Thursday, March 24, 2011

Six Degrees of Jack Kerouac: Harry Houdini

A big influence on young Jack was The Shadow, a popular pulp magazine of the 30s featuring a ghostly detective who could become invisible at will (allegedly via hypnotism). Today is Harry Houdini's 137th birthday (this fact brought to me courtesy of Google's graphic specific to this date), and I was wondering how many degrees of separation there are between Kerouac and Houdini.

Jack would have been about 4 years old when Houdini died, so they were not contemporaries in any meaningful sense. I don't remember if Jack mentions Houdini in his novels or letters (perhaps a Daily Beat reader can enlighten us); however, I did learn that the author who popularized The Shadow was Walter B. Gibson, and Gibson also wrote a couple of books about Houdini.

So there's your connection between Jack Kerouac and Harry Houdini. I wonder: Given his voracious reading habits, did Jack read any of Gibson's Houdini books?

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