Item #86 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 1996 Penguin Books 1st printing of The Portable Jack Kerouac edited by Ann Charters. 621 pages, it measures about 5" x 7-5/8" and is in good condition. The provenance is that I bought it from a used bookstore (the name escapes me) in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.
As the back cover indicates,
This one volume omnibus, planned by the author before his death [Jack was inspired when he saw The Portable Steinbeck] and now completed by his biographer, Ann Charters, makes clear the ambition and accomplishment of Jack Kerouac's "Legend of Duluoz"--the story of his life told in the course of his many "true-story novels," including On the Road.This collection includes selected prose from his books (Duluoz Legend and beyond), poetry, essays, and letters. It really can serve its titular purpose -- to be the one Kerouac book that comprises a thoughtful, representative sampling of his works. That, in fact, is why I bought it; unfortunately, I haven't used it that way. It strikes me now that it might be just the book to leave at camp for when I'm jonesing for some Kerouac. I had a copy of On The Road out there last year but it didn't always fit my mood.
There is a preface and an introduction, a chronology of Jack's life, Jack's own introduction (from Lonesome Traveler), an editor's introduction including a letter from Jack to John Clellon Holmes musing about such a book, a character identity key, and a Kerouac bibliography. Many of the selections are introduced with a brief editor's note.
If the purpose of this book is to, as Jack described it, capture the "'essence'" of his prose and poetry "'in one binder to carry around and read at leisure'" (p. 4), this book fits the bill. It deserves a spot on your Kerouac bookshelf, or, better yet, in your canvas rucksack.
There are over 100 books in the portable library series (purchased from Viking Press by Penguin Books in 1975). You can see a list here.
Below is a picture of Shelf #3 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (6th from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Understanding Kerouac's ON THE ROAD by Edward Renehan.
|Shelf #3 of my Kerouac bookshelf|