Sunday, April 22, 2018

Curation #38 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac



Item #38 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Book of Blues. It's a Penguin Books publication showing a copyright date of 1995 and that it's a 1st printing. 274 pages, this copy is in good condition except for some yellowing, dog-eared pages, highlighting, and annotations. The provenance is uncertain, although I probably purchased it used from Amazon.

John Sampas dedicated this book to Philip Whalen and to the memory of Lew Welch. As mentioned in a recent blog about San Francisco Blues, these poems reflect Kerouac's "system" of writing poems as if they were blues choruses, the length of which are constrained by the size of his breastpocket notebooks. Indeed, all of San Francisco Blues is here, along with 'RICHMOND HILL BLUES," "BOWERY BLUES," "MACDOUGAL STREET BLUES," DESOLATION BLUES," "ORIZABA 210 BLUES," "ORLANDA BLUES," and "CERRADA MEDELLIN BLUES."

Book of Blues begins with a stellar introduction by Robert Creeley and ends with a section titled, "NOTES ON DATES AND SOURCES" by John Sampas and, finally, a poem by Alice Notley, "JACK WOULD SPEAK THROUGH THE IMPERFECT MEDIUM OF ALICE." I don't know the backstory of concluding this book with Notley's poem -- maybe a reader can shed some light on it. It is a relevant and powerful poem, and Creeley's introduction mentions it.

As Creeley says, "these poems provide an intensely vivid witness of both writer and time." If you only ever think of Jack Kerouac as a prose writer and not a poet, Book of Blues provides evidence that he was indeed the latter.

Here's a teaser from the 9th Chorus of "ORIZABA 210 BLUES."

James Dean is dead?--
Aint we all?
   Who aint dead--






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (19th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Curation #37 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Pic by Jack Kerouac



Item #37 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Pic by Jack Kerouac. This is a Grove Press publication; the copyright page shows one date, 1971, and indicates that it is a "First Printing." Other than yellowing, it is in good shape. Size is approximately 4" x 7" and 120 pages. I am unsure of its provenance.

Pic was published in 1971 and, as the cover indicates, it was Kerouac's last published novel (although I suspect it is more a novella) -- at the time. There have been at least two published since: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks and The Sea is My Brother. Pic is set in 1948 and tells the story of ten-year-old Pictorial Review Jackson from his first-person point-of-view. The back cover of the book indicates that it is written "in the black dialect indigenous to the North Carolina farm country," but many have criticized Kerouac's attempt at black dialect as stereotypical at best. Kerouac wrote pic around 1950 while he was also working on and thinking about On The Road.

I won't get into the plot, other than to say that it involves Pic's experiences as he travels around the country (North Carolina, New York City, California) after the grandfather he lived with dies. As he often does, Kerouac reuses some previously published content: for example, Chapter 13 is titled "THE GHOST OF THE SUSQUEHANNA" and is a modified re-tread of the old man Kerouac encounters near Harrisburg, PA, in On The Road.

Pic has its critics, but one fan is Brian Hassett, who opined about the novel here. I wouldn't steer you away from it, but unless you're a true Kerouacophile, I wouldn't seek it out ahead of Jack's other novels.





Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (18th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Blogging frequency = 1 blog every 2.5 days over (almost) 10 years

I just realized that I could measure my blogging frequency by dividing the number of days since my blog's inception and dividing that by the number of blogs I've posted.

I started blogging in earnest on September 20, 2008. That was 3,496 days ago (coming up on 10 years!). I have posted 1,396 blogs since then. That's a rate of one blog post every 2.5 days.

I don't know what that means in the overall scheme of things, but it is one way to measure my prolificity at blogging about Kerouac and related matters.

Contacting The Daily Beat

Dear Readers:

If you are legitimately trying to start a 1:1 conversation with me (e.g., about guest blogging on The Daily Beat), you need to send me, at the very least, contact information (e-mail address) and your name. Otherwise, I will assume you are spamming me and will probably not reply. Remember that without an e-mail address, I can only reply publicly, and thousands of people would see your request.

Thanks.


Rick Dale

Curation #36 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac



Item #36 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Scattered Poems. This is a City Lights Books publication which I think was first published in 1970. This particular copy has no more recent copyright date, but Amazon lists it as 2001. There is no printing number. It is in good shape and the provenance is likely that I purchased it used from Amazon.

This is a small book: 4-3/4" x 6-1/4" and 76 pages. There are 38 poems here, selected by Ann Charters from journals & magazines they appeared in between 1945-1970 or from unpublished manuscripts. At the beginning is a short explanation by Jack of new American poetry from "THE ORIGINS OF JOY IN POETRY." Specific sources and publication dates for each poem are given at the end of the book.

Here are some titles of poem in the collection to tease you in case you haven't read it (I've also listed the source and year published):

PULL MY DAISY (Evergreen Books 1961)
DAYDREAMS FOR GINSBERG (Letter to Ginsberg 1955)
LUCIEN MIDNIGHT (Combustion 1957)
RIMBAUD (Yugen 1960; City Lights)
from OLD ANGEL MIDNIGHT (Beetitood 1959)
POEM: Jazz killed itself (White Dove Review 1959)
TO HARPO MARX (Playboy 1959)
FOUR POEMS from "SAN FRANCISCO BLUES" (New Directions 1961)

Typical Kerouac themes show up in this collection (death, jazz, friends, religious/literary/pop culture references, Buddhism, travel, hitchhiking). It's in Kerouac's famous spontaneous style ("writing whatever comes into your head as it comes"), so making "sense" of it is a challenge As with all of Jack's writing, it's important to read aloud and enjoy the sounds as well as think about meaning.

This is short enough for a straight-through read, but it is indeed a book of poetry and therefore lends itself to a more leisurely, skip-around approach.

The most authentic source to get this book from is City Lights, of course, but below is an Amazon link as well.




Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (17th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Pic by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf


Monday, April 16, 2018

Curation #35 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac



The 35th item in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac. This is a 4th printing of a 2006 copyright book published by Penguin Poets. It's in good shape and the provenance is likely that I purchased it used from Amazon. It's a small rucksack-worthy yet lengthy book: 4-3/4" x 6" but over 413 pages.

As it says on the first page after Condo's introduction, these sketches were

Printed Exactly As They Were Written
On the Little Pages in the Notebooks
I Carried in My Breast Pocket 1952
Summer to 1954 December........... 
    (Not Necessarily Chronological)

As the inside front cover indicates, sketching is a technique suggested to Jack in 1951 by his friend Ed White: "sketch in the streets like a painter but with words." For two years as he traveled, Jack "sketched" -- in his little notebooks -- observations and descriptions and musings and related mindstuff in spontaneous glory. He typed it all up in 1957 from 15 handwritten notebooks, at which time he added some new sketches (hence the the title page says "Book of Sketches 1952-1957).

Jack talks about sketching in his famous piece, "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose": "sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image." So sketching is similar to the technique he describes in the beginning of San Francisco Blues (see my April 12 blog) except he doesn't seem to limit a piece's length to one notebook page. Interestingly, some of Jack's handwritten entries are included in Book of Sketches (e.g., the title page and the "Finis" and assorted doodles throughout).

Book of Sketches is dedicated to Jack's sister, Caroline Kerouac Blake ("Nin"). That makes it an important statement in itself, but the words are the thing here, and they tell of Kerouac's power to make anything he saw elegant and mesmerizing, from "PANORAMIC CATALOG SKETCH OF BIG EASONBURG (backyard)" to "FRISCO Embarcadero Sept 8" to "RESTING BY A WINDOW IN THE LOUVRES [sic]." This is pure Kerouac from his notebooks, unedited and raw and . . . beautiful.

I hesitate to call this a poetry book (Wikipedia calls it "spontaneous prose poetry," but you'll want to read it like one and skip around, savoring individual sketches. One could argue that it's all poetry, but then one could say that about Jack's prose. Either way, it's all A-number one top-notch wordsmithing from a master of the craft.






Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (16th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Curation #34 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac


Item #34 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac. It is a Riverhead Books publication showing a copyright date of 1995 and this is the 24th printing. Desolation Angels was first published in 1965 and written in 1956 and 1961 (completed in 1964) about the time period 1956-1957. This particular copy's provenance is likely that I bought it used on Amazon, which you can do via the link below. It is in good shape with some yellowing of the pages.

Desolation Angels is typical Kerouac in its spontaneous prose style and roman à clef approach. It depends largely on journals he kept during the time periods covered: Book One (Desolation Angels) is about his time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the Cascades (more detail than his treatment of the same event in The Dharma Bums) and right after he came down; Book Two (Passing Through) is about his subsequent experiences in other places (Mexico, New York, Tangiers, France, London, and America). According to Joyce Johnson's introduction, Jack originally planned the two "books" to be published separately. She entered his life in Book Two as Alyce Newman. The book got panned by the New York Times (click here), but Kerouac fans generally love it. I did.

Kerouac trivia buffs know that there are several errors in maintaining the real-life characters' pseudonyms (e.g., in Book One Chapter 91 he calls Gregory Corso "Gregory" instead of "Raphael"). Others are noted on the Wikipedia page for the book (no, Wikipedia is not evil -- you just need to fact-check it).

During my first (and only complete) read of the novel, I underlined or noted the following:

Book One Chapter 32 
"Sad understanding is what compassion means-- . . . ."

Book One Chapter 36
"AND THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT MAYA MEANS, it means we're being fooled into believing in reality of the feeling of the show of things--Maya in Sanskrit, it means wile--And why do we go on being fooled even when we know it?"

"The simplest truth in the world is beyond our reach because of its complete simplicity, i.e., its pure nothing...."

Can you tell I was going through a Buddhist phase?

I also noted the following passage, probably because it mentions Hemingway:

Book Two Chapter 65
"God how right Hemingway was when he said there was no remedy for life--and to think that negative little paper-shuffling prissies should write condescending obituaries about a man who told the truth, nay who drew breath in pain to tell a tale like that!"

I hope Jack never read his obituaries.

Desolation Angels is a 400+ page book, so there is a lot of Kerouac here and a lot of ground covered in the telling. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to tackle it straight-through -- you will want to savor it.







Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (15th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Book of Sketches by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf