Item #118 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this paperback 1994 Penguin Books 10th printing of Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson. I've seen different subtitles for this book (e.g., A Beat Memoir), but on the title page -- not the cover -- it is subtitled: A Young Woman's Coming-of-Age in the Beat Orbit of Jack Kerouac. 265 pages, it measures about 5" x 7-5/8" and is in good condition (quite a few annotations -- not mine). The provenance is uncertain, but it was likely an Amazon purchase either for myself or as a gift from someone.
First published in 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Minor Characters is a memoir by Joyce Johnson, the woman Jack was seeing at the time On The Road was published on September 5, 1957. Her last name was Glassman at the time. When this book was published it met with positive reviews such as this one from the NY Times and it won a National Book Critics Circle Award. This particular edition features an introduction by Ann Douglas and a foreword by the author written in 1994.
This is a compelling memoir for several reasons. First, the author was an intimate of Kerouac when his fame was launched with the publication of On The Road. She was there. Second, it provides a voice from within the Beat circle by a woman, something Kerouac's works did not do (his portrayals of women were superficial at best). Finally, and most importantly perhaps, Johnson is a damn good writer in her own right.
This book is a must-read and an essential item for your Kerouac bookshelf.
Below is a picture of Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (12th from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Kerouac in Florida: Where the Road Ends by Bob Kealing.
|Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf|