Kerouac in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Posted in Kerouac, On writing, Writers at 5:30 am by Marion

There’s still one detail regarding Jack Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount to settle … and that’s the fate of the house on West Mount Drive where he lived in the mid-1950s with his sister, Nin. It’s referred to as “Big Easonburg Woods” in his work, as that was how the crossroads was known then.

Thanks to John J Dorfner, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., we know the whereabouts of the house. I’ve been speaking with him and we’re trying to now figure out what the future holds for this house.

He and I, and perhaps other Kerouac fans out there, would like to see this little farmhouse preserved and protected. There’s a risk, however, that it will change hands before that can be done.

In the development frenzy that sweeps like Sherman through eastern North Carolina, who knows how long a Depression-era farmhouse could hold out?

Meanwhile, in the next few days I’ll make some updates to the pages on this site about Jack Kerouac.

2008-06-04 12:17:01 GMT


Poison Paris

Posted in Kerouac, Life in general, On writing, Writers at 1:14 pm by Marion

Today is wrap-up day as I complete some items that have been hanging around for some time … feature articles on Jack Kerouac and research for a magazine article coming up soon.

Mostly I want to focus on the new story I’ve been putting together with the working title “Poison Paris.” It’s about a creepy husband and a naive wife and something strange happening to her.

Otherwise this week somehow I have several appointments that certainly eat into the writing time. Yet I also know that I’m less likely to write anything interesting if I don’t leave the house.

A few details left on the search for the owner of the house in Rocky Mount where Kerouac lived and I will post as soon as I wrap them up.

2008-06-03 11:47:11 GMT


A Beat hero

Posted in Kerouac, On writing, Writers at 1:15 pm by Marion

It’s Monday and Fiction Daily pays tribute today to the work of John J Dorfner, a friend of the Beat writers and scholars.

In the sea of books about Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers … by known researchers like Ann Charters, Gerald Nicosia and other scholars, you’ll find two modest contributions under these titles: Visions of Rocky Mount, and Visions of Lowell.

Yet these are critically important volumes, as Mr. Dorfner did the footwork others overlooked. He pinned down elements of Jack Kerouac’s life that would have otherwise been lost.

He searched for the house in Rocky Mount where Kerouac lived with his sister, Caroline, and husband, Blake, and found it. No previous biographer bothered to track down such a detail, yet for readers of Kerouac, this detail contains a world of meaning.

It was in Rocky Mount, in Big Easonburg Woods, that Kerouac spent days and weeks in quiet reflection, still at last after his time in New York city and on the road.

For Kerouac was deeply complex, and just as he enjoyed the road’s upheaval and movement, stirring ideas along the way, he also fed on solitude, nature and reflection. He was, like so many writers, profoundly introverted.

It was this pursuit of quiet meditation that also led Kerouac to the top of Desolation Peak in Washington State, as well as to friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cottage at Big Sur, where he fell apart after the success of “On the Road.”

If you’ve not yet read Big Sur, it is a moving look at the private life of a writer struggling with his own success, which nevertheless destroyed something precious and innocent.

In Rocky Mount, Kerouac was highly creative, penning Some of the Dharma and many letters. He worked at his brother-in-law’s television shop at 1311 Raleigh Road, in Rocky Mount.

Mr. Dorfner spent considerable time finding the house and talking with people who knew Kerouac in those days. Remember, this was 1956, a year before “On the Road” was published and the Beat phenomena began. He was to them just “Nin’s brother.”

The future of the Kerouac-Blake house on West Mount Drive in Rocky Mount is up in the air these days, as it’s simply been used as a rental cottage for many years. It should be protected and marked as historically significant.

Not only is Mr. Dorfner an unselfish literary sleuth, but he’s also quite a nice person to speak with. He corresponded with Allen Ginsberg and even hosted Neal Cassady’s son John Allen at his home in Raleigh, N.C.

His books about Kerouac’s time in Lowell and Rocky Mount are self-published, but they do quite well in sales, though it’s a labor of love, he says.

I highly recommend visiting his sites to read more about Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount:



Visions of Rocky Mount: WRAL
2008-06-02 19:19:03 GMT


Kerouac in Rocky Mount, cont’d

Posted in Kerouac, On writing, Writers at 1:20 pm by Marion


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 Rocky Mount. I figured it was a rumor really, and thought little of it. Then, I read a column by another reporter, Cindy Trew, who wrote about tracking down the house in “Big Easonburg Woods.” I was very touched by her column; she was a fine writer.

So 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.

AHEAD: How John Dorfner found the Blake-Kerouac House and saved it from obscurity, for now, at least

2008-05-29 11:46:59 GMT


Kerouac in Rocky Mount, N.C.

Posted in Kerouac, Writers at 1:34 pm by Marion

The day is flying … finally back in the office after appointments all morning, with another appointment coming up shortly.

Today once I sit still I’ll be wrapping up some articles describing my visit to see “The Mythical Scroll,” Jack Kerouac’s 120-foot long manuscript for “On the Road” which was on view at the New York Public Library.

The scroll is now on view in Austin, Texas, which is currently hosting another remarkable exhbit. The scroll will be on view in Austin through June 1.

I had a delightful conversation with John Dorfner yesterday, the writer who actually tracked down the West Mount home where Kerouac stayed with his sister Nin and her husband, Paul, for some time in the 1950s.

More on that conversation tomorrow.

2008-05-28 17:02:46 GMT


Moving Targets

Posted in Kerouac, On writing at 1:40 pm by Marion

Now that we’ve looked at plot in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, we can turn to the people of this groundbreaking novel.

Even before we meet our narrator, Sal Paradise, we meet Dean Moriarty. This character drives so much of On the Road at times it’s hard to get away from him.

Dean is reckless with energy and ideas, a guy who pushes everyone out of their comfortable decisions and takes them into events and actions they’d never agree to otherwise.

We know Deans in our own life … and Thank God for them! I’ve had Deans sprinkled throughout my life; in college they gave me political petitions to take door-to-door and weren’t afraid to loudly criticize capitalism and its greedy fallout. They drank too much, danced too wildly, spoke truth to power. They showed me that the borders of the world are not firm. We set them, ourselves, by our own daring.

Sal Paradise is our narrator. He is immensely likable as he plods through his life, looking for hope and good times, always lonely, never connecting fully with others.

Kerouac’s Sal helped to establish the idea of a dispassionate narrator. We see this kind of narrator in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. These narrators are never really involved in the action around them, nor do they judge or comment. They simply see what’s happening and tell us.

At the same time, Sal in this novel develops his own verve for the road and after meeting Dean, sets out to hitchhike across the country.

At one point, he spends several months with a Mexican woman who’s a migrant worker; he falls in love with her on a bus when she looks at him. This are some of the most meaningful moments in the novel, because they illustrate the great longing inside the book’s bravado.

There are so many others … Carlo Marx, Old Bull Lee, Marylou and the girlfriends.

We can’t forget, either, that Kerouac based these folks on his own experiences with Allen Ginsberg (Carlo), William Burroughs (Old Bull) and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty).

For me, that’s less important than the quality and achievement of the book.

AHEAD: Why the “Road” prose moves

2008-05-21 11:42:07 GMT

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