Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In praise of books

Kindles, iPads, Nooks, e-readers on smartphones and tablets. I get it. How we access print is changing. Maybe it's me being old-fashioned, but I still love books. I love the feel of them in my hands, I love to be able to annotate their pages, I love that I don't have to worry about them running out of battery power, and I even love it when a previous owner left her or his own markings in one (as long as it doesn't obscure my ability to read it).

To wit (with apologies to Rogers & Hammerstein):
There is nothin' like a book
Nothin' in the world
There's nowhere you can look
That is anythin' like a book

I think Michael Belding would agree with me (click here).

Friday, July 27, 2012

The lost art of letter writing

Last night I was reading from Kerouac and the Beats (1988, edited by Arthur and Kit Knight and published by Paragon House, NY), and the last four entries I read were letters. The first was from Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg on May 10, 1952. The second was from Jack to John Clellon Holmes on June 17 or 15 or 21,  1952. The third was from Jack to Neal Cassady in early April 1955. The fourth entry consisted of a letter from Jack to Holmes on June 23, 1957, and a reply from Holmes on February  26, 1968.

Some things strike me about such letters. First, they were a critical means of communication for the Beat writers at the time. Phone calls would have been expensive and, besides, Jack et al. were often living in situations where they had no easy access to a phone. Yes, there were phone booths in the 1950s, but one or the other party had to be at a particular phone at a particular time in order to make a connection. Plus it cost money, something they often didn't have. Second, the letters reflect the reality that these were friends communicating not just across distance but across time as well. In his 1958 reply to Jack's1957 letter (8 months later!), Holmes starts the letter saying,
Again I find myself in the position of not knowing where the hell you are, and having lost or mislaid all addresses but for some that must certainly be out of date, and so having to rely on Viking to forward this, despite the fact that Grove Press might have a better idea where you actually are.
Third, these are incredible letters in terms of content. They go on for pages, touching on everything from mundane current events to mystical ponderings and sometimes including poetry. Accordingly, they provide important historical information as well as insights into the personas of the Beat writers.

I've written about this before (for example, The Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder), but in case you missed my earlier admonitions, I wanted to take an opportunity to commend such reading as part of your Beat education. If you're a Kerouac fan, I have no doubt that you would thoroughly enjoy reading the letters of the Beat writers.

Finally, and fourthly, the last thing to strike me was the dearth of letter writing occurring today. There is something special about writing a letter to a friend, versus sending an e-mail. E-mail seems so ephemeral, whereas letter-writing has an aspect (imaginary, of course) of permanence. Writing a letter to a friend is a commitment. Zapping off an e-mail doesn't have the same gravitas.

I correspond routinely with two friends, one in New York State and one in California. I look forward to their letters and they mine (so they tell me), and it just seems like we say things in letters that just don't get said in other communication mediums.

Your Kerouaction for this day is to take pen and paper in hand and write a letter to a friend. I bet something pretty wonderful will happen as a result.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tickets to world premiere of Kerouac play go on sale July 26

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have announced that tickets for the world premiere staged reading of Jack Kerouac’s “Beat Generation” will go on sale Thursday, July 26 at noon. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased at MRT.org or by calling the MRT box office at 978-654-4678. The centerpiece of the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival, “Beat Generation” runs for eight performances only Oct. 10 through Oct. 14. “Beat Generation” will be performed in MRT’s intimate, newly renovated 279-seat theater. Order early - only a limited number of tickets will be available to this once-in-a-lifetime literary event.

If, like me, you will be attending the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival (or Lowell Celebrates Kerouac), this is a must-attend event. Click here for more information.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jack Kerouac and U.S. Route 6

Jack Kerouac's famous false start in On The Road is recounted in this HuffPo article by Malerie Yohen-Cohen. I'm not convinced, as the author suggests, that Kerouac is responsible for Route 6 being ignored because of his bad experience trying to hitchhike on Route 6 near Bear Mountain Bridge (search for Bear Mountain, NY with Google Maps and you'll see the bridge crossing the Hudson River). Besides, she is hawking her book and what better way to get attention for a travel book than to throw in a Kerouac reference?

Regardless, I grew up in a little Pennsylvania town - Wellsboro - situated directly on Route 6, and you can practically drive (or hitchhike) the entire breadth of the United States on this one road. Currently, it seems that its eastern terminus is Provincetown, Massachusetts and its western terminus (once in Long Beach) is Bishop, California (according to this website). Google Maps seems to confirm these terminal points.

I know the general terrain Jack was hitchhiking through near Bear Mountain, and in a torrential downpour/thunderstorm, it could be foreboding indeed. Too bad he didn't stick to his plan and stop in my hometown, but here's what we're left with in Jack's own words:
It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.
Sounds like a Kerouaction-in-waiting to me: hitchhike or drive across the entire U.S. on Route 6. Throw Malerie's book - Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3,652 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6 - in your rucksack for the trip along with your salami sandwiches and jar of Cheez Whiz.

Happy travels. And say hi to my friends in Wellsboro on your way through.

Monday, July 16, 2012

No matter what you write, someone will hate it

No matter what you write, someone will hate it. Click here for proof.

I actually laughed out loud at the ones for Mrs. Dalloway and The Sun Also Rises.

Not so much at the review of On The Road. 

A poem about Jack Kerouac

I found this poem about Jack Kerouac quite on target with many of my own feelings and thought I'd share it with Daily Beat Sisters and Brothers. It's written by Jack Caseros, a Canadian writer and ecologist. I learned about it on the Jack Kerouac Facebook page (which you should join if you have not already done so).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What would Kerouac do?

As faithful readers of The Daily Beat know, a working title of The Beat Handbook was "What Would Kerouac Do?" That was in the early going, before I coined the term "Kerouaction." Once that neologism struck me (Google the term and you will see that it is indeed my word - even the Urban Dictionary entry was posted by yours truly), I felt compelled to use it in the title of my book. A "Kerouaction" is the answer to the question, "What would Kerouac do?" Below is an excerpt addressing the term.

Since I've posted about this before, why this post? Several reasons. First, every once in a blue while moon someone new happens upon my blog, and it's an opportunity to bring them into the fold, so to speak. Second, it never hurts to remind folks that my book is available here on Amazon (maybe someone's birthday is approaching and you need a unique gift). Finally, it gave me a chance to use ScreenHunter, which is just the slickest, easiest way ever (on a PC - Macs have this feature built in) to capture screenshots like the one above of an excerpt from The Beat Handbook taken from the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

But back to Kerouactions. Here's a screenshot (thanks to ScreenHunter, available here) of the Urban Dictionary entry.

One might posit that hawking my own book is not something Kerouac would do, given his angst in real life over self-promotional activity such as interviews and the like. No matter, because I am not arguing that all behavior must fit this heuristic. My argument is only as articulated in my book:

So today, right after you order your own copy of The Beat Handbook, take Kerouaction by doing something Jack Kerouac would do. Icing on the cake? Write about it afterwards.

Happy Sunday or whatever day it happens to be where you are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Jack Kerouac appears in Playboy once again

As Daily Beat readers know, Jack Kerouac was published in Playboy a few times during his lifetime. I have the January 1965 issue featuring "Good Blonde" (scored on eBay a while back). Now Jack makes another appearance (photographic) in the current issue (see above). The article, by Greil Marcus, is titled, "The Lost Photos of Jack Kerouac." I learned about this from my friend, Robert, a long-time subscriber. It may not have hit newsstands yet.

Click here for a preview. It indicates that these photos were taken by Robert Frank in 1959 on assignment for Playboy and have not appeared before.

For once you can honestly say you are buying it for the articles, but when your significant other sees that it is a double issue, that argument will fall on deaf ears.

Good luck and don't hurt yourself running to the convenience store to snag a copy. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Re-reading The Dharma Bums

I thought you might enjoy this column by Frank T. Pool in the Longview News-Journal that focuses on Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums and one of its characters, Japhy Ryder (real-life Gary Snyder). As Daily Beat readers know, TDB is my favorite Kerouac work (as evidenced by my license plate, which I referenced a couple of posts ago).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jack Kerouac by Warren French

I was at the UMF campus library just now, looking for Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson. She actually visited campus a few years ago and there is an audio recording from her visit in the archives. Unfortunately, someone borrowed her book and never returned it. Perhaps someone will buy a replacement copy and donate it, and I know just who that person might be.

While browsing the Kerouac section (which, by the way, is fairly well-represented but not nearly complete), I ran across a Kerouac biography by Warren French, titled simply, Jack Kerouac. Interestingly, the picture I found on-line (above) shows a subtitle, Novelist of the Beat Generation. That subtitle does not appear in the 1986 edition I am looking at (yes, I borrowed it from the library because, after all, I only have about 50 books in a pile waiting to be read). This copy does indicate that it is part of Twayne's United States Authors Series, and is numbered TUSAS 507. This copy has been rebound, so I can only assume that it had the above cover at one time. If it did, I wonder if the subtitle appeared.

I'll post some thoughts about the book once I read it (it's due September 15, so I am under the gun).

For you eggheads, here is the citation from the copy I borrowed (in APA style):

French, W. (1986). Jack Kerouac. Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Art by famous writers

I thought you might enjoy this article in Salon about famous writers and their artistic creations. Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs are represented.

Summer = vacation time

You may have noticed that I haven't posted for a spell. It's because it's summer and I'm taking a little rest from blogging. As well, there are times when I am traveling and don't have Internet access.

For example, last week we spent a week camping at Popham Beach and there is literally no cell phone service there. The campground office has WiFi, but it is spotty and you have to sit outside for it to work much at all (trying to use the laptop in the sun is a challenge).

I'll tell you one Kerouac-related story from last week. Three different people asked me or someone in our party what my license plate (DHRMABM) meant. All three times, explaining that it was a reference to a book written by Jack Kerouac rang no bells. I chalk it up to the ages of those asking - mostly my generation or older - and their not being exposed to Kerouac in high school because it was considered too risque at the time. Now it's tame compared to the daily fare most adolescents see on-line.

I'll leave you with a Kerouac quote from his February 29, 1950 journal:
What kind of an age is this that flatters its own decadent weakness in the name of smart cocktail talk -- and mocks excellence.
Change is the only constant, but some things sure don't seem to change much.