Monday, May 30, 2022

Remembering Peter Orlovsky


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. Orlovsky appeared in several Jack Kerouac works as follows:

Character Name           Book

George                            The Dharma Bums
Simon Darlovsky           Desolation Angels
Simon                            Book of Dreams
Paul                               Beat Generation

Here are a couple of links for more information:

NY Times obit

Rebellious Love: Allen Ginsberg & Peter Orlovsky

You can also check out his brief bio on, which features a great picture of Orlovsky with Ginsberg.

Below is an entire letter that Kerouac wrote to Orlovsky in September 1956. I include this as it is the only letter in the two collected letters volumes edited by Ann Charters that Jack wrote just to Peter (as opposed to Peter and Allen et al.).

Dear Peter,

    I went  home to rest & work--I'll meet you and Allen here on Saturday night unless you change plans by phoning me. Tell Allen the piece of Burroughs I suggest for Black Mountain [Review] would be the whole vision of the Yage City. 

(Source: Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 586)


Thursday, May 26, 2022

My review of the new & revised Memory Babe is in print

The Association des Familles Kirouac publishes Le Trésor des Kirouac several times a year. It comes with membership in the association, which is open to anyone regardless of ancestry.

The upcoming issue  (#138) will include my brief review of the new & revised Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac by Gerald Nicosia. The above picture of me holding the new book with my Kerouac bookshelf in the background will accompany the review.

This is a screenshot of only part of the TOC for 
Issue 138

You will want to become a member of the Kirouac Families Association per the link above and get your own copy of Issue 138. In the meantime, below the ******* is the text of my review:


Gerald Nicosia’s Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac was first published by Grove Press, Inc. in 1983, making it one of the earliest Kerouac biographies and earning the author the Distinguished Young Writer award from the National Society of Arts and Letters while still a work-in-progress. After Grove put it out of print, Penguin published it from 1985-1992. University of California Press published it in 1994 but put it out of print in 2001. That is the version I have turned to for in-depth Kerouac biographical details over the years as attested to by the rough shape my copy is in, not to mention the many annotations and Post-It flags adorning it. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the blacklisting of Nicosia by the Sampas family in Lowell, MA, keepers of the Kerouac estate, Memory Babe has now been out of print for over 20 years! It is a delight to see it being published by Noodlebrain Press in time for the 100-year anniversary of Kerouac’s birth in 1922.

The Centennial Edition of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac was due to be published September 6, 2022. New rules for review in some important publications make it necessary for Nicosia to move the official publication date up to November 1, 2022. However, advance copies can still be obtained from the author by emailing him at New and revised, this edition maintains the substance of Nicosia’s critically acclaimed work, but includes additional material and corrections, including over 110 photos, many of which are new. There is an introduction to the new edition by R.B. Morris in which he itemizes some of the new material, including updated information about Kerouac’s ancestry, “more firsthand knowledge regarding his death” (p. 20), new details on the famous Six Gallery reading in San Francisco in 1955, and updates about the recent discovery of Neal Cassady’s long-lost Joan Anderson Letter.

One of the distinguishing features of Memory Babe, in addition to its detailed and deep insights into Kerouac’s life, has always been Nicosia’s foray into a literary analysis of Kerouac’s major works, including Mexico City Blues, Visions of Cody, and Doctor Sax among others. I can’t stress enough how much more a reader can glean from Kerouac’s works by using Memory Babe as a companion reading guide.

The Centennial Edition includes the author’s preface to the 1994 edition, but also includes a completely new 16-page prelude in which Nicosia provides a critique of the general state of Kerouac scholarship as well as background on his work being blacklisted by Kerouac estate executor John Sampas. In this section Nicosia gives his opinions on the value of several posthumously published Kerouac works, including Some of the Dharma and Book of Sketches. It is in this same section where we find detailed background information on the Joan Anderson Letter. The prelude concludes with advice for where the critical study of Kerouac needs to go in the future. The valuable information in this prelude alone is worth the cost of the book.

Nicosia has worked hard to bring Memory Babe (Jack’s nickname among childhood peers because of his prodigious memory) back into print, and he succeeded in not only making the content of the previous editions available again, but also in bringing forth new information that has come to light over the years. Kudos to Mr. Nicosia for making it possible for Kerouac scholars and fans to once again access the definitive Kerouac biography.

Advance copies are available now by contacting the author at

Monday, May 23, 2022

Two friends of Kerouac died on today's date


Alan Harrington (left) and Lew Welch

Despite our continued experiences with COVID-19 deaths, we should not become inured to the tragedy and significance of the date when someone takes the "night train to the big adios" (movie reference there -- for those who'd like to guess the film, please comment with your answer). To wit, today's date brings us to remember novelist Alan Harrington and poet Lew Welch, two friends of Jack Kerouac who shuffled off this mortal coil (or in Welch's case, disappeared) on this date, May 23 (Harrington in 1997, Welch in 1971).

We opined about this important Kerouac date previously and in that post we identify who Harrington and Welch appeared as in five of Kerouac's works, as well as provide some background on each. You can read that post by clicking HERE. That saves me repeating myself and unnecessarily using up bandwidth.

RIP, Mr. Harrington and Mr. Welch.

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday to Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas


On yesterday's 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 Sebastianish,
very Bohemian!
very Baroque!
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!
For  1. Vodka
        2. Love
        3. Glory. 

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 Belated Heavenly Birthday, Sammy!

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Happy heavenly birthday to poet Robert Creeley


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: 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 heavenly 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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Remembering Leo Kerouac, Jack's father


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.

RIP, Mr. Kerouac.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Happy Birthday to poet Gary Snyder, Japhy Ryder from The Dharma Bums


Regular Daily Beat readers know that acclaimed poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder was immortalized in Jack Kerouac's best novel*, The Dharma Bums, as Japhy** Ryder (he also appears once as Gary, an editing error). He appeared as Jarry Wagner in Desolation Angels and Big Sur, and as himself in Vanity of Duluoz.

Snyder turns 92 today! He is the only reader left alive from the famous 1955 Six Gallery poetry reading, and he's also one of a small number of close friends of Kerouac who are still around.

Click HERE for a brief bio and some of his poetry.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Snyder. And many more....

*Regular readers likewise know that I am just trolling them by calling The Dharma Bums Jack's best novel. It is, indeed, my favorite, but I would hesitate to argue that it's his best work.
**JAPHY is our RV's license plate.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Remembering poet Michael McClure


Michael McClure in 2004
(c) Gloria Graham

Poet Michael McClure died 2 years ago today -- May 4, 2020. He was one of the longest-living central Beat Generation figures, and appeared in several Jack Kerouac novels: as Ike O'Shay in The Dharma Bums; as McLear in Big Sur; and, as Patrick McLear in Desolation Angels.

It would be an appropriate remembrance to read some of his poetry today, which you can easily do via some Googling. Or if you're so inclined, click HERE.

RIP, Mr. McClure

Nice email out of the blue


I got a very nice email out of the blue written by a young person from another country who has discovered the Beats and has found this blog very helpful in exploring the Beat Generation. The emailer wrote just to tell me that and to say thanks.

It really made my day. I told the emailer that if more people took the time to express appreciation to others, it would be a better world.

I appreciate you for being a Daily Beat reader!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review of Brad Parker's Kerouac: The Man & His Visions


Brad Parker's new book on Kerouac -- signed by the author -- arrived last week via the mail and I've already read it. Given my reading habits of late, this is unusual, but I found it hard to put down once I got started. Titled Kerouac: The Man & His Visions, this is a 100th Birthday Tribute and Volume 1 of what apparently is to be a series. One caveat: Brad is a friend of mine so this review is necessarily biased.

Parker is the author of another (brief) Kerouac biography -- Kerouac: An Introduction -- published in 1989 by the Lowell Corporation For The Humanities, Inc. for the twentieth anniversary of Kerouac's death. Which raises the question: Do we need another Kerouac biography and, if so, what gaps in scholarship would be filled by it? I hope to answer that question as I continue on with my thoughts on the book.

276 pages, with 17 pages of endnotes, Kerouac: The Man & His Visions takes a deep dive into several aspects of Kerouac's life, informed by Kerouac's works, letters, and journals, including some items in the Berg collection, and various other biographers such as Gerald Nicosia. Of course, despite Kerouac's books being roman à clef, we know that he took many liberties in fictionalizing real-life events and timelines, so it is with caution that any biographer should rely on those books for facts, especially if not triangulated with the subject's own journals and letters and with other dependable sources of information. Parker does a good job with such triangulating.

A main feature of Parker's biographical approach is to pull disparate but similar experiences into one place. To wit, Chapter 1 of the book focuses on Kerouac's various times spent in Mexico. These seven visits to Mexico are spread across Kerouac's works, journals, and letters, but Parker pulls all such visits into one coherent description, beginning thus:

It was in a 1937 Ford two-door sedan jalopy that Kerouac entered Mexico City for the first time in June, 1950. He had been the driver for part of the 1700-mile route, but it was the frenetic Neal Cassady who commanded the car most of the way from Denver, where Jack had been signing copies of The Town and the City, published three months earlier to less than stellar acclaim. A new friend, Frank Jeffries, close in age to Kerouac and an ex-serviceman, rounded out the trio. (p. 1)

Chapter 2 delves into Kerouac's foray into Buddhism and details both his passion for as well as his misgivings about this eastern way of being in the world. Naturally, this chapter relies on works such as The Dharma Bums, Some of the Dharma, and The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, but also presents information gleaned from a number of letters as well. 

In Chapter 3 Parker describes no less than 20 times when Kerouac made his way across the United States (counting each coast-to-coast leg as one trip). I had no idea Kerouac had made so many trips, but Parker backs up each one with endnotes. This is one area where Parker relies a little too heavily on Kerouac's fiction and could bolster this section with more triangulation of facts.

Chapter 4 describes Kerouac's solo adventure on Desolation Peak in the Cascades, a trip to Europe, and concludes with publication of On The Road and instant fame. Some would say Parker's endnoting is a hindrance because it is so frequent, but I would counter and say it is not enough, as there are plenty of quotations that are not endnoted and the reader must make assumptions about the source. There is an occasional typo as well, but not enough to hinder comprehension.

In Chapter 5 Parker pulls together the stories of three major loves in Kerouac's life: Mary Carney (Maggie Cassidy), Alene Lee (Mardou Fox of The Subterraneans), and Esperanza Villaneuva Tercerero (Tristessa). It is interesting to read about Kerouac's three major relationships juxtaposed. I might have added a section on Bea Franco, the "Mexican girl" from On The Road.

Chapter 6 provides a brief look at each of three less well-known Kerouac works: Pic, Old Angel Midnight, and cityCityCITY. Chapter 7 focuses exclusively on analyzing Big Sur, Jack's "last significant book" (p. 240). Finally, Chapter 8 concludes the book and looks at Book of Dreams, starting with the caveat that one must be "careful about slipping into interpretation of Kerouac's dreams" (p. 250). This chapter, and thus the book, stops rather abruptly, which brings me to a small criticism. I was always taught that, in good writing, the author tells you what she is about to say (introduction), says it (content), and then tells you what she said (conclusion). Kerouac: The Man & His Visions is all content, and could be strengthened by a traditional introduction and conclusion.

I found Parker's book eminently readable, hard to put down (as I said before), and unique in its approach to a Kerouac biography, pulling together various but similar information into one place (e.g., Kerouac's 7 visits to Mexico, his 20 cross-country road trips, and his three major loves). I don't know of another Kerouac biography that attempts this, at least with these specific subjects. That uniqueness answers the question I posed earlier about the need for another Kerouac biography. Parker is obviously passionate about Kerouac and it shows in his writing -- some of it is Kerouacian prose in style. It is always interesting to see Kerouac through another person's lens, and I say keep the biographies coming if they fill a gap as Parker has done here.