Sunday, September 2, 2018

Curation #131 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Visions of Kerouac: The Life of Jack Kerouac by Charles E. Jarvis

Item #131 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this softbound 1974 Ithaca Press second edition of Visions of Kerouac: The Life of Jack Kerouac by Charles E. Jarvis. 235 pages, it measures about 5-1/2" x 8-1/4" and is in very good condition. The provenance is uncertain but I likely acquired it via Amazon. The inside cover is inscribed:

To John Georgevits -
Best wishes -
Charles E. Jarvis
November 28, 1977

I don't know who John Georgevits is, but if you know, drop us a comment.

Jarvis' Kerouac bio is one of the earliest. This copy shows a copyright date of 1973 as well as 1974, although I can't quite confirm on-line when it was first published. Ann Charters' Kerouac biography was published in 1973 and is widely recognized as the earliest comprehensive book on Jack's life. Jarvis' book cites Charters' work, so it definitely came afterwards. Of the 29 copies listed on, the earliest cited copyright date is 1974. This edition features a number of black-and-white photographs.

While this biography includes valuable details of Jack's life from the perspective of a close friend, some have pointed out biases in this work as well as a tone of self-aggrandizement (e.g., see the essay from Beatdom #16 available here - no author listed). Jack's hometown of Lowell features prominently here, as Jarvis graduated from Lowell High School in 1940 along with Kerouac best friend Sebastian Sampas (Jack graduated in 1939). Jarvis was a professor at Lowell Technical Institute, now UMass Lowell. Thus, there are details in this biography you won't find elsewhere.

I found this an interesting read, and intend to re-read it (along with most of the other books on my Kerouac bookshelf -- too many books, not enough time). It definitely belongs on any Kerouac bookshelf worth its salt.

Below is a picture of Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (25th from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Move Under Ground by Nick Mamatas.

Shelf #4 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Anonymous said...

I found listings for a "John T. Georgevits" in Needham, MA, in the early 2000s. He was also present in UMass Lowell yearbooks in the early 80s; from this, I'd assume he was one of Jarvis's student or possibly a family member (Charles's given last name is 'Giavis'). That's what I could dig up on short notice...

Best of luck!

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

Thanks, Kurt!

Anonymous said...

Kurt... you kill me!

I like this bio, but truly, Jarvis is an unabashed sycophant. In fairness, I'm sure JK realized this and he seemed to enjoy the attention and constant praise, but he was not of healthy mind during this period and it reeks of opportunism:

"My question about his friend Ginsberg's "gayness"... I felt stupid that I had picked this day - a rare sober one for Jack - to bedevil him with it; there were so many other "booze days" in which I might have formed the question".

Be that as it may, Jarvis' snap shot of this time period gives us a raw look into Kerouac's long decline and is a poignant reminder of what he did to himself. It also offers a real time glimpse of Jack's relationship with Stella from the point of view of someone who knew her since childhood, and while Memere barely appears, his relationship with her is also real time and the reader can feel the helplessness of Kerouac's role. That Jarvis knew Sammy as a boy and relates his perceptions of him is also of interest.

Richard Marsh