Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jack's Back

The small package in my mailbox yesterday held a welcome surprise, a brand new volume from the Library of America--The Unknown Kerouac: Rare, Unpublished & Newly Translated Writings--no reprint this time, but a 450-page original collection that expands available Kerouac handily by dint of a mixture of quickie two- or three- page mini-essays, longer unpublished letters and journal excerpts, lifts from earlier drafts of On the Road, a cogent interview with friend John Clellon Holmes, plus The Night Is My Woman and Old Bull in the Bowery, two fiction novellas written originally in Quebecker French.

I'm a hundred pages into The Unknown already, fascinated by the unbridled flow of Jack's prose; it's not all essential of course, but the volume and variety can't be denied. (One timely aspect is the insistence by editor Todd Tietchen and translator Jean-Christophe Cloutier that Kerouac was acutely, painfully, aware of being treated as an unwelcome refugee, for speaking and occasionally writing a demotic version of French. Like the Cajuns who moved to Louisiana, the 900,000 French Canadians who migrated to New England had a hard time of it.)

And this gives me an excuse to call the reader's attention to my earlier posts on Jack. Together they cover most of the Kerouac items issued in the past 45 years. You might read them in this order:

1) Good Beat
2) Always Beat 2
3) Jack: The Crack Up

Jack and his pals and the many he influenced, past and present... the Beats go on.

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