Friday, February 15, 2019

Jack Kerouac in the comics -- again

Hi and Lois comic strip from 2-15-19

Being a fan of Krazy Kat and Popeye and drawing cartoons himself (click here), Jack Kerouac would likely have appreciated today's Hi and Lois comic strip (see above). This is the second time I've seen an On the Road mention in this particular comic strip (click here for the other). We posted about a Kerouac mention in Zits, another favorite comic of mine, here.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

The etymology of Jack Kerouac's character names

James Dean (l) and Professor James Moriarty (r)

We know to a certainty that Jack Kerouac's characters represented real-life people. See, for example, Dave Moore's excellent Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend. We know, for example, that Dean Moriarty in On the Road represents real-life Neal Cassady. But why did Jack use the pseudonym, Dean Moriarty? Was it, as some have suggested, a combination of James Dean -- representing Neal's rebel side -- and Professor James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes -- representing Neal's dark side? How did Jack pick Rheinhold Cacoethes for Kenneth Rexroth? Where did Jack get James Watson for John Clellon Holmes? Why did Jack use Sal Paradise for himself? And so on.

There are bits and pieces about this in various Kerouac biographies and strewn about the 'Net, but I am not aware of a one-stop, comprehensive, evidence-based source for such information; it makes sense to me that such a resource would be of interest to Kerouac scholars and fans. If you are aware of such a resource -- even piecemeal attempts -- let us know in a comment. We may start collecting such information and posting it in one spot in a future blog post.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

We have a free books winner!

"Jack in Texas" just posted a comment about the free book giveaway. He is an ex-Mainer who lives in Texas but has a brother and sister in the Pine Tree State.

Close enough! I declare him the winner. You official "current" Mainers were too slow on the draw.

Jack, send your name and address to so I can mail you the books.


My "It's not you, it's me" theory may have hit a snag

Not so long ago I held one of my periodic book giveaways, and I bemoaned the outcome: There were no takers. I was saddened that I couldn't even give my book away!

On Thursday last (click here), I offered to give away a copy of my book along with two of Jack Kerouac's -- On the Road and The Dharma Bums. Again -- no takers!

This pokes a hole in my theory that it's about my book being unwanted. Maybe people don't want a free Kerouac book either. Meaning it's not me, it's him. Or, maybe my blog isn't read much (although there were 12,351 pageviews last month). Or maybe there really isn't another Kerouac fan in Maine (see the above post for an explanation of that statement).

There really are no strings attached when I give a book away. The first Mainer to comment on Thursday's post gets a free copy of my book -- The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions -- along with the books it references: On the Road and The Dharma Bums. It's at least a $37 value not counting shipping (which is also on me).

Come on, Kerouac fans. Pass the word to your Maine friends and loved ones! I just want to spread the gospel of St. Jack.

Something good will come out of this yet!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Happy Birthday to Neal Cassady and my friend, Keith

It's February 8, which can only mean one thing: It's Neal Cassady's birthday. Neal was born this date in 1926, so he would have been 93 years old today.

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to Neal Cassady or an explanation of his connection to Kerouac. What you may not know is that my own Neal Cassady, the person who introduced me to Kerouac in the first place, also celebrates a birthday today.

So Happy Birthday to Neal and Keith, who, to me, are both important Beat muses.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Thursday in Kerouac-land and it's free book day

Here we are. Thursday in Kerouac-land, Maine. It snowed again. I shoveled the driveway/breezeway, front sidewalk & steps, pathways every which way, and the back deck -- again.

Why do I call this Kerouac-land? Because sometimes I feel very, very alone with my Kerouac obsession here in central Maine. In fact, I only know of one other person in the whole state who is Kerouac fan enough to attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (not counting Crystal, who I wouldn't call a Kerouac fan as much as a tolerant mate), and I haven't seen or heard from him in years. So I'm trying to speak reality into existence by calling this Kerouac-land.

Now, it's a big state geographically speaking but that only accounts for about 1.3 million people.

So I guess you could call me "one in a million."

But I'm not giving up until every single person in Maine has read On the Road and The Dharma Bums.

To wit, if a Mainer (defined as someone currently living in Maine) responds to this post, I will send the first such poster a copy of On the Road and The Dharma Bums as well as my companion reader to both, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions (signed, of course). I will need your name and street address.

And don't post as "Anonymous" or it's likely your post will get spam filtered. And you have to put the word "Maine" and the phrase "free books" in your post to make sure I don't think it's a bot.

Anyway, how's that for a Kerouacian deal? Three free books just for posting a comment. No strings attached except paying it forward somehow (and reading the books!).

Make it so, Number One.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Happy Birthday to William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs, one third of the Beat triumvirate, was born this date in 1914. He would have been 105 years old today.

Happy Birthday, Bill. In your honor, we will read some of your poetry today -- click here.

Jack Kerouac and mental health

Last night I completed another shift as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, and mental health is on my mind this morning. There's a lot pain out there. Fortunately, there are resources available for people experiencing mental health issues.

Long-time readers of The Daily Beat know that I experienced my own mental health crisis in 2013 and I wrote about it on a couple of occasions. I don't want to make this about me by revisiting the details in this post. If you're interested, such details can be found here and here.

It's very typical for people with mental health issues to hear that they need to "get on with it," "toughen up," "deal with it," and so on. If a friend told you they had cancer, would you tell them to just toughen up and deal with it? I don't think so. The last thing someone with mental health issues needs is such uninformed (and often unsolicited) advice. What they need is to be heard and for others to have empathy for the difficult situation in which they find themselves; and, of course, they may need professional services.

But, you ask, what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac? As I detailed in those past posts, Jack Kerouac was no stranger to mental health issues. The Navy once diagnosed him with dementia praecox (a no longer used psychiatric diagnosis), and he faced mental health issues as described in Big Sur. In The Dharma Bums, he writes about Rosie Buchanan (real-life Natalie Jackson) and her suicide. Another member of the Beat triumvirate, Allen Ginsberg, spent time in a psychiatric hospital. There's more, but the connections are clear.

I say all of the above to get to this: if you or someone you care about is facing mental health issues, there are steps you can take to get help. For example, anyone in crisis can text Crisis Text Line at 741741 and have a conversation (all by text) with a trained volunteer crisis counselor. There is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to call (1-800-273-8255). Both are free 24/7 services. There's the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and resources they recommend (click here). And so on. Whatever issue(s) you might be facing, there are resources out there.

Remember that you are valuable and you are enough. And that help is available. Spread the word.

Monday, February 4, 2019

We remember Neal Cassady, husband and father

Today is the date of Neal Cassady's death in 1968. We have opined on or around this date in honor of Neal on a number of occasions here on The Daily Beat in the past (see links below). On this particular occasion, I have a different take to offer. Instead of only remembering Neal for being Jack Kerouac's muse and for all the antics typically associated with him, let's also remember that he was a husband and a father, and while his wife, Carolyn has passed on, Neal has several living children for whom today's date has the special significance we can all imagine is experienced on such an anniversary.

So, to Neal's children, on this anniversary, we extend our condolences on the loss of your dad.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cassady.

Past posts on this subject:

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums summarized in 34 sentences

If you've been following along, you know we recently finished summarizing Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums in one sentence per chapter. That project started on December 19, 2019; we accomplished approximately one chapter per day. Now that we're finished, I thought it would be interesting to string all those sentences together in one post, which in effect would summarize The Dharma Bums in 34 sentences. To wit, below are all 34 sentences in sequence. NOTE: You will need to click on "Read more" to access all the chapters.

Chapter 1
After a long journey from Mexico, our narrator, Ray, hops a freight out of Los Angeles on the way to San Francisco, meeting a thin old little bum -- who carried and read daily a prayer by Saint Teresa -- who he shares his food and wine with before they go their separate ways in Santa Barbara after which Ray camps alone by the ocean in the sand at the foot of a cliff and enjoys some hot food, all the while contemplating the void from a Buddhist perspective.

Chapter 2
After hitchhiking to San Francisco courtesy of a beautiful darling young blonde in a cinnamon-red Lincoln Mercury, Ray Smith meets the number one Dharma Bum, Japhy Ryder, then goes out to a bar with a bunch of poets preparing for a reading at the Gallery Six, exchanges Zen koans with Japhy, takes up a collection for wine to pass around at the reading -- an event that signaled the birth of the San Francisco poetry Renaissance -- and afterwards goes out for Chinese food with the poets, anticipating everything he has to learn from Japhy including how to handle girls.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Jack Kerouac: Recycler

Jack Kerouac was a prolific writer. He left us over 30 books (prose and poetry), hundreds of letters, many journals, and whatever lurks in the estate archives that is yet to see the public light of day. Given that, it is no wonder that similar phrases appear more than once. I don't see this as a problem whatsoever, just something to note. You can't plagiarize yourself (well, technically it is possible from an academic standpoint). I prefer to think of it as "recycling." In other words, Jack was green before it was cool. Indeed, the Day 71 Kerouaction in my book -- The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions -- is on that very topic. Click here for that entry.

This is neither the time nor place for an exhaustive list of recycled Kerouacian phrases, but I will provide one example that struck me for the first time in my recent effort to get you to read The Dharma Bums along with me (check the archives on the right for all 34 chapters summarized in one sentence).

If you ever receive an e-mail from me, you will see that my signature includes this line from the very end of Big Sur (p. 216 in my 1992 Penguin Books edition):
Something good will come out of all things yet.

I love the optimism of this line. As I was re-reading The Dharma Bums in order to complete my recent one-sentence chapter summary project started on December 19, 2018, I happened on this sentence near the very end of Chapter 29 (p. 210 in my 1976 Penguin Books edition):
I know something good's gonna come out of all this!

I thought: "That's from Big Sur!" Not exactly, of course, but the similarities are axiomatic. For context, The Dharma Bums excerpt is spoken by Japhy Ryder. The Big Sur excerpt is the narrator, Jack Duluoz, speaking. Written in 1957 and 1961 respectively, it is easy to see which work borrowed from the other.

What recycling have you noticed in Jack's works?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Published in Empty Mirror!

Empty Mirror, an excellent on-line literary magazine, published my essay -- "Why Kerouac?" -- in today's (February 1) edition.

Check it out by clicking here.