory: the details in this memoir are astounding.

Click here for some thoughts I had on Baby Driver in 2012.








Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Trainsong by Jan Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Curation #67 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Satori in Paris & Pic by Jack Kerouac



Item #67 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback with a 1985 copyright by Grove Press. The printing number line is 00 01 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12, whatever the hell that means. This copy is in fair condition, 238 pages, measuring about 13.5 x 20.5 centimeters (notice how I used the metric system there in honor of the Paris connection). The provenance of this book is uncertain.

We already curated a stand-alone copy of Pic here, so there is no need to go into the content of that Kerouac novella. This leaves us with Satori in Paris, which originally appeared in Evergreen Review in three installments and was first published as a book in 1966. I re-read Satori in Paris in preparation for our September 2017 trip to Europe, which included several days in Paris. While this particular Kerouac novel is not highly acclaimed (note this NY Times review), I rather like it. The story concerns Kerouac's trip to Paris and Brittany in June 1965, supposedly to do some genealogy on the name Kerouac but, as you can guess, Jack's drinking and interacting with French people (remember, he spoke a version of French from a young age) and sights takes center stage.

Despite the title, don't expect a lot of focus on Buddhism throughout (satori means sudden enlightenment). What you will find is lots of French terms and place names and even a passing reference to a hero of mine, Robert F. Kennedy.

Satori in Paris is a bit hard to describe. The overall tone is a bit cynical, similar to what you find in Vanity of Duluoz; this makes sense since both books were written by an older, jaded Kerouac. There's still that magical rip-roaring prose, though, and it's a change from the usual Lowell/New York/Mexico settings Kerouac often wrote about.

Here are a couple of teaser paragraphs:
Methinks women love me and then they realize I'm drunk for all the world and this makes them realize I cant [sic] concentrate on them alone, for long, makes them jealous, and I'm a fool in Love With God. Yes.

But I'm not a Buddhist, I'm a Catholic revisiting the ancestral land that fought for Catholicism against impossible odds yet won in the end, as certes, at dawn, I'll hear the tolling of the tocsin churchbells for the dead. 

But, as I unpin my little McCrory suitcase (Monkey Ward it actually was) key, I realize I'm too drunk and mad to open the lock (I'm looking for my tranquilizers which you must admit I need by now), in the suitcase, the key is pinned as according to my mother's instructions to my clothes--For a full twenty minutes I kneel there in the baggage station of Brest Brittany trying to make the little key open the snaplock, cheap suitcase anyhow, finally in a Breton rage I yell "Ouvre donc maudit!" (OPEN UP DAMN YOU!!) and break the lock--I hear laughter--I hear someone say: "Le roi Kerouac" (the king Kerouac).

I'll leave it to you to read the book and figure out what Jack's satori was all about.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Baby Driver by Jan Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Monday, June 18, 2018

Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch & the Beat Generation




Just scored this copy of Aram Saroyan's book, Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch & the Beat Generation. I've always wanted to read more about Lew Welch, being a big fan of his poetry (I reviewed Ring of Bone here). 

I won't curate this book since it wasn't on my Kerouac shelf at the time I started curating, but in the way of information, it's a hardback 1979 first edition first printing by William Morrow and Company, Inc. This copy is in very good condition and is one of the few 1E/1P hardcovers in my collection.

I'll report back after I read it and let you know what I think.

Kerouac fans know the Kerouac connection here. Jack and Lew were friends. Lew played a prominent role in Jack's Big Sur adventure (detailed in, of course, Big Sur, where Lew appears as Dave Wain). and he was on that cross-country road trip with Jack and Albert Saijo that produced Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road. Lew also appeared in Desolation Angels as Dave Wain.

Curation #66 from Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac




Item #66 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 2003 Penguin Books 16th printing of Jack Kerouac's Book of Haikus. It's 200 pages and about 4-3/4" x 6". This copy is in good shape and the provenance is unknown.

This is, as the title suggests, another book of Jack Kerouac's poetry. It begins with an instructive 31-page introduction by editor Regina Weinreich titled, "The Haiku Poetics of Jack Kerouac." As opposed to Trip Trap, which claims to be haiku but seldom even observes the 3-line rule, this collection is mostly 3-line haiku. Yet they do not conform to the 5-7-5 syllable rule, but, rather, are what Jack called "Western Haiku": "simply say a lot in three short lines."

As Weinreich says in the introduction, this collection "should give a range of Kerouac's haiku production." The book is divided into six subsections:

BOOK OF HAIKUS
I. Book of Haikus
II. Dharma Pops

NOTEBOOKS
III. 1965: Desolation Pops/SPRING
IV. 1957: Road Haikus/SUMMER
V. 1958-1959: Beat Generation Haikus/AUTUMN
VI. 1960-1966: Northport Haikus/WINTER


Book of Haikus is further evidence that Kerouac was an accomplished poet and not just a prose artist. But we've said that before when curating San Francisco Blues, Book of Blues, and Mexico City Blues, so now it's just a matter of delving into Jack's poetry and seeing for yourself!

Here are a few from the book to tease you into action.

Poor tortured teeth
    under
The blue sky



Leaves skittering on
       the tin roof
--August fog in Big Sur



The little sparrow on the eave drainpipe
My heart flutters



The falling snow--
     The hissing radiators--
The bride out there



Happy reading!





Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Satori in Paris and Pic by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf




Thursday, June 14, 2018

Curation #65 from my Kerouac bookshelf: You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac



Item #65 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover 2009 Chronicle Books 1st printing of You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac. It's in great shape and small as books go: 96 pages and about 6" x 5-1/4". The provenance is that I bought it from Amazon (I think).

This is a compilation of a couple of pieces Kerouac is known for and which you can read online. Hence there is no real reason to own the book other than fandom or for the foreword by Regina Weinreich or the pictures scattered throughout. The pieces are available at the following links:

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose (appeared in Evergreen Review Spring 1959)

Essentials of Spontaneous Prose (appeared in Evergreen Review Summer 1958)


Someone -- the estate, I guess -- thought it was a good idea to compile these two pieces. The reason it takes 50 pages is that the individual items are on their own pages -- with artistic fonts and flourishes -- and, as mentioned above, there are pictures of Jack throughout that likewise take up an entire page. There's a caption key for photos at the end with page numbers, yet the book doesn't have any page numbers! There may be a picture or two here you haven't seen, such as the one of Jack shoveling snow.

Given that you can read both pieces online, I can't recommend owning this book unless you are a true Kerouac fan. Or you don't do Internet. Or you just have an urge to spend some money.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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 Haikus by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Curation #64 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac



Item #64 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 1990 Grove Press 8th printing of Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues. It's 244 pages, about 5-1/4" x 8-1/8", and in fair condition (bent page corners, creased cover). The provenance is uncertain, but it's probably a used Amazon purchase.

Jack began writing Mexico City Blues in 1955 while living in Mexico City. It was first published in 1959, although individual poems appeared in poetry journals before that. Consisting of 242 choruses -- poems limited to the size of his notebook pages where he wrote them -- Mexico City Blues is considered by some to contain some of Kerouac's best poems. Nevertheless, it met with a poor review in the NY Times (click here), although one must consider the fact that the review was written by Kenneth Rexroth, who was no fan of Jack's.

In the intro to his San Francisco Blues, which we previously curated here, Jack says:
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.
Here is Jack's note from the beginning of Mexico City Blues:
NOTE
     I want to be considered a jazz poet
     blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam
     session in Sunday. I take 242 choruses;
     my ideas vary and sometimes roll from
     chorus to chorus or from halfway through
     a chorus to halfway into the next.

I haven't read it, but I'm told that for a critical look at Mexico City Blues you can't go wrong with James T. Jones' book, A Map of Mexico City Blues: Jack Kerouac as Poet. Put it on the list you are keeping of potential birthday and Christmas presents for me.

We've opined in previous curations and other posts about Jack's talent as a poet and not just a prose writer; Mexico City Blues is more evidence of that talent.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: You're A Genius All The Time by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Curation #63 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch



Item #63 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback City Lights/Grey Fox 1998 (no printing number) edition of Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch. It's in very good condition, 68 pages, about 5-5/8' x 8-1/4". Provenance is unknown, but given that a number of poems have red checkmarks next to them and I don't remember doing that, I presume I bought it used, probably from Amazon (which you can do below but I don't recommend paying $2,484.79). This edition includes introductory pieces by Welch and Saijo and four letters from Welch to Kerouac.

Trip Trap is a set of poems handwritten by Kerouac, Saijo, and Welch during a road trip in Welch's car from San Francisco to New York City just before Thanksgiving in 1959. They were first published in 1973, after Kerouac and Welch had died (1969 and 1971 respectively). Saijo died in 2011.

This is great stuff from three masters. I've written about Saijo (click here) and Welch (click here) before. Don't expect traditional 5-7-5 haiku format, or much that even resembles Kerouac's "Western haiku" (3 lines, no syllabic restrictions).

There are entries like this:
Whore candy

And this:
The new moon
         is
the toenail of God

And this:
The whole world
must become
     crazy because
     we don't want
           anyone to arrest
           anybody anymore


It's a poetry potpourri, plus you have the introductory pieces from Welch and Saijo as well as Welch's letters to Kerouac. I recommend it.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Mexico City Blues by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Monday, June 11, 2018

Curation #62 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Haunted Life and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac





Item #62 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this hardcover Da Capo Press 2014 1st printing of The Haunted Life and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac. It's in really good shape (because the provenance is that I bought it new when it first came out), 153 pages, and about 5-1/2" x 8-1/4".

As the inside jacket cover says, this is "A Jack Kerouac novella long believed lost, with period sketches, notes, reflections, and correspondence" Jack kept during the novella's composition in 1944 -- the same year he lost his close friend Sebastian Sampas in the war and also the year of the David Kammerer killing that was the subject of our last curation item. This edition has a helpful 20-page introduction by editor Todd Tietchen.

I won't bore you with details about the content. Suffice to say that it is semi-autobiographical like most of Jack's novels and deals with the Martin family (Kerouac) of Galloway (Lowell). It's a classic coming-of-age story like several of Kerouac's novels (remember the term Bildungsroman I had you look up the other day?).

The Martins and Galloway? Shades of The Town and the City. If you've read most of Kerouac's work, reading The Haunted Life feels like you've read it before. I most enjoyed the pieces after the novella, especially the letters; in particular, some from Kerouac's father, who closes with, "The old weasel--POP."

Nevertheless, as with And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, this is an important piece in the canon as it shows Kerouac in his early stage of development as a writer.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Trip Trap: Haiku On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Curation #61 from my Kerouac bookshelf: And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs



Item #61 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback Grove Press 2008 (no printing number) edition of And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. It's in good shape, 214 pages, about 5-3/8" x 8", and the provenance is that it was a gift from my friend, Adrianne, in April 2011. I know this from the inscription: "Found this, thought of you. Then I smiled. Be well, my friend. Adrianne 4/11". This version includes a lengthy afterword by James Grauerholz, Burroughs' literary executor.

This book was written in 1945, long before either author became famous (and it shows in the writing). The title supposedly comes from a radio broadcast Burroughs heard about a fire at a circus, although there are conflicting claims as to which circus and when (if it happened at all). Hippos consists of chapters that alternate from one author to the other, each using a pseudonym (as Kerouac was wont to do). The novel centers around the famous murder of David Kammerer by inner circle Beat, Lucien Carr, in 1944. Kerouac fans well know this story, but so do non-fans: it was made into the tepid 2013 movie, Kill Your Darlings. If you don't know the story, a little Googling will reveal more than you care to know.

Hippos got an okay review from the NY Times (click here).

I read this novel when I first got it and didn't find it that compelling a read. It's an important piece of the Beat canon, though, and it deserves a spot on your Kerouac or Beat bookshelf.






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: The Haunted Life and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Friday, June 8, 2018

Jack Kerouac and James Baldwin



I've been curating the hell out of my Kerouac bookshelf (60 entries since Feb. 12) and neglecting to blog about other things. Hence, I thought I'd catch you up on my reading endeavors.

Sadly, I have never read James Baldwin until recently. I'd seen his name a lot and had a general sense of who he was, but I never got around to checking out his writing. As is my typical pattern, I rather went overboard by taking out two books from the library -- not knowing if I liked him as an author -- and, trusting synchronicity, heard Chris Matthews rave about Michael Eric Dyson's new book (that invokes Baldwin in the subtitle) and immediately bought it.

I started with Go Tell It On The Mountain. It's easy to see why people rave about Baldwin as a writer. He is powerful and his writing style is unique. This novel chronicles a 14-year-old boy's discovery of the terms of his identity as the stepson of a minister of a storefront Pentecostal minister in 1930s Harlem. It typically makes Top 100 lists (Modern Library, Time, etc.), and it's easy to see why. It was a little too Jesus-y for my taste, but it had to be that way for authenticity. I do recommend it as a novel you must read.

I'm three-quarters finished with Another Country, Baldwin's novel about a group of bohemians in Greenwich Village (also Paris) in the 1950s. It deals with topics that were provocative at the time such as homo- and bisexuality, interracial couples, extra-marital affairs, drugs, etc. I like it more than Go Tell It On The Mountain, but mostly for the topic -- the writing is equally excellent.

I haven't started Dyson's book, but it promises to be a good read as it centers around the epochal 1963 meeting about race between Robert F. Kennedy (a hero of mine) and James Baldwin and others in NYC. I'll let you know what I think of it at a later time.


But what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac? Well, Baldwin and Kerouac were contemporaries (born in 1924 and 1922 respectively). And Baldwin writes about the same bohemian lifestyle Kerouac lived and wrote about in the Village. Another Country is a very "beat" novel, published in 1962 after John Clellon Holmes' Go (1952) and Kerouac's On The Road (1957). I note this passage from pp. 6-7:
For to remember Leona was also . . . to remember the beat: A nigger, said his father, lives his whole life, lives and dies according to a beat. Shit, he humps to that beat and the baby he throws up in there, well he jumps to it and comes out nine months later like a goddamn tambourine. The beat: hands, feet, tambourines, drums, piano, laughter, curses, razor blades; the man stiffening with a laugh and a growl and a purr and the women moistening and softening with a whisper and a sigh and cry. The beat--in Harlem in the summertime one could almost see it, shaking above the pavements and the roof.

And remember that the book details the lives of some very bohemian characters in the village in the 1950s. Another connection is that Another Country is semi-autobiographical like Kerouac's novels (Baldwin lived in the Village and in Paris).

Baldwin didn't think much of Kerouac. I read this in multiple sources, but the below is a quote from Empty Mirror:
In On the Road, Kerouac talks of the “happy Negros of America,” which enraged James Baldwin, who said it’s “absolute nonsense, and offensive nonsense at that: I would hate to be in Kerouac’s shoes if he should ever be mad enough to read this aloud from the stage of Harlem’s Apollo Theater.”

According to Dan Wakefield (click here), Baldwin had a particular aversion to Kerouac and referred to the Beats in general as "the Suzuki rhythm boys."

But had the two met? According to Gerald Nicosia, yes -- in 1954:
At the party he [Bob Burford] introduced Jack to James Baldwin, but Jack disliked Baldwin's gayness, and Baldwin offended him by criticizing Burroughs. (Memory Babe, p. 468)

I suspect there is a lot more to be said about connections between the two but I will leave it there. I have reading to do . . . .

Curation #60 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac



Item #60 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 1993 Penguin Books 2nd printing of Jack Kerouac's Maggie Cassidy. It's in good condition (minor underlining and yellowed pages), 194 pages, about 5" x 7-3/4", and the provenance is unknown although it is likely the first copy I bought of three that I own and therefore the one I read first. I imagine it was a used purchase on Amazon.

I already said enough about the content of Maggie Cassidy when I curated my other two copies on April 9 and 10 here and here. So, here are some random thoughts about Maggie Cassidy in no particular order of importance.

Note that Cassidy is spelled different from the surname of Jack's muse, Holy Goof Neal Cassady. Ellis Amburn in Subterranean Kerouac says that "it seems likely that Kerouac was displacing other relationships onto Mary Carney when he wrote Maggie Cassidy," most notably, of course, Carolyn Cassady -- who Amburn states said she never asked Jack about the possible connection between the names.

The cover of this copy includes an apt quote from Kerouac biographer and scholar, Ann Charters: "A bittersweet evocation of high school, love, lust and loss in small town thirties America . . . ."

I note that either Charters or the editor does not subscribe to the Oxford comma. I do.

It's probably gauche, but some of you may be wondering if Jack and the real-life Maggie Cassidy, Mary Carney, ever consummated their relationship given the ending (where the protagonist Jack Duluoz is stymied by Maggie's girdle). Barry Miles, in Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats, points out that "while Jack was having a tortured chaste love affair with Mary he was at the same time sleeping with a much more worldly girl called Peggy Coffey." Amburn says that Mary Carney told her daughter, Judy, that Jack was her father, which would suggest intercourse. However, Amburn states that Mary does not appear on the list Jack kept of his sexual conquests (a "sex list" he says is in the Kerouac archive in Lowell), revealing that he and Mary never consummated their affair. Given the conflicting stories, we are left to wonder . . . .

Maggie Cassidy is both a roman รก clef and a Bildungsroman. If those are unfamiliar terms, I invite you to Google them. I love words and these are some good ones to know.

 Happy reading!






Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Curation #59 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Old Angel Midnight by Jack Kerouac



Item #59 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback Grey Fox Press edition of Jack Kerouac's Old Angel Midnight. The copyright page leaves one guessing as to its publication date, but I think this is a second printing from 1995. It's 67 pages, about 5-1/2" x 8", and in good shape. This edition has introductory pieces by Ann Charters and by Michael McClure.

Old Angel Midnight was originally published as a whole in 1973 according to Empty Mirror, but this review of Jack's Book in 1978 says it still hadn't happened. Parts of the work appeared in 1959 (Big Table), 1964 (Evergreen Review), and 1961 (New Directions in Prose & Poetry); and, of course, there are sections of it in different archives. According to the Ann Charters intro, Jack was "finally doodling with an endless automatic writing piece" in 1956, and she claims he was referring to Old Angel Midnight, then titled "Lucien Midnight." I've seen it reported that Jack references the work as early as 1953. It's commonly referred to as a continuous prose poem culled from five of Kerouac's notebooks.

Jack said (this is from the back cover):
Old Angel Midnight is only the beginning of a lifelong work in multilingual sound, representing the haddal-da-babra of babbling world tongues coming in thru my window at midnight no matter where I live or what I'm doing....

Dedicated to Lucien Carr (who my friend Cat De Leon would remind us is a principal catalyst of the Beat movement who gets little recognition for same), Old Angel Midnight is Jack Kerouac at his spontaneous peak power, only it is especially aural as he is concentrating on putting sounds to paper as he listens to the world outside his window. It's a difficult read -- right up there with Visions of Cody -- unless you can appreciate the sounds of the language, making it essential to read Old Angel Midnight aloud for the full experience. That helps get you through the rough patches where you are trying to bring meaning to the words and inevitably fail. It starts out:

1      FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE, in all directions in & out you got your men women dogs children horses pones tics perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences and petty Thieveries that turn into heavenly Buddha--

And that's just the beginning. See for yourself how wild the ride gets farther along....


P.S. You can click here for a PDF of the first five pages. You can read along with Jack here.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: a third copy of Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Curation #58 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac



Item #58 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback City Lights Books 1981 21st printing of Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams (1961). It's 184 pages, approximately 5-1/2" x 8", and in fair condition. The provenance is uncertain. It's based on dream journals Jack kept between 1952-1960.

As the back cover explains:
This BOOK OF DREAMS is what JACK KEROUAC saw in his sleep, not day-dreams or day reveries. It's his private dream-record, all his nights strung together. It's the poetic raw material of the Kerouac saga, the substrata of his novels and a commentary upon them.

And as Jack himself explains in the FOREWORD:
The reader should know that this is just a collection of dreams that I scribbled after I woke up from my sleep--They were all written spontaneously, nonstop, just like dreams happen, sometimes written before I was even wide awake--

Book of Dreams includes a "Table of Characters" giving the character's names in Book of Dreams and their analogous names in On The Road, The Subterraneans, and The Dharma Bums.

I should note that this is the shorter version of Book of Dreams. In 2001 City Lights published an expanded version with an additional 200-some dreams compared to the initial 1961 edition. The link below is to the expanded (360 pages) edition. It includes a prologue by Robert Creeley -- reason alone to buy this edition. I don't even see the shorter edition available on Amazon, but it's available on eBay and AbeBooks and, I suspect, other sites.

This book is a wild Kerouac ride (cf. our next post on Old Angel Midnight). Indeed, it is one of my favorite Kerouac books. The scope and the spontaneity are magnificent. As such, I need to own a copy of -- and read -- the expanded edition. I also need to keep a dream journal for a time just to see what manifests.

I highly recommend this book to Kerouac fans. Otherwise, it may not be your cup of tea.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: Old Angel Midnight by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf



Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Curation #57 from my Kerouac bookshelf: On The Road by Jack Kerouac



Item #57 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 2003 Penguin Books 3rd printing of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. It's in poor condition with cover damage and liquid-wrinkled pages. Provenance is unknown. This is one of my spare copies of On The Road for purposes of giving away when the occasion strikes.

We've taken up this version of On The Road in this curation project 2 different times: March 31 and April 3, 2018. Consequently, there's not much left to say about the book that I haven't already said (or that hasn't already been said elsewhere). This is proof positive that my Kerouac bookshelf is disorganized, given that this copy of On The Road sits removed from the others.

Here's one On The Road resource I haven't mentioned (to my memory): a collection of different On The Road book covers (see Jack Kerouac Book Covers). It includes US and foreign editions. Perhaps you didn't know there were so many. By the way, this photoset includes the cover Jack drew himself (scroll to the bottom).

As a reminder, my own book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, answers the question -- What would Kerouac do? - with entries related to passages from On The Road (and The Dharma Bums). In effect, it's a companion reader to those two novels.

If you want your own copy -- or an additional copy -- of On The Road, there is a link to Amazon over there on the right hand side of this blog. Remember, a great way to evangelize to others about Jack Kerouac is to let his own words speak for themselves. What better way to do that than giving someone a copy of one of his books?



Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: another copy of Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Monday, June 4, 2018

Curation #56 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac



Item #56 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this Penguin Books 12th printing of a 1991 edition of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Gerard. This copy is in okay shape (lots of underlining - most not mine) and the provenance is uncertain. It is a version that does not have James Spanfeller's wonderful illustrations.

Yesterday we visited the content in VOG, so there's no need to go there today.

It may be instructive to read what the NY Times said about the book when it appeared in 1963 (click here). The reviewer was completely distracted by Kerouac's prose and concluded:
Thus deadened by Kerouac's prose, we cannot respond to the boy's agony.

This is way off the mark, and Kerouac's prose has since become recognized for the genius it was. For a counterpoint, consider Kristin McLaughlin's piece on Beatdom by clicking here.

Jack called VOG "my best most serious sad and true book yet." I think he was correct.

If you "get" Kerouac, VOG is a masterpiece. If you don't "get" Kerouac, it's an enigma wrapped in a puzzle surrounded by a mystery. I wish more people "got" Kerouac, but then the Kerouac space some of us occupy would be overcrowded. And we have enough dilettantes as it is. Me included.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from VOG:
My father had more time to avoid the sight of his little boy's death, by busying by burying himself in details of his work at the shop---And as heartbreaking April blossomed-burst into May and the mornings and the nights were music, the death in the house grew browner . . . . (p. 77)

Go forth and write a strikingly gorgeous passage like that and then see what it feels like to read a review like the NY Times wrote (see above). No wonder Kerouac hit the bottle so hard.

Gerard, thank you for the role you played in forming Jack Kerouac, the writer.



Below is a picture of Shelf #2 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: another copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Curation #55 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac



Item #55 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this McGraw-Hill 1976 (not sure of the printing number - it says 123456789MUMU79876) copy of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Gerard. This 150-page, approximately 5" x 8" book is in okay shape (some middle pages have broken free from the binding) and the provenance is unknown. This is the edition with the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations by James Spanfeller.

Visions of Gerard holds a special place in the Kerouac canon. Written in 1956 and first published in 1963, it is a beautiful paean to Jack's brother, Gerard, whose death at age 9 had a lifelong, profound impact on Kerouac. VOG explores the meaning of existence through Kerouac's unique prose memories of Gerard's brief life and death in 1926 of rheumatic fever in Jack's milltown home of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Vivid Lowell memories feature prominently in VOG, and Jack's Catholicism plays a heavy role throughout. While Jack provides no certain answers about the mysteries of life, he concludes:
Sometime in the same
night that's everywhere
the same right now
and forevermore
        amen
In other words, it'll all be okay in the end.

VOG is classic Kerouac and worthy of reading aloud all the way through, which my great friend, Richard, and I have done in our turn-taking fashion. If you are going to own five Kerouac books out of the many that exist, this has to be one of them. That's how good it is.







Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (5th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: a second copy of Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf