Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey: My Thoughts



Yesterday I finished reading Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. All 628 pages. The last blog entry here at The Daily Beat established the Kerouac-Kesey connection, so it's legitimate to talk about Kesey's book. I know. It's my blog and I can talk about whatever I like here, though I do tend to bend to my mission of always having a connection to Kerouac. Because everything connects to Kerouac. But I digress.

If you haven't read Notion, you're missing out on an excellent reading experience. It has beauty, depth, and insight. It features strong character development (at least for the men - a quibble typically aimed at Kerouac et al.). I must warn the reader that it is not an easy read. Especially at first. Kesey abruptly jumps around in time and he uses first person narrative for several of the characters. Sometimes it's difficult to keep track of who is talking (or thinking). However, that gets easier if you persevere long enough. It actually ends up seeming "necessary" and not just an author's trick. Along the way, Kesey describes Oregon's rainy beauty and the logging industry in gorgeous detail, providing a perfect context for the complicated family/community drama to play out. Love, sex, betrayal, jealousy, revenge -- it's all here.

Notion is a very different novel from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, so don't expect a similar reading experience. I highly recommend you give it a shot. It's certainly one of the great American novels from the 20th Century.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac


Ken Kesey (l) and Jack Kerouac (r)

A few months ago I picked up a copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. I finished a couple of weeks ago and, enamored of his writing, sought to get my hands on a copy of his other well-known novel, Sometimes A Great Notion. In fact, my very own Neal Cassady, Keith Fisher, challenged me to read the "seldom-read other" Kesey novel when he saw I had read Cuckoo's Nest. Being the weekend, I couldn't borrow it from the local library (it's only open a bit on Saturday morning). Searching around the house for something to read in the interval, I happened upon A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway. That took me a week or so to finish, and now I am 237 pages into the 628 pages of Notion.

The first 100 pages or so was a hard slog. I just wasn't getting into it, partly because I couldn't follow all the time-jumping and narrator switching. Once I got used to that, I began to give a shit about the Stamper family drama and what was going to happen with all of that. Now I think I'll likely finish it.

What does that have to do with Jack Kerouac? Well, he and Kesey were no strangers to each other. Kerouac apparently praised Cuckoo's Nest when it came out (Kerouac: His Life and Work, 2004, Paul Maher Jr., p. 422). Readers of The Daily Beat need no reminder that Kerouac's muse, Neal Cassady, became the driver of Kesey's bus, Further, carrying the Merry Pranksters around the country turning people on to LSD. In Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (1983, p. 653), Gerald Nicosia recounts the time that the Pranksters came to NYC and Kesey wanted to meet Kerouac. Jack agreed to come to one of the Prankster parties and was dismayed at their treatment of American flags (wearing them, sitting on them. It was less than an epic encounter. The two only ever met this one time (you can read about it from Sterling  Lord's perspective here).

What you might not know is that Kesey name-drops Kerouac on page 227 of Sometimes A Great Notion (this is narrator Lee speaking of his family home in Oregon to which he has recently returned):

'This is a land for childhood frolic, with forests dark and magical and shady sloughs alive with chubs and mud-puppies, a land in which young and snub-nosed Dylan Thomas would have gamboled, red-cheeked and raucous as a strawberry, a town where Twain could trade rats and capture beetles, a chunk of wild beautiful insane America tha Kerouac could have gud a good six or seven novels' worth . . . '

So there you have it: a Kerouac encounter in a Kesey novel.

Now, did Jack ever mention Kesey in a novel? That's your homework assignment.

Happy Sunday....










Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fantastic WaPo article with recent interviews of many of the surviving Beats

I have yet to finish reading the recent Washington Post article, "Driving the Beat Road" by Jeff Weiss (it's lengthy), but a great friend and Kerouacophile who knows more than I'll ever know said it was fantastic and the best article he's read in ages. I concur based on what I've read so far.

For this article, author Weiss recently interviewed Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Diane di Prima, and Herbert Gold. Readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to those names with the possible exception of Gold, who was what Weiss called "Beat-adjacent." In addition to text, the piece includes video, audio, and vintage pictures. 

Check it out. You won't be sorry. Plus you'll be supporting venerable and credible The Washington Post, which in today's political climate is a very Beat thing to do. Freedom of the press, baby! No government censorship! But I digress. Here is the link:




Enjoy! 


P.S. If you choose to read the comments at the end, please be advised that there is some flaming, negative, name-calling commentary there by Charles Plymell. I'd post a retort but am not in the mood to be in his cross-hairs. Talk about uncivil discourse. At least WaPo didn't censor him.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Responding to Contempt: The Kerouac Way

Arthur Brooks says that the problem with politics today is not opposing views. It's how we treat each other with contempt.

Politics doesn't have a monopoly on contemptuous interactions, as evidenced by a recent interaction in the Jack Kerouac Facebook group. I won't go into detail. Suffice to say it's a longstanding divisive issue, and it seems to me that the only way to move past it is to follow Jack Kerouac's advice in The Dharma Bums: "Compassion is the heart of Buddhism."

If we would act compassionately toward one another in the face of contempt -- or as Arthur Brooks says, if we would meet contempt with kindness -- we might actually change the world for the better.

Alas, it's easier said than done.

One thing I'm sure about is that name-calling will never result in peace. And peace ought to be our mutual goal.

Here's a link to Arthur Brooks talking about this. It's a video that is internal to Facebook, so if you are not a Facebook user, Google him on YouTube along with the word contempt and you will find similar videos: https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/

God, I'm tired of all the hate: here, there, and everywhere. Peace out....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jack Kerouac and UFOs?

When the UFO phenomenon hit the front pages on July 8, 1947 because of the Roswell "flying saucer" incident, our hero Jack Kerouac was living in Ozone Park and just about to hit the road on his first of several cross-country trips that he would later memorialize in On The Road.  What did he think about the UFO phenomenon? I'm not sure. I did a Google search and a quick scan of a couple Kerouac biographies, his letters, and the Facebook Kerouac group: nothing. I need to do more in-depth research.

My own interest in UFOs probably started on Saturday afternoons during my youth, when my friends and I watched Monster Movie Matinee, featuring B-movies like Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Thing From Another World, The Day the Earth Stood Still, It Came From Outer Space, etc. I've never had much of a personal UFO sighting experience, although I've seen some weird things in the skies, most notably during a bluegrass festival in upstate New York in the 80s. But I digress....

For the last couple of years, I've been listening to podcasts on my drive to and from work. For one reason or another, I got hooked on a couple in particular that take up the topic of anomalous phenomena (or "Forteana" - see my previous post here) like UFOs, cryptozoology, the paranormal, and the like. My favorites are The Gralien Report, Where Did the Road Go?, and Radio Misterioso.

One of my favorite guests on those podcasts is Red Pill Junkie (RPJ), who I recently commissioned to do this drawing of Crystal:

Graphic by Red Pill Junkie
.
If you're interested in having RPJ do some graphic work for you, he can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well as his blog at https://absurdbydesign.wordpress.com/.

RPJ recently did the cover art and contributed an article to an anthology titled, UFOs: Reframing the Debate, so I felt compelled to get the book and read it. RPJ asked me to write a review on Amazon, which I will do, but I decided to publish it here on my blog as well. 

So, without further ado, here is my review. What does this have to do with Jack Kerouac, you ask? Stay tuned for a future blog post....


A Review of UFOs: Reframing the Debate


There is a disturbance in the ufology force, and it is a book titled, UFOs: Reframing the Debate. Edited by Robbie Graham, this anthology brings together pieces by 14 different authors who each bring a unique and cutting-edge perspective to a field which of late seems to have lost its way, with many researchers zealously fixated on the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) and focusing their efforts exclusively on nuts-and-bolts explanations.

As Diana Walsh Pasulka points out in the foreword, “leaving behind the ‘nuts-and-bolts’ approach and embracing the complexity of how the phenomenon affects and shapes belief frees researchers and allows them to gain a broader view of the mechanisms of the phenomenon.” That is the case with the 14 authors included here, who expose the reader to everything from personal experiences to thought experiments in an effort to understand -- not make conclusions -- about what is going on with UFO contact events.

After Dr. Pasulka’s cogent foreword, editor Graham -- no stranger to ufology -- presents an introduction framing the anthology and providing a concise summary of each author’s contribution. A brief biography of each author is included at the end. One of the extremely valuable features of the book are the extensive and relevant citations within the entries as well as in the endnotes. One could follow this path of literary breadcrumbs and easily go down a ufology reading rabbit-hole for months if not years.

There’s something here for veteran ufology fans and researchers as well as for beginners, but a word of caution is in order: there is some tough going here. The authors do assume a certain amount of prior knowledge, plus they are not afraid to challenge longstanding beliefs and perspectives. There are times when readers will be tempted to put the book aside because an author’s perspective is so out of alignment with their own, but as Graham advises, “Don’t do that.” There is a great pay-off for thoughtful persistence through each of the entries.

In this wide-ranging and brilliant collection regarding the current state of ufology, the reader can expect to learn about parapsychology, the role of belief, parasociology, cultural influences, religious connotations, high strangeness aspects, a new classification system, the back story of the Roswell Slides debunking, co-creation, anarchist subversion, trauma analogies, the importance of empathy, and more.

What does all of that have to do with ufology? Get a copy of the book and find out. You won’t be sorry.

UFOs: Reframing the Debate
Cover Design by Red Pill Junkie



Sunday, June 4, 2017

Happy Belated 91st Birthday to Allen Ginsberg

I was aware yesterday that it was Allen Ginsberg's birthday, but I delayed blogging in order to take the easy way out and have something to blog about today (Sundays are the first day of the week in my calendar and I am trying to keep up a weekly streak of posting that has gone on for some time).

Happy 91st Birthday, Allen. While admittedly this is a Kerouac-obsessed blog, without Ginsberg there would be no Kerouac, at least not as we know him today. Ginsberg was a muse to Kerouac as well as a tireless -- and effective -- advocate for getting  Jack's work published.

In his honor, here is a goofy picture of Allen  I'd never seen until yesterday.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Albert Saijo's The Backpacker and a story



Faithful readers of The Daily Beat need no introduction to Albert Saijo, but in case you are dropping by and new to Jack Kerouac, here is a little bit of information.
Albert Fairchild Saijo was born in Los Angeles, the son of a Christian preacher and a Japanese schoolteacher and writer. Studied Zen Buddhism in LA in the late 1940s and in the 1950s moved to the Bay Area, where he met and befriended Jack Kerouac and other Beat poets in San Francisco’s Chinatown. A cross-country drive in 1959 with Kerouac and Lew Welch resulted in a book of “road-trip haiku” called Trip Trap (1973) to which all three contributed. Spent his final years in Hawaii. (Source: Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend, http://www.beatbookcovers.com/kercomp/)
Saijo came to mind a few weeks ago when we were discussing Kerouac's novel, Big Sur, in my Kerouac class at the University of Maine at Farmington. Saijo appears briefly in that novel as George Baso. I had not previously thought about what Saijo may have published besides Trip Trap, and a little searching on Amazon revealed a book titled, The Backpacker. So, on a whim, I ordered it (used was the only option).

Imagine my surprise when the book arrived with a most wonderful note from the seller, Tammy (daughter-in-law of the previous owner). I hope you can enlarge the below photos and read it in its entirety.







As a fan of synchronicity, I point out the following:

-The note on the outside of the envelope ended with "not all those who wander are lost." I own a T-          shirt with that saying on the front (I am not a big Tolkien fan, but love the sentiment)
-The former owner, Earl Douglas Allen, was a teacher, as was I (retiring officially in 3 days)
-Allen, as he liked to be called, loved to hike, as do I.
-Allen was an author, as am I.
-Allen's son, Jonathan, is an author who wrote about shipping out as a merchant seaman, something        our Jack could relate to.

If you are interested in either Allen's or Jonathan's writing, check them out on Amazon.

Warpaint on the Grasshopper by Earl Douglas Allen

The Big Bucks Guide to Shipping Out as a Merchant Seaman by Jonathan Allen (NOTE: Jonathan has other titles as well).

Tammy, I am going to send along a note in the mail and hope you can access this blog post. Thank you for sharing your Dad's story with me. It makes my copy of The Backpacker that much more special. You have given my eventual heirs a fantastic idea for dispersing my book collection!