OTR Tidbits #8-15

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OTR Tidbits #8-15

Unread postby Liz » Sat Jul 03, 2004 12:04 pm


This bio of Jack Kerouac from www.bbc.co.uk speaks of his time in New York after his discharge from the Navy plus more. Very Interesting.

“he returned to New York and met the people whom he would share the rest of his life. They called themselves 'the Libertine Circle' and included Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

Kerouac's years in New York were mostly spent writing whilst his friends became more and more entrenched in drugs and promiscuity, although he did manage to create his own fair share of scandal. The murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr resulted in Kerouac's arrest in 1944 as an accessory, and he enjoyed a jailhouse wedding to his girlfriend at the time, Eddie Parker, only to separate from her two months later (not able to cope with commitment, his second marriage to Joan Haverty ended just as quickly). But it was through the Libertine Circle that Kerouac met his muse, Neal Cassady, the man who shared his adventures across the continent and inspired On the Road (published ten years after its conception). Kerouac did travel outside of America, most notably to Tangiers in 1957 to visit William Burroughs, but the majority of his adventures were conducted on American soil, close to his mother in case things went wrong, as they often did. The final fall came at Big Sur, in the Californian wilderness, where Kerouac attempted to come to terms with his belated literary fame, failure with women and alcohol addiction without success. A nervous breakdown prompted his return to New York but his mother's stroke in 1966 left her partially paralyzed and unable to care for him. Kerouac called a friend and ex-girlfriend, Stella Sampas, to come to his rescue and they married in November of the same year, moving back to his hometown of Lowell and then on to Florida, where the weather better suited his ailing mother. Grossly overweight and housebound, Kerouac died in 1969 at the age of 47. He is buried at Edson Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts.


The Art of Journalism I—Excerpt
Interviewed by George Plimpton
Issue 156
Fall, 2000


Are the best things written under deadlines?


I'm afraid that's true. I couldn't imagine, and I don't say this with any pride, but I really couldn't imagine writing without a desperate deadline.


Can you give an example?


I'd agreed for a long time to write an epitaph for Allen Ginsberg. I was going to go to the memorial in Los Angeles. Then I thought it would be a good idea to have Johnny Depp go and deliver it. And he agreed. A bad deadline situation. What I wrote arrived just before Depp went on stage. He was calling me desperately from a payphone in the halls of the Wadsworth Theater in L.A. So Depp goes out and reads the thing which he just got a half-hour before . . .
[Thompson asks us if we would like to see the result. He switches on the large screen TV set. Johnny Depp is introduced and speaks from behind a podium.]

This is . . . from the Good Doctor . . . it's hot off the presses: "Dr. Thompson sends his regrets. He is suffering from a painful back injury, the result of a fateful meeting with Allen Ginsberg three years ago at a sleazy motel in Boulder, Colorado, when the deceased allegedly flipped Thompson over his back and into an empty swimming pool after a public dispute about drugs. Ginsberg, sixty-nine at the time, accused Thompson, in court papers now permanently sealed because of the poet's recent death, of 'destroying my health and killing my faith in drugs.' Ginsberg was hysterically angry, sources said, because Thompson had deliberately and deceitfully lured him into an orgy of substance abuse and random sex that ended after three days and nights when the poet was crushed against the wall by a large woman on roller skates in an all-night Boulder tavern. Then admitted to a local hospital, treated for acute psychosis and massive smoke inhalation, Ginsberg also claimed that Thompson had 'maliciously destroyed my last chance for induction to the poetry hall of fame' by humiliating him in public, secretly injecting him with drugs and eventually causing him to be jailed for resisting arrest and gross sexual imposition. Dr. Thompson denied the charges, as always, and used the occasion of Ginsberg's death to denounce him as a dangerous bull-fruit with the brain of an open sore and the conscience of a virus. The famed author said that Ginsberg had come on to him one too many times, and was a hopeless addict. 'He got too strong with all that crank,' Thompson said. 'When he got that way, being in front of him was like being in front of the Johnstown Flood . . . Allen had magic,' he said. 'He could talk with the voice of an angel and dance in your eyes like a fawn. I knew him for thirty years and every time I saw him it was like hearing the music again.' Thompson added that he was shocked by Ginsberg's crude charges and violent behavior and would have the alleged court papers buried deeper than Ginsberg's spleen. 'He was a monster,' Thompson said. 'He was crazy and queer and small. He was born wrong and he knew it. He was smart but utterly unemployable. The first time I met him in New York he told me that even people who loved him believed he should commit suicide because things would never get better for him. And his poetry professor at Columbia was advising him to get a pre-frontal lobotomy because his brain was getting in his way. "Don't worry," I said, "so is mine. I'm getting the same advice. Maybe we should join forces. Hell, if we're this crazy and dangerous, I think we might have some fun . . ." I spoke to Allen two days before he . . . died. He was gracious as ever. He said he'd welcome the Grim Reaper . . . because he knew he could get into his pants."'


This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder Co. Founded by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Naropa is the first fully accredited Buddhist inspired university in America.

Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman founded the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa in 1974. According to the school’s website, “The Jack Kerouac School has as its mission the education of students as knowledgeable practitioners of the literary arts. Its objectives toward that mission include encouraging a disciplined practice of writing and cultivating a historical and cultural awareness of literary studies. Creative writing as a contemplative practice is informed by the view that one can continuously open to "big mind" for freshness and inspiration.”

The following is an excerpt from Anne Waldman’s autobiography about the founding of the Kerouac school. Anne Waldman is an internationally known poet, performer, professor, editor, and is the author of over 30 books.

Anne Waldman Autobiography:
Co-founding The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics
In 1974 I was invited along with Allen Ginsberg and Diane DiPrima to Boulder, Colorado, for the first summer program of the Naropa Institute, founded by Trungpa and some of his senior students. I'd spent time during several summers at Allen Ginsberg's farm in Cherry Valley, New York, approximately four hours from the city. Many friends, poets, artists, distinguished guests, Zen teachers, others would pass through. Allen was for the most part busy elsewhere but his longtime companion Peter Orlovsky was in residence during most of the two summers I spent time there, tending a large and energetic vegetable garden. The summer of 1974 poet Bernadette Mayer and some other friends joined me at the farm—she and I had just completed a reading/performance in Art Park near Niagara Falls—which started me thinking how best to take some of the poetic energy out of New York and generate an alternative place where poets could gather. Some way to live off the Lower East Side a spell. We should be able to schedule writing or contemplative retreats, write epic poems under the influence of a gibbous moon, sing to our vegetable garden. But the invitation had arrived to visit Naropa, the newly gathering experimental Buddhist school on the spine of the Rocky Mountain continent, an auspicious journey which altered the direction of my life.

At a meeting, which included John Cage, Gregory Bateson, poet Jackson Mac Low, Allen Ginsberg, Diane DiPrima “, had "worked," to which he replied, "It all came together at lunch." Allen and I were asked to design a poetics department in which poets could learn about meditation and meditators could learn about poetry. Fired up with the assignment we went back to the apartment (we were roommates that summer) and started making lists of all the people we'd want to invite, all the chairs we'd create to honor poets. The Emily Dickinson Chair of Silent Scribbling. The Frank O'Hara Chair of Deep Gossip. We founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics that same night, delighted we had a title, a moniker we both agreed upon and giddy with the imagination of what this school could be. Kerouac, because he had realized the first Buddhist Noble Truth, the truth of Suffering, and had written the spontaneous Mexico City Blues, an ecstatic series of choruses inspired by Buddhist thinking ("first thought, best thought"), be-bop, and his own lively poet-mind. Also a writer both generations of peers—my own and Allen's—might agree upon, acknowledging Kerouac's original praxis (nonstop spontaneity), tenderness of heart in the actual language, prodigious accomplishment in both prose and poetry. As well as being an influence on Ginsberg himself, a goad to William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and others, he had influenced writers such as Clark Coolidge and Ted Berrigan who were closer to my poetic generation. In addition, Kerouac had been not simply writer but culture hero, taking personal risks, epitomizing in his own "search" the yearning of the North American "soul" for higher consciousness or "satori"—a poetic realization of the tenderness and emptiness and interconnectedness of all beings on the planet. He represented for me the genius-witness to both the decline of our Western civilization—its cri de coeur—as well as its outrageous wisdom and delight. I threw the term "disembodied" into our school's banner to augment the notion that we were honoring a lineage, elders that had tread the path before us, such as Sappho, Blake, Whitman, H. D., Stein, Pound, W. C. Williams, Lorine Niedecker, Frank O'Hara. Our faculty was to be for the most part "at large," peripatetic. It was a bow, too, to the tantric Buddhist backdrop—the word "disembodied" sounded provocative, otherworldly? —of the Naropa Institute.

Anne Waldman. "Anne Waldman: 1945-," in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. Gale Research Series, Volume 17, 1993: 282-283.


The Beat writers were influenced by the new music of their time, called bop or be-bop. Bop music flourished in New York at the same time the Beats were frequenting the clubs and coffee houses. Their prose and poetry writings often hold similarities in rhythms to bop music. So what is bop? Here is a quick overview.

As with many styles of music, styles, which follow one another, may be artistic revolts against the preceding style. Bop jazz (sometimes called Be-bop or Re-bop), was such a phenomenon.
During the swing era the bands were large and thus required certain musical restrictions. When groups are large, confinement is necessary or cacophony is the result. The new bop musicians resented these restrictions and decided to challenge swing's convictions.

World War II was being fought and the world was full of tension and turmoil. Art, at times, has the tendency to reflect society and perhaps bop was reflecting what was happening in the world. By using brilliant flashes of melodic construction, a new complex elaboration of harmonic chord changes, and new freedoms in rhythmic concepts, bop musicians strove to expand jazz music.

Big band jazz used large ensembles, but bop generally reverted to almost Dixieland-style instrumentation of a rhythm section and two or three winds. (Occasionally one could hear a big band using the bop style during this era.)
Since the bop musician desired more freedom than swing allowed, his compositions were not as rigid and complex as swing's were. Usually a melody was composed of perhaps eight bars, repeated, with the next eight bars different, then followed by the original eight, thus creating thirty-two bars or an AABA construction. This would be called the "head" of the chart (composition) and after the original statement a middle section would be improvised usually consisting of several 32 bar lines. The bop composition would end with the return of the "head" with an entire overall form of A B A (A=head, B= extended improvised section, and A= return of the head). Even the original tune was many times just played in unison by the wind section, thus keeping a minimal amount of prearrangement.

By stretching the limits of melody and harmony, the bop musician strove to find fresh and new sounds. Chord substitutions became common even during performances. Most bop musicians had an exceptional technique. They played long, dazzling phrases with many notes, difficult intervals, unexpected breaks, and unusual turns in melodic direction. On slower tunes, they displayed a keen ear for subtle changes of harmony. Only extremely skilled musicians were able to play bebop well, and only sophisticated listeners at first appreciated it.

The use of the rhythm section changed during the bop era. In the swing era the rhythm section was basically used to keep the large ensemble together, but during bop each member became a soloist with a different function. The string bass became the standard time keeper along with laying down the harmonic foundation. The percussionist began to play more melodically by using the bass drum, cymbals (except for the ride cymbal which was used to assist with time keeping), and snare drum more for accents and less for solid time. With the invention of the amplifier and speaker, the guitar became equal in improvisational capability.

Perhaps the two most important changes during the bop era were the musician's attitude and the change of the music's philosophy. No longer was jazz a music to be danced to (one would have a difficult time attempting to dance to many bop compositions), but it was now a concert music to be listened to intently. Bop musicians developed an attitude that was almost anti-audience. The bop musician's music was, "Art for art's sake." If the public enjoyed their music fine, if the public did not enjoy their music, fine too. The bop musicians even dressed in a unique manner, different from the standard public attire of the day. The word "hip" and "hipster" were coming into vogue. Bop almost became a lifestyle.

Leaders of this new bop era were Charlie "Bird" Parker (saxophone/composer), Thelonious Monk (piano) and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet/composer). These excellent musicians made significant advances in the art of improvisation and in the technical quality of jazz performance.

Other influential bop musicians included: Ray Brown (bass); Charlie Mingus (bass); Thelonious Monk (piano/composer [also associated with the Cool era of jazz]); Bud Powell (piano); J.J. Johnson (trombone); Kenny Clarke (drums), and early Miles Davis (trumpet).

(compiled from reports at worldbook.com and shastacollege.com)


American Painting and the Beat Generation—Is There a Connection?

After reading DITHOT’s tidbit yesterday about music’s influence on the Beats, I began to wonder about the effects on American painting at the time. So I spent a little time reviewing my old art history books this morning. I noticed some parallels between the way painters, poets and musicians of the time expressed themselves in their works. Various quotes have been taken from “American Art since 1900” by Barbara Rose, 1967.

Abstract Expressionism was born of two catastrophic events: the Depression and WW II. The depression spawned the WPA which provided jobs and cooperative ventures among artists; and WW II brought the leading figures in European avant-garde art to America. The center of the art world moved from Paris to New York. These well-known artists came from two camps: Cubism and Surrealism.

Disillusioned with the myth of political progress through the triumph of reason, Surrealism set out to destroy the concept of progress in art. Cubist-derived abstraction was about purist geometry and non-objective styles (constructivism & Stijl). The goal of American artists was to fuse the two styles into a new pictorial style.

One of these famous abstract artists to come to America was Piet Mondrian, founder of Neo-Plasticism and leading member of Stijl. What I think is interesting about Mondrain is that he was heavily influenced by the beat and tempo of New York—“it’s indomitable energy, swift tempo, flashing lights, it’s strict grid of streets with skyscrapers shooting upwards, became for Mondrian the essence of the modern age.” In his later years, Mondrian’s style was heavily influenced by music: “Like the young New York artists, Mondrian became interested in the syncopated rhythm of jazz—NOT the cool, poetic improvisations of Charlie Parker or Miles Davis, whose music would find sympathy among New York painters somewhat later, but in the measured beat of boogi woogie.” Two of his masterpieces (Broadway Boogie Woogie of 1942-43 and Victory Boogie Woogie of 1943-44) can be seen at

http://www.artchive.com/artchive/M/mond ... y.jpg.html.

This tells me that the artists of the late 40’s and 50’s would be heavily influenced by Bop Jazz.
Inspired by the Freudian method of free association, the Surrealists invented the technique of “psychic automatism”. “By means of this technique, the poet or artist allowed his thoughts or hand to wander spontaneously, much as the hand moves at random on the Ouija board, and to meander in strange paths unchecked by the fetters of reason or logic.” Some of the famous American artists who practiced automatism were Motherwell, Pollock and Gorky. Max Ernst invented some interesting automatic techniques. For example, he used one called “frottage” which “involved rubbing grained textures with a pencil and using the impression as the point of departure for an image.”

I found this excerpt about Robert Motherwell (who’s paintings came out about the time On the Road was written) from B. Rose’s book very interesting:

“The reconciliation of opposites, one of the characteristics of Abstract Expressionism, is perhaps most dramatically diagrammed in Motherwell’s work. The struggle to strike a balance between contradictory elements—the concscious and the unconscious, feeling and intellect, structure and openness, freedom and necessity—is, in fact, the heart of Motherwell’s effort. Perhaps because he was as concerned with the destructive effects of culture (in so far as it inhibited sensuality) as he was dedicated to its preservation, Motherwell was more attracted to the Freudian than the Jungian aspects of Surrealist iconography. Thus, he was concerned with the discontents of civilization, the discomfort and anxiety of contemporary Western man in his present situation, rather than with the evocation of prehistoric archetypes or myths.” Some good examples of Motherwell’s works:

http://www.postershop.com/Motherwell-Ro ... nerid=2922

IMHO the following quote from Rose’s book represents the feeling of this generation of writers, artists and musicians and it’s impact on their works:

“The adjective ‘heroic’ has been applied to the first-generation Abstract Expressionist. Certainly their aim was to restore to painting the heroic dimension, in a time when men had shown themselves at their least heroic and often at their most bestial. This contradiction—between contemporary reality and the intention of art—must be seen as adding to the difficulty of creating works which assumed that modern man remained the spiritual heir to the entire complex of Western culture. The ideals of the ancient classical and Judeo-Christian tradition were often invoked by artists as disparate as de Kooning, Motherwell, Newman, and Rothko, when describing their own aspirations. Although little is said of the relationship of Abstract Expressionism to WW II, surely some of the tensions in the works arose out of the attempt to maintain humanistic values—to present a heroic image—during a time of world holocaust. The Messianic, heroic, and humanistic aspects of Abstract Expressionism, however, must be seen in the general context of American art, which so often in the twentieth century tried to transcend the merely aesthetic.

To complicate matters further, the Abstract Expressionists wished to maintain only the humanistic values of classical art, not its forms. They knew that an authentic American art could only express itself in terms of the American experience. This presented yet another contradiction, since the very qualities that define the American experience—dynamism, flux, violence—may be described as antithetical to the classic spirit. “

Below is an article regarding the auctioning of the On The Road scroll.

From the New York Times prior to the auction...

March 22, 2001

Kerouac's 'Road' Scroll Is Going to Auction


Fifty years after its completion on April 22, 1951, the product of a three-week typing marathon said to have been stoked by Benzedrine and coffee, the scroll on which Jack Kerouac composed "On the Road" is to be auctioned on May 22 at Christie's in Manhattan.

The single-spaced quasi-autobiographical ode to free living is nearly 120 feet long and pasted together in sections about a dozen feet long, the seams later reinforced with tape. A faint pencil line runs along its right edge, suggesting that Kerouac cut the paper to fit his typewriter. Darkened with age, the scroll is tattered near its beginning, probably from handling. (Kerouac was fond of showing it, unrolled and roadlike, to friends.) And its final paragraphs are torn away, a mishap that Kerouac attributed to his friend Lucien Carr's dog chewing off the end.

The scroll's consignor is Tony Sampas of Pepperell, Mass. A nephew of Stella Sampas, Kerouac's third and last wife, he inherited the scroll from an uncle, Anthony G. Sampatacacus, who died in December 1999. He is the executor of his uncle's estate and is the joint beneficiary of the scroll with another uncle, John Sampas, and Sampatacacus's longtime girlfriend, Nancy Bump.

"The scroll needs to go into the public," Tony Sampas said of his decision to sell. "It has been locked up in a safe, it has been rolled up for decades, and it's an important work. It needs to be studied by scholars and by ordinary folks." He added: "We have a financial imperative. I have to settle an estate, and we have some bills."

Christie's estimates that the scroll will fetch $1 million to $1.5 million.

"On the Road" is one of the elemental texts of the Beat generation and remains popular today. The book has sold nearly 3.5 million copies in the United States and continues to sell at a rate of 110,000 to 130,000 copies a year, a pace that has increased slightly since 1991, when steady annual sales of 25,000 quadrupled in one year.

"I would place Kerouac in the same league as Kafka, Joyce and Proust, and we have sold manuscripts of all of those authors for substantial sums," said Chris Coover, senior specialist in manuscripts at Christie's.

The scroll was kept in the vault of the Sterling Lord Literistic agency until about 1993 and resurfaced at the New York Public Library several years later, Mr. Coover said. It was moved from the library to Christie's in January and is being studied by conservators at the Pierpont Morgan Library in Manhattan. Christie's plans to exhibit the scroll in Chicago and San Francisco in early May, and it will be on view at the auction house beginning around May 17.

"On the Road" was closely based on the cross-country wanderings of Kerouac and his friend Neal Cassady, a charismatic drifter, as they traversed the highways of postwar America and Mexico. Armed with a rucksack filled with small notebooks, Kerouac verbally sketched scenes from everyday life, concentrating on what he considered the neglected cities of the West, where he imagined himself a sort of Sundance Kid to his companion's Butch Cassidy. The book's seemingly endless strands of rhythmic prose echoed the jazz Kerouac loved and heralded its author's belief that he had discovered a new form of writing both spontaneous and unrevised.

"I really wrote a great book, my very best, one of the best to be published this year anywhere (or next Jan.) and wrote it too in 20 days as I say and I feel the pull and strain of having to type with a rusty typewriter like this and a dull ribbon that won't enact my tones," Kerouac wrote to Cassady on June 10, 1951.

In fact, it would take six years to get the manuscript published, during which Kerouac met with forceful rejections, beginning with the reaction of Robert Giroux at Harcourt Brace. "How the hell can the printer work from this?" the editor is said to have roared.

Mr. Coover surmises that within the first year, Kerouac retyped the scroll onto conventional pages.But the manuscript was still summarily turned down by several major New York publishers, perhaps partly because of its glorification of car thieves, con men, hobos and prostitutes, and its unconventional style.

Finally, Malcolm Cowley of Viking agreed to edit the book, but only after Kerouac submitted to substantial revisions and agreed to get signed release forms from its characters. Eventually, Kerouac assigned aliases: Cassady became Dean Moriarty, the poet Allen Ginsberg appeared as Carlo Marx, and Kerouac christened himself Sal Paradise.

In a review in The New York Times in 1957, Gilbert Millstein hailed its publication as "a historic occasion" and called "On the Road" "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as `beat,' and whose principal avatar he is."

The historian Douglas Brinkley, who is writing a Kerouac biography for Viking, said: "I find the scroll one of the really fascinating documents of 20th-century American literature. There is such a mythology grown on the coffee-and-Benzedrine frenzy in which he produced the scroll." But, he cautioned, "a lot of the mythology is inaccurate."

In fact, Mr. Brinkley said, Kerouac was a seasoned writer who kept meticulous notes and journals filled with anecdotes he honed to perfection. Later, in that April marathon, he is likely to have retyped these notes onto the scroll, while drinking countless cups of coffee rather than the Benzedrine of lore. The myth was perpetuated by Ginsberg but debunked by Kerouac himself.

"I tell you another," Kerouac wrote to Cassady. "I wrote that book on COFFEE. . . . Benny, tea, anything I KNOW none as good as coffee for real mental power kicks."

Kerouac referred to the scroll — 9 inches wide and 119 feet, 8 inches long — as Teletype paper, although it was probably architectural drafting paper that he found in the West 20th Street loft in Manhattan to which he and his second wife, Joan Haverty, had recently moved.

Although Kerouac gave the impression that his writing was spontaneous, the scroll suggests otherwise. There, in the author's minuscule handwriting, words are changed, punctuation added, paragraphs indicated and entire passages crossed out in pencil and red crayon. In the scroll's earlier sections, Kerouac took care to change real names; somewhere around midpoint he abandoned the painstaking process, leaving references to himself, Cassady and others. And the missing portions torn off by his friend's dog? Perhaps no more than a ruse perpetuated by Kerouac when he decided to rewrite the book's ending.

Kerouac died in 1969 at 47 from an alcohol-abetted hemorrhage induced by a bar brawl in St. Petersburg, Fla. The sale of the scroll may finally help put an end to a battle that, like its creator, crisscrossed the country over the last decade as litigious factions tried, unsuccessfully, to wrest control of the Kerouac estate from the Sampas family.

Last week John Sampas, the executor of the Kerouac estate, said he was working to place the Kerouac archives with the New York Public Library. The estate is thought to be worth close to $10 million.

"Jack moved to New York in 1944, and he spent quite a bit of time at the public library," John Sampas said. "I feel the archives should go there. We are committed to it, but as they say, nothing is done until the fat lady sings."

Tony and John Sampas and Ms. Bump will retain the scroll's copyright, said George Tobia Jr., a partner with the Boston firm of Burns & Levinson and the attorney for Kerouac's estate.

John and Tony Sampas and Ms. Bump are the joint beneficiaries of the scroll, but Tony's position as executor of Anthony G. Sampatacacus's estate enables him alone to decide to auction the scroll.

"I'm very disappointed," John Sampas said of the auction. "I almost feel the appraisal could have been more conservative and that the library could have purchased it, but I have no control over it." The library refused to comment.

"My only concern is that I hope that whoever buys the scroll will end up donating it to a public institution and not keep it sequestered away in a private home," Mr. Brinkley said. "It's one of those literary documents that belongs to the American people and should be expected to be seen as we would expect to see the first edition of Whitman's `Leaves of Grass' or the draft of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address."


In the end the scroll was purchased two years ago by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay at $2.43 million. He decided to send it on a tour of national museums and libraries that began in Orlando in January and will end in 2007 with a 3-month stay at the New York Public Library.


I had mentioned in one of the early tidbits that Jack had his own spin on what “beat” meant to him. The article below from CNN.com talks of Douglas Brinkley’s findings on Kerouac. If Douglas Brinkley sounds familiar to you it is because he also co-wrote with Hunter S. Thompson “Fear and Loathing in America – The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist” and edited 2 of Hunter’s books, “The Fear and Loathing Letters” and “The Proud Highway”.


Historian Finding Truths of Kerouac Legend

Web posted on: Monday, November 09, 1998 11:38:08 AM EST

(Reuters) -- Jack Kerouac is said to be the writer who launched a million coffee bars and sold as many Levi jeans to admiring readers who made him the first literary "pop" star of the 1950s television age.

Celebrity, which the mythical beatnik poet/novelist loathed while alive, has followed him in death and he remains an American legend nearly 30 years after his death in 1969.
A stream of his work has been published posthumously over the years and many books and scholarly reviews have been written to try to explain how a lower-middle-class footballer from Lowell, Massachusetts, helped change postwar America.

The Catholic boy who set out to find the divine spirit of a country along Route 66 in his seminal work, "On the Road," will forever be part myth, part man. But the myth part is in for closer inspection as historian Douglas Brinkley pores over the more than 200 volumes of Kerouac's archives, which until recently were stashed away in a Lowell bank vault.

The Kerouac estate chose Brinkley, author of a recently published biography of former President Jimmy Carter, to uncover the "real Jack" by examining the scores of letters and other writings amassed from the time Kerouac was 14 to his death at the age of 47 from the ravages of alcoholism. A sneak preview of what he found is the subject of a lengthy cover story in the November issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Brinkley says Kerouac's life was as fascinating as any story. Here was a man who eventually eschewed the "Beat" movement he created, who disdained the evolution of the term's meaning and the political devices used by fellow travelers such as Allen Ginsberg to castigate America in the 1960s.

For Kerouac "Beat" was shorthand for "beatitude" and the idea that the downtrodden are saintly, and he said the idea should be about art and spirituality, not politics. It was about art and spirituality. "Kerouac saw himself as the F. Scott Fitzgerald of the avant-garde circus that was the Beat culture," Brinkley writes.

When Kerouac was asked to be included in a Beat anthology, one of his letters reveals that he declined on the grounds that writers such as William Burroughs and other so-called beats had "never written about ordinary people with any love." They were mere "attention-seekers with nothing on their mind but rancor toward 'America' and the life of ordinary people," he wrote.

Brinkley said his study showed that Kerouac was surprisingly devoted to his Roman Catholic beliefs, despite his forays into Buddhism, and even more bound to his mother, Gabrielle, who was his best friend and the person he lived with for his entire life, minus the many months spent on the road.

The chaos that was the writer's personal life was offset by his monkish discipline as a writer, leaving him prone to keep track of the number of words he wrote every day in the same way a baseball player tracks his batting average.

Speaking of baseball, Brinkley said Kerouac admired Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and tried to top Williams' batting average with his own output. "He used that to compute, writing in his journals, that he did '250' today, or batted '320,' comparing himself to a batting average," Brinkley said.

Kerouac planned and outlined his legendary "spontaneous" outbursts of writing, keeping the prose flowing like his favorite Charlie Parker jazz tunes, but only after sketching in advance the way he would write.

"On the Road" was carefully planned. Even the myth that "On the Road" was written in one long 100-foot scroll during a three-week period is not correct. Excerpts from the writer's journals showed he had planned it two years in advance, Brinkley says, and used the outlines as a foundation for the eventual manuscript.

So where did the "On the Road" myth come from? "Kerouac was responsible for his own myth. He was so fascinated by American folklore -- Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed -- that he wanted the book to have a mythic quality to it," Brinkley said.

The results of some of the myth-making may have impaired Kerouac's standing with literary critics and other bellwethers in New York -- people the writer avoided.
"He was a very serious writer, creating innovations of language, and did this all through unbelievable practice. He was almost a model of how you outline like a traditionalist author would," Brinkley said.

Looked down on by some in the New York literary establishment for his "white trash" leanings, Kerouac never stopped being fascinated with the average Joe, the doughnut maker, the train conductor or the mailman.

His affinity with the working class was also tied to the fact that he never earned much money from his work, Brinkley said. "He was always broke. He lived check-to-check and constantly struggled in poverty, to be a provider for a lower middle class life."

Hollywood never turned "On the Road" into a movie, despite running talks over the years to do so, and writing fees never amounted to large sums. Brinkley said Kerouac would have used any money to buy his mother and sister a house in Florida. The historian plans to produce a multi-volume edition of the Kerouac diaries over the next few years and in 2002 a biography based on the new findings.

A quote from the writer's diary in 1949, highlighted by Brinkley, speaks loudly about the man so many still look to as the father of a truly unique American literature. "I promise I shall never give up, and that I'll die yelling and laughing. And that until then I'll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone's lapel and make them confess to me and to all," Kerouac wrote nearly 50 years ago.


Hearing an author read his own work always gives us a better understanding of the meaning and tone. In this article Clark Coolidge comments on understanding Kerouac and his style. At the end of the article is a link to listen to Jack reading small portions of his work.

Clark Coolidge’s, "Kerouac," published in the January/February 1995 issue of American Poetry Review. Clark Coolidge has performed his work across the U.S. and Europe, and is a contributing editor to Sulfur. Coolidge originally presented this essay as a lecture at the Naropa Institute on July 8, 1991, and portions of "Kerouac" appeared in Talisman. The essay was excerpted for APR from a book that had not yet appeared--Disembodied Poetics: Annals of the Jack Kerouac School edited by Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, which was published by the University of New Mexico Press.

“From there I want to move to what is maybe the key to receiving his work, which is the sound of the work, his voice. I know that "voice" has been talked about a lot but I think there are certain writers, and with some of them we have the luck of the recorded evidence of their voices, where what you get is a kind of magic voice. Once you've heard it you can never read those words again without hearing that voice, even if you don't have a very developed sub-vocal ability. Do you know what I mean? I don't know how many of you, when you read silently, hear every word. In my case it's impossible not to do it. I remember one time asking a class here how many people do that, and about half of them did. I was sort of amazed. Somebody like Burroughs, for example, says that he's largely visual but that's a paradox because he's another of those magic voices. You can't forget that Burroughs sound. But Kerouac very definitely. I remember when I was first enthusiastic about his books and I used to lend them to friends, they would take them away and come back and shake their heads and say "I don't know, I just can't read it." And I said "What's the matter?" "Well, the punctuation, I can't... I mean, all those dashes, what the hell is that about?" "That's all right. Sit down and listen to this record." And I'd put on one of those three amazing recordings that came out in 1959, and almost every one of them would go away saying "Oh, yeah, I got it. Yeah, right," and then they could read him without any trouble.”

http://www-hsc.usc.edu/~gallaher/k_spea ... peaks.html

"Anything worth doing....is worth doing right." ~ Raoul Duke, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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