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:

This post about Jack Kerouac was generated using artificial intelligence

I asked artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT3 to write a 250 word blog post about author Jack Kerouac. Below is what it came up with. AI scares the bejeezus out of me and intrigues me as well, and it ought to be on your radar screen both for its potential value and its inherent dangers. By the way, I didn't edit the below post whatsoever -- it is exactly as ChatGPT produced it. So from now on, you won't know -- unless it's confessed to -- when a piece of writing was produced in part or in whole by artificial intelligence. Think about that for a second.

Title: Exploring the Literary Legacy of Jack Kerouac: A Pioneer of the Beat Generation

Introduction: In the annals of American literature, few names evoke the spirit of rebellion and counterculture quite like Jack Kerouac. An iconic figure of the Beat Generation, Kerouac's raw and unfiltered prose captured the essence of post-war America and revolutionized the literary landscape. Through his acclaimed novel "On the Road" and his spontaneous writing style, Kerouac left an indelible mark on generations of readers and writers alike.

The Beat Generation and Kerouac's Influence: Emerging in the 1950s, the Beat Generation sought to challenge societal norms and explore the complexities of human existence. At the forefront of this movement was Jack Kerouac, whose groundbreaking novel "On the Road" epitomized the restless spirit of the era. Inspired by his own cross-country journeys, Kerouac's work showcased the quest for freedom, self-discovery, and the rejection of mainstream culture.

Spontaneous Prose and Kerouac's Writing Style: Kerouac's unique writing style, known as spontaneous prose, was a defining characteristic of his work. He sought to capture the unfiltered flow of consciousness by writing without self-censorship or revision. This experimental approach created an intimate connection between the reader and the narrator, immersing them in a world of restless energy, jazz-infused rhythms, and profound introspection.

Legacy and Cultural Impact: Kerouac's literary contributions continue to resonate with readers and writers today. His exploration of existential themes, the pursuit of authenticity, and the rejection of societal expectations have inspired countless artists across various disciplines. His work not only influenced subsequent generations of writers but also had a profound impact on popular culture, music, and film.

Conclusion: Jack Kerouac's legacy as a literary pioneer of the Beat Generation endures, remaining relevant and influential in the present day. Through his trailblazing prose and unyielding commitment to capturing the essence of life's journeys, he expanded the boundaries of literature and challenged conventional norms. As we continue to navigate an ever-changing world, Kerouac's words remind us of the enduring power of self-expression, adventure, and the relentless pursuit of our true selves.