Friday, May 31, 2019
Summer hiatus (sort of)
Over the past few months I have been posting fairly regularly, but I suspect that I will be posting sporadically throughout the summer months. I'll be "on the road" too much to blog every day.
I hope this news doesn't harsh anyone's mellow. Look at it this way: the time you used to spend reading my blog every day can now be spent reading Kerouac. That's a win-win in my book.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Remembering Peter Orlovsky UPDATED 5-31-19
|Famous Ginsberg photo of Orlovsky (Left), Kerouac (Middle), and Burroughs (Right) on a Moroccan beach in March 1957|
(c) Allen Ginsberg
On this date -- May 30, in 2010, Peter Orlovsky died. The obvious Kerouac connection here is that Orlovsky was a longtime partner of central Beat Generation figure Allen Ginsberg.
I don't know a lot about Orlovsky off the top of my head, and I am guessing some readers may be in the same boat, so here are a couple of links for information:
NY Times obit
Rebellious Love: Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky
UPDATE: Below is a list of characters that Peter appeared as in various Kerouac works (Source: Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend):
Character Name Book
George The Dharma Bums
Simon Darlovsky Desolation Angels
Simon Book of Dreams
Paul Beat Generation
Sunday, May 26, 2019
Review of Jacob Rabinowitz’s Blame It On Blake: a memoir of dead languages, gender vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading Jacob Rabinowitz’s Blame It On Blake: a memoir of dead languages, gender vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr, but the title helped me anticipate what was to come. This is a memoir by 60-year old Rabinowitz about his “Quixotic-like determination to close the gap between lived life and literature” (p. 238). As the author states:
It all came down to poetry. As a teenager, I had tried to make poetry the ordering principle of my existence. Following Rimbaud’s example, I got myself into a lot of drunken trouble, which I snapped out of with the help of AA. Then I cleared my intellectual decks with a good dose of Nietzschean modernism. This world view intoxicated me by its austerity and truth, for which I found echoes in the Bhagavad Gita. (p. 283)
If the academic tone of the above passage scares you, hold on tight because Rabinowitz routinely uses literary and philosophic references throughout the memoir. Many of them -- to me -- were obscure, but then I am not trained in the classics as is the author. For example:
I was curious about them [girls], but my few attempts to join in their conversations had met with the same success as Alberich encountered when he attempted to get friendly with the Rhinemaidens. (p. 21)
If reading about alcoholism from a personal perspective is triggering for you, be warned: it is a strong theme throughout Rabinowitz’s memoir. I found this statement by Ginsberg about Rabinowitz’s sobriety to be telling:
“You didn’t get over your addiction. You just replaced alcohol with ideas as a way of staying drunk all the time.” (p. 182)
Rabinowitz felt he was too smart for his school teachers, and took to reading what he wanted to read during class, an example of the autodidacticity that has followed him throughout life. He started hitchhiking into New York City as a teenager, in particular Greenwich Village, which is where he met and befriended the likes of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs and Lucien Carr and Gregory Corso. He came on the scene too late to meet Jack Kerouac, and only mentions him briefly.
When he was just 17, this "kid from New Jersey" sent Ginsberg a 40-page cut-up a la Burroughs using a cheap gay porn magazine and The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, modeling the whole thing after Rimbaud’s Season in Hell. Ginsberg wrote back from Naropa saying he’d like to meet him on his return to Manhattan and “in the meantime could I send him a photograph?” (p. 47).
This was autumn of 1976 and when the two met they proceeded immediately to indecencies, yet their sexual relationship is not the focus of the dynamic between the two, but rather an intellectual one focused around poetry. Rabinowitz is able to provide deep insights into Ginsberg.
He [Alan] was really a political figure. This made it trying to walk with him even the three blocks from his apartment to the nearby Polish pirogi palace. He was readily recognized , and never sidestepped a conversation with anyone eager for a little taste of the greatness. This is perhaps a part of the mystery of why he essentially lived his life alone. No one with enough personality and intelligence to truly engage Allen’s giant mind and great heart would have been content with the scraps of attention left at the end of the day -- particularly when the day didn’t end till late at night when the last letter was answered. (p. 54)
Rabinowitz points out that Ginsberg’s “mini-epic” Contest of Bards is an account of their entire affair.
As the title suggests, Rabinowitz experienced no small amount of gender identity confusion. In part convinced by Burrough’s The Naked Lunch that his drug use and homosexuality were legitimate, “being queer was the identity that seemed the best fit” (p. 29). The author lived a gay lifestyle and yet in later years settled down with the love of his life, Meryl, who suggested he undertake this memoir effort.
Rabinowitz had the most to say about his relationship with Ginsberg, but he has interesting insights to share about Burroughs, Corso, and Carr as well.
For example, we learn when they met that Burroughs’ Prince Street apartment was lined with cases of vodka he had taken instead of cash for some lecture or writing project, and he worked his way though it in a little over a year. We learn that Carr liked to order a triple vodka “‘with a splash of coke. Not too much coke,’ he would add, ‘I don’t want to ruin my stomach.’” (p. 85). We learn about the trickster theatre that was Corso’s ambience (p. 195), and we get an analysis of Corso’s final manuscript, which needed
a lot of editing, but it’s a remarkable document for exactly that reason. Gregory’s poetic gifts always had to swim upstream against the tide of his intoxication. (p. 337)
Which reminds me that I must add a quibble about this book. There are typos galore. Nothing that obscures comprehension, just minor distractions like Ginsberg’s name being misspelled “Gunsberg” on the thank you page (p. 4) and other misspelled words (“oportunity” on p. 182) or puzzlements like “I suggested that Mike to put an independent publishing centerfold . . . “ (p. 256). There is no publisher mentioned, and I suspect the book is self-published, meaning there may have been no editor other than the author himself -- always a dangerous practice.
One other quibble is that I would love to have this book indexed. It’s so academically dense that it could serve as a quasi-reference book on poetry, the classics, philosophy, philology, and religion. Within a few pages one is likely to encounter Dante, Milton, Blake, Melville, Chaucer, Lovecraft, and the list goes on. Rabinowitz had read and internalized an amazing amount of information, and he is not shy about framing his memoir accordingly. To some it may come across elitist -- to me it came across as a supremely intelligent and well-read person trying to explain a lived experience that was significantly influenced by the great thinkers.
There’s a lot here, and I’ve only scratched the surface of content. Rabinowitz is a strong writer -- typos notwithstanding -- and he frequently offers poignant, articulate, eloquent insights into matters of the mind or heart or both. We learn details about several important people in his life beyond Beat figures. He is obviously opinionated, but I expect no less in a memoir. Rabinowitz rails about New England in a section titled “Yankeedom,” concluding:
If I may paraphrase the Mikado, “the nourishment fit the crime.” Thus was visited upon the table such horrors as the “New England Boiled Dinner.”
Rabinowitz has a dark sense of humor that often surfaces. I laughed aloud at his description of working as a proofreader of off-the-rack wills for a legal firm. Using his knowledge of Latin, he replaced the word for “we command” (mandamus) with irrumamus, meaning “we give blowjobs.” He revised the stipulations for organ donation to include their potential use as fish bait or cat food.
The author concludes his memoir with this insight:
Now, after a lifetime seeking holy wisdom from books and from life, having succeeded in stealing a few glimpses of the infinitely secret, I comprehend better the terror--and the humor, of God . . . . And I am grateful to all the astonishing people who filled my life . . . and most of all I am indebted to one, whom I gladly make this memoir’s final invocation. You, who living I so rarely allowed the last word, you’ll be the last word here, dear Allen.
The book doesn’t have any information about the author so I asked him for a blurb and below is what he sent me. It’s wonderful and a fitting way to end this review of a book you should definitely check out (click here).
Jacob Rabinowitz was a changeling child left on a random doorstep in Paterson NJ. He acquired a PhD in Classics which rendered him virtually unemployable and for some time not very good company. He then spent several happy years teaching everything from Latin to Calculus up and down the eastern seaboard. He misses dirty, filthy 1970's New York, and has returned to New Jersey where he lives with his partner in crime, the artist Meryl Gross, no children, and a lawn full of bamboo.Since he is now a grown-up, he does not have to eat vegetables and has ice cream for dinner every night of the week.
Larry Keenan website goes mobile-friendly
Empty Mirror reports that the Larry Keenan website -- where you can see pictures by the acclaimed Beat Generation (and beyond) photographer -- has gone mobile friendly.
Here is a link to the site: https://www.emptymirrorbooks.com/keenan/
And here is a link to our post by Gerald Nicosia written in memory of Larry, who dies in 2012: https://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/memory-of-larry-keenan-by-gerald-nicosia.html.
Friday, May 24, 2019
Memorial Day and Jack Kerouac
As you undertake to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, I hope that amidst eating too many hot dogs you will keep in mind the holiday's purpose: to honor the men and women who died serving in the U.S. military. It's also an opportunity to express appreciation to current military members and to veterans for their service to our country.
Remember that Jack Kerouac has a short history with the U.S. Naval Reserve. You can read all about that fiasco here. But keep in mind that he also spent time in the Merchant Marine and saw action in a convoy during World War II.
I wish we didn't need a military -- we don't, but humans have decided not to go there -- but since we do:
If you are a current or past member of the military, we here at The Daily Beat appreciate your service. And we remember and honor those who died serving in the military.
Click here for a past blog post about Jack Kerouac and Memorial Day.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Alan Harrington, Lew Welch, and Jack Kerouac
|Alan Harrington (L) and Lew Welch (R)|
Today is a "two-fer" date in history regarding Jack Kerouac. On this date, May 23, novelist Alan Harrington died in 1997; also on this date, in 1971, poet Lew Welch left a suicide note at Gary Snyder's house and walked into the California mountains never to be heard from again. Harrington and Welch appeared in several Kerouac works (Source: Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend):
Kerouac Work Character Name
On The Road Hal Hingham
Book of Dreams Early Wallington
Book of Dreams (expanded edition) Worthington
Kerouac Work Character Name
Big Sur Dave Wain
Alan Harrington, a young writer on the periphery of the Beat group, introduced Kerouac to John Clellon Holmes at a party in 1948, an obviously important event.
On their road trip from Louisiana to California memorialized in On The Road, Jack & Neal Cassady & LuAnne Henderson visited Harrington in Tucson, AZ in January 1949; Neal flew into a rage when Harrington kissed LuAnne and insisted they leave, borrowing $5 for gas to get as far as Bakersfield, CA (Source: Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac).
In a letter to Harrington on April 23, 1949, Kerouac said:
I am no longer "beat," I have money, a career. I am more alone than when I lurked on Times Square at 4 A.M., or hitch-hiked penniless down the highways of the night. (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, p. 188)
Alan Harrington, Lew Welch, and Jack Kerouac -- connected for eternity. Who knew?
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Reading what Kerouac read
If you ever wanted a list of books to read because Kerouac was influenced by them, this post on Bookish is a good resource: Kerouac's Top 40.
The list includes Kerouac's own words about each entry and/or its author.
P.S. I learned about this in the excellent Jack Kerouac group on Facebook, which you should join if you haven't done so already (https://www.facebook.com/groups/70595431200/).
Happy Birthday to Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas
On this date -- May 22 -- in 1922, Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas was born. Sampas was one of Jack Kerouac's closest and dearest friends, and it would be hard to overstate the significant influence one had on the other (especially in ways literary and intellectual). Jack's third wife, Stella, was Sebastian's sister. Sampas appeared in the following Kerouac works (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend):
Kerouac Work Character Name
Doctor Sax Sebastian
Visions of Cody Sebastian
Book of Dreams Silvanus Santos
Vanity of Duluoz Sabbas (Sabby) Savakis
Visions of Gerard Savas Savakis
Atop an Underwood Sam
The Town and the City Alexander Panos
The Haunted Life and Other Writings Garabed Tourian
There are some wonderful letters back and forth between Sebastian and Jack in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956 (1995, Penguin). Here is how one from March 1943 starts (p. 43):
You magnificent bastard! I was just thinking about you, and all of a sudden, I feel
very GAY! (TURN!)
I was thinking, in a flash of glory, about all the things we've done!!!--and all the others we're going to do!
AFTER THE WAR, WE MUST GO TO FRANCE AND SEE THAT THE REVOLUTION GOES WELL! AND GERMANY TOO! AND ITALY TOO! AND RUSSIA!
For 1. Vodka
It would take an entire book to describe adequately the deep and loving friendship Sampas and Kerouac shared, so I won't attempt it here. Suffice to say that you can get a good sense of it from Kerouac biographies, letters between the two, and, of course, Jack's own words about Sampas in the above listed works.
Happy Birthday, Sammy!
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Happy Birthday to Robert Creeley
On this date -- May 21 -- in 1926, the late poet Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts. Here's a link to a bio that contains a link to some of his poems:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robert-creeley. I particularly love Creeley's poetry, but that is not why we are honoring him on his birthday on The Daily Beat. It is because -- of course -- there is a Kerouac connection.
Creeley appeared as "Rainey" in two Kerouac books, Desolation Angels and Book of Dreams (expanded edition) (see Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend). The two first met at Creeley's request of Allen Ginsberg to arrange a meeting. That meeting took place in 1956 at The Place, a North Beach bar in San Francisco frequented by the Beats. Creeley and Kerouac had a lot in common other than poetry, including drinking and jazz but also having grown up not far from each other in Massachusetts (from Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1994, University of California Press).
In his published letters, Jack mentions Creeley a number of times. Here is his first mention (from a letter to John Clellon Holmes on May 27, 1956):
There's a new writer called Robert Creeley who went to Harvard and knew Roger Lyndon but doesnt [sic] remember Harrington, out here, lonely, sad, restless, one eye, tragic Spanish dark, just spent 4 years in Mallorca Spain printing his Black Mountain Review, is reading his poems tonight nervously before a disapproving audience of women because Kenneth Rexroth's wife is going to run away with him somewhere. I am Creeley's friend and Rexroth has conceived a great hatred for me and thrown in poor Neal too who hasn't even done anything. (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 579)Creeley talked about Kerouac as part of a panel at the 1982 (the referenced page says 1981 but I think that is incorrect) Kerouac Conference at Naropa -- you can read the transcript here.
So Happy Birthday to Robert Creeley, not considered a Beat Generation writer but certainly an accomplished and celebrated poet who hung out with the Beats and was a friend of Jack's.
Monday, May 20, 2019
Upcoming review of Blame It On Blake by Jacob Rabinowitz
|My review copy propped up in my office chair|
I recently received a review copy of Blame It On Blake: a memoir of dead languages, gender vagrancy, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Corso & Carr by Jacob Rabinowitz. I started reading it yesterday and, while I'm only 31 pages in, it's captured my interest and I can't wait to read what the author has to say about his friendships with the Beat Generation figures in the title. Stay tuned for a full review in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, check out the author's blog at https://scholaradrift.blogspot.com/.
Friday, May 17, 2019
Jack Kerouac's father died on this date in 1946
Joseph Alcide Léon Kirouack, known as Leo, died on this date -- May 17 -- in 1946 at the age of 56 in Ozone Park, Queens, New York. Leo appeared in several of his son Jack's books: Emil Alcide Duluoz in Visions of Gerard, Emil (Pop) Duluoz in Doctor Sax/Visions of Cody/Vanity of Duluoz, George Martin in The Town and the City, Emil in Maggie Cassidy/Desolation Angels, Pa in Book of Dreams, Charlie Martin in The Sea is My Brother, and Joe Martin in The Haunted Life and Other Writings.
Leo's death greatly affected Jack, who promised Leo on his deathbed that he'd look after his mother, Gabrielle (and did -- some would say to a fault -- for the rest of his life). Jack tenderly and tragically describes his father's death at home from stomach cancer in The Town and the City (Chapter 3 of Part 5).
Leo is buried in the St. Louis de Gonzague Cemetery in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Jack Kerouac and Joe McCarthy
|Joe McCarthy (L) and Jack Kerouac (R)|
Click here for an interesting article about Jack Kerouac's thinking on Joe McCarthy. This reminds me that I need to pay a visit to the Kerouac archive in the Berg Collection. Bucket list.
Purchase an advance copy of the revised and updated Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia
|Cover of the last edition of Memory Babe, published by University of California Press in 1994|
I received a message from Gerry Nicosia and he asked me to post it here on The Daily Beat to get the word out about his effort to publish a revised and updated edition of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. What follows in blue Gerry's message. Please note: people wishing to order the advance hardback copy from anywhere outside the U.S. should contact Mr. Nicosia directly about the added postage cost. Write to him at email@example.com . Cool Grove Press is now looking into an overseas distributor, so if this applies to you, please check the Cool Grove Press website periodically for updates.
As you may know, my Kerouac biography Memory Babe has been out of print for 18 years. It was published originally in 1983 by Grove Press, and needed an update and some revision based on new material about Kerouac that has come to light in the past 36 years. I did that revision last year, and I also added a long epilogue about developments in the Kerouac and Beat worlds over the past 25 years, since the book was published in its last edition by the University of California Press (in 1994). But the publisher who was to reissue the revised and updated book backed out at the last minute. Since then, I have found the book repeatedly rebuffed by dozens of publishers, both commercial and university presses.
I am now working with an extremely courageous publisher, Tej Hazarika, who founded Cool Grove Press, an independent literary press, in Brooklyn, several years ago. Tej is also a brilliant book designer, and the new edition of Memory Babe will contain many new photos, some of them never seen publicly before. We have only one problem: we lack money for the first print run of the book.
To this end, we are attempting to raise the money needed to print the new edition of Memory Babe by offering friends and fans of the book the chance to make an advance purchase of a special hardback copy, with book jacket, for $30. That price includes delivery of the book.
Those who make this advance purchase will receive their special hardbound copy of Memory Babe within a year. However, if not enough money is raised to do the first printing, everyone who made an advance purchase will receive a full refund of their money.
This may seem like an unusual way to publish a book, but as most writers have come to realize, the publishing business today is dismal and the prospects for getting serious and important books published—unless they are potential best-sellers—is virtually nil. Many people around the world have attested to Memory Babe’s importance, and for this reason we believe it is worth the extra effort to make a revised and updated edition of the book available to all people who care about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation. We hope you can help.
If you are interested in making an advance purchase of the revised and updated Memory Babe, as a special edition hardback with book jacket, please send $30 to Gerald Nicosia, 11 Palm Avenue, Corte Madera, CA 94925, within the next two months. Time is of the essence here, since if insufficient funds are raised by mid-summer, the project will have to be abandoned.
Please send money to me as check or money order, by mail. I will soon have PayPal connected as a means of payment as well (but not yet).
Today in history: Jack Kerouac and canned spaghetti
|1947 ad for Derby canned spaghetti|
On this date -- May 16 -- in 1965 the Campbell Soup Company introduced SpaghettiOs under its Franco-American brand. What's the Kerouac connection? Jack was no stranger to canned spaghetti. In On The Road he talks about buying "cans of cooked spaghetti and meatballs" (Penguin, 1976, p. 96 -- part of the story of the Mexican girl). Jack doesn't give a brand name, and he certainly didn't buy Franco-American SpaghettiOs (since it was 1947 and they didn't appear until 1965). It could have been Derby, since they made canned spaghetti in 1947 as the above ad shows. I'm not sure if they made it with meatballs, though.
|Vintage SpaghettiOs ad|
Jack was alive when SpaghettiOs debuted, so he may well have tried the "neat new spaghetti you can eat with a spoon." Personally, I've been eating canned pasta since I was a kid. Franco-American isn't my favorite -- Chef Boyardee is my go-to for canned comfort food. By the way, in stores now you can find Chef Boyardee "original recipe" and relive your childhood.
I wasn't able to confirm that Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti and meatballs existed in 1947, but the company was found in 1938 so it's possible that Jack was referring to my favorite comfort food in On The Road. For that matter, he could have been eating Franco-American, since that company was bought by Campbell in 1915 and they made canned spaghetti (traditional style, not Os). Given the name, it would be no surprise if our favorite French-Canadian author chose Franco-American over Chef Boyardee. I can forgive him for that. Anyone who likes canned spaghetti -- of any brand -- is okay in my book.
Monday, May 13, 2019
Review of Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century by Gerald Nicosia
|Front and back covers of Gerald Nicosia's new book|
On Thursday, May 9, I received a copy of Gerald Nicosia's new book, Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century. I read it over the course of that day and the next and spent the weekend thinking about what to say in a review. Before I get into that review, I have a caveat to make.
In the spirit of transparency, let me state that Mr. Nicosia (Gerry) is a friend of mine. Regular readers of The Daily Beat know this, and they also know I liberally quote from his seminal Kerouac biography, Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. Additionally, I am referenced in this book, once explicitly and once implicitly (in a way that requires some back story). Explicitly, I am the author of a blurb praising Memory Babe on p. 184. Implicitly, on p. 162 there is a picture of Gerry at Kerouac's grave and you can see a plastic bag on the grave at his feet. Inside that bag is a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, which I had left there -- as is my practice -- in hopes that someone would "steal" it. Gerry did so and that was the catalyst for our eventual friendship. But that is another story . . . .
As a result of our friendship, suffice to say, this review may be seen as biased. Now that you are informed about that you can make your own judgment about the review's merits. Note: I paid for the book -- it is not a review copy.
To begin with, let me say that Gerald Nicosia knows as much about Jack Kerouac as any other living person. I say that as someone who has immersed himself in Kerouac for the last 15 years. Nicosia has lived and breathed Kerouac since reading The Dharma Bums and Lonesome Traveler in the fall of 1972 when he was in graduate school. Memory Babe remains, in my opinion, one of the best of the Kerouac biographies written to date, and it was first published in 1983. It's got that kind of staying power. There is some good news on that front -- a new, revised and updated edition will be published by Cool Grove Press in 2020.
That said, anyone with an interest in Kerouac will have an interest in what Nicosia has to say about the last quarter century. Granted, as Nicosia explains in the prologue, "there may be some objections that this book represents my very personal view of what has happened in the Kerouac world in the last 25 years." He goes on to argue why that is okay, to which I would add: of course it's a personal view! Nicosia has been in the middle of the goings-on in the Kerouac world for decades and he has stories to tell about it that can only come from him.
And come they do.
In this book you will read in-depth about how Memory Babe has almost been expunged from existence (stymied from being reprinted and excised as a reference in bibliographies) by people inside or beholden to the Kerouac estate. If you are tired of reading about the "estate controversy," you should know that the topic is a theme that runs through this book. As it should. I find it fascinating. Granted, in a book -- unlike in on-line forums or live discussions -- there is no opportunity for counterpoints to claims that are made. So be it -- that is the nature of a book.
I am not going to undertake to repeat or refute the many stories Nicosia tells -- that is why the book exists: to put on the record information and perspectives that only he is able and willing to share. Anyone who has read Memory Babe knows of Nicosia's narrative ability, and Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century reveals that Nicosia has not lost a step over the years. The story is compelling and engaging.
In addition to Memory Babe censorship, other discreet topics covered include: Nicosia's involvement with Kerouac's daughter, Jan, and the legal battle to secure her rightful inheritance as well as that of the Blake family (descendants of Jack's sister, Caroline); the piecemeal selling off of Kerouac's work and possessions as opposed to keeping it all in one collection accessible to scholars; controversies at the NYU Beat and Kerouac conferences in 1994 and 1995; difficulties Nicosia had in Jack's hometown associated with the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac celebration as well as the closing of the Memory Babe archive; the court decision that Gabrielle Kerouac's will was forged; the state of posthumous Kerouac publications (with critiques of several); the controversial auction of the roll manuscript of On The Road; and more. Nicosia supports his many claims with specific names, dates, and other verifiable data.
Of particular note is a chapter on Kerouac genealogy that outlines the history and work of the Kerouac Family Association based in Canada. Also worth specific mention is the chapter on the famous Joan Anderson letter, a quite detailed account which includes Nicosia's valuable analysis of its import. By my count, the book includes over 80 black-and-white photographs, many of which were taken by the author and so are likely to have not been seen by most readers (see scans of originals below). One small quibble I have with the photos in the book is that they are not correlated with specific page numbers in the text. Also included is a useful timeline of significant events between 1969 (the year of Jacks' death) and 2018 (the year Paul Blake, Jr. died). In defense of his Kerouac work, Nicosia includes 10 pages of blurbs by various figures praising Memory Babe. There are 50 endnotes supporting claims made in the text.
|Members of the “Biographers’ Forum,” John Tytell, Ann Charters, Regina Weinreich, Gerald Nicosia, just after the dedication of the Kerouac Commemorative, Lowell, June 25, 1988. Photographer unknown.|
|Paul Blake, Jr., and Ken Kesey, backstage at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, San Francisco, April 1, 1995, during benefit performance for Jan Kerouac staged by Gerald Nicosia. Photo by Gerald Nicosia.|
Jan Kerouac visits the house where her father had his fatal esophageal hemorrhage, 5169 10th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, March, 1994. Photo courtesy of Jan Kerouac.
Where I think Nicosia excels is with analysis, evidenced by his in-depth critiques in Memory Babe of most of Jack's significant works. He concludes this book with an analysis of where Kerouac scholarship needs to go next. That chapter is titled, "Mork and Jack: The Crooked Canuck Bean Bag Salesman." The chapter's title alone should intrigue readers enough to grab a copy of Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century.
Speaking of which, to secure a copy you can either e-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org, or else send a check or money order for $30 ($25 for book and $5 for postage and mailer) to Gerald Nicosia, PO Box 130, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0130. You can tell him how you would like the book inscribed, if you wish.
Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century is a story that could only be told by Gerald Nicosia, and it needed to be told. Zealous Nicosia critics will likely rail against the book (and this review), but I would point to his admonition on p. 139:
. . . does anyone think that blacklisting, censorship, and dirtying an honest person's reputation are things that Jack Kerouac himself would have approved of? Some people, including some of those who have been honored to edit the great man's work, may need to go back and reread Kerouac, this time paying attention.
I am the first to admit that there are two sides to every story, or more, but please don't be gullible enough to believe those who would say that Nicosia is paranoid and is making up the vitriol and attempted silencing he and his work have had to endure for his involvement in the Kerouac estate controversy. I've seen it firsthand. And lest you think this book is all one-sided estate-bashing, Nicosia acknowledges that John Sampas' making a lot more of Kerouac's works available during his rein over the estate was "an unquestionable benefit to everyone."
I hope you'll read this book with an open mind, then decide for yourself where the Kerouac legacy stands today and where it should go in the future.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Today in history: Jack Kerouac and J. Edgar Hoover
|J. Edgar Hoover (L) and Jack Kerouac (R)|
On this date -- May 10 -- in 1924, "Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone appointed the 29-year-old [J. Edgar] Hoover acting director of the Bureau [FBI], and by the end of the year Mr. Hoover was named Director" (Source: https://www.fbi.gov/history/directors/j-edgar-hoover).
The Kerouac connection? Hoover was no fan of the Beats -- he
claimed at the 1960 Republican National Convention that “beatniks” were, alongside communists and liberal “eggheads,” one of the three greatest menaces to U.S. National Security. (Source: click here)
Hoover is quoted in 1961 as saying:
Ever since the war, the communist fronts and the beatniks and the eggheads have conducted a national chorus of denunciation. (Source: Beat Studies Association)
You will note that Hoover used the term "beatniks," a term that a true Beat would see as pejorative, and I suspect he meant it that way, capitalizing on the link to communism via the "nik" suffix.
I've tried in vain to ascertain whether Jack had an FBI file. I can't believe he didn't, but the FBI has responded to my FOIA requests as being unable to find any records (click here).
Apparently, Hoover was no paragon of virtue himself, and I hesitated to give him space on my blog. However, he was a major figure in history and certainly has a connection to Kerouac via his (Hoover's) detest for the counterculture Jack helped catalyze.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Jack Kerouac quote of the day
Below is a Jack Kerouac quote. Your task is to identify the source. Give us your answer in a comment.
The simplest truth in the world is beyond our reach because of its complete simplicity, i.e., its pure nothingness--
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Happy Birthday to Gary Snyder
Today is Gary Snyder's birthday. He was born May 8, 1930, so he turns 89 today. Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to Gary nor do they need made explicit the connection to Jack Kerouac.
Suffice to say that Gary was the basis for the main character, Japhy Ryder, of my favorite Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums.
|All of my copies of The Dharma Bums in one picture|
I know -- Gary distanced himself from the Beat label. That doesn't dissuade me from considering him a seminal figure in the Beat Generation story as an intimate friend of Kerouac.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Snyder!
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Jack Kerouac mystery photo UPDATE
As of this writing, we still do not know the identify of the mystery man in the above photo of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady. We wrote about the photo here. Of particular note, Jerry Cimino of The Beat Museum claims that most people agree that this is the only known photograph of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady together.
Here's a link to a piece on the matter by Cimino: https://emailinc.net/public_message_view.jsp?s=4rub39r9th .
If you know who the fourth man is, or can cite another photo of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Cassady together, let us know in a comment.
Monday, May 6, 2019
Today in history: Jack Kerouac and Henry David Thoreau
On this day -- May 6 -- in 1862, American essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister and all-around Renaissance man Henry David Thoreau died at age 44 in Concord, MA. There's more to the Jack Kerouac-Thoreau connection than that they were both born in Massachusetts.
According to thoreaufarm.org (in a March 12, 2015 Facebook post):
Kerouac was a fan of Thoreau and drew inspiration from his work - in Kerouac's copy of "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers," the line "The traveler must be born again on the road" is underlined and a check mark placed next to it.
This post also mentions a Kerouac quote from a June 10, 1949 letter to Allen Ginsberg (see above):
To live like Jesus and Thoreau, except for women.
Not only might Jack have gotten the idea for the name of his most famous novel from Thoreau, but he also may have been influenced to take his solo adventure on Desolation Peak:
And yet he never felt more desolate about having to leave Lowell. At the last minute he wanted to give up his scholarship to Columbia. He even talked about living in the woods like Thoreau, until his parents set him straight about the value of a college education. (Gerald Nicosia, Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1994, University of California Press, p. 75)Indeed, Thoreau is mentioned in the index as appearing on 11 different pages in Memory Babe. In Ann Charters' two volumes of Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters the indexes combine to show Thoreau appearing on 9 different pages. I'll let you dig those references out on your own since this is a blog and not a dissertation.
Suffice to say, Thoreau influenced in Kerouac in multiple ways. Are you starting to believe my oft-stated point that everything connects to Kerouac?
Friday, May 3, 2019
Today in history: Jack Kerouac and Bing Crosby
|Bing Crosby (L) and Jack Kerouac (R)|
On this date -- May 3 -- in 1903, Bing Crosby was born. A Kerouac connection to the famous crooner is described in Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, 1994, University of California Press, p. 50):
Jack had dreamed of college from age twelve, when he'd seen a movie of Bing Crosby serenading a coed in the moonlight outside the frat house. That movie had actually impelled him to start playing football.
Think about it. No Bing, no college or football. No college or football, no Columbia. No Columbia, no Ginsberg, Cassady, Burroughs, Carr, etc. No Ginsberg et al. and Kerouac, no Beat Generation.
No Bing, no Jack as we know him. Wow.
Thanks, Mr. Crosby.
P.S. Without thinking about it, cross your arms. Do you do it like Bing (left over right) or Jack (right over left). I'm a Bing follower. Sorry, Jack.
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Jack Kerouac quote of the day
Jack Kerouac said:
No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge.* (Source: Jack Kerouac, You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, 2009, Chronicle Books)
I was going to opine about this quote and what it means, wrote something in that vein, and promptly decided to let Jack's words speak for themselves. I wish you all a sense of dignity regardless of your path or present circumstances.
* I've seen this quote with "yr" for "your," but the above version was copyrighted by the Kerouac Estate in the cited reference, so we will go with that. For an on-line source, click here or here.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Today in history: Jack Kerouac and the Empire State Building
On this date -- May 1 -- in 1931 the Empire State Building opened in New York City. The general Kerouac connection here is obvious, given Jack's intimate familiarity with The Big Apple. But what has Kerouac written about the Empire State Building? I found this passage in one of my favorite Kerouac books, Lonesome Traveler, in a chapter titled, "New York Scenes":
Coming up that stairway, people stand there for hours and hours drooling in the rain, with soaking wet umbrellas -- lots of boys in dungarees scared to go into the Army standing halfway up the stairway on the iron steps waiting for God Who knows what, certainly among them some romantic heroes just in from Oklahoma with ambitions to end up yearning in the arms of some unpredictable sexy young blonde in a penthouse on the Empire State Building -- some of them probably stand there dreaming of owning the Empire State Building by virtue of a magic spell which they've dreamed up by a creek in the backwoods of a ratty old house on the outskirts of Texarkana. (Grove Weidenfeld, 1989, pp. 107-108)
Jack was only 9 years old when the Empire State Building opened. I don't know when he first saw it -- do you have information about that? If so, post it in a comment!
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