Thursday, October 29, 2020

A reminder: Gift-giving season is coming


This is your annual reminder that gift-giving season is coming and one idea is to order a copy of my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, for that Kerouac or Beat Generation fan on your gift list. They'll learn the answer to "What would Kerouac do?" 100 times over based upon passages from On The Road and The Dharma Bums.

You can even be COVID-safe throughout the process because you can ship direct from Amazon to the gift recipient!

And you'd be helping the economy! 

Think of it! COVID-safe economy boosting right from the comfort of home. Who could ask for anything more?

And speaking of getting things done early, don't forget to vote -- safely and on-time. It's too late to mail in a ballot and be assured it gets there on time, so if you're in that situation you can always drop your ballot off in person at the city office or in a secure drop box by the end of election day or before.

Remembering Edie Parker, notable Beat Generation figure


Edie Parker died on this date -- October 29 -- in 1993. She appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Marie in The Subterraneans; as Elly in Visions of Cody; as Edna in Book of Dreams; as Edna (Johnnie) Palmer in Vanity of Duluoz; and as Judie Smith in The Town and the City.

You may have fallen into the trap of thinking of Edie Parker as simply Jack Kerouac's first wife, and you would be wrong. Indeed, her apartment shared with Joan Vollmer around Columbia University in the 40s was the hub for gatherings of early Beat Generation figures and she was an active participant in the literary conversations with Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, et al.

Read her excellent memoir, You'll Be Okay: My Life With Jack Kerouac, to learn more about this influential Beat Generation figure. Click HERE for a brief bio.

RIP, Ms. Parker.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Book Review: Circus of the Sun by J.Macon King


Circus of the Sun is a rollicking novel by J.Macon King, publisher of Mill Valley Literary Review. It begins:

Would she feel better knowing that it haunts me still? I didn't want to leave her. I had to. Yet, I betrayed her. Her final request to me, I refused. 

From the Haight Ashbury, the vast green expanse of Golden Gate Park stretches to the endless Pacific. San Francisco's ultraviolet spectrum had beckoned dreamers like me who were eager for a new life. Free of restrictions, boundaries and repressions--free of the past. I lived in the Haight, birthplace of 1960's hippies and Flower Power, where Peter Pans and Tinkerbells preserved Neverland in a patchwork community. (p. 3)

An intriguing story develops from there, with plenty of San Francisco-specific geographic and architectural descriptions that will delight those familiar with the city. Set in 1978-80 California, this is indeed "a Novel of San Francisco," as the subtitle indicates. It is written in memoir style, first person, as told by the protagonist Jack, who has been or is -- among other things -- a library burglar, porn actor, bookstore employee, drug dealer, motorcyclist, pinball fanatic, punk musician, martial artist, and circus worker. There are strong themes of abuse, violence, and suicide throughout, so let that be a trigger warning to those who need it.

But mostly, this is a love story gently woven into a memoir detailing Jack's personal history, with frequent sidebar flashbacks of his time growing up in a dysfunctional family situation that ended up causing him to run away -- literally -- and join the circus, where he learned valuable life lessons. Jack's love for Bretta is overwhelming at times, and King captures the ups and downs of an intense relationship deftly. There's plenty of sex, but it is handled maturely.

King's descriptions of the bar scene in San Francisco with Bretta and her "entourage" reminds me of Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans with its poetry-leaning prose and rich dialogue. Speaking of Jack Kerouac, I counted no less than 8 different references to Kerouac spanning pp. 43 to 267. In one scene, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Richard Brautigan make an appearance. In another, the author yearns for Jan Kerouac to return and become his "new soul mate."

There are plenty of cultural references, especially musical ones (as evidenced by the 2-page "discography" at the end). I caught a nod to Star Wars on p. 329: when an unwelcome bar patron is ejected, Jack waves his hand and whispers, "'This is not the bar you are looking for.'" Earlier in that scene Jack and Bretta learn of John Lennon's killing from Howard Cosell, who interrupted football coverage to announce the tragic event.

There's a twist at the end that I will mercifully not spoil, and a clue to the title is on p. 17, but you will need to get a copy and read Circus of the Sun to figure out the secret. And you will want to do that, as King's novel is engagingly honest and sets forth a story-within-a-memoir so skillfully that you forget this is a work of fiction (only sort of, I'm guessing). It is available on Amazon.

P.S. I met the author in 2013 at a Beat event at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley that I detailed HERE. Below is a picture of Mr. King reading at that event.

I provide a Jack Kerouac quote and you figure out the book (8th in a series)


This is the 8th in a series of posts where I provide a quote from one of Jack Kerouac's books and you figure out which one. Post your answer as a comment. Here's the passage:

And as far as I can see the world is too old for us to talk about it with our new words--We will pass just as quietly through life (passing through, passing through) as the 10th century people of this valley only with a little more noise and a few bridges and dams and bombs that wont [sic] even last a million years--The world being just what it is, moving and passing through, actually alright in the long view and nothing to complain about--

Good luck! Remember our policy on comments (over there on the right).

Monday, October 26, 2020

We lose another notable poet: Diane di Prima


It seems like we just wished poet Diane di Prima a happy 86th birthday on August 6 and now we learn that she died yesterday, October 25, 2020.

If you click HERE, you will arrive at that birthday post -- it includes links to several other posts we've made about di Prima.

If you haven't read any of her poetry, it's great stuff and it would honor her if you sought some out to read today. That birthday post above includes a link to some.

I don't think she appeared in any of Kerouac's works, but Jack appeared in a graphic sex scene in her book, Memoirs of a Beatnik. I liked that book a lot despite her admission that she wrote it to pay the bills and the sex was intentionally gratuitous.

We're running out of Kerouac contemporaries. 

RIP, Ms. di Prima!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Happy birthday to Jack Kerouac's sister and a belated one to poet Denise Levertov


Caroline, in uniform, with Jack Kerouac and their parents, Gabrielle and Leo

Jack Kerouac's sister, Caroline ("Nin"), was born this date -- October 25 -- in 1918. She appeared in several of Jack's works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of DreamsMaggie CassidyVisions of CodyVanity of Duluoz; Ruth Martin in The Town and the City; and, Carolyn Blake in Book of Sketches. The excellent Character Key to Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend lists her twice for Maggie Cassidy (as Nin and Jeannette Bissonette). I asked Kerouac scholar and keeper of the key, Dave Moore, about that little wrinkle and he said (shared with permission):

Yes, it's weird. Both names are used in MC. In the first part, Jack wrote about his sister Nin, but later, when he's writing about the surprise birthday party, Nin is described as arranging it, but the hosts are described as Jeannette and Jimmy Bisssonette. (Nin married Charles Morisette in 1937.)

Happy birthday in heaven, Nin.

Denise Levertov

We also owe a one-day-belated birthday in heaven to poet Denise Levertov, who was born on October 24, 1923. She appeared in Kerouac's Desolation Angels as Alise Nabokov. You can read a brief bio and some of her poetry HERE.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Happy birthday to Philip Lamantia


Poet Philip Lamantia was born on this date -- October 23 -- in 1927. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Francis DaPavia in The Dharma Bums and as David D'Angeli in Desolation Angels. Lamantia read at the famous event at the Six Gallery in 1955 that many point to as kicking off the San Francisco poetry renaissance. (He didn't read his own work, but rather that of his dead friend, John Hoffman.)

Reading some of Lamantia's poetry would be a Beat thing to do today in honor of his birthday. A brief bio and some of his poetry can be found HERE.

Happy birthday, Mr. Lamantia.

P.S. It's the 11-year anniversary of my mom's death, so this date has special significance for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Don't tell me who to be friends with and I'll do the same

I have this problem. It's called "giving a shit what people think of me." Call it vanity, if you will. Whatever it's called, it's been a lifelong problem. I think it stems from being raised pretty strictly by parents who taught me that a prime directive of life was not to get them upset. I generalized that to avoidance of upsetting anyone.

So, to this day, when I feel like I have displeased someone, it weighs on me mightily. Even when I did nothing "wrong," even when the upset person is an asshole, I suffer mentally at the thought of someone thinking ill of me. Even sending a dish back in a restaurant stresses me out to no end. I wish I could change.

I was thinking about this the other day in the context of displeasing others (or being judged by them) because of who I choose to be friends with. I know that happens. As I was thinking about and reading about that phenomenon, I came across this cartoon:

As the cartoon concludes, it is unhealthy and abusive to think you have the right to decide who your friends are friends with. Read that last sentence again, especially the underlined words. This is particularly so if you are not suffering any harm because of a friend's friendships.

Now what, you may ask, does any of that have to do with Jack Kerouac?

I'm not going to be explicit about that, but there is a connection. Suffice to say that I and I alone have the right to choose my friends, and if you are going to judge me or think ill of me for my choices in that regard . . . you are being unhealthy and abusive. And I hope that is not something you aspire to.

On reflection, I have to admit that I have in the past and still do fall into this very trap in regard to how I view others. It's hard not to judge people by the company they keep. But isn't the hard road often the right road? That's been my experience.

Thanks for tolerating my thoughts on this matter. I mainly wanted to share the above cartoon because I think it contains some really important wisdom, and it's especially relevant in our culture and politics today. Regardless of what you think of my own explanation, I hope you'll visit the link above and read it thoughtfully.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jack Kerouac: Back to the garden


Me at Kerouac's grave in 2016

Each year I try to opine about Jack Kerouac's death on this date, October 21, in 1969 at the young age of 47. So much has been said already that it becomes hard to find new words with which to remember the person without whose life this blog would not exist, nor would my book, The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions.

So I owe that guy a lot, for a lifetime-and-then-some's worth of reading, for friends made, for opportunities given and taken. 

I haven't been to Lowell or to his grave there since 2016. It just hasn't been in the cards, and -- because of the Trump virus -- this year, of course, they (wisely) didn't hold an in-person Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! event to draw me there.

Given his love for the world -- as evidenced in his writing -- I wonder what Jack would have thought of the situation we are in, with half the country hating the other half and almost a quarter million Americans dead. Would he wear a mask? Would he practice social distancing? We can only guess, but what I'm sure of is that, were he still around, he would shake his head at all the hate.

Someone famous once said, "Love one another." Keeping in mind that the hardest people to love are the ones who need it the most, I think we need to get back to the garden on this one or we're fucked as a species.

Enough for today. We remember you, Jack Kerouac. RIP.

P.S. For past musings on or about this date, see my blog post from last year HERE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A three-fer Kerouac date UPDATED


      Poet #1                         Poet #2               Poet #3

This is a red-letter day in Kerouac-dom. Three well-known poets with Jack Kerouac connections were born on this date, October 20. The first two were in part identified as Beat poets and were contemporaries of Kerouac, while the third was an important Kerouac/Beat influencer. Poet #1 was born in 1932, Poet #2 was born in 1923, and Poet #3 was born in 1854.

Poet #1 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; McLear in Big Sur; and, Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels. Poet #2 appeared in several Kerouac works: as Warren Coughlin in The Dharma Bums; and Ben Fagan in Desolation Angels and Big Sur. Poet #3 died in 1891, before Kerouac was born, and thus was not fodder for a Kerouac character.

Your job today is to be first to identify all three poets and name them in a comment on this post.

If you give up, you can click on the below for biographical information and sample poetry:

Poet #1

Poet #2

Poet #3

UPDATE: I just realized that today is V.P. candidate Kamala (COMMA-la) Harris' birthday. She was born in 1964. I hope you voted already or have a plan to vote so that your voice is heard. I voted absentee last week.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Remembering Lenore Kandel


Poet Lenore Kandel died on this date - October 18 - in 2009. She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Romana Swartz. We provided some details about her last year on this date (click HERE).

RIP, Ms. Kandel.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Kerouac dates while I was away camping

 We were away for a week at a campground and I missed three Kerouac dates of note.

Gabrielle Kerouac, Jack's mother, died on October 12, 1973. She appeared as Angie in Vanity of Duluoz and Desolation Angels; Ma in Book of Dreams; Angy in Maggie Cassidy; Angy Duluoz in Doctor Sax; Ange Duluoz in Visions of Gerard; Marguerite Martin in The Town and the City; and, Sal's Aunt in On The Road.

Bill Cannastra, who had been the boyfriend of Kerouac's second wife, Joan Haverty, died on October 12, 1950. He appeared in Jack Kerouac's works as follows: Finistra in Visions of Cody; Cannastra Finistra in Book of Dreams; and (probably) Charley Krasner in The Subterraneans.

Bea Franco, one of Jack's paramours, was born on October 13, 1920. She was represented as Terry, "the Mexican girl," in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road.

If you want to see pictures of any of the above three, check out previous posts on this blog or do a little Googling. I didn't have time today to post any but wanted to note these dates before too much time elapsed. For example, click HERE or HERE.

Of course, we have a significant October date coming up next week. Stay tuned for that....

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Happy Birthday to Amiri Baraka


Noted writer Amiri Baraka was born on this date -- October 7 -- in 1934. He appeared under his actual former name, LeRoi Jones, in Lonesome Traveler.

Baraka led a fascinating life and I encourage you to read up on him. He was an accomplished poet and activist, sometimes polarizing -- click HERE for some biographical info as well as some of his poems.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Baraka.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Happy Belated Birthday to Gore Vidal


Gore Vidal was born October 3, 1925 we missed wishing him a happy birthday yesterday. Vidal appeared in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled.

We discussed Vidal and Kerouac having a sexual encounter in our post from one year ago yesterday (click HERE).

I have yet to read any of Vidal's work. Any suggestions on where to start?

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Vidal.