Thursday, February 29, 2024

RIP comedian Richard Lewis, who had a Kerouac connection


Comedian Richard Lewis has died. Perhaps you weren't aware of his Jack Kerouac connection, so below is a post I pulled from the Jack Kerouac page (https://www.facebook.com/KerouacEstate) on Facebook. I can relate to Richard because of his first name and that he had Parkinson's Disease. And he was an original, which I appreciate.

The world has lost one of the most inspiring and influential comedians of our time Richard Lewis. We were truly blessed when Richard befriended us and collaborated with us on one of our most acclaimed projects, of which he gave us a truly captivating reading of Jack’s “America’s New Trinity of Love.” This was for the Kerouac-kicks joy darkness album we produced for Rykodisc. After that experience, Richard tapped the album's producer, Jim Sampas, for his album “Live From Hell” which included an interview with Richard by Bill Zehme, recorded in Boston. Richard was not only a joy to work with, he was so caring of others, always wanting to make sure everyone was ok. And not just on the surface of caring, but deep down and honestly, though not without his humor. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
Here is that reading of Jack Kerouac’s “America’s New Trinity of Love.” www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC5YD_Qh2oU


 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Remembering Beat poet Elise Cowen

                                    


Beat poet Elise Cowen died on this date -- February 27 -- in 1962. She appeared as Barbara Lipp in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels and was a close companion to Allen Ginsberg (indeed, it is reported that they were lovers for a brief time). The bulk of her work, tragically, was destroyed after her death by suicide, but some of it survives, including the two poems here (after the bio -- which starts with an enlightening quote from Gregory Corso about the lack of women representation in the Beat movement).

Here's an excerpt from Kerouac's Desolation Angels
We stayed together for an awful long time, too, years—Julien called her [Alyce] Ecstasy Pie—Her best friend, the dark haired Barbara Lipp, happened by circumstance to be in love with Irwin Garden— Irwin had steered me to a haven. In this haven I slept with her for lovemaking purposes but after we were done I’d go to the outer bedroom, where I kept the winter window constantly open and the radiator shut off, and slept there in my sleepingbag. Eventually that way I finally got rid of that tubercular Mexican cough—I’m not so dumb (as Ma always said). (1995, Riverhead Books, pp. 329-330
Click here to read an interesting article about Cowen and her connection to poetry giant Emily Dickinson (to whom poem #2 above refers).

RIP, Ms. Cowen.



Monday, February 26, 2024

Remembering Carl Solomon

                                       


Carl Solomon died on this date -- February 26 -- in 1993. He appeared in two of Jack Kerouac's works: as Carl Rappaport in Visions of Cody and as Carl Solobone in Book of Sketches.

Allen Ginsberg met Solomon in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently dedicated his famous poem, "Howl," to Solomon. Solomon worked as an editor for Ace Books, owned by his uncle A. A. Wyn. There are several published letters from Jack Kerouac to Solomon discussing Ace possibly publishing On The Road. The latter never happened, but Ace did publish William S. Burroughs' Junkie; Solomon wrote the Publisher's Note in one version and the Introduction in another. Here's an excerpt from an April 7, 1952 letter from Kerouac to Solomon:
But here's my main idea in this note (and apart from fact that I feel you're okay and wish you'd like me more), I have an idea we could publish ON THE ROAD regular hardcover and papercover, extracting 160-page stretch for 25c edition (the sexy narrative stretch, I'll designate it when I mail in full manuscript some time soon). (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995, Penguin Books, p. 342.
Click here to read a 1973 interview with Solomon by John Tytell titled, "Carl Solomon On Not Publishing Jack Kerouac." Oops.

RIP, Mr. Solomon.




Thursday, February 22, 2024

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti

                          


Poet and book publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti died on today's date -- February 22 -- in 2021 at the age of 101 at his Bay Area home. We had wished him a happy 101st on March 24, 2020 (click HERE). Ferlinghetti appeared as Lorenzo Monsanto in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur, the devastatingly honest account of Jack's mental health decline at the hands of alcohol and his futile effort to forestall the same at Ferlinghetti's Big Sur cabin near the Bixby Canyon Bridge.

I've never see Ferlinghetti in person, although I've been to his bookstore, City Lights, in San Francisco. You can read about his life in this L.A. Times obit (click HERE).

It would do him a great honor if you read some of his poetry today, or something he published at great personal and professional risk, like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl."

RIP, Mr. Ferlinghetti.



Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Remembering Kerouac friend, artist Robert LaVigne

                                       


On this date -- February 20 -- in 2014, artist and Kerouac friend Robert LaVigne died. LaVigne (I've seen it with the V capitalized and not capitalized) was Guy Levesque in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels. That is it according to the Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend, yet Allen Ginsberg himself identifies LaVigne as Robert Browning in Big Sur (see Ginsberg link below). The Duluoz Key says Browning was William Morris. I asked Key curator Dave Moore about this discrepancy.

Dave Moore sent me the below scan from one of Kerouac's notebooks (titled "Duluoz Legend Personae Names"), where we can see in Jack's own handwriting that Robert Browning in Big Sur was William Morris, a painter friend of Philip Whalen. And so, we will defer to Jack and assume that Alan was wrong.



In a 1955 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac refers to Lavigne as a "canuck painter." There are no letters to or from LaVigne included in either of Ann Charters' compilations. Ginsberg referred to LaVigne as a "Painter friend of Poets." Natalie Jackson, who we remembered here, was a model of LaVigne's. A well-known story about LaVigne is that it was his portrait of Peter Orlovsky -- his model and lover -- that caused Allen Ginsberg to request an introduction to Orlovsky, beginning a life-long relationship between the two.

LaVigne has papers archived at Columbia University. See https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/collection/data/606938645 (this resource includes a concise biographical sketch).

LaVigne's drawing of Jack adorns the cover of one version of The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (see below).



RIP, Mr. LaVigne.



Saturday, February 17, 2024

Happy Belated Birthday in Heaven to Jan Kerouac

 

Jan Kerouac


Had Jack Kerouac's daughter, Jan, not died at a young age, she would have turned 70 yesterday. Unlike the rest of his family and many of his friends, she never appeared in any of Kerouac's books. Her mother was Joan Haverty, Jack's second wife.

An accomplished author in her own right, Jan published Baby Driver and Trainsong during her lifetime and left behind the as-yet-unpublished novel, Parrot Fever (an extract of the latter in chapbook format is available from Gerry Nicosia -- gnicosia@earthlink.net).

Jan is worth getting to know through her novels, but you can also read about her in Nicosia's Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, available here or direct from the author (see above e-mail address).

I didn't start out to write a commercial here, so I'll finish with some of Jan's own words to inspire you to read some of her writing. This is about one of the two times in total she ever saw her father in person (and they talked on the phone once).

Jack's reaction to me was shrugs and uncertain smiles. He said "Hi" but didn't make much of a fuss. When the doorway back-slapping and bantering was done with, he went back to rocking again, calling to his brethren across the room, "Hey, why doesn't somebody turn this thing down, I can't hear myself think!" This seemed odd, for he was closer to the TV than anyone else in the room. But someone did turn it down for him, and he continued to guzzle his giant baby bottle [a fifth of whiskey], rocking himself as if in a cradle. 
The relatives all left, and Jack nodded a casual so-long to them over his shoulder. I watched him curiously, once again with the feeling that I had to be careful of what I said, like I'd felt the first time I met him on Avenue B when I was nine. He was desperately trying to keep his shield in place, at a loss for what to say. (Baby Driver, 1981, St. Martin's Press, p. 184)

You'll learn where this took place and what Jack was wearing when you read Baby Driver.

I'll conclude by saying that Jan was surprisingly forgiving of her father, understanding that he "belonged to the world." 

Happy belated birthday in Heaven, Jan.



Saturday, February 10, 2024

Remembering Mrs. Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac and Stella Sampas Kerouac

Today -- February 10 -- we remember Stellas Sampas, who died on this date in 1990. Jack's third wife (married 11-18-66), she appeared in one Kerouac work, Vanity of Duluoz, as Stavroula Savakis. They knew each other from childhood and he wished her a Happy Valentine in a February 13, 1959 letter:
Happy Valentine and good luck to all the family.
I hope you understand why I dont [sic] write, or visit. My mother is moving back to a small house in Florida now, with me, because it is too expensive in New York. I dont have as much money as people think. I didnt[sic] even sell On the Road to the movies yet but the movies are coming out soon with big pictures using the same theme. So I lost out and wont be rich at all. It's a shame but it always works that way. I dont [sic] need much money for myself, in any case. The awful abuse that I have been getting from critics resulted in the complete neglect of Dharma Bums. For some reason my name has become associated with bearded beatniks with whom I never had anything to do at all. I'm angry now, for sure, I'm going to Paris this spring and forget it all, and write something beautiful about Paris. When I'm an old man I'll at least have my jug of wine and a loaf of bread too. (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1968, Ann Charters (ed.), Penguin Books, 1999, p. 210)

Stella inherited Jack's estate when Jack's mom, Gabrielle, died in 1973, triggering the well-known Kerouac estate controversy over the forged will (so said a judge) and endless vitriole on-line about the whole matter. The Sampas family controls the estate to this day. For an insider's look at estate details, grab a copy of Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century by Gerald Nicosia (reviewed here).

Stella was the sister of  Jack's closest childhood friend, Sebastian Sampas. Most would agree that theirs was mainly a marriage of convenience (she looked after Jack's invalid mother). Nevertheless, she played a major role in the Kerouac saga.

I'm waiting for someone to write her biography. Any takers?

RIP, Mrs. Kerouac.




 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Happy heavenly birthday to Neal Cassady

                                     


On this date -- February 8 --  Neal Cassady was born (in 1926). Cassady served as a significant muse for Jack Kerouac and appeared as Dean Moriarty in On The Road*; Cody Pomeray in Visions of CodyBook of DreamsBig SurDesolation Angels, and Book of Sketches; Leroy in The Subterraneans; and Neal Cassady in Lonesome TravelerDesolation Angels, and Satori in Paris.

So much has already been said about Cassady that is strains my brain to think of anything original to say. Thus, we'll let Kerouac's description of Dean's parking attendant prowess from On The Road suffice:
The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space, back swiftly into tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner's half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes that flap. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 9)

To the ever-kinetic Neal Cassady -- Happy Birthday in Beat heaven.


P.S. Happy Birthday, also, to my friend Keith Fisher, who turned me on to Kerouac in the first place and served as my Dean Moriarty on quite a number of adventures in life.


*According to the Find feature on my electronic version of On The Road, "Dean" appears 825 times.



Monday, February 5, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to William S. Burroughs

                               


Core Beat Generation member, writer, and cultural icon William S. Burroughs was born this date -- February 5 -- in 1914. He appeared in several of Jack 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.

Here is some of what Kerouac said about Burroughs in On The Road:
It would take all night to tell about Old Bull Lee; let's just say now, he was a teacher, and it may be said that he had every right to teach because he spent all his time learning; and the things he learned were what he considered to be and called "the facts of life," which he learned not only out of necessity but because he wanted to. He dragged his long, thin body around the entire United States and most of Europe and North Africa in his time, only to see what was going on; he married a White Russian countess in Yugoslavia to get her away from the Nazis in the thirties; there are pictures of him with the international cocaine set of the thirties--gangs with wild hair, leaning on one another; there are other pictures of him in a Panama hat, surveying the streets of Algiers; he never saw the White Russian countess again. He was an exterminator in Chicago, a bartender in New York, a summons-server in Newark. In Paris he sat at cafe tables, watching the sullen French faces go by. In Athens he looked up from his ouzo at what he called the ugliest people in the world. In Istanbul he threaded his way through crowds of opium addicts and rug-sellers, looking for the facts. In English hotels he read Spengler and the Marquis de Sade. In Chicago he planned to hold up a Turkish bath, hesitated just for two minutes too long for a drink, and wound up with two dollars and had to make a run for it. He did all these things merely for the experience. Now the final study was the drug habit. He was now in New Orleans, slipping along the streets with shady characters and haunting connection bars. (Penguin Books, 1976, pp. 143-144)

Regular readers of The Daily Beat need no biographical details on Burroughs, and others can simply Google his name to reveal a trove of information on this seminal Beat Generation figure, author of classics such as Naked Lunch and Junky.

Happy Birthday in Heaven or wherever you are, Mr. Burroughs.


Sunday, February 4, 2024

A 7-for-1 significant date in Kerouac history

 

L-to-R top row: Neal Cassady, Albert Saijo, Joan Vollmer Adams; L-to-R bottom row: Gabrielle Kerouac, Mary Frank, Allen Temko
                                          
Louise Bogan
                                                 
February 4 is a date on which no less than 7 people that Jack Kerouac immortalized in his works were born or died. I am not aware of another similarly synchronous and significant date (purposeful alliteration there).

I won't rank these in any particular order of importance, and I'm not going into much detail about any of them for sake of time. When relevant, I included links to other posts I've written about the person or to biographical information of some sort.

Today is the date in 1968 that Kerouac muse and friend Neal Cassady died. Kerouac immortalized Cassady in On The Road as the central character, Dean Moriarty, but also dedicated an entire book to the Holy Goof, Visions of Cody, in which he appeared as Cody Pomeray. Cassady also appeared as: Cody Pomeray in Book of DreamsBig SurDesolation Angels, and Book of Sketches; Leroy in The Subterraneans; and Neal Cassady in Lonesome TravelerDesolation Angels, and Satori in Paris.

Kerouac friend and writer Albert Saijo was born this date in 1926. Albert appeared as George Baso in Big Sur and co-authored Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road with Kerouac and Lew Welch based on a road trip across America in Welch's jeep.

Core early Beat Generation figure, Joan Vollmer Adams, was born this date in 1923. She appeared as 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.

Jack Kerouac's mother, Gabrielle, was born this date in 1895. 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.

Visual artist and wife of photographer Robert Frank, Mary, was born this date in 1933. She appeared as Mary Frank in Lonesome Traveler. She is the only one of the six characters featured today who is still alive as of this posting (as far as I know), making her 91. Her picture above was grabbed from this clip of Kerouac et al. in NYC in 1959 (see her talking to Jack around the 2:10 mark).

Architectural critic, writer, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Kerouac friend Allen Temko was born this date in 1924.  He appeared as: Roland Major in On The Road; Irving Minko in Book of Dreams; Irwin Minko in Desolation Angels; Allen Minko in Visions of Cody; and, Alan Minko in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

Livermore Falls, Maine native and U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Bogan died on this date in 1970. She 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.

RIP, Mr. Cassady and Ms. Bogan, and Happy Birthday to Mr. Saijo, Ms. Adams, Ms. Kerouac, Ms. Frank, and Mr. Temko.



Friday, February 2, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Ed White, Kerouac friend and influencer

                                        


Ed White, close friend of Jack Kerouac, was born this date -- February 2 -- in 1925. He appeared in several Kerouac works: as Tim Gray in On The Road; Ed Gray in Visions of Cody; Guy Green in Book of Dreams; and, Al Green in Book of Dreams (expanded edition). Here's an excerpt about White (as Tim Gray) from On The Road (setting: Denver):

The Rawlinses lived a few blocks away. This was a delightful family--a youngish mother, part owner of a decrepit, ghost-town hotel, with five sons and two daughters. The wild son was Ray Rawlins, Tim Gray's boyhood buddy. Ray came roaring in to get me and we took to each other right away. We went off and drank in the Colfax bars. One of Ray's sisters was a beautiful blonde called Babe--a tennis-playing, surf-riding doll of the West. She was Tim Gray's girl. And Major, who was only passing through Denver and doing so in real style in the apartment, was going out with Tim Gray's sister Betty. I was the only guy without a girl. I asked everybody, "Where's Dean?" They made smiling negative answers. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 41)


Notably, White is credited with suggesting the practice of sketching with words to Kerouac, a practice Kerouac implemented in the notebooks he always carried with him. Kerouac defined it in a 1955 letter to Neal Cassady as "writing fast without thought of words" (Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 473).

In a May 18, 1952 letter to Allen Ginsberg, Jack said:

Sketching came to me in full force on October 25th, the day of the evening Dusty and I went to Poughkeepsie with Fitzgerald--so strongly it didn't matter about Carl's offer and I began sketching everything in sight, so that On The Road took its turn from conventional narrative survey of road trips etc. into a big multi-dimensional conscious and subconscious character invocation of Neal in his whirlwinds. Sketching (Ed White casually mentioned it in 124th Chinese restaurant near Columbia, "Why don't you just sketch in the streets like a painter but with words") which I did . . . . (Ibid, p. 356)


To which I say, one never knows when a passing comment will have significant influence on another person. And on literary history....

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mr. White.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Remembering Lucien Carr, original Beat Generation member

 

Jack Kerouac (L) and Lucien Carr at Columbia University

Regular readers of The Daily Beat are familiar with Lucien Carr, one of the core members of the inner circle of the New York Beat Generation in the 40s. Carr died on this date -- January 28 -- in 2005 at the age of 79. He appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: Damion in On The Road; Sam Vedder in The Subterraneans and Book of Dreams (expanded edition); Julien in Big Sur; Julien Love in Book of DreamsDesolation Angels, and Visions of Cody; Claude De Maubris in Vanity of Duluoz; Claude in Orpheus Emerged; Kenneth Wood in The Town and the City; Kenneth in The Haunted Life and Other Writings; and, Phillip Tourian in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks.

Infamous for his role in the David Kammerer affair (whose murder by Carr led to Kerouac's first marriage when he promised to marry Edie Parker for bail money from her parents -- more on that HERE), Carr really needs to be recognized for his role in the original Beat Generation circle; indeed, he has been described by Allen Ginsberg as the glue that held the group together. Carr was at the center of many formative intellectual and literary conversations held among the early Beats.

Speaking of friendships, here's a picture from September 2015 of my great friend Richard Marsh and me recreating the Kerouac-Carr picture. Note who got to play each role.

Richard Marsh (L) and Rick Dale at Columbia University


Here's an excerpt about Carr as Damion from On The Road. I would point out that Kerouac calls him the hero of Kerouac's New York gang, just as Dean (Neal Cassady) was the hero of his Western gang. It's important that Kerouac equates Carr with Cassady, thus confirming Carr's significance to the Beat Generation.

The parties were enormous; there were at least a hundred people at a basement apartment in the West Nineties. People overflowed into the cellar compartments near the furnace. Something was going on in every corner, on every bed and couch-not an orgy but just a New Year's party with frantic screaming and wild radio music. There was even a Chinese girl. Dean ran like Groucho Marx from group to group, digging everybody. Periodically we rushed out to the car to pick up more people. Damion came. Damion is the hero of my New York gang, as Dean is the chief hero of the Western. They immediately took a dislike to each other. Damion's girl suddenly socked Damion on the jaw with a roundhouse right. He stood reeling. She carried him home. (Penguin Books, 1976, p. 126)

 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Remembering Kerouac friend, Allan Temko

 

Today we remember architectural critic, writer, and Pulitzer Prize winner Allan Temko, who died on this date -- January 25 -- in 2006. Temko met Jack Kerouac when they were students at Columbia, and he appeared in a number of Kerouac's works as follows: Roland Major in On The Road; Irving Minko in Book of Dreams; Irwin Minko in Desolation Angels; Allen Minko in Visions of Cody; and, Alan Minko in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

When Kerouac (Sal Paradise) anticipates meeting up with Temko (Major) in Denver, he refers to him in On The Road as "my old college writing buddy" and ended up living with him in Tim Gray's folks' apartment there.
We each had a bedroom, and there was a kitchenette with food in the icebox, and a huge living room where Major sat in his silk dressing gown composing his latest Hemingwayan short story--a choleric, red-faced, pudgy hater of everything, who could turn on the warmest and most charming smile in the world when real life confronted him sweetly in the night. (1976, Penguin Books, p. 40)

Major (Temko) features prominently in the Denver story and then Kerouac runs into him again in San Francisco at Alfred's in North Beach where Major gets kicked out for rowdiness and the two go drinking at the Iron Pot.

For those readers who enjoy making connections, Temko's one-time girlfriend was Jean White, who was Ed White's sister. She appeared as Betty Gray in On The Road. Ed was the person who originally suggested the idea of sketching in words to Kerouac.

Temko won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1990. Click HERE to read a transcript of him speaking in 1964 at a luncheon in New Mexico as part of a study he was conducting for UC Berkeley on the industrialized urban environment. Some Googling will find a number of articles he wrote.

RIP, Mr. Temko.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Kerouac friend Alan Ansen

 

Alan Ansen in 1973

We wrote a pretty lengthy piece remembering Jack Kerouac's friend, poet and playwright Alan Ansen, on November 12, 2021 -- click HERE -- and today we are celebrating his heavenly birthday (January 23, 1922).

Born the same year as Jack Kerouac, Ansen met Kerouac through his association with W.H. Auden. Ansen appeared in several Kerouac works: as Rollo Greb in On The Road; Austin Bromberg in The Subterraneans; Irwin Swenson in Book of Dreams and Visions of Cody; Amadeus Baroque in Doctor Sax; and, Allen Ansen in Book of Sketches.

Jack frequently wrote to or about Ansen, who appears 11 times in the index of Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969 and 5 times in the index of the 1940-1956 collection.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mr. Ansen. We aspire to having "IT," like you obviously did (see my November 12 post above). Go go go . . . .


Sunday, January 21, 2024

Jack Kerouac speaks at the Brandeis University Club of New York in 1958


If you've never heard Jack Kerouac speak at the Brandeis University Club of New York in 1958, click HERE to listen.





Mill Valley Literature Review January 2024 Winter Special Edition

 


Back in October 2020, I reviewed J. Macon King's rollicking novel, Circus of the Sun (click HERE). As mentioned in that review, the author is the publisher of the Mill Valley Literary Review, the new issue of which is available HERE

This issue features an anniversary celebration of "Beat at the Sweet" at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, an event I attended and detailed in January of 2013 HERE.

There's a lot to digest in the current issue of Mill Valley Lit, so check it out!



Thursday, January 18, 2024

Belatedly remembering Gregory Corso

 

(L-R) Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, & Gregory Corso


Streetwise Beat poet Gregory Corso died on yesterday's date -- January 17 -- in 2001 at the age of 70. It was a record-keeping error on my part,

An important inner circle Beat Generation figure (and youngest), Corso appeared in a number of Jack Kerouac's works: as Yuri Gligoric in The Subterraneans; Raphael Urso in Book of Dreams and Desolation Angels (also as Gregory in the latter); and, Manuel in Beat Generation.


Corso had a tough upbringing and experienced foster homes, orphanages, prison, and even time in Bellevue Hospital. You can read a bio and some of his poetry by clicking HERE.

I never met Corso and only know him from reading about him. He strikes me as the kind of person who keeps you off balance and you never know when he is serious. The kind of person who enjoys fucking with your head. Admittedly, this is one of my least favorite personality types. Nevertheless, he was an accomplished poet and an integral member of the Beat Generation. And I may be wrong about him -- let me know if you have reason to think so.

I glanced through my copies of Kerouac's selected letters and noticed that several times he wrote to Corso along with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, but there is one lengthy letter written to Corso alone when Jack was in Northport on October 13, 1956. An excerpt follows:
I just read your latest letter to Allen about Zen-nutty and you're right, in fact I've not been able to "meditate" or make any buddhist scene now for a long time and have actually started writing catholic poems and sending them to Jubilee Magazine tho I'm aware that all the scenes are the same empty scene. Your criticism of buddhism in other words is fairly accurate but you mustnt let yourself be fooled every moment of your life into believing there's any special "reality" to either life or death, you say people die real deaths but in a few hundred years who's to remember or notice that it was real death? (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999, p. 178, Penguin Books)
And HERE is a clip of Corso discussing Kerouac.

RIP, Mr. Corso.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Kerouac friend, Alan Harrington

                                              

Today, January 16, is Alan Harrington's birthday (1919). He appeared in several Kerouac novels: as Hal Hingham in On The Road; Early Wallington in Book of Dreams; and, Worthington in Book of Dreams (expanded edition).

Harrington introduced Jack Kerouac to John Clellon Holmes, no small matter given the deep friendship that ensued between them -- "brother souls" as my great friend Richard Marsh would point out.

An interesting blog post with info about Harrington is available HERE. I still haven't read any of his work, but it's on my (long) list of things to do.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Harrington.



Monday, January 15, 2024

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday to Beat Poet Lenore Kandel

                                       


I got side-tracked yesterday, so today we wish Lenore Kandel a happy belated birthday in Beat poet heaven (January 14, 1932). She appeared in Jack Kerouac's Big Sur as Romana Swartz.

Click HERE for Michael Dennis' poetry blog post about Lenore; it includes some of her poetry as well as analysis. Warning: It's not for the faint of sexual heart and it's most definitely Not Safe For Work (#NSFW).

Happy Belated Heavenly Birthday, Ms. Kandel.


Friday, January 12, 2024

Remembering Bob Kaufman

                            



Today we remember Beat poet Bob Kaufman, who died on this date -- January 12 -- in 1986.  He appeared as Chuck Berman in Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels.

You can read Kaufman's bio and some of his poetry by clicking HERE. Or click HERE for an excellent essay about Kaufman in Beatdom. Kaufman took a vow of silence the day President Kennedy was assassinated* and didn't speak until the end of the Vietnam War. That's an impressive feat. He broke his silence by reading one of his poems, "All Those Ships That Never Sailed."

Kaufman was part of the Beat poetry movement in San Francisco. He started the journal, Beatitude, with Allen Ginsberg and others. A collection of his poetry was published by City Lights in November 2019 (available HERE).

Interestingly -- to me at least -- the couple of times that he is mentioned in Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, Kaufman is partying with Jack at significant transition points: once right after Gary Snyder leaves for Japan, and once right after Jack leaves Ferlinghetti's cabin in Big Sur. No references to Kaufman appear in the index to the two books of Kerouac's letters edited by Ann Charters, nor is he mentioned in the index of Kerouac's published journals, Windblown World.

I get the sense that Kaufman is generally underestimated as a poet -- you would do well to check out his work.

RIP, Mr. Kaufman.


*Tangential note: I just finished reading Dick Gregory's The Man Who Knew Too Much, the story of Richard Case Nagall and his role in the Kennedy assassination saga. It is a lengthy and detailed account of an intriguing player in the whole rotten mess, and I highly recommend it. The stuff we don't know about the workings of our own government, especially the intelligence- and security-related agencies, is mind-blowing. Some of that stuff is unknown because people don't take the time to read or they dismiss the Dick Gregory's of the world, and some is unknown because of the sinister steps our own government takes to keep certain facts secret. After all, we can't let it be known that the CIA was involved in killing a President, can we? Cue the surveillance to start now that I typed that last sentence.
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Tuesday, January 9, 2024

A Kerouac "two-for-one" date

 

Herbert Huncke (L) and Amiri Baraka

Kerouac muse Herbert Huncke and noted writer Amiri Baraka share this date, Huncke having been born on January 9, 1915 and Baraka having died on January 9, 2014.

Huncke was Elmer Hassel in 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. Baraka appeared under his actual former name, Leroi Jones, in Lonesome Traveler.

Both of these Kerouac contemporaries led fascinating lives and I encourage you to read up on them if you are not already familiar with their stories. Kerouac is often credited with coining the phrase, "Beat Generation," and he likely got the term "beat" from Huncke (click HERE for bio). Baraka was an accomplished poet and activist -- click HERE for some biographical info on him as well as some of his poems.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mr. Huncke and RIP, Mr. Baraka.




Saturday, January 6, 2024

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Alan Watts

                                             


Writer/philosopher and self-professed spiritual entertainer Alan Watts was born on this date -- January 6 -- in 1915. He appeared in two Kerouac novels: as Arthur Whane in The Dharma Bums and as Alex Aums in Desolation Angels.

Watts was a big influence on my thinking about spiritual matters, and I encourage you to seek out his books and videos (many on YouTube). He is thought-provoking, instructive, and witty.  Click HERE for one of my favorite Watts lecture segments animated by the creators of South Park

I posted about Kerouac and Watts on July 24, 2011 (click HERE).

Happy Birthday in heaven or wherever you are, Mr. Watts.


Monday, January 1, 2024

How did Jack Kerouac ring in the new year on January 1, 1957?

 


While living at his sister Caroline's new house in Orlando, FL in 1957, Jack Kerouac was a busy boy, sending this update on a card dated January 1, 1957 to his agent, Sterling Lord (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, ed. by Ann Charters, 2000, Penguin Books, p. 2):

Dear Sterling -- 

     I understand how you're low--fortunately I'll get fare from G.--the ms. of ROAD is all ready for the printer, please tell Keith and Malcolm to have complete confidence in the libel-clearing thorough job I did on it . . . they will be pleased . . . I imagine they'll want to see it first, I'll show it them on Jan. 8 . . . I am typing up the new novel DESOLATION ANGELS (rich, good) . . . Have you located "cityCity CITY" and TRISTESSA mss.? I have to add them . . . Till I see you, as ever,

                                                                         Jack

"G." is likely Jack's mother, Gabrielle. ROAD is On The Road, a version Kerouac considered to include the finishing touches before acceptance by the publisher, Viking Press. Malcolm is Malcom Cowley and Keith is Keith Jennison, Jack's editors at Viking. Jack had his typewriter set up on his rolltop desk on Caroline's porch. In addition to the works he mentioned in his card to Lord, Jack also cranked out a retyped version of The Subterraneans while in Orlando (from Charters' notes on p. 1). 

You might wonder why Jack put "cityCityCITY" in quotes. I'm guessing because he considered it more a short story than a novel, but it may be simply that is was confusing to capitalize it all like he did his novels given the unique capitalization scheme he used.

Happy New Year to all our readers. I hope you read some Kerouac today in honor of the new year being up on us.