Saturday, February 28, 2009

A bum by any other name . . .

I do a crossword puzzle in the newspaper each day in an effort to stave off Alzheimer's (which afflicts mom and afflicted dad - I use the term "afflict" deliberately, harboring no intention of accepting the disease for them or for me). An answer in a recent puzzle was "vagrant." It got me thinking about the word "bum," which Jack used a lot.

I looked up "bum" on and found these synonyms:

bindle, black sheep, derelict, drifter, floater, gutterpup, guttersnipe, hobo, stiff, tramp, transient, vagabond, vagrant

If you click on some of the synonyms for "bum" or its synonyms you find words like:

beggar, castaway, dawdler, grifter, ne'er-do-well, outcast, renegade, stiff, stumblebum, itinerant, nomad, rolling stone, transient, down-and-out, hitchhiker, homeless person, loafer, panhandler, wanderer, fugitive, gypsy, rascal, persona non grata, itinerant, exile, fugitive, refugee, reprobate, untouchable, wretch, undesirable

In the notes for "bum" it says "a hobo is a migratory worker who likes to travel, a tramp travels without working, and a bum does not travel or work."

Similarly, in the notes for "vagabond" it says "a vagabond refers to a person who leads a carefree, roaming existence; a vagrant ekes out a living by begging and is often considered a nuisance."

So I guess from society's perspective, it's better to be a hobo than a tramp, better to be a tramp than a bum. And it's better to be a vagabond than a vagrant.

Now I'm going to add a word to the list. If you look up synonyms for "exile," you will find that it is treated like a condition rather than a person. In that list is "diaspora," which means "spreading out of a group of people." It's often used to describe situations where the group that spread out was more or less forced to do so, like the Irish coming to America to escape the potato famine (personal connection there).

Here's my word (I didn't coin it) for the list:


Here's my definition (I did create it - Google shows no definitions on-line):

a person who is part of a group that society marginalizes

So, my fellow diasporadoes, now you have a pretty exhaustive list of synonyms for "bum" that you can use in your next beat novel.

You're welcome.

Friday, February 27, 2009

BESP: Beat Economic Stimulus Package

It's time for true beats to do their part for the ailing economy. To wit, I present the Beat Economic Stimulus Package (BESP).

First, follow the advice contained in Day 9 of The Beat Handbook: "Right now, go up to the first person you see and give them $5.00." That ought to stimulate the economy. Or at least a conversation.

Second, buy a Kerouac book. You can never have too many and you can always give them away as gifts (again, advice from The Beat Handbook).

Third, buy The Beat Handbook. Admittedly, this latter suggestion is self-serving, but I promise to spend my royalties as fast as they come in!

Fourth, support your local bar. Stop in for a beer at least once a week, even if you have to scrape together coins from your couch cushions. And remember to tip the bartender.

So there you have it, a simple 4-step plan for stimulating the economy.

See you at the bar. Bring your copy of The Beat Handbook and I'll sign it for you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Naked women serving coffee

A topless coffee shop has opened in Vassalboro, Maine, much to the consternation of some locals. See this article in yesterday's Kennebec Journal: Topless coffee shop opens.

I wonder what Kerouac would do? Would he stop by once for the novelty? Become a regular? Eschew the whole scene?

Hard to say. He was definitely a fan of caffeine. Naked women certainly didn't scare him, considering his pension for brothels. Maybe he'd stop there on the way to the bar.

My local coffee shop, the Lazy Lab Cafe in Belgrade Lakes, ME, had the following sign out front yesterday morning (inspired by the newspaper article):

I had to take the picture with my cell phone because my camera battery had died (my laptop battery died last week - must be something in the air), so if you can't read it in the picture, here is what it says:


I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty damn clever. Made me laugh.

Why do we get so exercised over nakedness?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Salon article: Breaking up with the Beats

"Breaking up with the Beats" is a killer piece from Salon in 1999. In it, author David Gates is fairly critical of the beats, and yet he states:

Dean Moriarty, the pseudonymized Neal Cassady of "On the Road," is one of American literature's great characters.

I appreciate Gates' criticisms, yet they pale in comparison to Kerouac's achievements. Who do we have today of Kerouac's stature? What living author has created one of American literature's great characters? What living author is identified as the defining voice of a generation?

Don't tell me it's a different time, there's the Internet, Jack's competition wasn't like it would be now, blah-blee-blah. Deal with what is! Jack did. And Jack's work will stand the test of time.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Since Blogger is broken beyond all recognition
That is, since the Post Options feature no longer works
And I cannot create a post one day and date it to post the next
And since Blogger is the most user-unfriendly blog site in existence
With no way to contact a human being and get help--
This is a post for today's date
Created today
For no reason other than to get a post dated February 24, 2009
And thus not break my streak

Give me Jack's Underwood


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Beat Handbook: Reviewed

NOTE: The date for this post is wrong. Blogger is FUBAR lately, and I cannot get the posting to show February 24, which is the correct date for the post. Yesterday's post doesn't show a date! Grrrr.... Bottom line: I haven't missed a day since September 2008.

Here's a link to a recent review of The Beat Handbook: Reader Views.

Okay, it doesn't compare to Jack's New York Times review of On The Road (how could it?).

But hey, the reviewer has a Ph.D. and she didn't trash it!

That's something, right?

P.S. I don't know the reviewer.

The book review that launched Jack Kerouac's career

To read the book review that launched Jack Kerouac's career, see New York Times review of On The Road.

Quite a review, eh?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ayn Rand - Jack Kerouac connection

This blog, The Daily Beat, is about Jack Kerouac. I make no excuses. Sometimes entries are unabashed commercials for my book, The Beat Handbook. Again, I make no excuses. Always, my daily entries have something to do with Jack or the beat generation, even when it's a stretch to make the connection. Some entries are short, some long, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek, some tired & lazy, some inspired & profound.

I don't know what today's is (other than long). But I do know it's about a connection between Ayn Rand and Jack Kerouac.

I've been reading Rand's For The New Intellectual (1961, New York: Signet). Watching the film The Passion of Ayn Rand inspired me to finally sit down and read something of hers. I wasn't interested in tackling The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, and serendipitously I had a copy of For The New Intellectual laying around that I had purchased a few years ago. It contains excerpts from both those novels.

I found the below excerpt from Atlas Shrugged of particular interest. The excerpt is titled "The Nature of an Artist" and presents part of "a conversation between Dagny Taggart, the heroine of the story, and Richard Halley, a great composer, who is now on strike" (p. 116). As you may know, the plot of the novel is what would happen if all "men of the mind" went on strike. This is Halley speaking:

Name me a greater example of such devotion than the act of a man who says that the earth does turn, or the act of a man who says that an alloy of steel and copper has certain properties which enable it to do certain things, that it is and does--and let the world rack him or ruin him, he will not bear false witness to the evidence of his mind! This, Miss Taggart, this sort of spirit, courage and love for truth--as against a sloppy bum who goes around proudly assuring you that he has almost reached the perfection of a lunatic, because he's an artist who hasn't the faintest idea what his art work is or means, he's not restrained by such crude concepts as 'being' or or 'meaning,' he's the vehicle of higher mysteries, he doesn't know how he created his work or why, it just came out of him spontaneously, like vomit out of a drunkard, he did not think, he wouldn't stoop to thinking, he just felt it, all he has to do is feel--he feels, the flabby, loose-mouthed, shifty-eyed, drooling, shivering, uncongealed bastard! I, who know what discipline, what effort, what tension of mind, what unrelenting strain upon one's power of clarity are needed to produce a work of art--I, who know that it requires a labor which makes a chain gang look like rest and a severity no army-drilling sadist could impose--I'll take the operator of a coal mine over any walking vehicle of higher mysteries (p. 116).

Now if Rand isn't speaking here directly of Kerouac, then I must be falling into a true conspiratorial fugue.

Sloppy bum?
Higher mysteries?

I'm not going to defend Jack. He needs no defense. But I will posit this: It may well be that Rand inadvertently gave Jack the inspiration for the phrase, "Zen Lunatic," which he uses in The Dharma Bums.

Here's my thinking. On The Road came out the same year as Atlas Shrugged. We can speculate that the two authors read each other's works. Note this interview with Rand (after her death) from Cosmic Baseball Association:

CBA Your last work of fiction, Atlas Shrugged was published in the same year as Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Did you ever read Kerouac?

AR I read On the Road. Kerouac was basically seduced by priestesses, starting with his mother. He is too enshrouded in his religion addicition [sic]. A slightly later novel of his, The Dharma Bums attests to this point.

CBA How would you compare Kerouac's "spontaneous bop prosody" concept with your own writing style?

AR Spontaneous or automatic writing is the antithesis of conscious rational calculation, yes? But my approach to writing, the method I employed did not completely avoid taking advantage of certain subconscious influences. In my "Fiction Writing" lectures that I delivered in my apartment in 1958 I remember telling the students that as one approaches the writing of any given scene or paragraph, one has the sense or 'feel' of what it has to be by the logic of the context-and one's subconscious makes the right selections to express it. Later, one checks and improves the result by means of conscious editing. I probably edited my writing a lot more than Kerouac did.

Okay, not a scholarly point but it shows that others have speculated that at least Rand read Kerouac. So let's say Kerouac - who was a prolific reader - read Atlas Shrugged. It's likely that his reading of that novel preceded completion of The Dharma Bums, which was published in 1958. If he did, he would have known that the above passage from Halley's speech was directed at Kerouac's self-professed characteristics and writing style. How ironic that Jack might have adopted the phrase lunatic from Rand herself, given that she was criticizing him!

With some real scholarly research, I guess we could pinpoint Jack's first use of the word "lunatic" from his journals and letters. I'd rather leave that alone for now because the irony of Jack being inspired by Rand's critique of him makes me smile. But I can go it one better.

Maybe Rand and Kerouac had a torrid love affair during the early 60s. She lived in New York City. Jack frequented the city off and on. Perhaps he read her critique of him in Atlas Shrugged (don't we often critique those we secretly admire?) and decided that this was a woman he wanted to get to know better. Around 1955, Rand entered into an affair with her intellectual protege, Nathaniel Branden. The affair ended around 1960, so Rand was lonely and hurt and Jack was on the prowl (always), and . . . well, the rest may be history.

Or fantasy. But it's always fun to speculate about such things. If you run into any other Kerouac-Rand connections, let me know.

In the meantime, check out some Ayn Rand if you never have. I don't agree in large measure with her philosophy ("Objectivism"), but she makes some points along the way with which I agree.

And she had passion. So did Jack. That's what moves a writer! That's what makes us read!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Time's review of The Dharma Bums

Time magazine reviewed The Dharma Bums - still my favorite Kerouac novel - on October 6, 1958. I just learned that you can access the review on-line at The Yabyum Kid, the latter topic being an entry in The Beat Handbook, Day 2.

Not exactly a glowing review, eh?

Speaking of which, tomorrow's post will focus around a perjorative statement about Jack that Ayn Rand makes in Atlas Shrugged. However, as you will see, it may be that Ayn inadvertently gave Jack the idea for one of his most beloved terms in The Dharma Bums!

Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jack Kerouac - pirate, zombie, ninja


If you Google "Jack Kerouac pirate," the first search item returned is the blog Mean Dirty Pirate, featuring a blog post about Jack.

If you Google "Jack Kerouac zombie," the first relevant search item returned is SPD Books, featuring the book Zombie Dawn, co-authored by Anne Waldman, Director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

If you Google "Jack Kerouac ninja," the first relevant search item returned is the blog Idiot's Stew, whose owner presents his profile picture as a ninja.

I don't know what it all means, but a couple of days ago I promised a blog about Jack, pirates, zombies, and ninjas. And there you have it as far as Internet searching goes.

Given the dearth of information available, I guess I'll have to write a short story about Jack encountering pirates, zombies, and ninjas so that when someone searches the Internet for such connections they'll find some. Or you can! Send it along and I'll post it.

If this post just didn't give you enough of a Kerouac fix, remember you can always visit Random Jack Kerouac Quotes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book review #8 on Amazon

The Beat Handbook just received a book review on Amazon. It's from someone I don't know, with no axe to grind, who didn't receive a free book from me, but wrote the review as a reviewer for Reader Views.

I'm pleased.

Maybe it's time to help the economy and buy your copy of The Beat Handbook? What have you got to lose: 15 bucks and your inhibitions?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Remembering what matters

A man I never heard of died recently. His name was Bill Jellison.

I read a eulogy for Bill in today's Kennebec Journal. It was written by the manager of Augusta's Bread of Life Soup Kitchen, where Bill was a regular "client."

I hope you'll click on the word "eulogy" above and read what Patsy Tessier said about Bill. Do it soon because the KJ's information goes into archives you have to pay for after a time. Bill seems like a pretty beat character to me.

But that's not the point. My plan for today's post was to examine why hanging out in a bar is of great comfort to me. Yesterday I re-read my journal from my 2-week visit in Ireland in 2004. Lots of pub experiences there! At that time, I was a regular - like Bill at the Kitchen - at a bar in Mansfield, PA called Mark's Brother's. By regular I mean I was there almost every day at some point or another. I lived alone, and truly the bar scene met my needs for connection and to know I mattered to someone. I guess it was kind of like the TV show Cheers. You know, a place you can go where "everybody knows your name."

My examination was going to delve into my plans for this day, a day when I am off from work and it's Wednesday and I am going to drive to Gardiner for what Crystal calls my "rounds." I'll stop at the vet for cat food and Frontline. I'll stop by the Gardiner house (that will sell some day, right?) to check on it. Then I'll go to the A1 to Go and have a mocha and read and journal. Unless my friend Robert is there, in which case he'll chat me up the entire time and it's all good. Then I'll make my way to The Depot for lunch and a couple of pints. Hopefully my other friend Robert (see The Roberts) will be there, and we'll catch up and chew the fat and poke fun at people (like the denizens at the far corner of the bar: "Republican corner," Robert calls it) and visit with Lindsay the bartender and Kerri the cook and Steve the owner.

Because you see we are comfortable there. It meets basic human needs we all have (thanks, Abe). We know that for a couple of hours we can just relax, be ourselves, laugh, talk, and feel like we matter. Like we're part of something. Like if we didn't show up for a long time, someone - anyone - would miss us.

Or write a piece like Patsy did for today's newspaper.

I wish Bill could read what Patsy wrote. Moreso, I hope Patsy told him such things while he was still a regular at the Kitchen.

Even if she didn't, she reminded us all of what's important. Didn't she?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jack Kerouac and Krazy Kat (+ pirates, ninjas, & zombies)

In doing some research for my "guest post" (see February 3), I was reading Jack's "The Origins of the Beat Generation" in A Casebook on the Beat (1961). He was listing all the many things that the Beat Generation goes back to, and one of them was "the inky ditties of old cartoons (Krazy Kat with the irrational brick)..." (p. 71).

I loved Krazy Kat when I was cartoon-watching age. Watching it now, I can't figure out why, but there is that still small Kerouac connection afoot, since he liked it, too. There were lots of Krazy Kat versions, but the one I remember is represented by this clip from YouTube.

Referring to Krazy Kat, Jack supposedly said, "An immediate progenitor of the Beat Generation and its roots could be traced back to the glee of America, the honesty of America, its wild, self-believing individuality" (Source: Quotes on Krazy).

Do you remember Krazy Kat?

P.S. In future posts, we'll be exploring Jack's connection to pirates, ninjas, and zombies. Apparently, those are search terms that get attention on-line, so we'll take advantage of them!

Monday, February 16, 2009

YouTube commercial comes through

Finally, my YouTube commercial has yielded a book sale. I post on my Amazon blog as well, and I access my blog via my book's details page. On that page I can see my Amazon "sales rank." Even though Amazon's ranking system is impossible to decipher, I can at least tell when there's been a sale: if the number is lower than the day before, there's been a sale. One sale of a book will lower the number from over a million to somewhere in the 100,000 range. Go figure. I even bought Sell Your Book on Amazon and the author admits it's a mystery.

No matter. A couple of days ago I saw there had been a recent sale. Later, when I checked my e-mail I saw a notice from YouTube saying I had a comment on my YouTube video where I'm hawking The Beat Handbook as The Dude.

The comment was from skuddusk: "ordering mine now man, take it easy. "

Thanks, skud! I hope you enjoy it.

Dig the ride!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Book Review: The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder

This 2009 book published by Counterpoint Press is a collection of selected letters between beat generation founding father Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac friend/environmental writer Gary Snyder. As anyone reading this blog probably knows, Jack Kerouac wrote about Ginsberg and Snyder in his novels under fictitious names (to avoid libel). Ginsberg showed up frequently (source: Jack Kerouac Characters):

Big Sur - Irwin Garden
Book of Dreams - Irwin Garden
Desolation Angels - Irwin Garden
The Vanity of Duluoz - Irwin Garden
Visions of Cody - Irwin Garden
The Dharma Bums - Alvah Goldbrook
On the Road - Carlo Marx
The Subterraneans - Adam Moorad
The Town and the City - Leon Levinsky

Snyder appears less frequently, although in The Dharma Bums he is a major character:

Big Sur - Jarry Wagner
The Dharma Bums - Japhy Ryder

This collection of letters was edited by Bill Morgan, Ginsberg’s archivist and biographer for twenty years before the latter’s death in 1997. As Morgan states in the Editor’s Preface, “During the twentieth century, letters were a literary form that nearly everyone practiced. In today’s world of cell phones, text messaging and email, it all seems quaint and old-fashioned, but in the days before inexpensive long-distance telephone service became commonplace, the main avenue for communication was the written word” (p. v).

Ginsberg and Snyder met in 1955, and kept in touch by letter over the next 40 years. Their centrality to the beat literature movement is significant and unquestionable, making this book valuable to anyone with more than a passing interest in beat literature.

For Kerouac fans, don’t expect much mention of Jack. He is listed on 20 pages in the index. My own count is that Kerouac’s name is mentioned on 36 pages (of the 310 the letters take up) – a bit of a discrepancy – but in any event, the mentions are brief and not of much interest except for one: “Dreamt I saw Jack Kerouac last nite, told him he’d done enough work, he should take it easy and maybe write one book every 10 years and live to be 80 or 90 years old. I guess that’s advice to me” (p. 307). Ginsberg wrote this in January 1995 at the age of 68, and lived to be 70. I guess he had the dream a bit too late. Later in the same letter he says, “My heart’s still pumping but especially in travel I get out of breath easily, feel older and less energetic – so I guess the Kerouac dream applies” (p. 307).

In general, expect a lot of mundane correspondence. It is telling how often the two depended on letters to communicate about logistics (when they might see each other, real estate deals, schedules, business dealings, etc.). Letters often crossed in the mail, or one or the other, especially Ginsberg, would let them pile up while he traveled and get to them when he returned.

There are 16 pages of photographs of the two, ranging from 1955 to 1996. The only one that caught my attention was the one of Snyder standing on a mountain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness and “’pissing in the no-wind.’” Here’s a picture of my great friend Keith doing that off The Beehive in Acadia National Park this last August. I didn’t ask him if I could post this, but given that it’s an almost exact reproduction of the Snyder picture, I think he’d be honored.

I found the book interesting enough to read every letter straight through. I wish there had been more in the way of philosophy and critical dialogue, but that’s just not how the two used letters. Plus it was seldom a dialogue, given how long it sometimes took for one or the other to get around to answering a previous missive. They used letters more to stay in touch and handle logistics. The insight I took away was that these beat authors we lionize today were quite human, with faults and weaknesses and fears and the like, just as we mere mortals.

There are indeed a few in-depth philosophical musings (e.g., Snyder’s long 1962 letter explaining Buddhism in general and some specific visions he had on mescaline); and, there are plenty of one-liners of note, such as (from Ginsberg) “’hatred is not cured by hatred’” (p. 33), or “change is usually right” (p. 37), or “my roshi said when the word comes out in a flash it’s not a word, it’s your true mental state; when you search for the right word, it will never be the right word” (p. 37). Or from Snyder: “That is the simplest – and most difficult – way to get at suffering I guess, help out people who are suffering yourself. Ugh” (p. 65).

One of the strong threads of the letters centers around Kitkitdizze, Snyder’s home on the San Juan Ridge in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Ginsberg had a house there, but seldom used it, eventually selling it to Snyder. Many letters detail the development of the land, rental arrangements, improving Ginsberg’s house, tax issues, etc. Another thread is the amount of traveling the two did (not together) to teach and give readings or talks. They were prolific in this regard.

In summary, unless you’re a beat aficionado, this book may not be of that much interest. On the other hand, if you want an inside look into the friendship between two central characters of the beat generation, I think you’ll find this book well worth investigating.

In Ginsberg’s last letter in the book, he says, “I keep writing – journals and poems, much about physical aging or obvious deterioration of the body – with 2/3 of my heart working I have less physical energy approaching age 70 – tho [sic] I feel like 16 emotionally ….” (pp. 312-313).

That youthful spirit seems to be instrumental in great artists and it comes through in both Ginsberg’s and Snyder’s letters. May we all keep it right up until the end.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The "r" Word

Stay with me and you'll see the connection to Jack Kerouac (and therefore the beats).

There's some hate speech going around that needs to stop. Specifically, it's people using the word "retard" or "retarded" in a perjorative manner to refer to someone or someone's actions (that someone, of course, not having an intellectual disability).

We've stopped using the "N" word. Now it's time to stop using the "R" word.

For much more information on this, check out The "r" Word Campaign.

What's the connection to Kerouac? Well, one connection is that this is important to me and I do happen to be the #1 Kerouac fan alive on Planet Earth.

If that's not enough of a connection, consider that, according to several Internet sources, Jack's Naval records indicate that he was diagnosed with "dementia praecox," an archaic term for what we now call "schizophrenia." Now Jack protested the label, but even if that were not the case, many scholars have speculated that he suffered from depression and anxiety disorder.

So Jack was no stranger to having a mental condition or conditions that society labels as "bad" and "wrong" and "unfortunate." Not to mix up an intellectual disability with a mental health issue, but labels are labels. They hurt. And they are the first stage in the cycle of hate.

Finally, Jack had a soft spot for the disenfranchised in society. That's one reason he hung out with them!

So in honor of Jack, let's show some respect and compassion for our fellow human beings and stop using the "r" word.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Everything is connected

-Today is U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's birthday
-Philosopher Immanuel Kant died on this date
-Today is actor Lorne Greene's birthday
-Penney's founder James Cash Penney died on this date
-Today is actor Forrest Tucker's birthday
-Actor Sal Mineo died on this date
-Today is keyboardist Ray Manzarek's birthday
-Actor Victor Jory died on this date
-Today is actor Joe Don Baker's birthday
-The state of Georgia was founded on this date
-Today is author Judy Blume's birthday
-Al Spalding opened his sporting goods shop on this date
-Today is actress Maud Adams' birthday
-The NAACP was founded on this date
-Today is actress Christina Ricci's birthday
-Eisenhower sent the first advisors to Vietnam on this date

And all of the above have something to do with Jack Kerouac.

Everything is connected. Everything.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jack Kerouac was Irish

By now you've likely seen the YouTube video Barack Obama is Irish.

Interestingly, Jack Kerouac considered himself a son of Erin (as am I).

In Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (1983), Gerald Nicosia says that Jack

revered Ireland as the true ancestral home of the Kerouacs, as he had often been told the story of their migrations from Ireland to Cornwall to Brittany (p. 108).

One of the direct impacts On The Road had on me was that it gave me the motivation to go to Ireland in the summer of 2004 with a backpack and no particular plan except to see a bunch of my country of origin. I suspect my true country of origin, as with most of us, is unclear. I think my Irish ancestors were actually Scots who fought at the Battle of the Boyne on Ireland's east coast in 1690 and then stayed in the country.

I spent two weeks in Ireland - not nearly long enough - and experienced for the first time what it's like to travel via walking or public transportation, unencumbered by advanced plans, with no place to stay, nobody you know to help out, etc.

Northern Ireland was the best part for me. I found the little village my direct ancestors were from (Loughbrickland), and learned there are still Dales living there, although I didn't get to meet them.

And I could go on. I wrote about 120 pages in my journal and took lots of pictures.

It was awesome and I recommend it highly.

Slainte, Jack. Thanks for the inspiration.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jack Kerouac and Janis Joplin

I'm about 3/4 of the way through the above book, The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, edited by Bill Morgan and published by Counterpoint in Berkeley. That means soon I'll be posting a review of the book.

Ginsberg mentions Bob Dylan a number of times in his letters. For example, on December 10, 1975 he wrote:

Just returned home from Dylan Rolling Thunder tour, learned how to sing better, learned some show biz, and tried to infiltrate some dharma into the community scene (p. 175).

Here's a well-known picture from that tour:

Ginsberg and Dylan. What a combo! It makes me wish Jack had lived longer. There's no telling the collaborations possible.

Jack Kerouac and Joan Baez.
Jack Kerouac and Janis Joplin (well, if she could have likewise stayed out of the bottle).
Jack Kerouac and Tom Waits.
Jack Kerouac and Gillian Welch.
Jack Kerouac and Don McLean.

But those are just my biases. And, of course, all songwriters pale in comparison to Dylan at his peak, but still . . . the mind staggers at the thought.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Balancing Kerouac

Given my diatribe yesterday, I thought I would provide some balance by pointing readers to this critical essay about Jack: Kerouac in Black and White.

Not for the faint-hearted Kerouac fan, and definitely not bedtime reading, and definitely not an essay you're going to read in 2 minutes.

Here's some info about author Clark Blaise you might find interesting.

I play in a band with a several self-professed "French-Canadians." It often provides me with some real-time, real-life insight into Jack's cultural biases and perspectives.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Case in point

Here's some interesting food for thought at I AM NOT AFRAID OF WINTER.

Synchronistically, I found this post after I wrote my "Jack Kerouac: Feminist" diatribe.

I guess this just provides an example of what I was talking about.

I'll give it a voice because it's good writing.

But of course I don't get a voice because I'm white, male, and "privileged."

We seem to forget that we are the way we are because others are the way they are. And others are the way they are because we are the way we are.

Violence will not end violence. Raging against something gives it power and keeps it going.

Compassion is the only way.

And I'm not feeling it.

But I totally expect to get flamed.

Bring it . . . .

Jack Kerouac: Feminist

No, Jack wasn't a feminist. That title was to get you to read this post.

I have officially had it with criticism of Jack Kerouac as an anti-feminist patriarchal misogynist, such critiques always leading to explicit or implicit pleadings to therefore shun his writings. If we are not allowed to read anything by a writer with flaws, then we may as well commence our cessation of reading right now.


We know that! Anyone with a brain knows that. Or even half a brain.

Man! I'm just pissed off about this.

FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO SPEND YOUR TIME ON. Did you ever hear the phrase, "beating a dead horse"? I guess not.

We who love beat literature love beat literature and that's that. Your sophomoric attempts to persuade us otherwise with your novel (not) and withering (not) critiques of beat literature because it wasn't feminist enough are not going to work.

Here you go. Read this article by Dr. Audrey Sprenger. She's way smarter than I'll ever be and puts the matter to rest quite well.

I'm going to read what I want and I'm going to love the authors I choose. Did Jack Kerouac meet today's standards where a feminist perspective is concerned? No. Do I wish he did? No! It was the 1940s and 1950s. Our culture was what it was. He was a product of and a describer of the culture at that time.

Pick on someone else for a change. The beats are too easy a target where anti-feminism is concerned. How about looking into the U.S. Senate as an example of a current patriarchy? Write about that and maybe someone will listen.

What's really going on here is jealousy. Some people just can't get their heads around beat literature or its popularity, and reverse anachronistic potshots are the best they can manage for a critique.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Jack Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature

Every other year, UMass Lowell in Lowell, MA (Jack's hometown) holds The Jack Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature. The next conference is scheduled for the first Thursday and Friday in October 2009. Here's the website. I contacted Professor Holladay. She didn't provide me with any additional information, but did encourage me to submit a proposal.

October is the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! festival, and I haven't been able to confirm a date for that. However, I don't think the two events will interfere with each other.

Yup! That could mean two weekends in Lowell this October.


Friday, February 6, 2009

William Carlos Williams

Related to yesterday's post, another beat-related writer I've been "saving for later" is William Carlos Williams. Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder talk about him a lot in their letters to each other (see "What I'm Reading" on sidebar to the right). This week in the paper I read that Williams has been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. It would be easy to make a snide remark about the dubiousness of that honor, but I will resist. You can read about it at the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

To be equitable to Burroughs, given yesterday's post, below is a Williams quote:

It is almost impossible to state what one in fact believes, because it is almost impossible to hold a belief and to define it at the same time.

I think it's time to read some WCW (as Ginsberg referred to him).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

William S. Burroughs synchronicity

I'm interested in William S. Burroughs because he was a pivotal character in Kerouac's circle of beat friends, but I've only read some snippets of his work. On my reading list are Junky and Naked Lunch, and yet I don't think about him much at this point. I'm "saving" him for later. A few days ago, Crystal and I watched the movie, Down Came a Blackbird. I recommend it, but be warned that it is not exactly uplifting. In one scene, Raul Julia's character says, "A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on," and he attributes the quote to Burroughs. My web research seems to confirm the attribution. Maybe I'll move Burroughs higher on my reading list.

I think he's represented in A Casebook on the Beat (a recent acquisition), so there's a starting point.

Oh, and, by the way, synchronistically today is William S. Burroughs' birthday. When I wrote this post and scheduled it to publish today, I didn't know that. My Yahoo! calendar reminded me of his birthday on Feb. 4, so I added this paragraph just in time for publication. Weird!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Neal Cassady numerology in memoriam

Neal Cassady, the inspiration for On The Road and Jack Kerouac's spontaneous writing style, died 41 years ago today at the age of 41, 4 days shy of his 42nd birthday.

41 years ago at age 41. Today is the one and only day in the history of time past present and future that we can ever say that! Does that make this a super-special top-secret beat aficionado day?*

Here's the Wiki on Neal.

Here's an "official" site: Neal Cassady: Behind The Myth.

Want to read more? Just do some Googling. Lots out there.

RIP, holy goof.

*Kerouac died at 47 years of age in 1969, so in 2016 on October 21 we can say, "Jack died 47 years ago today at age 47." Who's gonna remember to remind me to blog about that?

**Tangential synchronistic side note: Another major influence on me, Carl Rogers, died 22 years ago this date in 1987 at the age of 85.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Invitation to write a guest post

I guess I'm putting this out there to put some "public" pressure on myself. It's like when I was writing The Beat Handbook and telling everyone about it. It made it less likely I would abandon the project. Same with my doctorate. Peer pressure is a powerful force.

Recently I received a gracious invitation to write a guest post for Words Are My Power, and I agreed to do it. I won't give away the topic(s), but stay tuned and I'll make sure to alert you when my post gets published. In the meantime, I hope you'll pay the site a visit.

I like its subtitle: Raw. Honest. Authentic.

Opportunities come wrapped in what looks like work.
~Rick Dale

Monday, February 2, 2009

January's free book winner

Congratulations to Tom from New Hampshire for being January's free book winner for his January 14 comment in which he created an erasure poem from my actual post that day.

His blogs are The Mystics Meeting and Mystics Meeting Places. Check them out.

I've sent him an e-mail asking for his snail mail address, and then I'll be sending a copy of The Beat Handbook his way. As always, in return I only ask for a 5-star review on Amazon (if he wishes).

February's contest is underway. Good luck!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cleave Poetry voting opportunity

Dear Readers:

I'd appreciate your taking a minute and visiting the Cleave Poetry website, reading the poems that are in the running for January's Cleave of the Month, and voting. I know it says voting is open until January 15th, which has passed, but I think that might be an error since the site is still allowing voting and there are very few votes so far.

Of course, I'm hoping you'll vote for my poem, "Immortality," but in any case I hope you'll support the site with a visit.


Jack Kerouac Super Bowl Trivia

I'm not a football fan, but I'll watch the Super Bowl today. It's an excuse to eat a bunch of junk food, the commercials are sometimes entertaining, and I must admit that a close game can be enjoyable. Plus, today features a team from my home state: Pennsylvania. Go Steelers!

Could Jack have seen a Super Bowl? The answer is "yes," but it's complicated. I'll tell you why.

The Super Bowl began in 1967 - Jack was still alive - as the "NFL-AFL World Championship Game." Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt thought up the name "Super Bowl" as a stop-gap name, but a better one didn't come along and the name "Super Bowl" didn't become "official" until 1969.

So in January 1967, Jack may have seen the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. It wasn't officially called the Super Bowl yet, but it's still considered the first Super Bowl.

He might have also seen "Super Bowl II" (although it wasn't called that yet), when the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14.

Indeed, Jack may have seen the first "official" Super Bowl on January 12, 1969, when Hollywood Joe Namath took the New York Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts for the AFL's first Super Bowl victory.

I remember watching all three of those games (at age 11, 12, and 13), maybe at the same time as Jack. I'd need to dig through some biographies and letters to see what he was doing at any of those times.

Jack died October 21, 1969, so he missed Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in January 1970. I was 14.

I don't know if Jack was a football fan as an adult, but he had been a star player in his youth, even getting a scholarship to Columbia to play football. He sure loved baseball, though, writing about it in his novels, so I can imagine him watching a big football game. Plus he hung out in bars, and the game would have likely been on in any respectable tavern.

Speaking of respectable taverns, Crystal and I have numbers in the Super Bowl pool at The Depot in Gardiner. We both have 3 for the Cardinals. She has 5 for Pittsburgh and I have 6. Big bucks loom. Let's hope there are a lot of field goals (3s and 6s).

Kickoff time is about 6:20 on the east coast. You know what I'll be doing . . . .