Archives For jack kerouac

The Joan Anderson Letter Goes to Auction

Almost two years ago the world of Beat studies was rocked by the discovery of a seemingly lost piece of history: the fabled Joan Anderson Letter. Written by Neal Cassady and sent to Jack Kerouac, the letter played a pivotal role in American literary history, only to supposedly be lost overboard into the cold Pacific Ocean. Continue Reading…

The Complicated Politics of the Beat Triumvirate

There is much about the Beat Generation that is shrouded in confusion. Oftentimes it stems from wishful thinking on the part of Beat scholars and readers, and sometimes it emerges from the haze between the myths the Beats themselves created and their own reality. Partly, though, the confusion arises from the simple fact that the politics of the three best-known Beat Generation authors was in fact rather complicated, and no amount of simplification can detract from that fact. Allen Ginsberg was the face of the left for much of the late twentieth century, but was he was also critical of much of the left. Jack Kerouac was the hero of the left in the sixties, yet his personal politics then veered hard right. And William S. Burroughs… Well, his ideas concerning politics involve space travel, engrams, and word viruses. Continue Reading…

Review: Ambiguous Borderlands

In his new book, Ambiguous Borderlands: Shadow Imagery in Cold War American Culture, Dr. Erik Mortenson looks at the “paradox” of mid-twentieth century life in the United States, where there were unprecedented levels of comfort for many citizens, and yet the impending threat of nuclear holocaust. While people became wealthier than ever before, there came also a crushing pressure to conform or fit in with mainstream society. Mortenson argues, Continue Reading…

Kerouac Coming to Kindle

On March 22nd, 2016, six of Jack Kerouac’s books will be available as ebooks for the first time. These include his debut novel, The Town and the City. The aptly named Open Road Media has acquired the rights to digitally publish this and other books by the author, whose books were not previously available for ebook users. The Town and the City was originally published in 1950 by Harcourt Brace. The author was listed as “John Kerouac” and the story followed the life of young Peter Martin, based on Kerouac himself. Seven years later, Kerouac became a household name after his second novel, On the Road, was published. Continue Reading…

East Coast Beats vs. West Coast Beats

The Beats as we know them are a New York City phenomena and walk hand in hand with Abstract Expressionism as one of the great defining moments of art in the second half of the 20th century. Just like Jackson Pollock and William DeKooning were all about reinterpreting what painting meant, so the Beats were trying to redefine linguistics in a way that made poetry and prose contemporary, or at least brought it up to date from the days of the Lost Generation, who expatriated to Paris after World War I.  The Beats were the fallout of the existential crisis brought on by the nuclear bomb, and a seminal Beat poem by Gregory Corso called “Bomb” appeared on the page in the form of a mushroom cloud. The Beats were interested in writing from their wits and believed the concept of “first thought was the best thought,” even though they may not have lived by this credo it was a defining trait of their aesthetic stance. It was similar to an Abstract Expressionist looking for a perfect stroke on the canvas that somehow said everything about an internally troubled excited knowable state, even if he/she worked on the painting for weeks, months, or years. The goal of both movements, along with Be-Bop, was to express a moment of feeling without being restricted in time, even if this took years of practice. It might seem a quaint idea from a 2015 perspective but art was very tied to rules when the Beats wrote to the rhythm of their breath, or to the sounds of Charlie Parker’s alto sax, and it was a revolutionary act that scared a lot of critics and aesthetes into thinking the Beats were turning back the clock on poetry and were like modern day Neanderthals rather than the greatest minds of their generation. Yet that’s an image they would’ve been proud of in their inner circle, just like the Abstract Expressionists wanted to get back to primal thinking. The Beats were audacious but demanded to be taken seriously, which is probably why they earned the moniker of angry young men.

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The Beats & Sixties Counterculture

The 1960s are associated with what Frank calls ‘the big change, the birthplace of our own culture, the homeland of hip’, a period of various shifts that have shaped our current society[1].  This hints at an underlying consensus that the 1960s were a time of high artistic endeavour, the centre of countercultural resistance, and some of the cultural ripples that are still being felt today. Continue Reading…

Who’s Who: A Guide to Kerouac’s Characters

This originally appeared in Issue Three, which is no longer available. Find other issues of Beatdom here

Anyone who knows anything about the Beat Generation knows that while Ginsberg may have been the movement’s publicist, Kerouac was its archivist. Yet his books are called novels, not autobiographies or non-fiction texts. We can pretty much go through each one of Kerouac’s books and find other sources to verify the accuracy of an event, but all the names, and some of the places, are fictitious. Continue Reading…