Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On the Road at 50

While the papers have been full of articles rehashing On The Road in recent weeks in commemoration of the novel's 50th anniversary, I particularly enjoyed a recent conversation published in Slate. A few pull-quotes:

Meghan O'Rourke:

"The radical innovation—and I do think it was radical, however flawed the book itself may be—was that the story doesn't end when Sal Paradise gets to San Francisco, or even when he gets back to New Jersey to his aunt's house. It just keeps on going—as he crisscrosses the continent time and again, watching his peers fall apart (Remi Boncouer) or get married, divorced, and remarried (Dean Moriarty) all while witnessing in himself the growth of something that can't be altered, some hunger that, it becomes apparent, will not be appeased."

Walter Kirn

"I mourn the idea that America could be healed not through the calibration and adjustment of competing interests and group identities—through lobbying, lawyering, and legislating—but through participation in a great ecstasy. (One modeled, perhaps, on the compassionate mania of On the Road's Dean Moriarty, 'who not only understood but cared and wanted to understand more and much more than there was … ')"

Meghan O'Rourke

"In fact, when I was very young I used to pull my parents' paperback copy off the bookshelf to look at the cover, because I found it comforting. It was a photo of two bearded guys, who vaguely resembled my dad, in front of a beat-up car, which resembled the one we owned (ours wouldn't go into reverse). I thought in some vague way that it had been written by a friend of theirs."

Walter Kirn:

"That 'God is pooh bear' nonsense in the novel's closing rhapsody is as ugly a pimple on the ass as can be found in a famous American book..."

Walter Kirn again:

"Kerouac's cross-country adventures were an effort to mingle with those who lived these principles, these pre-Constitution mandates of the spirit, and to learn to live them more perfectly himself from whomever seemed able to teach him, be he Dean Moriarty, the motormouth con man, some perspiring black horn player in San Francisco, some shy young cutie on a bus, or the Mexican California field workers whose sense of this continent where we all abide—composed of soil and rock and water, made habitable through toil, surrounded by oceans, spanned by roads, and watched over (one would like to hope) by gods—was neither American nor un-American but broader and older than those tiny notions and—Kerouac knew—more likely to endure.

Endurance—not excitement, not kicks, not thrills (which are merely flashes of the deep energies that make endurance possible)—was Kerouac's great theme as a writer."

The full letter exchange can be found here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Robert Frank wins lifetime achievement award in Spain

Photographer Robert Frank received a lifetime achievement award from Photo Espana last month. The Associated Press reports: "Swiss-born Frank, 82, is best-known for his chronicling of class divisions and racism in the United States. He influenced several Beat Generation writers including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

'Factotum' to be released on DVD

Factotum, based on the novel by Charles Bukowski and recast in Minnesota, is scheduled to be released on DVD April 3. The film starts Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Lou Reed's Naked Lunch

"I first read it in college. A huge door opened in American letters, with Burroughs' subject matter and sense of humour and juxtaposition of images. It was a savaging of right-wing, straight-laced, average America. I don't think anyone could read it, and take that stuff seriously again."
-Lou Reed, commenting on William Burroughs' Naked Lunch

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Darwin Awards

According to the gossip pages in San Francisco, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Winona Ryder will soon be in a movie together.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

In Memoriam: Donald Allen

Donald M. Allen, editor of the landmark Beat era anthology The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, passed away Aug. 29. Allen also served as the editor for Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues.

When not editing poetry, Allen was engaged in a variety of other activities, including publishing (works by Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, etc.) and teaching English in China.

"He was very proud of his World War II service," friend Michael Williams told the San Francisco Chronicle. "He served in the Pacific as a translator of Japanese documents. After the surrender of Japan, he went to London and served as the naval attache to the American Embassy. He received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service."

Somewhere, Allen and Gregory Corso are hitchhiking in heaven.

Kerouac's journals

Jack Kerouac's journals from his crucial 1947-1954 "On The Road" years have been published by Viking Press.

Windblown World, the anthology, was compiled and edited by New Orleans Beat historian and John Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley.

A Publisher's Weekly review states:

"Much of Kerouac's reputation rests on his first two novels, and these selections from a series of spiral notebooks into which the fledgling author constantly poured story ideas and private thoughts offer an intimate perspective on those novels' development. Anybody who's ever started a novel will grasp Kerouac's obsession with his daily word count and the periodic frustration and self-doubt...

[T]here's plenty of the familiar Kerouac on hand: all-night drunken conversations with other Beat writers, casual sexual encounters and a final notebook entitled "Rain and Rivers," filled with real-life episodes in an early version of the freewheeling style that transformed Kerouac from a promising young novelist to a literary legend."

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Rumors are floating in some Hollywood rags (and we mean rags) that pretty boys Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio are planning a movie version of On The Road. Having seen the counterculture dragged through a whole series of forgettable movie adaptations (including Naked Lunch, Barfly, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and whatever that awful picture with Nick Nolte was), we at All About The Beats cannot voice much excitement about this new endeavor. If it's like any of the previous pictures mentioned above, expect plenty of oddball psychedelic tricks, a lot of drunken ramblings and object smashing, and little resemblance to the original novel.