Monday, April 23, 2018

Curation #39 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac

Item #39 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this 398-page paperback copy of Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody. This is a McGraw-Hill Book Company publication copyrighted 1972 by the Estate of Jack Kerouac. The first McGraw-Hill paperback edition was published in 1974, but the printing number is hard to discern when it appears like this (and even if it were obvious, it doesn't help figure out when this particular book was printed):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 MU MU 7 9 8 7 6 5 4

The provenance is clear on this book. It was my second copy of VOC and I purchased it at Twice Told Tales in Farmington, ME, a great little used bookstore I used to frequent when I worked at the University of Maine at Farmington and typically bought any Jack Kerouac book they had on their shelves (which was rare -- "We can't keep them in stock."). I thought the cover on this one was rather unique.

This edition of VOC starts with an Allen Ginsberg essay titled. "THE GREAT REMEMBERER." Some view VOC as Kerouac's masterpiece. It was extremely experimental at the time, consisting of wild spontaneous prose sketches about Kerouac's experiences, particularly with the title character, Cody Pomeray (real-life Neal Cassady). A sizeable chunk of the book comprises transcripts of recordings Jack made of his rambling conversations with Neal Cassady.

Kerouac aficionados know that when Jack appeared on the Steve Allen show in 1959 to promote On The Road, he was holding a copy of OTR but reading, in part (he finished with the last paragraph from OTR), from an unpublished section of VOC ("Anyway I wrote the book because we're all gonna die..."). New readers of the book will find a chapter titled, "Joan Rawshanks in the Fog," what  Library of America called a "hallucinatory account of watching a Joan Crawford movie being shot on location in San Francisco" in an interview with UMass Lowell Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen (see Teitchen's take on VOC in that interview here).

As the NY Times said here in 1973, "...if you can stand some disorder, you will find some of Kerouac's very best writing in this book." It's Kerouac at his wildest and at peak power, and while it may be his most challenging book to get through, it's essential Kerouac for anyone claiming to be a fan or scholar. Some of his descriptions of places and events are delightful beyond my ability to explain them.

See you down the rabbit-hole....

Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (20th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: another copy of Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

No comments: