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

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