Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I'm working on a new project at work that will redefine summer madness with its crazy schedule, but the content is really interesting so I remain optimistic! In yesterday's readings, I discovered a little bio Jack Kerouac wrote in his intro to Lonesome Traveler (Kerouac, Jack. Lonesome Traveler. New York: Grove Press, 1988, pp. # iv-vi.). Here is my favorite excerpt:

Had beautiful childhood, my father a printer in Lowell, Mass., roamed fields and riverbanks day and night, wrote little novels in my room, first novel written at age 11, also kept extensive diaries and “newspapers” covering my own-invented horseracing and baseball and football worlds (as recorded in novel Doctor Sax). – Had good early education from Jesuit brothers at St. Joseph’s Parochial School in Lowell making me jump sixth grade in public school later on; as child traveled to Montreal, Quebec, with family; was given a horse at age 11 by mayor of Lawrence (Mass.), Billy White, gave rides to all kids in neighborhood; horse ran away. Took long walks under old trees of New England at night with my mother and aunt. Listened to their gossip attentively. Decided to become a writer at age 17 under influence of Sebastian Sampas, local young poet who later died on Anzio beach head; read the life of Jack London at 18 and decided to also be an adventurer, a lonesome traveler; early literary influences Saroyan and Hemingway; later Wolfe (after I had broken a leg in Freshman football at Columbia read Tom Wolfe and roamed his New York on crutches). – Influenced by older brother Gerard Kerouac who died at age 9 in 1926 when I was 4, was great painter and drawer in childhood (he was) – (also said to be a saint by the nuns) – (recorded in forthcoming novel Visions of Gerard). – My father was completely honest man full of gaiety; soured in last years over Roosevelt and World War II and died of cancer of the spleen. – Mother still living, I live with her a kind of monastic life that has enabled me to write as much as I did. – But also wrote on the road, as hobo, railroader, Mexican exile, Europe travel (as shown in Lonesome Traveler). – One sister, Caroline, now married to Paul E. Blake Jr. of Henderson N.C., a government anti-missile technician – she has one son, Paul Jr., my nephew, who calls me Uncle Jack and loves me. – My mother’s name Gabrielle, learned all about natural story-telling from her long stories about Montreal and New Hampshire. – My people go back to Breton France, first North American ancestor Baron Alexandre Louis Lebris de Kérouac of Cornwall, Brittany, 1750 or so, was granted land along the Rivière du Loup after victory of Wolfe over Montcalm; his descendants married Indians (Mohawk and Caughnawaga) and became potato farmers; first United States descendant my grandfather Jean-Baptiste Kérouac, carpenter, Nashua N.H. – My father’s mother a Bernier related to explorer Bernier – all Bretons my father’s side – My mother has a Norman name, L’Evesque. – First formal novel The Town and the City written in tradition of long work and revision, from 1946 to 1948, three years, published by Harcourt brace in 1950. – Then discovered “spontaneous” prose and wrote, say, The Subterraneans in 3 nights – wrote On the Road in 3 weeks –
Read and studied alone all my life. – Set a record at Columbia College cutting classes in order to stay in dormitory room to write a daily play and read, say, Louis Ferdinand Céline, instead of “classics” of the course. – Had own mind. – Am known as “madman bum and angel” with “naked endless head” of “prose.” – Also a verse poet, Mexico City Blues (Grove, 1959). – Always considered writing with my duty on earth. Also the preachment of universal kindness, which hysterical critics have failed to notice beneath frenetic activity of my true-story novels about the “beat” generation. – Am actually not “beat” but strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic… Final plans: hermitage in the woods, quiet writing of old age, mellow hopes of Paradise (which comes to everybody anyway)…

 I think it would be an interesting experiment to write your own biography in this format. I like how he starts at the beginning, goes all the way back to the beginning of "his people," touches on the current, then college, then back to future. I'm actually not a huge Kerouac fan the way his "fans" are but I appreciate the honesty (and the stuccato'ed brevity of each sentence) in this experiment. In the frenetic novels, there are some great jewels of lines, like this one: “I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” At this stage in my life, trying to at least run toward the right one, I could not agree more. (I think it is from Dharma Bums but correct me if I am wrong). What do you all think; could you write a bio in 600 (618 to be precise) words? One thing is for sure, when I write my own, I could not as perfectly summarize my "final plans" as well as Kerouac did here. Happy Wednesday! xN

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