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