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.