Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Jack Kerouac: The Duluoz Legend (UPDATED 1-8-21)

In his preface to Big Sur, Kerouac writes:

My work comprises one vast book like Proust's except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed. Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work. On the Road, The Subterraneans, The Dharma Bums, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Tristessa, Desolation Angels. Visions of Cody and the others including this book Big Sur are just chapters in the whole work which I call The Duluoz Legend. In my old age I intend to collect all my work and re-insert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy. The whole thing forms one enormous comedy, seen through the eyes of poor Ti Jean (me), otherwise known as Jack Duluoz, the world of raging action and folly and also of gentel sweeness seen through the keyhole of his eye.

On February 1, 2018 in the Forest Lake Times, Brad O'Neil wrote a piece in which he recommends reading the books in The Duluoz Legend in order (click here for article). I agree with the recommendation, but I have a question about his list. He includes the following 13 books (in order):

1. Visions of Gerard
2. Doctor Sax
3. Maggie Cassidy
4. Vanity of Duluoz
5. On The Road
6. Visions of Cody
7. The Subterraneans
8. Tristessa
9. The Dharma Bums
10. Desolation Angels
11. Lonesome Traveler
12. Big Sur
13. Satori in Paris

There are arguments that all of these books can be seen as part of The Duluoz Legend, and they are in the correct chronological order for the narrative of Jack's life.

I wonder, however, if there is not a book missing from O'Neil's list:  The Town and the City. This is included in the list appearing at DHARMA beat (click here), with Lonesome Traveler omitted (there is a note that it is sometimes included along with Book of Dreams, but neither is a novel). You'll note that they also include Atop an Underwood, which is not a novel).

Here is what DHARMA beat's list looks like (and it comports with the one on Goodreads.com:

1. Atop an Underwood
2. Visions of Gerard
3. Doctor Sax
4. The Town and the City
5. Maggie Cassidy
6. Vanity of Duluoz
7. On The Road
8. Visions of Cody
9. The Subterraneans 
10. Tristessa
11. The Dharma Bums
12. Desolation Angels
13. Big Sur
14. Satori in Paris

I don't want to open up a can of worms here, but am simply pointing out that there is not 100% agreement on which Kerouac books comprise The Duluoz Legend. David Barnett in The Guardian (click here) identifies 13 books, basically the same list as O'Neil, arguing that it makes sense to only go with novels (which Atop and Underwood and Book of Dreams are not).

I can go with that argument, in which case one could argue that The Town and the City should make the list but not Atop an Underwood and Book of Dreams). Such a list would look like this:

1. Visions of Gerard
2. Doctor Sax
3. The Town and the City
4. Maggie Cassidy
5. Vanity of Duluoz
6. On The Road
7. Visions of Cody
8. The Subterraneans 
9. Tristessa
10. The Dharma Bums
11. Desolation Angels
12. Big Sur
13. Satori in Paris

Dave Moore, Kerouac scholar extraordinaire, posted the below list of 12 books in the Jack Kerouac Facebook group as a reaction to the O'Neil piece. His list comports with O'Neil's except he omits Lonesome Traveler.

What is the definitive list of Kerouac books in The Duluoz Legend? Who knows? Jack's dead and he's not going to weigh in short of conducting a seance. It's a matter of opinion, and everybody's got one. It depends on the parameters one sets. Novels only gets you one kind of list. Going beyond novels gets you another. Etc.

Personally, I think we are close enough to agreement to say that we know which books are definitely on the list (Dave Moore's 12-item list, e.g.). Going with the "novels only list," Dave's list only omits The Town and the City.

I own and have read all the books mentioned -- most more than once -- and now I have a bucket list goal to read each book in The Duluoz Legend back-go-back and in order. I just have to decide which list to use. I'm leaning toward Dave's, given that Kerouac himself doesn't list The Town and the City in his 1960 notebook. But he does list Railroad Earth (whatever that is) and Book of Dreams and Lonesome Traveler, so confusion remains. Maybe using Jack's list is the way to go.

What are your thoughts on the matter? I'd like to know.

By the way, I think it's pronounced dew'-lou-oz (3 syllables).

P.S. I blogged about the origin of the name, Duluoz, in a subsequent blog post HERE.


Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Dave Moore notes that his list is Duluoz novels only, and he left out The Town and the City because Kerouac didn't include it in his own list. Dave thinks The Duluoz Legend is much more expansive, and includes many items none of the lists we discussed. Dave's more expansive list can be seen here: http://www.beatbookcovers.com/kercomp/works.htm.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering should or is there any basis for including The Sea Is My Brother and where might it be placed in the legend, Maurice

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Maurice, I think an argument could be made for including The Sea is My Brother in The Duluoz Legend, given that it is quasi-autobiographical. It's not on Jack's own list, which is a strike against its inclusion.

Unknown said...

What better list to go by than the old man Jack's? When I see that in his writing that's what I'm going with

Xscriabin said...

Concerning Jack's 1960 notebook list:

1. What book is "Memory Bebe(sp?) 1922-36"?
2. What book is "Vision of Julian 1939-43"?
3. What book is "Best Travels(sp?) 1956-60"?
4. What book is "Hollywood Novel 1959"?

Finished "Visions of Gerard", one of the saddest books I have read. Reading "Dr. Sax" now. Thanks for your interesting blog page.

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...


As far as I know, they were works Kerouac planned to write and would cover the time periods listed. One of them, MEMORY BABE, did get published in THE UNKNOWN KEROUAC (2016). Others may show up in future releases authorized by the Kerouac estate. It'd be interesting to see VISIONS OF JULIAN, which likely focused on Lucien Carr, a central character in the formative Beat Generation days.

Nikolas Corrêa said...

Hollywood novels it could be a book published in Brasil like Geração Beat? Edited by L&PM, this book it's a dramatic play that was never staged.
Sorry about my english, i'm a brazilian fan of kerouac's work.

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Nikolas, the book you reference is a Kerouac work?

Nikolas Corrêa said...

Yes, this book countains a work of Kerouac. It's a script for a theatrical play. Do you haver an e-mail so i can sendo pictures of the book?

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...


Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Here is an email follow-up from Nikolas:

Description of book:
On a morning in 1953, a group of friends, mostly workers and workers – some loafers, it is true – share a bottle of wine, which is passed from hand to hand. Thus, with just a few characters, Beat Generation begins, a play that Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) wrote in 1957 – the year of the resounding success of On the Road – and which is only now being made public.

Through dialogues that seem to imitate jazz with a syncopated rhythm, Kerouac, a true master composer, creator of wonderful arrangements, shows the existence of real people, living and dying in the American dream, on the margins of the culture and society of his time. Between an existentialist discussion and a horse race, a mystical enlightenment and a drink, emerges the heart and soul of the beat generation, a mentality that germinated for decades and ended up flowering in the North American counterculture of the 1960s. less than an authentic and alternative America.

Therein lies all the splendor and all the exuberance of the Beat generation, which, starting with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso, would change American culture forever.

Nikolas Corrêa said...

Hey, I was looking for what "railroad earth" would be and I found a poem with Jack's own voice over jazz. It's available on Spotify.

Tiggy Sonya ! said...

Love this whole thread and love Kerouac's books and poetry. Really interesting blog and has some great links. Thankyou!

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Tiggy, so glad you like my blog.

Jim Davis said...

"The Railroad Earth" is chapter 3 of Lonesome Traveler, and is thus not fiction.

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Indeed, "The Railroad Earth," Chapter 3 of LONESOME TRAVELER, was published in EVERGREEN No. 2 as "October in the Railroad Earth." I doubt Kerouac included it in his list as such, but had a longer yet-to-be-written work in mind as part of the Duluoz Legend. In either case, I would still call it a kind of fiction as he changed names and events to suit what he was narrating; that's called roman a clef to be specific.