Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Happy Birthday to Joyce Johnson


Joyce Johnson was born this date -- September 27 -- in 1935, making her 88 years old today. She is a noted and award-winning author and appeared as Alyce Newman in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. Joyce wrote about her firsthand knowledge of Kerouac in Minor Characters and in The Voice is All, both mandatory reads for any true Kerouac fan. She was there when big Beat things went down, so her point of view is firsthand. For example, Ms. Johnson was Jack's girlfriend when the rave review of his book, On The Road, was published in the New York Times in 1957. They read the review together.

In an undated 1957 letter to Johnson (then Glassman), Jack describes the time he was on a Yugoslavian freighter on the way to Tangier and experienced a big storm:

During this ordeal I heard the words: EVERYTHING IS GOD, NOTHING EVER HAPPENED EXCEPT GOD -- and I believed and still do. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 11)

Happy Birthday, Ms. Johnson. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

RIP to my Kerouacian friend, John J. Dorfner


I never met John Dorfner but considered him a friend. We knew each other from email and Twitter and were connected by our mutual love for Jack Kerouac. I don't remember how we first discovered each other, but I suspect it was via Twitter.

I recently learned that John passed away at age 70 on February 27, 2023. Click HERE to read his obituary. We were on month 5 of an 8-month road trip around the country when he died; hence, I wasn't keeping up with Kerouac news as I usually would.

John authored three books, two about Kerouac and one a memoir of his father. We curated or reviewed them all here on The Daily Beat:

Curation of Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount

Review of Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount

Curation of Kerouac: Visions of Lowell

Review of Kerouac: Visions of Lowell

Review of Milkman's Matinee

I can't seem to find my curation of Milkman's Matinee. Maybe it wasn't on my Kerouac bookshelf when I curated the lot of it. I just conducted a cursory search of my bookshelf and it doesn't appear where I would think I had it shelved (next to his 2 Kerouac books). If I have misplaced it, that makes me sad, but it is on Amazon, so . . . .

One story about John and then we'll leave it at that. One day, a copy of my favorite Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums, showed up in the mail unexpectedly (something my great friend Richard Marsh is apt to do -- i.e., send me a book out of the blue). It was a paperback with a cover I didn't yet have in my collection. It was from John. I blogged about it HERE.

As John commented on the post about The Dharma Bums, the Road never ends.

RIP, John and condolences to your family. Say hi to Jack for me . . . . 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

We missed 3 important Kerouac dates yesterday

 As you saw in a previous post, we forgot to note this blog's 15-year anniversary yesterday. In addition, we missed wishing a belated happy birthday to Edie Parker and remembering Carolyn Cassady. To wit....

Carolyn Cassady (left) and Edie Parker

On yesterday's date -- September 20 -- Carolyn Cassady died in 2013 and Edie Parker was born in 1922. Cassady appeared in several of Jack Kerouac's works: as Camille in On The Road; Evelyn Pomeray in Book of DreamsBig SurDesolation Angels, and Visions of Cody; and, Cora in Beat Generation. Edie also 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.

Don't fall into the trap of marginalizing these two influential Beat Generation women as being merely Neal's and Jack's wives. As we have said repeatedly in past posts, they were forces to be reckoned with on their own terms. Both left behind required-reading memoirs: Cassady: Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac. and Ginsberg); Parker: You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac.

RIP, Ms. Cassady and Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ms. Parker.

Belatedly remembering Jack Kerouac's sister, Nin


Caroline with her brother, Jack

Caroline "Nin" Kerouac Blake died on September 19 in 1964. I'm sorry I missed posting about it but we were upta camp as they say in Maine. Nin was Jack Kerouac's older sister and appeared in several of his works: Nin Duluoz in Doctor Sax and Visions of Gerard; Nin in Book of DreamsMaggie CassidyVisions of Cody, and Vanity 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.)
When I think of Nin, I always think of Jack's descriptions in The Dharma Bums (my favorite Kerouac novel) of staying with her and her husband and child at their house in Big Easonburg Woods near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Which, of course, reminds me of the excellent book by John J. Dorfner, Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount.*

RIP, Mrs. Blake.

*P.S. I recently learned that John passed away. A remembrance post about that will happen in due course.

The Daily Beat is 15 years old!

The first official post (not a test post) I ever made on The Daily Beat was 15 years ago yesterday, on September 20, 2008. I was upta camp yesterday and thus missed the occasion.

HERE is a link to that post, announcing the availability of my book on Amazon.

2,169 posts and 1.3 million pageviews later, we are still going, albeit not as strongly or as often as in the beginning. We've kind of morphed into a curation/celebration of the birth and death dates of real-life characters from Jack Kerouac's works. Which is okay by me -- no one else is doing it (to my knowledge). And these are folks whose immortality is assured -- I am only helping that along in a small way.

So, happy belated anniversary to this Kerouac-obsessed blog. In honor of this momentous occasion, I will do something special for myself (to be determined).

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to William Carlos Williams


Dr. William Carlos Williams

Poet William Carlos Williams was born this date -- September 17 -- in 1883. He was a significant influence on the Beat generation writers, especially Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg discusses a 1957 visit he and Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky paid to Williams here (you need to ask permission to visit the site -- I can't even access it now and am not sure how to contact the author). Ginsberg says Kerouac romanced up Williams' wife, Flossie, in the kitchen. According to Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia, when the visitors asked him to impart some wisdom, the 73-year-old Williams pointed out the window and smiled, saying, "'There's a lot of bastards out there'" (Memory Babe, 1994, p. 541).

You can read a little bit about Williams on the Friends of Kerouac site here. And, of course, you can Google him for more. Williams wrote the introduction to Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl."

Williams was Doctor Musial in Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. In Memory Babe, Gerald Nicosia says Kerouac's writing style was influenced by Williams' "attempt to write with the 'measured pauses' of speech" (1994, p. 453).

Before presenting one of Williams' more well-known poems, I want to point out that he was not just an acclaimed poet, but also a practicing physician in his hometown of Rutherford, N.J.

I love the following poem by Williams. This version is from Poetry Foundation, a comprehensive poetry site where you can read a bio of Williams here.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Dr. Williams!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

A Kerouac 2-for-1 date


Famed photographer Robert Frank died on this date -- September 9 -- in 2019. We wrote about his death HERE and his birthday HERE.

Frank appeared in one Jack Kerouac work (under his own name) -- an essay about their trip to Florida that appeared in the January 1970 Evergreen Review.

RIP, Mr. Frank.

Today we send birthday greetings to John Allen Cassady, son of Neal and Carolyn Cassady. He was born this date in 1951. John appeared in several Kerouac works: as Timmy Pomeray in Book of DreamsDesolation Angels. and Visions of Cody; as Timmy John Pomeray in Big Sur; and, as Jim Pomeray in Beat Generation (early draft).

You can visit his website HERE.

Happy Birthday, John.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

We missed a Kerouac-related birthday: poet Louise Bogan


I saw in our local newspaper today an article about Livermore Falls, Maine native and U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Bogan. It mentioned that her 1897 birthday was recent -- August 11 -- and it struck me that I do not have her in my spreadsheet that I use to keep track of birth and death dates of Kerouac-related people (mostly those who show up in his works via pseudonyms).

Indeed, Louise Bogan shows up in two of Kerouac's works: as Leontine McGee in The Dharma Bums and as Bernice Whalen in Desolation Angels.

Click HERE for a post wherein I curated her book of poetry, The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968.

Happy belated heavenly birthday, Ms. Bogan. We'll try not to miss it in the future.

September 6: A macabre date in the Kerouac saga


Natalie Jackson (L) and Joan Vollmer (R)

Two woman associated with Jack Kerouac died young in tragic ways and they share today's date, one because it's her birthday and the other because it's the day she died.

Natalie Jackson was born on this date -- September 6 -- in 1931. She was Rosie Buchanan in The Dharma Bums and Rosemarie in Desolation AngelsBig Sur, and Book of Dreams. She died from suicide at age 24 in 1955.

Joan Vollmer died on this date in 1951 at the age of 28 when she was killed by her common-law husband, William S. Burroughs, who was allegedly trying to shoot a water glass off her head in William Tell style using a pistol. Vollmer was Jane Lee in On The Road; Jane in The Subterraneans; June Evans in Book of DreamsDesolation Angels, and Vanity of Duluoz; June Hubbard in Visions of Cody; Joan in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; Mary Dennison in The Town and the City; and, "my old lady" in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

It's no wonder Vollmer shows up prominently in Kerouac's works, given that she was a central figure in the early days of the Beats. The New York City apartment she shared with Edie Parker (who later married Kerouac) became the unofficial hangout for Beat figures between 1943-1944. Vollmer was an active participant in the famous marathon discussions that took place in apartment No. 62 at 421 W. 118th Street. According to Bill Morgan in The Beat Generation in New York, "Kerouac often said that the happiest days of his life were spent" there (p. 11).

Jackson, who was a model of Robert LaVigne's, gained Beat notoriety from having an affair with Kerouac muse Neal Cassady. She killed herself by slitting her throat and throwing herself off the roof of 1051 Franklin Street (reached from her apartment's roof at 1041) in San Francisco, supposedly over her fear of the consequences from having impersonated Neal's wife, Carolyn, to help him get money from the bank for a race track betting scheme. Kerouac describes Jackson's death in The Dharma Bums Chapter 15.

In summary, what links Natalie Jackson and Joan Vollmer is that they were Beat figures who died tragically and young and they share this important date, for one a beginning and for the other an ending. As the Oracle says in The Matrix, "Everything that has a beginning . . . has an end."

Here's to remembering Natalie's beginning and Joan's ending on this macabre date in the Kerouac saga.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Anniversary of the publication of On The Road


My dog-eared and annotated copy of On The Road

The publication of Jack Kerouac's On The Road happened on this date -- September 5 -- in 1957! It no less than launched our boy Jack into literary stardom (the latter of which contributed to his drinking and therefore to his early death).

For you math geeks, that was 66 years ago today.

According to Ann Charters (editor) in Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin Books, 2000):

On September 5, 1957, Kerouac was staying in Manhattan with Joyce Glassman [Johnson] when On the Road was reviewed by Gilbert Millstein in The New York Times as an "authentic work of art" whose publication marked "an historic occasion." Jack and Joyce bought a copy of the paper at a newsstand on Broadway just before midnight and read the review together at Donnelly's Irish Bar on Columbus Avenue before returning to her apartment to go back to sleep. Joyce remembered that "Jack lay down obscure for the last time in his life. The ringing phone woke him the next morning, and he was famous." (pp. 72-73)

Hooray for September 5, a date of significant importance to us Kerouac fans!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Without this birthday boy, there'd be no Jack Kerouac


On yesterday's date -- September 3 -- Justin W. Brierly was born in 1905. Brierly appeared in several Kerouac books: as Denver D. Doll in On The Road, Justin G. Mannerly in Visions of Cody, and Manley G. Mannerly in Book of Dreams.

Brierly is particularly noteworthy in the Kerouac saga as he was instrumental in grooming a young Neal Cassady during his Denver years. Brierly was a Columbia University graduate, and it is no stretch to say that he was responsible, at least in part, for Cassady and Kerouac connecting at Columbia (where Jack also attended). Another Columbia student, Hal Chase, was a Brierly protégé and he (Chase) introduced Cassady to Kerouac.

No Cassady-Kerouac connection, no On The Road, and so . . . no Brierly, no Kerouac. At least as we know him....

Saturday, September 2, 2023

A Kerouac-related birthday of note


David Kammerer

For those of you steeped in Beat lore, the name David Kammerer needs no explanation. For those of you new to the subject or with only passing Kerouacian knowledge, Kammerer was the man killed by Lucien Carr (stabbed to death with a Boy Scout knife) and Kerouac -- in trying to help him cover up the crime -- was arrested as an accessory after-the-fact and ended up in jail (which resulted in Jack marrying Edie Parker to get bail money from her parents when his own father, Leo, wouldn't spring him, but that is another story).

Kerouac recounted this story in several works, and Kammerer appeared in Visions of Cody as Dave Stroheim, Vanity of Duluoz as Franz (Swinburne) Mueller, The Town and the City as Waldo Meister, Ramsey Allen in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, and Alfred in The Haunted Life (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend).

My point? Kammerer was born this date -- September 2 -- in 1911. So even though he (allegedly) stalked Carr around the country and was murdered as a result, we remember him on his birthday as playing a significant role in the Kerouac saga.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Belatedly remembering Chandler Brossard


Chandler Brossard, who some claim wrote the first Beat novel (Who Walk in Darkness, 1952), died on yesterday's date -- August 29 -- in 1993.  Brossard appeared as Chris Rivers in Jack Kerouac's and William S. Burroughs' And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

I wrote about Who Walk in Darkness HERE. I was not that enamored of the book, but then Brossard was not enamored of being associated with the Beats. A whole lot of dis-enamoring going on in that last sentence! In any case, if you're interested in the Village scene in the 40s, you may enjoy Who Walk in Darkness. Brossard wrote other stuff as well. His papers are maintained by Syracuse University -- click HERE for access.

RIP, Mr. Brossard.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday to Gerard Kerouac, Jack's older brother


Jack Kerouac's brother, (Francis) Gerard, was born on yesterday's date -- August 23 -- in 1916. His death at a young age was the impetus for Kerouac to write one of his best works, Visions of Gerard. Gerard appeared as Gerard Duluoz in Visions of Gerard, Doctor Sax, Visions of Cody, and Book of Dreams; and as Julian in The Town and the City.

Did you know that Gerard was a cartoonist? According to Gerald Nicosia in Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, "Gerard . . . had been Jack's first drawing instructor" (1983, University of California Press, p. 35). 


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to poet Lew Welch


Lew Welch

Poet Lew Welch was born on today's date -- August 16 -- in 1926. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works -- Desolation Angels and Big Sur -- as Dave Wain.

Welch famously drove Kerouac and another friend, Albert Saijo, cross-country in 1959, composing poetry along the way that became Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road. Kerouac mentioned this trip in a Dec. 7, 1959 letter to Lawrence Ferlinghetti:

Dear Larry--

Thanx again for getting me the cash . . . We had a great enlightening trip, Lew Welch talked all the way & showed great knowledge of American subjects (dialects, lit., folk songs, logging, football, track, girls etc.) and Albert Saijo meditated most of the way. We wrote a joint book of poems called TRIP TRAP. Albert is like my guru now. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, Penguin Books, p. 265)

Welch was an accomplished poet in is own right, and we reviewed his poetry collection, Ring of Bone, HERE. He roomed with Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen at Reed College. More on Welch can be found HERE. At the latter link you will learn the name of Welch's famous stepson as well as what well-known advertising slogan he wrote.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Welch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Remembering Bea Franco, Jack Kerouac's "The Mexican Girl"


Bea Franco with son, Alberta -- Photo/Beatrice Kozera estate
Bea Franco with son, Alberto
Photo/Beatrice Kozera Estate

Today we remember Bea Franco, who died on August 15, 2013. We wished her a happy birthday in October 2021 HERE. She was represented as Terry in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic novel, On The Road. An excerpt about Terry, titled "The Mexican Girl," was published as a stand-alone short story in Paris Review in 1955; you can read it here. Bea also appeared in Book of Dreams as Bea.

Also of note, author Tim Z. Hernandez found Bea alive in 2010 after a multi-year search and as a result wrote the award-winning novel about her life, Mañana Means Heaven, which we reviewed here at The Daily Beat (click here). We also curated the book twice (click here and here), and featured a guest blog by the author (click here). 

RIP, Ms. Franco.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Remembering David Kammerer


David Kammerer

Today -- August 14 -- was the anniversary of David Kammerer's death in 1944. We wrote about Kammerer on his birthday in September 2020 HERE. Kammerer appeared in Visions of Cody as Dave Stroheim, Vanity of Duluoz as Franz (Swinburne) Mueller, The Town and the City as Waldo Meister, Ramsey Allen in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, and Alfred in The Haunted Life (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend).

Kammerer was most likely a sexual predator, and we remember him only because he figured into the early Beat Generation -- if only as a dark presence.

Friday, August 11, 2023

ChatGPT builds a Kerouac quiz


I asked ChatGPT3 (an AI LLM) to build a 10 question multiple choice quiz about Kerouac and below is what it produced. Do you see any problems with it? One is obvious.

Question 1: What is the full name of the author commonly associated with the Beat Generation? a) John Steinbeck b) Allen Ginsberg c) Jack Kerouac d) Ernest Hemingway

Question 2: Which of the following novels is considered one of Jack Kerouac's most famous works? a) To Kill a Mockingbird b) On the Road c) The Great Gatsby d) 1984

Question 3: In which year was "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac first published? a) 1957 b) 1969 c) 1945 d) 1961

Question 4: Jack Kerouac's writing style is often characterized as: a) Traditional and formal b) Experimental and stream-of-consciousness c) Surreal and fantastical d) Gothic and horror

Question 5: Which fellow Beat Generation writer was a close friend of Jack Kerouac and is known for his poem "Howl"? a) William S. Burroughs b) F. Scott Fitzgerald c) T.S. Eliot d) Allen Ginsberg

Question 6: What is the title of Jack Kerouac's semi-autobiographical novel about his experiences working as a fire lookout in the Cascade Mountains? a) "Naked Lunch" b) "The Sun Also Rises" c) "Desolation Angels" d) "Brave New World"

Question 7: Which road-trip route is the main focus of Jack Kerouac's novel "On the Road"? a) Route 66 b) Pacific Coast Highway c) Route 101 d) US Route 50

Question 8: What is the title of the book in which Jack Kerouac chronicles his travels through Mexico? a) "Mexico Journals" b) "The Mexican Odyssey" c) "Visions of Mexico" d) "Tristessa"

Question 9: Jack Kerouac was known for his affinity for spontaneous prose and wrote a famous work in one continuous, uninterrupted draft. What is the title of this work? a) "The Catcher in the Rye" b) "Howl" c) "Naked Lunch" d) "Big Sur"

Question 10: In which city did Jack Kerouac pass away in 1969? a) Los Angeles b) San Francisco c) New York City d) Chicago

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Remembering Herbert Huncke


On this date-- August 8 -- in 1996, Beat Generation core figure Herbert Huncke died. Huncke was Elmer Hassel in Jack Kerouac's On The Road; Huck in Desolation AngelsBook of Dreams, and Visions of Cody; Hunkey in Lonesome Traveler; and Junkey in The Town and the City.

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to the man from whom Kerouac likely learned the word, "beat." Click on the link above if you want to read a short bio.

We curated a Huncke biography by Hilary Holladay HERE. You can listen to him read three poems HERE (at the Chelsea Hotel in 1994).

And HERE is a remembrance of Huncke from The Allen Ginsberg Project.

RIP, Mr. Huncke.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

A collection of the Beat poets' works


(L-R) Bob Donlon, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Robert LaVigne, Lawrence Ferlinghetti 
photo (c) Allen Ginsberg, 1956

Check out this link -- -- for a collection of works by a number of Beat poets, including Jack Kerouac.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Beat poet Diane di Prima


Today -- August 6 -- is award-winning Beat poet Diane di Prima's birthday. She was born in 1934. I don't think she appeared in any of Jack Kerouac's works, but he appeared in hers in a randy sex scene in her Memoirs of a Beatnik. I liked that book a lot, in particular how she graphically but sensitively described her various sexual experiences.

We reviewed her 2015 poetry book, The Poetry DealHERE, and curated it HERE. We curated Memoirs of a Beatnik HERE.

In honor of her birthday, you can read about Diane and find some of her poetry HERE.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Ms. di Prima!

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Jack Kerouac's father was born on this date in 1889


Leo Kerouac, Jack Kerouac's father, was born on this date -- August 5 -- in 1889 in Saint-Hubert-de-Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec, Canada as Joseph Alcide Léon Kirouack. 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.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to the man without whom there would be no Jack Kerouac!

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Happy Birthday to writer James Baldwin

Writer James Baldwin was born on this date -- August 2 -- in 1924. He didn't appear in any of Jack Kerouac works, but I wrote about the connection between the two HERE and figured it was worth celebrating his birthday here on The Daily Beat.

Remembering William S. Burroughs


(c) Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Core Beat Generation member, writer, and cultural iconoclast William S. Burroughs died on this date in 1997. He needs no introduction to regular readers of The Daily Beat. His importance to the Jack Kerouac story cannot be overestimated.

Burroughs appeared in several of Kerouac's works: as Old Bull Lee in On The Road; Frank Carmody in The Subterraneans; Bull Hubbard in Book of DreamsDesolation AngelsDoctor Sax, and Visions of Cody; Bull in Tristessa; Bill/William Seward Burroughs in Lonesome Traveler; Wilson Holmes Hubbard in Vanity of Duluoz; Bill Dennison in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; and, Will Dennison in The Town and the City and And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

For a sense of the man, read Kerouac's February 1958 letter to Burroughs on pp. 133-135 of Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969 (Penguin, 1999). In part:

He is tall, with thin lips, spectacles, wears gray felt hats and walks down the street with a vigorous pump of his arms like a mad German genius of the 19th century, thru casbahs, medinas & Mexico Thieves Markets of the world.

RIP, Mr. Burroughs.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Happy 92nd birthday to Ramblin' Jack Eliot


Ramblin' Jack at Sweetwater
(c) 2013 Crystal Bond

Ramblin' Jack Elliott turns 92 today. Elliott appeared as Jack Elliot in Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams.

Here's some Kerouac scoop from Dave Moore's excellent Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend.

In January 2013, at a live Beat Poetry event at Sweetwater in Mill Valley, Jack asked the crowd not to take pictures during his show. People didn't comply, and he then really admonished the crowd, saying he would pose naked on his horse after the show, but during the show, NO PICTURES! I don't know what his peeve was -- he didn't give a reason -- and it's sad that this is the main thing I remember about him from the show. Crystal was at the bathroom during the original warning, and what do you think she did when she came back? Yup -- she took a picture (see above).

According to Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia in Memory Babe, Kerouac met Ramblin' Jack at Helen Parker's in 1953. Ramblin' Jack "pulled out his guitar and started playing Woodie Guthrie songs. Reciprocating the treat, Jack spent three consecutive nights reading aloud the entire manuscript of On the Road to him" (1983, p. 456).

Happy Birthday, Mr. Elliott. I hope it's okay that I posted your picture.

Monday, July 31, 2023

3 Kerouac-related events happened on this date


Gore Vidal, Elise Cowen, and Ruth Weiss (L-R)

Writer and bon vivant Gore Vidal died on this date -- July 31-- in 2012, Beat poet Elise Cowen was born on this date in 1933, and Beat poet Ruth Weiss (<---link includes details on how Jack Kerouac and Ms. Weiss met) died on this date in 2020. Vidal appeared in Kerouac's The Subterraneans as Arial Lavalina and in Old Angel Midnight as Gore Bedavalled. Cowen appeared as Barbara Lipp in Desolation Angels. I could not verify that Weiss appeared in any of Kerouac's works.

One can read various versions of Kerouac's and Vidal's alleged sexual liaison at the Chelsea Hotel in 1953 in NYC. Something happened that night, but it's unclear to me whether it was full-on sex, just oral sex, or a failed attempt at intercourse (in Memory Babe, Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia states that Jack proved impotent during that hook-up). More on this encounter can be found HERE.

Given my personal history with depression, I should note here that Cowen ended her own life (not dissimilarly to Natalie Jackson) by throwing herself out of her parents' 7th floor window. Tragically, the bulk of her work was discarded after she took her own life (click HERE).

If you are thinking about suicide or just need someone to talk to about emotional distress in your life, you can text Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. And please share these resources with friends who seem at risk.

RIP, Mr.* Vidal and Ms.* Weiss, and Happy Birthday, Ms.* Cowen.

*These are guesses at preferred salutations. If I'm wrong, let me know.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Get The Beat Handbook for $5.47


For some reason, and without my input, Amazon has reduced the price of my book -- The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions -- to the paltry amount of $5.47!

That means now is the time to BUY BUY BUY!

Shameless self-promotion over.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Memory Babe turns 40!


The best Jack Kerouac biography, Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac by Gerald Nicosia -- had its 40th anniversary on July 16, having been published on that date in 1983.

The new expanded edition shown above, self-published last fall, is available directly from the author. He can be reached by e-mail at 

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Chandler Brossard


On this date -- July 18 -- in 1922, American writer Chandler Brossard was born. Brossard appeared as Chris Rivers in Jack Kerouac's and William S. Burroughs' And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Some claim Brossard's Who Walk in Darkness (1952) was the first Beat novel. Brossard was not pleased with being associated with the early Beat writers, but given the content of Darkness it is hard to dismiss the connections. I wrote about that book HERE.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Brossard!

P.S. Hunter S. Thompson -- who was not a Beat but sometimes gets associated with them -- was born this date in 1937.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to painter Robert LaVigne


On this date, July 15, artist and Jack Kerouac friend Robert LaVigne was born in Idaho in 1928. He appeared as Guy Levesque in Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

We said a bunch about LaVigne back on February 20, 2022 (click HERE), so there is no need to repeat ourselves today. Don't believe what Ginsberg said in the above picture about LaVigne being Robert Browning in Big Sur. See my February 20 post for an explanation.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. LaVigne.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Teach me how to write like Jack Kerouac


I gave ChatGPT the task which is the title of this post, and below is what it generated. Some folks are already using ChatGPT instead of Google search for certain tasks, and I can see why. And it's only getting smarter -- by leaps and bounds.

Jack Kerouac was known for his distinctive writing style, which captured the spontaneity and free-spirited nature of the Beat Generation. To write like Jack Kerouac, here are some key elements and techniques you can incorporate into your writing:

  1. Embrace Spontaneity: Kerouac believed in writing without inhibition, letting the words flow freely without too much self-editing or censorship. Allow your thoughts and ideas to spill onto the page without worrying about structure or grammar initially.

  2. Stream of Consciousness: Kerouac often used a stream-of-consciousness technique, where he wrote down his thoughts as they came to him, without filtering or organizing them. This technique can capture the rawness and immediacy of experience. Try to emulate this style by writing in a continuous flow, without pausing to overthink or analyze.

  3. Capture the Rhythm of Speech: Kerouac's writing often mimicked the rhythm and cadence of everyday conversation. He sought to replicate the energy and dynamic nature of oral communication. To write like Kerouac, read your work aloud and pay attention to its musicality and natural flow.

  4. Be Observant: Kerouac was known for his keen observation of the world around him. He wrote about the people he encountered, the landscapes he traversed, and the experiences he had. Practice being present in the moment and notice the details that others might overlook. Use vivid descriptions to bring your surroundings to life.

  5. Emphasize Sensory Experience: Kerouac believed in capturing the sensory aspects of life in his writing. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures that make up your experiences. Describe them in rich and evocative language to immerse your readers in the world you're creating.

  6. Experiment with Form: Kerouac often experimented with form, breaking away from traditional narrative structures. He incorporated elements like spontaneous prose, lists, fragments, and non-linear storytelling. Don't be afraid to take risks and explore unconventional approaches to writing.

  7. Seek Authenticity: Kerouac valued authenticity and sought to express his true self in his work. Be genuine in your writing, drawing from your own experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Avoid pretense and embrace vulnerability.

  8. Edit with Precision: While Kerouac's initial writing was spontaneous, he also recognized the importance of careful editing. After your initial burst of creativity, go back to your work and revise it with precision. Polish your prose, tighten your sentences, and refine your ideas while retaining the spirit of spontaneity.

Remember, developing a unique voice and style takes time and practice. Study Kerouac's works to gain a deeper understanding of his writing techniques and experiment with them in your own writing. Ultimately, find your own balance between spontaneity and refinement to create a style that reflects your own artistic vision.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

A two-fer-one Kerouac related heavenly birthday


Stanley Twardowicz (L) and Peter Orlovsky

Two important Jack Kerouac figures were born on today's date -- July 8: painter Stanley Twardowicz in 1917 and long-time Allen Ginsberg partner Peter Orlovsky in 1933. Twardowicz appeared in one Kerouac novel, Satori in Paris, under his own name. Orlovsky appeared in several Kerouac works: as George in The Dharma Bums, Simon Darlovsky in Desolation Angels, Simon in Book of Dreams, and Paul in Beat Generation.

You can read more about each in our remembrances HERE (Twardowicz) and HERE (Orlovsky).

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Messieurs Twardowicz and Orlovsky.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Broken Ted Joans link fixed

My great friend Richard Marsh alerted me that the link to 15 of Ted Joans' poems in yesterday's post didn't work. I think I have corrected that problem, so if like Richard you were stymied to find 15 of Joans' poems to read, check out

That link works for me. You need to scroll to below the bio (which itself is worth reading) to get to the poem links.

Happy reading.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Ted Joans


Jazz poet and trumpeter Ted Joans was born this date -- July 4 -- in 1928. He appeared in one of Jack Kerouac's works, The Subterraneans, as John Golz.

Joans moved to NYC in 1951, where he met and became friends with Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al. Click HERE for the Wikipedia page on Joans, which states that Joans once shared a room with Charlie "Bird" Parker. Joans is credited with saying, "Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view." HERE is a link to an obit in SFGate. In that obit you'll find this gem of a story:

Mr. Joans was born July 4, 1928, in Cairo, Ill. His father was a musician who worked aboard the riverboats of the Mississippi River, and he instilled in his young son a strong work ethic and love of jazz.

"The story goes that he gave Ted a trumpet when he was 12 years old and dropped him in Memphis with the words, 'OK, son, go make a living,'" recalled Gerald Nicosia of Corte Madera, a friend of Mr. Joans' for 40 years.

According to editor Ann Charters in a note on page 211 of Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 (1999, Penguin Books), Joans was present at the poetry reading on February 15, 1959, at the Artists Studio in Manhattan where Fred McDarrah took the famous picture of Kerouac reading from On The Road, standing on a stepladder, arms outstretched (see below).

You can read 15 of Joans' poems HERE.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Joans.

Monday, July 3, 2023

ChatGPT attempts to write like Jack Kerouac

Image produced by starryai to the prompt
Jack Kerouac and artificial intelligence

I asked ChatGPT3 to write about cats in the style of Jack Kerouac and this is what it came up with:

Meow, my feline-loving friends! Gather 'round as I share my thoughts on those enigmatic creatures we call cats. These little beings, with their mysterious eyes and untamed spirits, are the true embodiment of freedom. They roam the streets like lone wanderers, masters of their own destiny. Their purrs are like jazz melodies, soothing the weary soul. Cats are the epitome of cool, effortlessly lounging on windowsills, basking in the sun's golden glow. They are the beat poets of the animal kingdom, living life on their own terms. So, embrace the essence of the cat, with its independent spirit and untamed heart. Let them inspire you to live boldly, with curiosity and grace. For in the eyes of a cat, you'll find a reflection of your own wild, untamed soul.

I'm not impressed. Too conventional and not an em dash or neologism to be seen. To be fair, I then asked ChatGPT to write about cats in spontaneous prose and it came up with the following:

Cats, oh cats, mysterious creatures of the night, slinking through shadows, eyes gleaming with untamed curiosity. They leap and pounce, agile and graceful, like dancers on a moonlit stage. With fur as soft as whispers, they purr melodies that soothe weary souls. Independent and untamed, they embody the wild spirit within us all. Their mysterious gaze pierces through the mundane, inviting us into a world of wonder. They are enigmas, masters of their own destinies, reminding us to embrace the unpredictable, to explore with boundless curiosity. Oh, cats, you are the embodiment of freedom, a testament to the beauty of the untamed soul.

Not much better, eh? In the future ChatGPT will have learned more about writing like Kerouac (in part from users like me giving feedback), so expect improvements.

If you're interested in the dangers of AI, check out this podcast by Lex Fridman where he interviews physicist Max Tegmark: