Archive for the ‘Kerouac’ Category

Campaign Update

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Greetings from the Campaign Trail. My run for Greenville City Council, District 3, is going very well, with lots of good wishes and support throughout the district. It has been such a great pleasure to meet so many of my neighbors in the district.

In many conversations with you, we have talked about large issues such as crime and economic growth, as well as smaller matters such as parking, garbage and overgrown lots. Each of these topics is important.

Indeed, city government has more of an effect on our daily lives than any other level of government. It is your City Council that makes decisions with often immediate, and personal, effects — what is built beside your home, what happens with your garbage and recycling, how your property taxes are spent.

That’s what motivates me to run, and I hope, to serve. It is very important to have reasonable, level-minded and impartial leadership. I am forward thinking, but I also know some of our old, Eastern North Carolina ways are good ones. Honesty, hard work and integrity are our hallmarks.

I invite you to get in touch with my by email or phone if you have any questions about me or the issues.

From the campaign trail 2009

PS – I have just learned from my email-pal, filmmaker Curt Worden, that his delightful film about Jack Kerouac, “One Fast Move or I’m Gone,” has been picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution. It will be screened in several U.S. theaters starting October 20.

This film is a very sensitive look at those nightmarish days Kerouac spent at Big Sur, so artfully captured in his novel of the same name. If you have read and enjoyed Kerouac, this book is an insightful self-examination — showing how success and fame, poisoned by alcohol, can eat away at even the greatest talent.

News Flash: Kerouac Estate Ruling

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

JACK KEROUAC’S WILL RULED A FORGERY

It’s been quite some time since I posted, but I wanted to share this news with Fiction Dailyland:


Fla. judge rules will on Kerouac’s estate is fake

by the Associated Press

13 mins ago

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A lengthy dispute over the estate of Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac has ended with a Florida judge ruling that his mother’s will was fraudulent.

Gabrielle Kerouac left all of her son’s assets to his third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, when she died in 1973. Ever since, the Sampas family has had control of Jack Kerouac’s manuscripts, letters and personal belongings.

But Jack Kerouac’s daughter and nephew believed the will was fake. They filed a lawsuit that has dragged on in Pinellas County for the last 15 years. On Friday, a judge finally ruled that the will was a forgery.

Bill Wagner, an attorney for Kerouac’s nephew, says its unclear what action his client will take next.

Previous reports have placed the estate’s value at $20 million.

I always suspected something was fishy about the way his estate seemed to be settled so strangely, since he was at odds with his third wife during most of their tragic marriage.

I’ll keep you posted.

‘Empty’ Words

Friday, October 31st, 2008

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING FRIDAY

If you’ve ever spent more than 10 seconds with Buddhist teachings you’ve come across them.

The words.

Buddhism has a complex language and dense vocabulary that work together in a rich interplay to create a world of concepts that has no toehold in the seen world. For that reason, it rivals philosophy for complicated concepts that require page after page of descriptions. Yet many of these words aim to describe not meaning, but lack of precise meaning: that is, emptiness.

It’s not for the feint of heart. For that reason, Jack Kerouac, with his trademark verve and energy, put together a compendium of ideas, definitions and examples from his Buddhist studies. It was published in 1997 as Some of the Dharma, and at more than 400 pages, it’s a dense book … and as Kerouac says, only “some.”

Let’s start with the term karma. It’s part of our ordinary language, but what does it really mean — and how is it commonly used?

In the Buddhist sense, karma has to do with the sum of actions taken by a person, not just in this lifetime, but over several lifetimes — forever. That explains why bad things happen to good people — and vice versa — there are ghosts in our closets.

In popular usage, karma usually refers to performing acts of kindness, doing right by other people, helping out dogs and defenseless animals, with the hoped for possibility that something good will come back to you. Not a bad way to live.

Call me a true believer of karma. Once in the early 90s, in a new job, new town, not a lot of money, I accidentally walked out of a store without paying for my chocolate-covered raisins. Ka-ching! I thought. I win!!

That night, my car was broken into. Ka-I-ching!! Karma. I pay for everything now, and if I find a dime on the street, usually I’ll either leave it or give it to someone else.

Karma brings up the idea of reincarnation, which to the Buddhists is an integral part of the relative, or physical, world and the authentic, or unseen, one.

There is the concept that at death, a person’s soul or consciousness passes into another life form. To have human form is a supreme achievement, showing that a person’s past live has been noble and good. That’s why His Holiness the Dalai Lama is so greatly respectful of any other human being, even the Chinese leaders who torment him and his fellow Tibetans.

Yet even for those of us who don’t ascribe precisely to this idea can find meaning in the concept of rebirth and reincarnation. In my nearly half a century, I have been many people — school teacher, graduate student, 4-year-old, 14-year-old drama queen, moody 20-year-old, preppy (sorry, it was the ’80s) and waitress.

These incarnations are episodes and experiences that are long gone, not to return (especially the waitress days, but out of karma-awareness, I always leave big tips!)

There are other terms, for other Figuratively Speaking posts — paramita, tathagata, buddhadharma, ahimsa, parinama, samadhi ….

TO BE CONTINUED

Kerouac

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

White Line Miles
Originally posted on 19 February 2008

The words appeared like a highway

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The head security guard was called that Thursday morning as Greg and I prepared to enter the New York Public Library exhibit of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” scroll. I was working on a public radio piece; she didn’t like the mike. At last she waived me through; we were in.

I stepped into the exhibit hall and, well, swooned. The 60-feet of scroll was unrolled in a long, narrow case that led to a giant picture on the back wall of a highway. It appeared the scroll was itself a road, part of this asphalt one, and each connected by sheer length. The scroll, hundreds of words, and the pavement, hundreds of white lines.

Rather than starting in order … and risk losing my clear thinkingness on notepads and jottings … I began with the scroll itself.

I stared for I don’t know how long at the first paragraph. I read the first line over and again (find it here), looked at the typewritten letters one at the time, watched for penciled edits. I simply drank in the paper, as if I were sitting with Kerouac himself and he was telling me, “Now here’s where I started, you see I was drinking lots of coffee and had been working on this thing for years in my mind, and one afternoon I knew it was time to get started, and my girlfriend had this long architect’s paper in her closet, left over from an old boyfriend, and I taped those long sheets together to make a roll so I wouldn’t have to stop thinking and writing to reload the typewriter.”

After about an hour with the scroll, I must have come to my senses and noticed Greg, who was a dedicated reader and examiner of each item in the exhibit. I felt a little superficial in comparison.

I went into the large hallway outside the exhibit room and recorded some thoughts for my public radio audio diary, then went back in.

Still not starting at the beginning, I went next to his notes for “Some of the Dharma,” the long book he wrote about Buddhist thinking for Allen Ginsberg. Never printed in his lifetime, the pages were printed about 10 years ago, just as he designed them, with his drawings and typographical designs — poems in pyramids, haiku in neat boxes.

At this point, I’ve seen only about 5 or six of the 300 items on view. I go out for air, and noticed that we’ve been at the exhibit already for two hours.

IMAGE: Jack Kerouac. Private manuscript copy of “Gone on the Road,” the first page of the typescript of an early version of “On the Road,” written in August–September 16, 1950. From the New York Public Library Berg Collection and reproduced courtesy of John G. Sampas, legal representative of the estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac.

Kerouac in Rocky Mount
Originally posted 29 May 2008

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In the photo above, you can see the back of the house on West Mount Drive in Rocky Mount, N.C. where Jack Kerouac spent several months in early 1956.

He lived there with his sister, Caroline, or Nin, and her husband, Paul Blake.

It’s only through the dedication of John J Dorfner of Raleigh, N.C., that we know about this house. In the early 1980s, after moving to the state with his wife, he became obsessed with knowing more about Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount.

Understand, nowhere did any biographer mention the possible location of the house. That’s why when I made a similar search about the same time, I came up empty handed.

I was working at my first newspaper job in 1986 and heard from another writer that Kerouac had spent time in “Big Easonburg Woods.” I knew Little Easonburg but had no idea about this other place and figured it was just a rumor, anyway.

One day I trekked to Braswell Memorial Library, looked through the North Carolina collection. Nothing. I drove around in Little Easonburg, which is just west of town on Sunset Avenue. Nothing.

Then in the late 1990s, curious again, I went to Braswell Library.

By this time, Mr. Dorfner had published his slim, but dense, volume, Kerouac: Visions of Rocky Mount.

There were photos inside and I drove along West Mount Drive until I found the house. It is pictured above.

Writing is rewriting

Monday, August 11th, 2008

THIS WEEK: On revisions

Was it E.B. White who said Writing is rewriting? It was a hard lesson for this writer, penning my first stories at 18 and dreaming of my own brilliance … nurtured in college on the Kerouac myth of spontaneous prose and not knowing what I do now about the years of writing Kerouac put in before “On the Road” erupted in a three-week spasm.

There is simply no way to sit down and in a single take write anything worth reading, much less saving. You can stare into the mirror of your own words, but it doesn’t make you beautiful, just vain.

True, there are writers who have energy and fire, such as Hunter Thompson, but there is a vigor there that comes from a worked intensity. It’s not just flinging words around and admiring your own genius.

I believe it was Anais Nin and Henry Miller who conversed about the heat of a first draft: When perched over your own words, you are feeling your own emotion and often deluded into thinking you’ve captured it in prose. When you read it the next day you find it flat. Many times I’ve wanted to throw away what was written the day before.

Even now, I have been working on a feature article for about four weeks and imagined it had verve and energy. Yesterday I printed a copy and it read flat and dull to me. The real work for a writer is to hang in there, to have faith, to polish and deepen in the right places, to add enough and not too much, to know where the heart isn’t beating and get the blood into those places.

“Sea”

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Cherson!
Cherson!
You aint just whistlin
Dixie, Sea —
Cherson! Cherson!
We calcimine fathers
here below!
Kitchen lights on —
Sea Engines from Russia
seabirding here below —
When rocks outsea froth
I’ll know Hawaii
cracked up and scramble
up my doublelegged cliff
to the silt of
a million years —

Shoo– Shaw—Shirsh
Go on die salt light
You billion yeared
rock knocker

Gavroom
Seabird
Gabroobird
Sad as wife & hill
Loved as mother & fog
Oh! Oh! Oh!
Sea! Osh!
Where’s yr little Neppytune
tonight?

Excerpt from Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. 1962, Penguin Books, New York, N.Y.

Sea Poems

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Of the many unexpected pleasures in reading “Big Sur” by Jack Kerouac … the artful desperation, the chilling hallucinations, the sheer falling apart of a creative, brilliant mind … one of the best comes at the very end.

Having completed the horrible stay at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin south of San Francisco, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Kerouac ends with the car ride out of there, the nightmare at last ending, and the ghoulish girlfriend and demon child on their way back to their apartment and out of his life. Kerouac is going back to Ma Mere, his mom, and will be able to at last grieve in peace for the loss of his cat.

I’ll take Billie home, I’ll say goodbye to her properly, she wont commit no suicide or do anything wrong … I’ll forgive them and explain everything … I’ll stay with Monsanto at his home … and he’ll smile and show me how to be happy awhile….

On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — something good will come out of all things yet —

Kerouac had a natural, instinctive feeling for the sound of words. I wrote in a previous entry about this music and in Big Sur, the lilt and grace of his language brings artfulness to his situation, and breakdown.

Then, as you read the final paragraph, thinking all is bleak for Kerouac and the world, you turn the page and find “Sea” — Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur.

These are the poems Kerouac wrote listening to the ocean, sitting in the dark hearing words and inventing stories from the crashing waves. Reading them, after the hellish narrative, you realize that Kerouac was powerfully aware of his role as a writer, to bring meaning even to his own horrible downslide.

TOMORROW: “Sea”

On Reading ‘Big Sur’

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

At 8:30 p.m. last night I took to bed with my copy of “Big Sur” by Jack Kerouac and by 9:30 p.m. it was over.

Those last pages are unbearable, not only for what happens, but because of his profound emotions. He hooks up with one of “Cody’s” (Neal C.) girlfriends in San Francisco, starts drinking nonstop and sits in a chair at her apartment for a solid week. The goldfish die, the chair breaks and everything heads south.

When you think things can’t get worse, he invites her to the cabin, with her son and another couple. You can see how it’s going to go.

Though he’s clear that he’s the deluded one, there is real horror to the situation. The lady friend is a poor mom to her little boy, and in that 50s way she probably can’t be. The little boy represents this unspoken fear of abandonment, as he cries, whines, and torments Kerouac. Meanwhile, his friends are trying to cheer him up, but all he can see is sadness.

He becomes the Phantom of the Opera … once they arrive at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin, you can tell he just wants to be alone … and drunk … his head clears for a while but DTs erupting, he has a full-blown crisis, impossible for him to grasp the ax to cut wood, visions starting.

He remembers his first tranquil, blessed three weeks at the cabin, and those memories come back like a nightmare. The blue jays he fed each day are now harpies; the creek water tastes like kerosene; he believes his friends are trying to poison him. Indeed, the devil walks among them and is trying to send him to hell.

The last night there, he tries to sleep in the yard, but the full moon menaces him, images taunt him. When at last he falls asleep, it is to a vision of a cross.

…when dawn finally comes my mind is just a series of explosions that get louder and more “multiply” broken in pieces some of them big orchestral and then rainbow explosions of sound and sight mixed … the little boy somehow thumped his foot just at the moment of drowse, to instantly wake me up, wide awake, back to my horror which when all is said and done is the horror of all the worlds … being damn well what I deserve anyway with my previous blithe yakkings about the sufferings of others in books ….

TOMORROW: The music of “Big Sur”

Clean ‘slate’

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Good morning in Fiction Dailyland from the dashboard of a new laptop. With a new, clean hard drive came an unexpected sense of lightness and freedom, as I leave behind the old one and all that unfinished business.

I overcame my grave fear of major purchases … plowed headlong into the secret, complex, inner sanctum of computer-speak … learned all about things like 64-bit v 32-bit, chips, DRAM, HD, indexing and partitions … and managed to make a decision!

What’s more, rather than keep it in the box long enough for my panic to settle, I actually took it out and began to use it right away.

Things have changed a lot from the early days, when a computer surely meant a headache. There are days when I get quite worked up over some glitch or bug, but it seems the brilliant folks who write programs and engineer chips and the like have done a good job ironing things out.

There were a few scary moments … I had to rebuild my iTunes library … that involved organizing everything on a hard drive, which I should have already done, but let’s face it, not a priority. I had random files of albums … Beatles, Beck, Madonna in one place, podcasts in another, French books yet another place. So I took two or so hours and rounded up all the cattle.

In the process of ordering things, I got rid of Songs of the Week I hated (goodbye, Discovery Singles!) and rediscovered bands I love, such as Boards of Canada. I trimmed away those old playlists and started making a new one.

The best part was saying Aloha to Outlook Express. I downloaded Thunderbird and feel immediately more human somehow. Don’t get me wrong … I applaud the Microsoft folks for their marvelous work creating operating sysetms, such as the 64-bit version of Vista I’m now using. But the human soul needs wildness, a sense of independence, and Mozilla offers a little of that.

Even worse … I had about 10,000 messages stockpiled. I never deleted anything! After a while, it became too overwhelming to start thinning things out, so I created bogus folders such as “2006 First half” and just dumped everything in it.

I’m leaving behind all those old projects … and on this computer, will only keep current projects of the moment. Everything else is banished to the external hard drive!!

Meanwhile, I am closing in on the end of Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. Things are getting bleaker with each page … you can see what’s coming … I remind myself that he not only underwent that breakdown, but then, wrote about it … he had to relive every sorry moment to capture it with immediacy, artfulness and desperation.

Off-‘Road’ travels

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

On a lark, yesterday at Sheppard Memorial Library here in Greenville, N.C., I checked to see if a copy of “Big Sur” by Jack Kerouac was included in the collection. This book, published in 1960, is Kerouac’s epic tale of a several weeks’ stay in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s remote California cabin to recapture his sanity when he was falling apart after the success of “On the Road.”

Guess what? No copy.

My query came after learning that a FD reader and blogger was unable to find “Big Sur” in his county library. How can that be? I thought.

Indeed, it is a more pervasive problem that you’d think.

There is a misconception among many people — including the so-called writing community, the literati if you will — that “On the Road” is the only work by Jack Kerouac that really matters.

Nothing could be further from the truth. “On the Road” is the centerpiece, most certainly. But it is only the first chapter in a long, fertile, literary opus that covers far more ground. The adventures of Sal and Dean in “On the Road” are an enthusiastic opening round by Kerouac, but he was a writer of so much more vision, heart and production.

Each book is a perfect jewel of prose and expression (with the exception of Pic, which is just a mistake of his later, drunken years). You’ll never read a more pathetic, hilarious and bumbling scene than when the trio of friends in “The Dharma Bums” tries a mountain hike, one in Sunday shoes, overweight and huffing, Kerouac full of dread and fears, and Japhy strong and fearless. It’s powerful, and if you’ve read “A Confederacy of Dunces” you can imagine how Kerouac may have handled that kind of unbearable comedy.

In “Big Sur” we have a moving confessional, in the tradition of Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from Underground,” Kafka, even Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”). Nothing is as it seems — it’s hyper-beautiful for the man suffering a drunken nervous breakdown; it’s hyper-ugly, too.

Yet “Big Sur” is rarely cited when talking about Kerouac’s masterpieces, unless by readers like me who have soaked up nearly every word he wrote. We’re often jeered as “fanatics” with no literary discretion.

I beg to disagree.