Leo is known as a bigot but, as Jack Kerouac writes in the last pages of The Haunted Life i, when his father was deathly ill in the hospital, “all the racial nonsense is gone, he sees all men how they are, one by one . . . and all women, of course.” So Pop in his last days has grown. Leo’s letters and Jack’s response to his father’s illness and death, is quite a memorable part of the book.
Leo writes about films and books, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. He writes to Jack that he may not have his “ability to rhapsodize in words,” but maybe Leo isn’t giving himself enough credit. His words have a bounce, and he seems to be a naturally good writer.
Pop expresses fatherly concern for the upcoming war, doles out practical advice (save some money), encourages his son and creatively compliments him on his intelligence, by noting Jack’s “thatch-covered cerebellum.” He speaks of love of family, the joy of a family reunion, “full of the goodness of life, a moment to be cherished, never to be forgotten.”
In a throwback to another time and place Leo can’t resist, “If you have too many skirts send me one willya!” Like father, like son, braggadocio, swagger, but the reader might not be able to stifle a laugh. Even in his volatile nature, there’s something funny about the angry man, “a man with opinions” who “voices them good and loud” and gets “worse and worse, year by year.”
Leo mentions Upton Sinclair, Hitler, Ronnie Reagan, and Guy de Maupassant, and more, all in the same short letter.
He writes of French thought in literature and opines about Saroyan, and records his sorrow about his dead little boy, Gerard. Perhaps some see it as sentimental, but the man wrote about the death of his beloved nine-year-old son. He’s had his share of hard times, ups and downs, and relates another interesting bit of his life in “A Sketch of Nashua and Lowell.”
In “Reflections on Leo” Jack writes of the “mess of messes called life.” And calls Leo “the only honest man I ever knew and the only completely honest expresser of what he thought about the world and the people in it.” Jack continues “the last months of his life on his deathbed he told me things in the middle of the night that would make you hair stand on end.” All in all, a chance to gain some insight into what was an imperfect but loving father-son relationship.
i Kerouac, Jack. The Haunted Life and Other Writings. Ed. Todd Tietchen. (Boston: DeCapo Press, 2014).
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Leo is known as a bigot but, as Jack Kerouac writes in the last pages of The Haunted Life i, when his father was deathly ill in the hospital, “all the racial nonsense is gone, he sees all men how they are, one by one . . . and all women, of course.” So Pop in his last days has grown. Leo’s letters and Jack’s response to his father’s illness and death, is quite a memorable part of the book.
Today is 12th March, and that means it’s Jack Kerouac’s birthday. Every year, people celebrate by embarking upon road trips, holding readings, or just sitting down with a dog-eared copy of On the Road or Big Sur.
In recent years, interest in Kerouac and his work (as well as that of his contemporaries) is strong as ever. We’ve had movies and books continuing his legacy, and in time for his birthday we also have the release of a long-though lost novella, The Haunted Life.
Set in Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, The Haunted Life was written in 1944, following the murder of David Kammerer. As such, this piece of writing comes from an important period in Kerouac’s life. It is also a fascinating insight into the author’s development, as the book is very different to his later works, but not entirely dissimilar to his first novel, The Town and the City.
To read an except, please visit The Guardian’s website. To purchase the book, which also contains notes, letters, and sketches from during its composition, please click the link below…
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face: Favorite Saint of Gabrielle Ange L’Evesque Kerouac
Thérèse Martin (1873-1897) was four years old when her mother died. She entered the Carmelite convent at Lisieux, France, at the age of fifteen and took the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. (Thérèse’s five sisters also became nuns.) She died at the convent when she was twenty-four. Thérèse was canonized in 1925 and would have been fifty-two years old. In 1997 Saint Thérèse was made a Doctor of the Church and was known to the world as “The Little Flower.” Thérèse achieved a great intimacy with God that she shared with the world in her still best-selling autobiography The Story of a Soul, which has been translated into more than sixty languages. Thérèse said “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”
Gabrielle Ange L’Evesque Kerouac (1895-1973) was born in St-Pacôme, Quebec, Canada, and orphaned at the age of sixteen. Saint Thérèse was her favorite saint. Gabrielle was a pious woman whose life was entrenched in the Catholic Church of the Latin Mass (before the changes of Vatican II), and her first language was French, (a French-Canadian dialect, as was Jack’s).
Jack Kerouac had a boyhood habit of praying to Saint Thérèse and was an altar boy at St. Jean Baptiste Cathedral, (the site of his funeral Mass). After the death of his older brother Gerard, at the age of nine
from rheumatic fever, Gabrielle spoke of Gerard as a saint. Jack said, “I really believe in sweet baby Jesus” and the “little lamby Jesus,” and wrote of the “snow-white cart drawn by two lambs” that ascends to heaven in Visions of Gerard, Gerard’s vision. Ti Jean relates the tender story of Gerard’s little mouse and its death, so in spirit and sweetness like a letter Thérèse wrote to her sister, Marie, when she spoke of an actual lamb and the symbol of the lamb:
“Well, my dear Father bought me a new-born lamb, all white and fleecy… a lamb is symbolic…We were already building castles in the air, and expected that in two or three days the lamb would be frisking round us. But the pretty creature died that same afternoon. Poor little thing, scarcely was it born when it suffered and died. It looked so gentle and innocent that Céline made a sketch of it, and then we laid it in a grave dug by Papa. It appeared to be asleep. I did not want the earth to be its covering, so we put snow upon our pet, and all was over…”
There was a statue and holy pictures of Saint Thérèse in the Kerouac home. The orphan Gabrielle could easily identify with the French-speaking, pious, forever-young Thérèse. Gabrielle lost a beloved child; the Martins had four children who died before adulthood.
Thérèse is a modern saint. Her life is documented in photos from the late nineteenth century (The Photo Album of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux), which show Thérèse from infancy to her death. Thérèse’s sister, Sister Genevieve (Céline Martin), was an amateur painter and photographer, so the short life of Thérèse is well preserved in images and her own words and manuscripts; she wrote volumes of letters, poems, prayers, and eight plays. She was a mystic, writer, and contemplative. Jack the writer drew and painted religious images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and at times yearned to be contemplative. Apparently,
Jack thought of Thérèse as a friend stating, “It’s a nice thing we can go to church, that St. Thérèse is there.” Jack stopped attending Mass as a teenager and perhaps never fully returned to the Church, but he never fully turned away from Catholicism either.
Thérèse called herself a hermit and withdrew from the world, “The desert where God wanted me to go also to hide myself.” Jack often said he wished to live as a hermit and withdrew from society—to his mother’s house—and attempted his unsuccessful retreat to Big Sur:
“And in the flush of the first few days of joy I confidently tell myself (not expecting what I’ll do in three weeks only) ‘no more dissipation, it’s time for me to quietly watch the world and even enjoy it, first in woods like these, then just calmly walk and talk among people of the world, no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies and everybody, no more I ask myself the question O why is God torturing me, that’s it, be a loner, travel, talk to waiters, walk around, no more self-imposed agony…it’s time to think and watch and keep concentrated on the fact that after all this whole surface of the world as we know it now will be covered with the silt of a billion years in time…Yay, for this, more aloneness.”
In The Darma Bums on a freight train leaving Los Angles, Jack wrote, “But then I really believed in the reality of charity and kindness and humility and zeal and neutral tranquility and wisdom and ecstasy…” He rides a boxcar with a “thin old little bum” and together they share a meal with bread and wine. The bum is meek, grateful, and accepting, and reveals a scrap torn from a magazine that he reads “most every day,” a “prayer by Saint Teresa announcing that after her death she will return to earth by showering it with roses from heaven, forever, for all living creatures.” How many living creatures he asks after the bum has departed and he is on the beach alone in a contemplative happy mood, in one of the “most pleasant nights” of his life? “I don’t rightly know but it must be a couple umpteen trillion
sextillion infideled and busted up unnumberable number of roses that sweet Saint Teresa and that fine little old man are now this minute showering on your head, with lilies,” such is Jack’s memorable encounter with the devout, humble “little bum of Saint Teresa.” In a letter to her sister, Céline, Thérèse wrote, “Time is but a shadow, a dream; already God sees us in glory and takes joy in our eternal beatitude. How this thought helps my soul! I understand then why He lets us suffer…” But, little Gerard asks the great questions, “God why’d you do all this this suffering?…Why did God leave us sick and cold? Why didnt he leave us in Heaven…I dont like it. I wanta go to Heaven. I wish we were all in Heaven …Why cant we have what we want?” After a torturous night the adult Jack (Duluoz in Big Sur) surmises, “My mother’ll be waiting for me glad…On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars—Something good will come out of all things yet—And it will be golden and eternal just like that…”
Parents are first teachers and Gabrielle was certainly Jack’s. Requiescat in pace, mater cara, Mémère.
In loving memory of Tina Rose (who loved Teresa of Calcutta)…and her mother Teresa (who kept a painting of Saint Thérèse)
(June 30, 1993, was the termination of St. Jean Baptiste Parish as the mother parish of the French Catholics of Lowell, Massachusetts.)
(Thérèse dreamed of being a missionary and hoped “to travel over the whole earth.” A Carmelite community in New Caney, Texas, provided a Discovery shuttle astronaut a relic of the saint, which he took with him into space in 2008, the same year the parents of Saint Thérèse were beatified.)
(In recent years, the Reliquary of Saint Thérèse toured the world and drew record crowds, as she remains one of the world’s most popular saints. The most recent tour was February 2013, Philippines.)
Society of the Little Flower littleflower.org
Therese Letters.pdf pathsoflove.com
Words by Nick Meador
Illustration by Kaliptus
(from issue 10, available at Amazon)
Jack Kerouac’s books contain such a variety of subjects, styles, and voices that his readers have never shared many common characteristics. On the surface, many of Kerouac’s books seem to exude a tone of rebellion against mainstream culture and everything that comes with it, be it business, government, or religion. This voice speaks to the counterculture that has existed in the developed Western world since the 1950s. Similarly, Kerouac’s major works reflect his heavy interest in Buddhism during the ‘50s – an appealing characteristic to the hordes of young Americans disillusioned with their indoctrination under the various denominations of Christianity. Yet behind Kerouac’s Buddhist leanings remained his consistent views about Catholicism, as well as his constant mentions of Christian iconography in his writing. This voice calls to those who never fully departed from the Christianity or Judaism of their youth, often because of the painful experience of disagreeing with family tradition. What most readers don’t know is that Kerouac himself lived almost entirely in this religious mindset, spurning the counterculture altogether. Continue Reading…
Today would’ve been Jack Kerouac’s 90th birthday. Although he’s been dead a long time, his legacy is stronger than ever. Each year new readers stumble upon and find inspiration in his work. This year more people than ever will surely celebrate his birthday because of the new movie, On The Road.
If you’re in San Francisco, you might want to pop along to the Beat Museum, where they’re holding a birthday party in honour of Kerouac. More details at their website.
On the other side of the country, in Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, they celebrated the whole weekend with a Kerouac festival. Take a look here.
If you’re anywhere near Lowell next weekend, you might want to swing by the Jack Kerouac Festival – an annual celebration of the life and literature of Kerouac. Organised by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Inc., this is the 25th annual festival and is held from September 30th-October 3rd. One of this year’s highlights will be a performance by David Amram.
There’s more about it on the LCK! website here.
It recently came to our attention here at Beatdom that our very own Edaurdo Jones’s grandfather (whom we all call “Gramps Jones”) once played High school football against Jack Kerouac.
Naturally, we got Gramps to sit down and answer some questions about playing football against one of America’s most influential authors.
So is it true you played High school football against Jack Kerouac?
It sure is.
Do you think you could tell us about it?
It’s been many years since I took to the gridiron against Jack “Twinkle Toes” Kerouac on a blistering cold November day in 1937… but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was the starting quarterback for Punchard High in Andover, Massachusetts, and old Twinkle Toes played half back for Lowell High school. I remember the wind was blowing 50 MPH in both directions that day as we took the field to do battle like gladiators in the golden autumn sun.
They called me Billy Banana back in those days – due to the fact I’d slip past the defense men like a banana peel on a freshly waxed floor. Lowell’s defense might as well have been cooking French fries with boxing gloves on during this game. They’d zig and I’d zag in the pocket. I remember hurling a 99 yard hail Mary straight into “Sticky hands” Lynch’s numbers just before half time, tying the game at 49-49. I ran 5 of the 7 touchdown we scored myself through the 3 feet of snow that had fallen on the field in a freak blizzard that struck the area that day.
They didn’t call the game on account of snow?
Jesus no! We were real men in those days. We didn’t have all those pansy pads and stuff they wear nowadays. All we had was a leather helmet to keep our brains from flying out our ears if we got hit too hard. Snow was nothing to us.
Could you tell us little bit about Kerouac on the field.
Old Twinkle toes was a thing of beauty on the field. He’d bound over tacklers like a mountain goat. He was like a runaway locomotive once he got some momentum. He was dirty bastard in the bottom of the dog pile though. He once bit a linebacker right in the family jewels, fighting over the pigskin in the bottom of the pile. He was always gauging eyes and throwing kidney punches or giving somebody fish hooks.
That’s rather unsportsman-like conduct.
Maybe to a generation of panty wastes like you. But to real men that’s the way you play in the bottom of the pile. Victory by any means!
So you didn’t mind Kerouac’s dirty tactics?
Hell no! We respected him more for it!
I’m finding it kind of hard to believe Kerouac was such a viscous menace after reading his books.
He was a beast and a man’s man until he moved to NYC and linked up with that goddamn no-good Beatnik Allen whatever-the-hell-his-name-is and he started filling his head up with that love, peace and happiness crapola!
Let’s get back to the game. Who ended up winning?
We did, of course! Old Twinkle Toes played a good game but he was no match for us. Final score was 125-121.
Isn’t that kind of a high score for a football game?
Not when real men are playing, and not some sissy boys running around with 50 pounds of protective gear!
More so than any other literary movement, the Beats have influenced the world of travel and have helped shape our perceptions of the world around us. From obvious influences on hitch-hiking to more serious questions relating to the environment, Beat Generation literature and history has played a major role influencing people over the past fifty years.
We often look to Jack Kerouac as the great backpacker, whose On the Road is credited with sending thousands of readers literally on the road… but he certainly wasn’t the perpetual traveller many think, and the other members of the Beat Generation – whom are less well known for their journeys – travelled far more.
It is strange that when one thinks about the Beat Generation one invariably thinks of New York or San Francisco, because between there lay thousands of miles that they all travelled, and beyond them lay a near infinite abyss that many sought to explore. But these were mere catchments for the meeting of minds; where the young writers and artists of their day met and exchanged knowledge – knowledge that lead them on the road, and was informed by their own personal adventures.
Hitch hiked a thousand miles and brought you wine.
JK, Book of Haikus
Kerouac is the logical starting point for an essay about the Beat Generation and travel. On the Road is undoubtedly the most famous Beat text, and concerned – as the title suggests – travelling. The book detailed Kerouac’s journeys across North America, and inspired subsequent generations of readers, writers and artists to take to the road for spiritual (or non-spiritual) journeys of their own.
Interestingly, Kerouac was not always fond of hitchhiking, although he has had a huge impact upon hitchhikers. He didn’t really do as much travelling as people seem to think, either. Kerouac grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts and stayed there until he went to Horace Mann Prep School in New York at seventeen years old. A year later he went to Columbia University on a football scholarship, but broke his leg and eventually signed up for the merchant marines during World War II. He sailed on the S.S. Dorchester to Greenland.
At twenty-five, Kerouac took his first cross-country road trip, and a year later he took his first trip with Neal Cassady. These journeys took Kerouac from one end of America to another, and eventually found their way into the American road classic, On the Road.
On the Road is one book that has changed America. Whether you’ve read it or not, it has had some impact upon your life. Kerouac’s masterpiece has inspired people ever since, and is still as relevant as ever.
“The road is life,” is one oft-quoted phrase from On the Road. It is one that resonates in American society – a country of immigrants, whose classics include Mark Twain, Jack London, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan. The road has always meant something to America; their histories are irrevocably linked.
The idea of the wilderness and self-reliance has been entangled in American literary history since the beginning, and was most notably explored in the works of Emerson and Thoreau. Kerouac also believed that it was important, saying in Lonesome Traveler:
No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.
But mostly it was the idea of non-conformity that appealed to people fifty years ago, and which has inspired readers ever since. Kerouac’s call to “mad” people came at a time when people needed to rebel, and his wild kicks on the roads of America were a wake-up call for millions. The idea of rebelling then became tied to that of travelling – of gaining freedom and independence through running away and exploring the world, and to hell with society’s expectations.
Kerouac explained in The Dharma Bums:
Colleges [are] nothing but grooming schools for the middleclass non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness.
In both Japhy Ryder and Dean Moriarty Kerouac portrayed an attractive outsider that stood against everything society demanded. He presented romantic depictions of these footloose individuals that etched in the consciousness of his readers a desire to be that free soul.
Japhy Ryder was based on Zen poet Gary Snyder, whom Kerouac met in San Francisco, after travelling across America with a backpack full of manuscripts. His Buddhist wisdom inspired Kerouac to attempt communing with nature, as depicted in The Dharma Bums.
Perhaps his Book of Sketches is a better example of Kerouac’s travel-writing. He details a nearly three thousand mile hitch-hiking journey from 1952, as he travelled from North Carolina to California, by way of Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. In the book he describes every town he visits and every ride he took in travelling across America.
In 1957 Kerouac travelled to Tangier, Morocco, with Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. He didn’t enjoy his time there, but helped Burroughs with the concept and title of what would later become Naked Lunch. This journey was recorded in Desolation Angels – which also details his musings on life as he wanders across North America and Europe. The chapter titles in this book include: “Passing Through Mexico,” “Passing Through New York,” “Passing Through Tangiers, France and London” and “Passing Through America Again.”
Later, suffering from his inability to deal with fame and his disappointment at not being taken seriously by critics (as they viewed the Beats as a mere fad), Kerouac attempted to heal himself by escaping to Big Sur, as described in the novel of the same name.
After Big Sur, Kerouac returned to his mother in Long Island and didn’t stray far from her for the rest of his life. They moved together first to Lowell, Massachusetts, and then to St. Petersburg, Florida.
William S. Burroughs
Burroughs doesn’t exactly strike the same image in the minds of travellers as Kerouac, but certainly travelled more than the author of On the Road. His books are hardly odes to nature or travel, but in his life Burroughs moved frequently, and saw much of the world.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Burroughs went to school in New Mexico, and then studied at Harvard. With a healthy allowance from his parents, Burroughs travelled frequently from New York to Boston, and travelled around Europe after studying in Vienna. He returned and enlisted in the army, but was soon discharged and moved to Chicago, where he met Lucian Carr.
Carr took Burroughs to New York, where he met Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Whilst in New York he and Joan Vollmer Adams had a child. The family soon moved to Texas, and then New Orleans. Some of this was described in On the Road.
After being arrested on account of incriminating letters between him and Ginsberg, Burroughs was forced to flee to Mexico, where he famously shot and killed his wife in a game of William Tell.
In January 1953 Burroughs travelled to South America, maintaining a constant stream of correspondence with Allen Ginsberg that would later become The Yage Letters. “Yage” was the name of a drug with supposed telekinetic properties for which Burroughs was searching.
In Lima, Peru, he typed up his travel notes and then returned to Mexico, where he sent the final instalment of his journey to Ginsberg. This later became the ending of Queer.
In 2007, Ohio State University Press published Everything Lost: The Latin American Notebook of William S. Burroughs. The book details Burroughs’ journey through Ecuador, Columbia and Peru, and gives insight into his personal troubles.
When Burroughs’ legal problems made it impossible for him to live in the cities of his choice he moved to Palm Springs with his parents, and then New York to stay with Ginsberg. After Ginsberg reject his advances, Burroughs travelled to Rome to see Alan Ansen, and then to Tangier, Morocco, to meet Paul Bowles.
Over the next few years Burroughs stayed in Tangiers, working on something that would eventually become Naked Lunch. He was visited by Ginsberg and Kerouac in 1957, and they helped him with his writing.
In 1959, when looking for a publisher for Naked Lunch, Burroughs went to Paris to meet Ginsberg and talk to Olympia Press. Amid surrounding legal problems, the novel was published. In the months before and after the book’s publication, Burroughs stayed with Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Peter Orlovsky in the “Beat Hotel.” Ginsberg composed some of “Kaddish” there, while Corso composed “Bomb.”
After Paris, Burroughs spent six years in London, where he originally travelled for treatment for his heroin addiction. He returned to the US several times – including to cover the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago – before moving to New York in 1974. He took a teaching position and moved into the “Bunker,” a rent-controlled former YMCA gym.
Burroughs travelled around America from time to time, before moving to Lawrence, Kansas, where he spent his final years.
Clearly Burroughs possessed more of an instinct to travel the world than Kerouac. However, his writing rarely glorifies the act of travelling, unlike his friend, who celebrated the road.
In an unpublished essay that can be found in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, Burroughs writes,
As a young child I wanted to be a writer because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow ponge silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle. …
This isn’t exactly the sort of image that invokes pleasant thoughts for most readers, but it shows that Burroughs considered exotic locations and global travel as extremely important. He set these things as a goal for himself, even from a young age.
In his work one could argue Burroughs was more interested in the notion of time-travel than of terrestrial journeying. From actual references to time-travel to the cut-up techniques that carried readers across space and time, Burroughs seemed very interested in having everything in a constant state of flux.
In his essay, “Civilian Defence,” from the collection, The Adding Machine, Burroughs argues for space travel as the future of mankind. He seems to be suggesting that to change is to survive, that we need to move to develop.
Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.
From the Allen Ginsberg Trust:
Ginsberg might have been an American by birth, but through his extensive travel he developed a global consciousness that greatly affected his writings and viewpoint. He spent extended periods of time in Mexico, South America, Europe and India. He visited every continent in the world and every state in the United States and some of his finest work came about as a result of these travels.
Ginsberg spent his tumultuous youth in Paterson, New Jersey, before moving to Columbia University and meeting Kerouac and Burroughs. He met Neal Cassady there and took trips across America – to Denver and San Francisco. In 1947 he sailed to Dakar, Senegal, and wrote “Dakar Doldrums.”
Ginsberg returned to New York and attempted to “go straight,” but moved to San Francisco and became heavily involved in its poetry scene. In 1951 he took a trip to Mexico to meet Burroughs, but Burroughs had already left for Ecuador. In 1953 Ginsberg returned to explore ancient ruins and experiment with drugs, and in 1956 he visited Kerouac in Mexico City.
In 1955 he read “Howl” at the Six Gallery and became a Beat Generation icon. When Howl and Other Poems was published, City Lights Bookstore was charged with publishing indecent literature, and the trial helped made Ginsberg a celebrity.
During the trial Ginsberg moved to Paris with his partner, Peter Orlovsky. From there they travelled to Tangier to help Burroughs compose Naked Lunch. They returned through Spain to stay in the “Beat Hotel” and help Burroughs sell the book to Olympia Press. In a Parisian café, Ginsberg began writing “Kaddish.”
In 1960 Ginsberg travelled to Chile with Lawrence Ferlinghetti for a communist literary conference. He travelled through Bolivia to Lima, Peru, where he tried yage for the first time.
In 1961 Ginsberg and Orlovsky sailed on the SS America for Europe. They looked for Burroughs in Paris. From Paris he travelled through Greece to Israel, meeting Orlovsky, who’d taken a different route.
Together, Ginsberg and Orlovsky travelled down to East Africa, attending a rally in Nairobi. From Africa they travelled to India, first to Bombay and then Delhi, where they met Gary Snyder and Joanne Kryger. Ginsberg and Snyder travelled throughout India for fifteen months, consulting as many wise men as they could find.
After India, Ginsberg travelled on his own through Bangkok, Saigon and Cambodia, and then spent five weeks in Japan with Snyder and Kryger. He wrote “The Change” on a train from Kyoto to Tokyo.
In 1965 Ginsberg travelled to Cuba through Mexico, but was kicked out of the country for allegedly calling Raul Castro “gay” and Che Guevara “cute.” The authorities put him on a flight to Czechoslovakia. In Prague Ginsberg discovered his work had become very popular and used his royalties there to travel to Moscow. He travelled back through Warsaw and Auschwitz.
Back in Prague Ginsberg was elected “King of May” by the students of the city, and spent the following few days “running around with groups of students, acting in a spontaneous, improvised manner – making love.”
Eventually he was put on a flight to London after the authorities found his notebook – containing graphically sexual poems and politically charged statements. In London he partied with Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and organised a big poetry reading.
On his return to the US Ginsberg learned that his previously deactivated FBI file has been updated with the warning, “these persons are reported to be engaged in smuggling narcotics.” This was not helpful to someone as passionate about travel as Allen Ginsberg, and for two years he travelled around the US.
In 1967 he flew to Italy and was arrested for “use of certain words” in his poetry. He then travelled back to London and on to Wales, before returning to Italy to meet Ezra Pound.
In1971 a plane ticket to India and West Bengal was anonymously donated, and Ginsberg travelled to the flood and famine ravaged area.
Back in America, Ginsberg was always travelling – seeking wisdom and change. He moved around the country, participating in demonstrations and rallies. He trained with Buddhists, founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, in Boulder, Colorado, and toured with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review.
Ginsberg toured Europe again in 1979 – visiting Cambridge, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Paris, Genoa, Rome and Tubingen, among other places. He was accompanied by Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky.
In the early eighties Ginsberg settled in Boulder, to play a more active role at Naropa, following a series of problems that had troubled the school. During this time he travelled to Nicaragua to work with other poets on stopping American interference in the politics of other nations. (He returned to Nicaragua for a poetry festival in 1986.)
He spent eight weeks in China following a 1984 poetry conference with Gary Snyder, and in 1985 travelled in the USSR for another poetry conference. In August and September of 1986 he travelled throughout Eastern Europe – performing in Budapest, Warsaw, Belgrade and Skopje. In January of 1988 he travelled to Israel to help bring peace to the Middle East. Later that year he returned to Japan to help protest nuclear weapons and airport developments.
After twenty five years, Ginsberg was re-crowned King of May upon his return to Prague in 1990. A few months later he travelled to Seoul, South Korea, to represent America in the 12th World Congress of Poets.
Continuing to travel right up until 1994, Ginsberg went to France in ’91 and ’92, and then toured Europe in ’93. His four month tour took him around most of Europe, including a ten day teaching job with Anne Waldman.
After selling his personal letters to Stanford University, Ginsberg bought a loft in New York, where he largely remained until his death in 1997.
Neal is, of course, the very soul of the voyage into pure, abstract meaningless motion. He is The Mover, compulsive, dedicated, ready to sacrifice family, friends, even his very car itself to the necessity of moving from one place to another.
William Burroughs, on Neal Cassady
His name may not be as famous as that of Kerouac, but Cassady is well known to any Beat enthusiast. He was portrayed as Dean Moriarty in On the Road: the man Sal Paradise followed on his cross-country trips.
Whilst he may remain most well known for inspiring Kerouac, Cassady influenced many people to enjoy their lives, and to break free of convention. John Clellon Holmes talked about him in Go, Ginsberg referenced him in “Howl” and Hunter S. Thompson mentioned him (unnamed) in Hell’s Angels. He was not only a hero of the Beats, but of many during the following psychedelic era.
It could be said that Cassady lived and died on the road. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Colorado. He was a criminal from an early age, always in trouble with the law. He was frequently arrested for car theft, and known as an exhilarating driver.
After meeting Kerouac and Ginsberg in New York City, Kerouac and Cassady travelled across America and into Mexico. Kerouac was inspired by Cassady’s life and his letter-writing style, whilst the latter sought advice about novel-writing from Kerouac, who’d already published The Town and the City, a novel featuring a far more conventional style of writing than that for which Kerouac later became known.
Both the subject and style of On the Road owe their existence to Neal Cassady. His impact upon Kerouac cannot be understated.
Cassady settled with his wife, Carolyn, in San Jose, and worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He kept in touch with the rest of the Beats, although they all drifted apart philosophically.
In the sixties Kerouac withdrew into alcoholism and what seems like an early onset of middle-age, whilst Cassady took to the road again with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. In a bus called “Furthur” Cassady took the wheel and drove the Pranksters across America. It was a trip well documented in Tom Wolf’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Cassady travelled to Mexico many times, and in 1968 he died on a railroad track, attempting to walk fifteen miles to the next town. Shortly before his death he told a friend, “Twenty years of fast living – there’s just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don’t do what I have done.”
In his short life, Neal Cassady travelled back and forth across North America. His wild antics, footloose life and driving skills inspired many who met him to follow him where he went. He was immortalised in art and literature, and continues to be an inspiration today in sending people on the road.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti commented that if Allen Ginsberg was the Walt Whitman of the Beat Generation, then Gary Snyder was its Henry David Thoreau. Through his rugged individualism and Zen peacefulness the young poet made quite an impact upon his contemporaries, introducing the culture of Asia to the West Coast poetry scene.
Snyder was both interested in the teachings of Asian culture and the tough landscape of North America, and his relationship with both is most famously recounted in Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Snyder quickly learned the importance of place. He spoke of a Salishan man who “knew better than anyone else I had ever met where I was.” The mountains and forests of his part of the world were dangerous and beautiful places, and respect and awareness of them were key to his development. Knowing himself inside and out was essential for Snyder’s growth and survival.
From a young age Snyder was fascinated with Asia. He grew up on the West Coast of the United States, revelling in the diversity of the cities.
The geographical significance of East Asia to the West coast was palpable, as I was growing up. Seattle had a Chinatown, the Seattle Art Museum had a big East Asian collection, one of my playmates was a Japanese boy whose father was a farmer, we all knew that the Indians were racially related to the East Asians and that they had got there via Alaska… There [was]… a constant sense of exchange.
After years of studying Asian culture and teaching himself to meditate, Snyder was offered a scholarship to study in Japan. His application for a passport was initially turned down after the State Department announced there had been allegations he was a communist. (This was shortly after the 1955 Six Gallery Reading, at which Snyder read “A Berry Feast.”)
Snyder studied and travelled in Japan, and eventually became a disciple of Miura Isshu. He mastered Japanese, worked on translations, learned about forestry and formally became a Buddhist.
His return to North America in 1958 took him through the Persian Gulf, Turkey and various Pacific Islands, whilst he worked as a crewman on an oil freighter.
Snyder returned to Japan in 1959 with Joanne Kyger, whom he married in February 1960. Over the next thirteen years he travelled back and forth between Japan and America, occasionally living as a monk, although without formally becoming a priest.
As mentioned in the “Allen Ginsberg” section of this essay, Snyder and Ginsberg travelled together throughout India, seeking advice from holy men.
Between 1967 and 1968 Snyder spent time living with “the Tribe” on a small island in the East China Sea, practicing back-to-the-land living. Shortly after, Snyder moved back to America and settled with his second wife – Masa Uehara – in the Sierra Nevada mountains, in Northern California. He maintained a strong interest in back-to-the-land living after returning.
Gary Snyder’s poetry often reflects his relationship with the natural world. Throughout his life he worked close to the land, and in his poems we see intimate portraits of the world around him. Issues of forestry and geomorphology are frequently addressed in his poems, as well as in his essays and interviews.
In 1974 Snyder’s Turtle Island won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. “Turtle Island” is a Native American name for the North American continent, and Snyder believed that by referring to it as such, it was possible to change contemporary perceptions of the land to a more holistic, balanced viewpoint.
Mountains and Rivers Without End was published in 1996, and celebrates the inhabitation of certain places on our planet.
Today there is an incredible volume of work concerning the poetry of Gary Snyder, and it largely divides its focus between his interest in Asian culture and the environment. It is pretty much agreed, however, that the natural world and a strong sense of community have pervaded his works throughout his entire career.
The only member of the Beat Generation to have actually been born in Greenwich Village was Gregory Corso. He was the youngest of the Beats, and had an extremely tough childhood, growing up on the streets of New York without a mother and did time in both the Tombs and Clinton Correctional Facility.
He met Ginsberg in a lesbian bar in New York and was soon introduced to the rest of the Beats. In 1954 he moved to Boston and educated himself. His first book of poetry was released with the help of Harvard students.
Corso worked various jobs across America, and stayed for a while in San Francisco, performing with Kerouac and becoming a well known member of the Beats.
Between 1957 and 1958 Corso lived in Paris, where he wrote many of the poems that would make up Gasoline, which was published by City Lights. In October of 1958 he went to Rome to visit Percy Byssthe Shelley’s tomb. He travelled briefly to Tangier to meet Ginsberg and Orlovsky, and brought them back to Paris to live in the Beat Hotel. In 1961 he briefly visited Greece. In February 1963 he travelled to London.
It seems that Corso came to consider Europe his home, in spite of having been born in New York. His travels there inspired him, and he spent many years living in Paris. During a return to New York he said: “It dawns upon me that my maturing years were had in Europe – and lo, Europe seems my home and [New York], a strange land.”
Ferlinghetti claimed to have been a bohemian from another era, rather than a Beat. Indeed, he isn’t often viewed in the same light. He was the publisher of the Beats, more than a Beat Generation writer, and he lived a more stable life. While Ginsberg, Kerouac and co. were on the road, gaining inspiration and living their footloose lives, Ferlinghetti was mostly settled in San Francisco.
He travelled a little – going to Japan during World War II and studying in Paris after attending Columbia University. He lived in France between 1947 and 1951.
Politics and social justice were always important to Ferlinghetti, and he was active with Ginsberg in protesting and demonstrating for change. He read poetry across America, Europe and Latin America, and much of the inspiration for his work came from his travels through France, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Soviet Union, Cuba, Mexico, Chile and Nicaragua.
His poems are often political and social, but also celebrate the natural world.
McClure has never been renowned for his travelling or travel writing, but rather for his depictions of nature and animal consciousness. His poems are organised organically in line with his appreciation of the purity of nature. They carry the listener (as McClure’s delivery of his poems is fantastic, and often accompanied by music) to totally different place.
He first read his poetry aloud at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, and has since read at the Fillmore Ballroom, San Francisco’s Human Be-in, Airlift Africa, Yale University, the Smithsonian, and the Library of Congress. He even read to an audience of lions at San Francisco Zoo. He has read all around the world, including Rome, Paris, Tokyo, London and in a Mexico City bull ring.
His travels have carried him around North America, South America, Africa and much of Asia.
Kaufman was one of thirteen children, and at age thirteen he ran away from the chaos of his New Orleans home. He joined the Merchant Marine and spent twenty years travelling the world. It is said that in this time he circled the globe nine times.
He met Jack Kerouac and travelled to San Francisco to become a part of the poetry renaissance. He rarely wrote his poems down, preferring to read them aloud in coffee shops.
Kaufman was always more popular in France than in America, and consequently the bulk of his papers can be found in the Sorbonne, Paris. Today his written work is hard to find.
Norse was born in Brooklyn and attended New York University. After graduating in 1951 Norse spent the next fifteen years travelling around Europe and North Africa.
Between 1954 and 1959 he lived and wrote in Italy. He worked on translations and used street hustlers to decode the local dialects.
In 1960 Norse moved into the Beat Hotel in Paris, with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Whilst in Paris he wrote the experimental cut-up novel Beat Hotel.
Like many of the Beats, Norse travelled to Tangier after reading the work of Paul Bowles. He returned to America in 1968 to live in Los Angeles, befriending Charles Bukowski, before spending the rest of his life in San Francisco.
By Kristin McLaughlin
Without Gerard, what would have happened to Ti Jean? – Jack Kerouac
Visions of Gerard is Kerouac’s prolonged meditation on his older, saintly brother Gerard, who died at the age of nine (Jack was four at the time) of rheumatic fever. As the cornerstone of the Dulouz legend, Visions of Gerard, along with Maggie Cassidy and Dr. Sax, deals with Kerouac’s early life in Lowell, Massachusetts. Most biographers agree that though Kerouac left Lowell after high school, he never left it emotionally. That was where his heart remained. In 1963, six years before his death, he said, “I have a recurring dream of simply walking around the deserted twilight streets of Lowell, in the mist, eager to return to every known and fabled corner. A very eerie, recurrent dream, but it always makes me happy when I wake up.”
Kerouac was born in March 1922 at 9 Lupine Road in Centralville, one of Lowell’s neighborhoods on the north side of the Merrimack River. Lowell had its hay-day during the late 19th/early 20th century when the banks of the river were crowded with textile mills. By the time Jack was born, however, Lowell was already declining as the mills began to close.
He was the third child of Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac, both French-Canadian immigrants who had met and married in Nashua, New Hampshire. Leo owned a print shop in Lowell and was “a hearty, outgoing burgher” and Gabrielle, known to everyone as Mémêre, conducted the household in a Quebecois patois known as joual. For one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, Jack didn’t learn English until he went to school.
Kerouac’s mother played an important – perhaps unhealthily important – role in his life. He told biographer Anne Charters that his mother was the only woman he ever loved. She was devoutly Catholic, and wore religious medals attached to the strap of her slip. After Gerard’s death, she became fiercely protective of Ti Jean (as Jack was known), and that continued throughout his life. While his father seemed indifferent and occasionally hostile to organized religion and its messengers, Mémêre instilled in the Kerouac children a religious sensibility that is apparent in all of Kerouac’s writings. Religion, his mother, and his background as a child of working-class immigrants profoundly affected him, his writing, and his worldview. Though he did a lot of things that could be viewed as the antithesis of those influences, it’s clear in his writing that those influences were always there.
In Visions of Gerard, Kerouac seamlessly blends dream and reality to create a “book of sorrows.” Though evidence suggests that most of the scenes in Visions of Gerard do not stem from Kerouac’s real memories, he manages to meld his few recollections, his dreams and visions, his mother’s romanticized anecdotes and his own imaginings into a tribute to a dying brother. To Jack, Gerard really was angelic.
One story related of Gerard is that he once found a mouse in a trap that was still alive. Horrified that someone would do this to one of God’s creatures, he brought the mouse home, bandaged it up and took care of it. Before long the cat found the mouse and ate it, leaving only the tail behind. Gerard scolded the cat, but not in the mean way you would expect from a child. Instead, Gerard gives the feline a lecture that it shouldn’t harm others. Leo tries to explain to the boy that that happens in life – we eat things that are smaller than us. But Gerard wants none of it. “We’ll never go to Heaven if we go on eating each other and destroying each other like that all the time! – without thinking, without knowing.”
As stated earlier, Gerard died of rheumatic fever, an inflammatory disorder affecting the heart, joints, skin, and nervous system that can develop after a Group A streptococcal infection such as strep throat or scarlet fever. Though he was in a great deal of pain, particularly towards the end of his life, Kerouac does not put the boy’s suffering in the forefront. Gerard, in his saintliness, suffers quietly, without complaint. Despite his own pain, he brings home hungry neighborhood children for Mémêre to feed. “Unceasing compassion flows from Gerard to the world even while he groans in the very middle of his extremity.”
Gerard oversees Jack, wanting him to be good. Kerouac writes of when he stabbed a picture of a murderess on the front page of the newspaper. Gerard scolds him, like he scolded the cat, and together they patched the newspaper back together, so the picture was as good as new. Though Gerard is mostly kind to Ti Jean (except when slaps him for knocking over his erector set), there is competition. Little Jack wonders why Gerard gets fed before he does, and states, “there’s no doubt in my heart that my mother loves Gerard more than she loves me.”
The Gerard that Jack knows is otherworldly. He falls asleep in class and dreams that the Virgin Mary came to him with a white wagon pulled by two lambs. He tells his little brother about the color of God. He goes to confession where he tells the priest about a little boy whom he pushed when the child accidently knocked over something he was making. The priest asks if the boy was hurt; Gerard says no, “but I hurt his heart.” Near his death Gerard tells Ti Jean, “God put these little things on earth to see if we want to hurt them – those who don’t do it who can, are for his Heaven – those who see they can hurt, and do hurt, they’re not for his Heaven – See?” When the doctor tells the Kerouacs that it is time to call for the priest, the nuns from Gerard’s school come as well, kneeling by his bedside, asking him questions and writing down the boy’s answers. The whole portrayal is of a child who is more than a child –a child who understands something about the world and about Heaven that those around him do not. He tries to explain that “we’re all in Heaven, but we don’t know it.” Kerouac puts the religious theme in the forefront here. All of his novels are religious novels at heart, but in some of them it’s hard to discern.
Then Gerard dies. Jack runs down the street towards his father on his way home, “gleefully…yelling, ‘Gerard est mort! as thou it was some great event…I thought it had something to do with some holy transformation that would make him greater and more Gerard like…so when he wearily just said, ‘I know, Ti Pousse, I know’ I had that same feeling that I have today when I would rush and tell people the good news that Nirvana, Heaven, our salvation is Here and Now, that gloomy reaction of theirs, which I can only attribute to pitiful and so-to-be loved ignorance of mortal brains.”
After his death, the neighborhood women notice that the birds that Gerard had lovingly fed from his windowsill had gone and they did not return. “’They’re gone with him!’ Or, I’d say, ‘It was himself.’”
In 1955, shortly after the famed Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, which featured Allen Ginsberg’s performance of “Howl,” Neal Cassady left Kerouac in charge of his mentally unstable girlfriend of the moment, Natalie Jackson. Jack spent the afternoon trying to calm her manic episode with Buddhist texts, but to no avail. The next day she jumped from the window to her death. Kerouac was very disturbed by this and returned to his sister’s home in Rocky Mount, North Carolina shortly before Christmas. Of course, his mother was there too. The experiences that would fill Kerouac’s future novel, The Dharma Bums, were occurring at this time.
In January 1956, Mémêre left Rocky Mount for New York to attend a funeral. It was then, in the absence of his mother, that Kerouac sat down to write what would become Visions of Gerard. “My sister and her husband weren’t interested. They went to bed and I took over the kitchen, brewed tea and took Benzedrine. It was written by hand on the kitchen table. My sister wouldn’t let me light candles, so I used the kitchen light. You got to live with your family, you know. Mémêre wasn’t there. She went to the funeral of her step-mother in Brooklyn. If she’d been there, I wouldn’t have written it. We’d have talked all night. But that funeral reminded me of funerals, my brother’s funeral…”
At the time of writing Visions of Gerard, Kerouac was in the process of synthesizing his two religions – Catholicism and Buddhism; both are clearly represented in the novel, and Kerouac successfully harmonizes them to present his Catholic sensibility from his recently adopted Buddhist perspective. To say that Kerouac was a devout Catholic is to imply that he was a practicing Catholic, which he was not. But he continued to maintain his belief in Catholicism throughout his life. He was Catholic in his heart, and was devout in his own way. His beliefs at the time of writing the novel can probably be summed in the words he says that Gerard’s “sad eyes first foretold”: “All is well, practice Kindness, Heaven is Nigh.”
It only took Kerouac approximately fifteen days to write Visions of Gerard, though John Kingsland, who read the unedited original draft of Kerouac’s The Town and the City, stated that some of the scenes that were edited out of that first published novel are included in Visions of Gerard. On January 15, 1956, Kerouac wrote to Gary Snyder that the novel was finished. In that letter, he called the work his “best most serious sad and true book yet,” and reiterated this in letters as late as 1961, still two years before its publication. By late 1956, Kerouac had submitted the book to Viking Publishers, where Malcolm Cowley objected to its Buddhist influences; Cowley didn’t see how it related to Jack’s French-Canadian upbringing. In response to requests to revise the novel, Kerouac told his agent, “Visions of Gerard suits me as it stands. As it comes, so it flows, and that’s literature at its purest.” But by 1958, Kerouac was offering to revise the novel and substitute Catholic references for the Buddhist ones if Viking would buy the book. He really wanted the book to be published, mostly to counteract his ever-growing image as an encourager of youthful rebellion. He wrote that Visions of Gerard “is by far the wisest next book for me because of present screaming about my juvenile delinquent viciousness.”
The book, along with Big Sur, was eventually bought in January 1962 by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy for a $10,000 advance. When it was sold, Kerouac’s editor promised not to make changes to it, but it’s unclear if any changes were made between its original writing, which was done in pencil, and its final, published version. In December 1962, he wrote to his friend Philip Whalen, “I’m proofreading Visions of Gerard…[it] will be published by Fall 1963 and will be ignored I guess, or called pretentious, but who cares…” Who cares? Jack certainly did. For all the coolness of that statement, Kerouac was crushed by negative reviews, which typically not only ripped his books to shreds, but Kerouac as a person.
Visions of Gerard wasn’t exactly ignored, but the reviews were very bad indeed. The New York Herald Tribune stated that it was, “a text very much like everything else [Kerouac] has published in the past five years: slapdash, grossly sentimental, often pridefully ‘sincere’ that you can’t help question the value of sincerity itself…In someone else’s hands, it could have been moving. Even in Kerouac’s own hands, it could have been good, if only he had made writerly demands of himself. As it stands, though, it just amounts to 152 more pages of self-indulgence.” The review in the New York Times wasn’t any better: “…the clangor we hear far too often is the narrator’s jaunty, garrulous hipster yawping, and before its implacable onslaught all feeling disintegrates. It is not enough to say that the style does not evoke or intensify the emotion. It betrays and debases it. The dead boy deserved better of his eulogist.” Biographer Gerard Nicosia states that “critics seemed to be stirring for new lefthanded and underhanded ways of putting [Kerouac] down.” This further fueled Kerouac’s downward spiral – now he was not only the cause of juvenile delinquency, but he was desecrating his brother’s memory and exploiting his death.
In an October 1963 letter to friend and fellow writer John Clellon Holmes, Kerouac states, “everybody’s become so mean, so sinister, so hypocritical I can’t believe it. So I turn to drink like a lost maniac…They make me feel like never writing another word again.” So much for not caring. Kerouac’s entire identity was as a writer, and all he desired professionally was to be taken seriously. Since the publication of On the Road, he had been physically declining largely due to the notoriety it brought him. He was so self-conscious, and the press had turned him into everything he wasn’t, and didn’t want to be.
Visions of Gerard is almost a prolonged religious homily to his brother, who in his mind – and the mind of his mother – was a saint. But while this novel does have an overarching religious sensibility to it, it is a very sad tale. Jack was absolutely devoted to his brother – he worshipped him and emulated him in a way probably most boys would look up to an older brother. “For the first four years of my life, while he lived, I was not Ti Jean Dulouz, I was Gerard, the world was his face, the flower of his face, the pale stooped disposition, the heartbreakingness and the holiness.” He was extremely jealous of Gerard’s friends, and when they would come to visit the bed-ridden boy, Jack would complain to Mémêre and she would send the boys away, saying that Gerard belonged to Jack. Losing his brother appears to have been very traumatic for Kerouac – he grew frightened of the dark and often wondered how he could get into heaven to be reunited with his beloved brother. For a short time after his brother’s death, Jack even thought Gerard would return in some resurrected form, “huge and all-powerful and renewed.”
Neighborhood playmates of Gerard remember him as a normal, but sickly, kid and suggest that Kerouac largely embellished the story of his brother’s holiness. In fact, in a letter to his sister, Caroline in 1945, Kerouac admitted all he remembered of Gerard was the slap over the erector set. The myth of Gerard was most likely encouraged and reinforced by Mémêre and greatly merged with the French tradition of child-saints. It is legitimate to wonder how much Gerard’s death – and his doting mother’s reaction to it – influenced Kerouac later in life. In the same letter to Caroline, he admits feeling guilty about Gerard and that he may have been responsible for the death. But imagine Jack’s position: as a child he believed his brother was favored over him, his parents view the boy as a saint. Gerard’s piety was used as a standard against which Kerouac often measured his own life, and he failed miserably against that standard. Gerard’s death has come to be seen by researchers as a potential source of Kerouac’s torments and turmoil, and Visions of Gerard has been described as being “told from the standpoint of a man looking from the dark torrents of a raging river at an unattainable peaceful shore.” But though the boy’s death was clearly a tragedy, and served as a source of terrible guilt and anguish for Kerouac – and perhaps even was the original catalyst that eventually led to his alcoholism and death, we are also faced with the question of whether, had Gerard lived instead, Kerouac would have ever become a writer in the first place. As Kerouac asks in the novel, what would have happened to Jack without Gerard?
“The whole reason why I ever wrote at all and drew breath to bite in vain with pen and ink…because of Gerard, the idealism, Gerard the religious hero – Écrivez pour l’amour de son mort.”
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 5.
 “Book News from Farrar, Straus, & Cudahy, Inc.” Empty Phatoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac. Ed. Paul Maher, Jr. New York: Thurder’s Mouth Press, 2005. 223
 Gifford, Barry and Lawrence Lee. Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac. NY: St. Martin’s Press. 1978. 4.
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Gary Snyder. 15 January 1956. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Penguin Group, 1995. 358-359.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 11.
 Ibid., 70.
 Ibid., 71.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 36.
 Ibid., 104.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid., 109-110.
 Ibid., 117
 Charters, Anne. Kerouac: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973. 252.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 6.
 Nicosia, Gerard. Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. Berkley: University of California Press, 1983. 500
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Gary Snyder. 15 January 1956. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Penguin Group, 1995. 358-359.
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Sterling Lord. 7 October 1956. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Penguin Group, 1995. 589.
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Sterling Lord. 29 November 1958. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Viking Press, 1999. 169.
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Philip Whalen. 13 December 1962. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Viking Press, 1999. 353.
 Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Viking Press, 1999. 370.
 Maloff, Saul. “A Yawping at the Grave.” New York Times. 8 September 1963.
 Nicosia, Gerard. Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. Berkley: University of California Press, 1983. 648
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to John Clellon Holmes. 5 October 1963. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1957-1969. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Viking Press, 1999. 370.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 2.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 109.
 Kerouac, Jack. Letter to Caroline Kerouac Blake. 14 March 1945. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956. Ed. Anne Charters. New York: Penguin Group, 1995. 87.
 Simpson, Emily Patricia. “Religious Turmoil: The Conflict Between Buddhism and Catholicism in Jack Kerouac’s Life and Writing.” MA Thesis. North Carolina State University, 2003. 28.
 Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Group, 1991. 112.