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‘A Baboon of Genius’: Nabokov talks ‘Lolita’ on Fifties TV
10.09.2012
12:55 pm

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Among other things, in recent weeks we have learned that, had Humbert Humbert – the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita moved to England, bagged a job with the BBC, and feigned (very much feigned) an interest in pop music… well, what a happy existence he could have led. I can almost picture the old dog presenting Top of the Pops (perhaps even wearing a track-suit and smoking an oversized cigar) surrounded by teenyboppers and smiling ear to ear.

As it was, Nabokov had in mind a more furtive and frustrating existence for his protagonist, who he describes here, in splendid 1950s CBS footage with Lionel Trilling, as a “baboon of genius.” Nabokov himself, shuffling his famous index cards (he insisted upon preparing his answers in advance, and reading them aloud), was in the midst of a very rich vein of form indeed, one that resulted not only in Lolita but also Pnin and Pale Fire. He is bright-eyed, ironical, eccentric, amusing and wholly indifferent to the kind of impression his controversial masterpiece (which has since sold more than fifty million copies) was making to 1950s America.
 

 
Part 2, after the jump…

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Jimmy Savile: ‘Stranger Danger’
10.09.2012
11:16 am

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You can’t judge a book by its cover.

This gives an idea how Jimmy Savile was once viewed by the British public - safe enough to look after your kids.

The above book Stranger Danger is available on Amazon, while a copy of the BBC’s child minder’s handbook has been sold on ebay. Which makes Savile’s years of alleged sexual abuse all the more horrifying.

The new Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle, apologized yesterday to all of the women who were allegedly abused by Savile:

“The women involved here have gone through something awful and something I deeply regret that they should have to go through and I would like to apologise on behalf of the organisation to each and every one of them for what they’ve had to endure here.”

Entwistle did not use the word “alleged” in his comment, which suggests Entwistle believes the evidence against Savile is comprehensive and damning. Entwistle added:

“When the police have finished everything they have to do and when they give me an assurance there is no danger of us in any way compromising or contaminating an investigation. I will take it further and make sure that any outstanding questions are answered properly.”

To give an idea of the horrendous scale of Savile’s alleged sexual abuse, the Metropolitan Police are currently pursuing 120 lines of enquiry.
 
jimmy_savile_children
 
With thanks to Tommy Udo.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Cook’s Story: An extract from the Journal of Katherine Mansfield, 1919
10.07.2012
04:29 pm

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Virginia Woolf was never sure of Katherine Mansfield. She thought she was a literary rival, someone to be wary of, not quite trusted, and never to be fooled by her appearance, especially those big brown eyes, the severe bangs in a line across her forehead, her school marmish uniform, or the way she sat crossed-legged and drank tea out of bowls. Mansfield frightened Virginia, and it was only after Katherine’s early death in 1923 (a hemorrhage caused by running up a flight of stairs), and the subsequent publication of her journal, did Woolf see that Katherine Mansfield wasn’t a rival but her own distinct and brilliant talent.

Mansfield’s journal contained a heartbreaking tales of hardship, poverty, and debilitating illness. Woolf was shocked that Katherine had achieved so much against such very terrible odds. Virginia noted in her own journal how she would think about Katherine for the rest of her days. She did more than that, Woolf was directly influenced by Mansfield’s Modernist short stories and tried her own hand at Modernism with Mrs Dalloway, To the LIghthouse, The Waves and Between the Acts.

Mansfield’s Journal contained many short notes, ideas, descriptions and oblique details of her life - situations were often ill-defined, people disguised by initials, and important events missing - she destroyed much. Originally, the Journal had been edited for publication by John Middleton Murry, her indifferent husband and part-time lover, who literally abandoned Mansfield at the time of her greatest need. It was for him that she ran up those fatal stairs. Murry was a selfish, ineffectual and weak man, who exploited others to maintain a fantasy of his own genius - his books are lifeless, poorly written and dull. Woolf saw through him, and this may have clouded her judgment on Mansfield.

That’s the unfortunate thing about relationships, too often individuals can be limned by their other half. Mansfield was fiesty, brilliantly intelligent, and a very real talent, compared to Murry’s straw man.

There is a story in the Journal which is heartbreaking, and sad. And though not really about Mansfield, it in part mirrors something about the worst parts of relationships. Where Katherine suffered Murry’s damning indifference and torturous infidelities, the Cook of this tale suffered in a more brutal way.

I want to share it, because I think we can often judge too quickly, and too harshly, without ever knowing how another lives.

The Cook.

The cook is evil. After lunch I trembled so that I had to lie down on the sommier - thinking about her. I meant - when she came up to see me - to say so much that she’d have to go. I waited, playing with the wild kitten. When she came, I said it all, and she said how sorry she was and agreed and apologised and quite understood. She stayed at the door, plucking at a d’oyley. “Well, I’ll see it doesn’t happen in future. I quite see what you mean.”

So the serpent slept between us. Oh! why won’t she turn and speak her mind. This pretence of being fond of me! I believe she thinks she is. There is something in what L.M. says: she is not consciously evil. She is a FOOL, of course. I have to do all the managing and all the explaining. I have to cook everything before she cooks it. I believe she thinks she is a treasure…no, wants to think it. At bottom she knows her corruptness. There are moments when it comes to the surface, comes out, like a stain, in her face. Then her eyes are like the eyes of a woman-prisoner - a creature looking up as you enter her cell and saying: ‘If you’d known what a hard life I’ve had you wouldn’t be surprised to see me here.’

[This appears again in the following form.]

Cook to See Me.

As I opened the door, I saw her sitting in the middle of the room, hunched, still…She got up, obedient, like a prisoner when you enter a cell. And her eyes said, as a prisoner’s eyes say, “Knowing the life I’ve had, I’m the last to be surprised at finding myself here.”

The Cook’s Story.

Her first husband was a pawnbroker. He learned his trade from her uncle, with whom she lived, and was more like her big brother than anything else from the age of thirteen. After he had married her they prospered. He made a perfect pet of her - they used to say. His sisters put it that he made a perfect fool of himself over her. When their children were fifteen and nine he urged his employers to take a man into their firm - a great friend of his - and persuaded them; really went security for this man. When she saw the man she went all over cold. She said, Mark me, you’ve not done right: no good will come of this. But he laughed it off. Time passed: the man proved a villain. When they came to take stock, they found all the stock was false: he’d sold everything. This preyed on her husband’s mind, went on preying, kept him up at night, made a changed man of him, he went mad as you might say over figures, worrying. One evening, sitting in the chair, very late, he died of a blood clot on the brain.

She was left. Her big boy was old enough to go out, but the little one was still not more than a baby: he was so nervous and delicate. The doctors had never let him go to school.

One day her brother-in-law came to see her and advised her to sell up her home and get some work. All that keeps you back, he said, is little Bert. Now, I’d advise you to place a certain sum with your solicitor for him and put him out - in the country. He said he’d take him. I did as he advised. But, funny! I never heard a word from the child after he’d gone. I used to ask why he didn’t write, and they said, when he can write a decent letter you shall have it - not before. That went on for twelvemonth, and I found afterwards he’d been writing all the time, grieving to be taken away. He’d done the most awful things - things I couldn’t find you a name for - he’d turned vicious - he was a little criminal! What his uncle said was I’d spoiled him, and he’d beaten him and half starved him and when he was frightened at night and screamed, he turned him out into the New Forest and made him sleep under the branches. My big boy went down to see him. Mother, he says, you wouldn’t know little Bert. He can’t speak. He won’t come near anybody. He starts off if you touch him; he’s like a wild beast. And, oh dear, the things he’d done! Well, you hear of people doing those things before they’re put in orphanages. But when I heard that and thought it was the same little baby his father used to carry into Regent’s Park bathed and dressed of a Sunday morning - well, I felt my religion was going from me.

I had a terrible time trying to get him into an orphanage. I begged for three months before they would take him. Then he was sent to Bisley. But after I’d been to see him there, in his funny clothes and all - I could see ‘is misery. I was in a nice place at the time, cook to a butcher in a large way in Kensington, but that poor child’s eyes - they used to follow me - and a sort of shivering that came over him when people went near.

Well, I had a friend that kept a boarding house in Kensington. I used to visit her, and a friend of hers, a big well-set-up fellow, quite the gentleman, an engineer who worked in a garage, came there very often. She used to joke and say he wanted to walk me out. I laughed it off till one day she was very serious. She said, You’re a very silly woman. He earns good money; he’d give you a home and you could have your little boy. Well, he was to speak to me next day and I made up my mind to listen. Well, he did, and he couldn’t have put it nicer. I can’t give you a house to start with, he said, but you shall have three good rooms and teh kid, and I’m earning good money and shall have more.

A week after, he come to me. I can’t give you any money this week, he says, there’s things to pay for from when I was single. But I daresay you’ve got a bit put by. And I was a fool, you know, I didn’t think it funny. Oh yes, I said, I’ll manage. Well, so it went on for three weeks. We’d arranged not to have little Bert for a month because , he said, he wanted me to himself, and he was so fond of him. A big fellow, he used to cling to me like a child and call me mother.

After three weeks was up I hadn’t a penny. I’d been taking my jewels and best clothes to put away to pay for him until he was straight. But one night I said, Where’s my money? He just up and gave me such a smack in the face I thought my head would burst. And that began it. Every time I asked for money he beat me. As I said, I was very religious at the time, used to wear a crucifix under my clothes and couldn’t go to bed without kneeling by the side and saying my prayers - no, not even the first week of my marriage. Well, I went to a clergyman and told him everything and he said, My child, he said, i am very sorry for you, but with God’s help, he said, it’s your duty to make him a better man. You say your first husband was so good. Well, perhaps God has kept this trial for you until now. I went home - and that very night he tore my crucifix off and hit me on the head when I knelt down. He said he wouldn’t have me say my prayers; it made him wild. I had a little dog at the time I was very fond of, and he used to pick it up and shout, I’ll teech it to say its prayers, and beat it before my eyes - until - well, such was the man he was.

Then one night he came in the worse for drink and fouled the bed. I couldn’t stand it. I began to cry. he gave me a hit on the ear and I feel down, striking my head on the fender. When I came to, he was gone. I ran out into the street just as I was - I ran as fast as I could, not knowing where I was going—just dazed—my nerves were gone. And a lady found me and took me to her home and I was there three weeks. And after that I never went back. I never even told my people. I found work, and not till months after I went to see my sister. Good gracious! she says, we all thought you were murdered! And I never see him since…

Those were dreadful times. I was so ill, I could scarcely hardly work and of course I couldn’t get my little boy out. He had grown up in it. And so I hard to start all over again. I had nothing of his, nothing of mine. I lost it all except my marriage lines. Somehow I remembered them just as I was running out that night and put them in my boddy - sort of an instinct as you might say.

An edited version of Journal of Katherine Mansfield is available here, and her brilliant Collected Short Stories are available here and here. A documentary on Katherine Mansfield’s life can be viewed here.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Death is like a box of chocolates: Debbie Harry on lurid 1971 book cover
10.02.2012
01:02 pm

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Debbie Harry modeled for the paperback book cover of this 1971 reissue of Scottish author Josephine Tey’s 1949 mystery novel, The Franchise Affair.

Via Kenneth in the 212

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Richard Brautigan’s ‘Please Plant This Book’
10.01.2012
04:27 pm

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In the Spring of 1968, Richard Brautigan published Please Plant This Book. The book was actually a folder that contained eight packets of seeds for planting. On each packet was a poem.
 

 

I wonder how many seeds took root in 1968
I wonder how many became gardens
And I wonder how many people sat in those gardens
Reading books by Brautigan

Richard, you’re a poet
How do I know it?
It’s easy
Every time you open your mouth
Flowers fall out

 

 

 
Photo of Richard Brautigan by Bob Seidemann for San Francisco Express Times via Babylon Falling.

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A new book and video from Neil Young
09.25.2012
11:39 am

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Here’s the new video for “Walk Like A Giant” from Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s upcoming album Psychedelic Pill, which will be released on November 30. The tune is a sixteen minute epic on the album so this video is a pretty radical edit.

I am reading Young’s memoirs Waging Heavy Peace. The book is very much like Young’s longer songs. It loops and arcs and sails around a lot, like an eagle soaring through time. It speaks as intimately as a diary or journal, a confessional or one-on-one conversation. For folks who just want the inside skinny on Young’s life as a rock ‘n’ roller, the book may be a bit frustrating . This isn’t full of juicy bits like Keith Richards’ memoir. Young seems less engaged with the life he lived as he is with the life he’s living and the evolution of his consciousness. While the book covers Young’s roots with Buffalo Springfield and Crazy Horse and he shares the anecdotal stuff we want rockers to share, Young is mostly in a philosophic frame of mind and fixes his eye on the bigger picture of how to live a decent life as a human being, a citizen of the world, an artist, father and husband. If that sounds like it might be dull, it’s not. Whenever the book gets a bit sluggish, Young “reboots” the mother fucker, jumps the track and finds a new obsession with which to engage us - stuff like digital recording, vinyl, the future of music and his Herculean struggle to get sober after years of drinking and pot smoking.

Young calls Waging Heavy Peace a “a hippie dream.” The book does have a loosey goosey hippie vibe while hewing to the way life works: a series of awakenings and dreams.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Christopher Lee: A brief history of ‘Dracula’ from book to film
09.22.2012
05:12 pm

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Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula has never been out-of-print, since it was first published in 1897.

Stoker spent 7 years researching vampire tales from European folklore, including some of the myths and history surrounding Vlad Tepes Dracul, the infamous Prince of of Wallachia, who impaled his enemies on stakes and allegedly drank their blood.

As for the character of Dracula, Stoker captured much of his friend, the actor Henry Irving, in his description of the Count. Later, it was thought Irving would make the perfect stage Dracula, but when asked to read an extract form the book, Irving pronounced it, “Dreadful!”

Since then, there have been many great actors who have portrayed the Count, most notably Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman and Louis Jourdan - who made a memorble TV version back in the 1970s.

Dracula is the most portrayed literary character on film, with 272 films, as of May 2012. The closest rival is Sherlock Holmes with 254 films.

Christopher Lee regarded the character of Dracula as “heroic, romantic, erotic. Irresistible to women. Unstoppable by men.” When cast as the vampire, Lee “played him as a malevolent hero.”

“I decided to play him as a man of immense dignity, immense strength, immense power, immense brain…he’s a kind of a superman really.”

Dracula, and vampires, are re-interpreted by every generation. These days, the vampire is a hormonal bad boy who wants a suburban life. But when I was child, I used to ponder: can vampires lose their fangs? And if they did, what happened?

To which I responded (in my best Bela Lugosi):

‘It is often believed that a vampire cannot lose his or her fangs, but I can assure you vampires can, and often do, lose their fangs.

‘The loss of such essential teeth leads the vampire to use various utensils to start the flow of blood: a knife, a cutthroat razor, a bottle opener. Unfortunately, this means the death of the victim, which is generally to be avoided, as the last thing a vampire wants is to attract any unnecessary attention.

‘Such toothless vampires are messy eaters, and are rarely invited to dinner parties, as they waste more than they can drink.

‘Another misconception about us nightwalkers is our fear of garlic. We love garlic – well, most of us do – as it adds flavor to our diet. This is quite understandable when you consider our native homeland is Transylvania, where the local diet is rich in garlic that infuses the blood with a very delicious tang. It also purifies, lowers cholesterol and aids digestion.

‘It is a commonly held superstition that vampires are terrified of the crucifix. Well, while some vampires are Christian and some Jewish, most are agnostic. This is because we are the living dead, or undead. We are the creatures of the night, the residents of limbo, who have not quite died and have not gone to wherever-it-may-be. If at all. We therefore find it hard to believe in an after-life, unless it is this one. Which I suppose means, we are more like Jehovah’s Witnesses.

‘You may be surprise to hear that vampires do date and have various courtship rituals, just like you day-walkers. I can still recall my first date with my dear wife – we dined out on some winos, and got pleasantly drunk. As you can imagine, my future father-in-law was not best pleased when I returned his tipsy, giggling daughter back to their crypt.

‘And let me be clear, once and for all – no we cannot turn into giant bats, dogs or any sort of ethereal mists. Which is a pity, I know. No, sadly, we have to get around on foot or by car. In fact, it was another creation of the industrial revolution, trains that allowed vampires to move away from our overcrowded homeland.

‘As for sleeping in coffins, there is much conjecture about this. Some vampire historians believe we may have slept in coffins, mainly to escape detection. Remember it would have been rather strange in the olden days to get up at night and sleep during the day. Therefore, sleeping in a graveyard became the ideal place to hide out.

‘Or, perhaps, living and sleeping in a coffin is much cheaper than maintaining a house, a castle or a condo on the upper-eastside.

‘Yes, daylight is bad for us, just as it can be for you – it gives us skin cancer, something we are highly susceptible to, as our flesh is undead and has no elasticity or protection from the sun’s harmful rays. But, thanks again to changes in society, we have been able to find work as night watchmen, town criers, long distance lorry drivers, sewer workers, or just generally the night shift workers, who stack shelves or keep garages open, you know the sort. These days, most of us are in IT, where we can work to our own flexi hours.

‘As soon as we started working we made money. And as we made money, we found that we were buying houses, moving into nice neighborhoods, raising our families.

‘Oh yes, we do have families with all that this entails. We start junior off on mother’s blood before weaning them onto small insects, rodents, then medium sized animals.

‘And as for drinking blood, well it is the world’s fast food, a kind-of McDonald’s. Just as easy to pick up, but more filling, and nutritious, and there’s always plenty of it to go round. What amazes vampires is why humans waste so much of it – murder, suicide-bombers, muggings, knifings, gunshots, slaughterhouses, funeral homes, and war.

‘Of course, our kids do all the rebellious - feasting on winos blood, or sucking on a junkie to get high.

‘As for disease, we try to be careful about this, as too often you can catch a dose from some late night snack. That’s why we tend to stick to nice, clean, straight people, middle class people, who go to church, say their prayers, look after their health and work hard for a living. And yes, stakes can kill us. As can silver bullets, regular bullets, knives, and lots of other things too. That’s because we are not, as you say, immortal, we are the Undead.

‘We live to about one-hundred-and fifty or two hundred years of age, but that’s only because our metabolism is slower than yours. Our heartbeats approximately at one beat an hour. As for reflections – you can see us, we’re physical after all not ethereal.

‘So, how can you recognize a vampire?

‘We look like you. A bit pale, maybe. A bit more lethargic. The best way to recognize us is to look out of your window tonight, some time long after dark, and just see how many people are up and about. You can take my word for it, that at least one in ten or one in twenty of the people you can see is a vampire.

‘And don’t be fooled, not all of them have fangs - some of them wear dentures.’

A fine selection of false teeth are on display here, in this short video history of Dracula. Presented by Christopher Lee, who tells Dracula‘s history from novel, to the first theatrical productions and on to the Count’s life on film. With contributions from Bela Lugosi jnr, Peter Cushing, Jimmy Sangster, Freddie Francis and Caroline Munro.
 

 

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For Your Consideration: Mr. Rod Serling
09.19.2012
05:27 pm

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Years ago a friend wrote me a story about how we all started talking but in doing so, stopped listening to each other. It was a short and simple story, adapted I believe from its Aboriginal origins, that also explained how our ears developed their peculiar, conch-like shape.

Like all the best tales, it began: Once upon a time, in a land not-so-very-far-away, we were all connected to each other by a long umbilical loop that went ear-to-ear-to-ear-to-ear. This connection meant we could hear what each of us was thinking, and we could share our secrets, hopes and fears together at once

Then one day and for a whole lot of different reasons, these connections were broken, and the long umbilical loops dropped away, withered back, and creased into the folds of our ears. That’s how our ears got their shape. They are the one reminder of how we were once all connected to each other.

It was the idea of connection - only connect, said playwright Dennis Potter, by way of E. M. Forster, when explaining the function of all good television. A difficult enough thing, but we try. It’s what the best art does - tells a story, says something.

It’s what Rod Serling did. He made TV shows that have lived and grown with generations of viewers. Few can not have been moved to a sense of thrilling by the tinkling opening notes of The Twilight Zone. The music still fills me with that excitement I felt as a child, hopeful for thrills, entertainment and something a little stronger to mull upon, long after the credits rolled.

Serling was exceptional, and his writing brought a whole new approach to telling tales on television that connected the audience one-to-the-other. This documentary on Serling, starts like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and goes on to examine Serling’s life through the many series and dramas he wrote for TV and radio, revealing how much of his subject matter came from his own personal experience, views and politics. As Serling once remarked he was able to discuss controversial issues through science-fiction:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

His work influenced other shows (notably Star Trek), and although there were problems, due to the demands of advertisers, Serling kept faith with TV in the hope it could connect with its audience - educate, entertain and help improve the quality of life, through a shared ideals.

As writer Serling slowly “succumbed” to his art:

‘Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn’t embrace it, I succumbed to it. In the beginning, there was a period of about 8 months when nothing happened. My diet consisted chiefly of black coffee and fingernails. I collected forty rejection slips in a row. On a writer’s way up, he meets a lot of people and in some rare cases there’s a person along the way, who happens to be around just when they’re needed. Perhaps just a moment of professional advice, or a boost to the ego when it’s been bent, cracked and pushed into the ground. Blanche Gaines was that person for me. I signed with her agency in 1950. Blanche kept me on a year, before I made my first sale. The sale came with trumpets and cheers. I don’t think that feeling will ever come again. The first sale - that’s the one that comes with magic.’

Like Richard Matheson, Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Serling is a hero who offered up the possible, for our consideration.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
That Old Black Magic: Stan Lee duets with Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy
09.19.2012
12:26 pm

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Stan Lee and Peter Murphy
 
Well, sort of…

And while one may be tempted to criticize Lee’s artistic interpretations of jazz standards, you do have to admire his spryness. He’s still incredibly involved in the community (this video was taken at Comikazi, a comic, sci-fi, and fantasy convention), and he’s never stopped working.

Lee’s Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year by Year Visual History is slated for release October first. Not bad for an 89-year-old!
 

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‘On the Road’: Jack Kerouac’s letter to his editor Malcolm Cowley goes on display
09.18.2012
09:43 am

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Jack Kerouac wrote to his editor Malcolm Cowley, prior to the publication of On the Road.

Dear Mr Cowley

Only today April 19th got your month-old letter about why you couldn’t wait. Had just sent you a postcard saying BOO! - Please send the list of recommendations and I will start on it (the Denver section etc.) This address is a shack - I wanta bring my mother to California, I hope we can publish On the Road at last. - I’ve got all this time at last. - I’ve got all this time now to do the work, in this shack, till June when I’ll be completely out of touch 2 months in wilderness lookout job…so would appreciate speed.

As ever

Jack

p.s How’d you like GERARD?

BOO!

Jack

After years of struggling to find a publisher, Kerouac was keen to have On the Road published as quickly as possible. But he was also concerned over Cowley’s revisions and corrections to his long type-written manuscript, as he later explained in an interview for the Paris Review:

...All my editors since Malcolm Cowley have had instructions to leave my prose exactly as I wrote it. In the days of Malcolm Cowley, with On the Road and The Dharma Bums, I had no power to stand by my style for better or for worse. When Malcolm Cowley made endless revisions and inserted thousands of needless commas like, say, “Cheyenne, Wyoming” (why not just say “Cheyenne Wyoming” and let it go at that, for instance), why, I spent five hundred dollars making the complete restitution of the Bums manuscript and got a bill from Viking Press called “Revisions.”...

Kerouac’s letter is on display at The Newberry, in Chicago, until December 31st, which is celebrating 125 years as a “Research institution and center for the humanities”. Other items on show include the original printed (and never-bound) instantiation of Voltaire’s Candide; correspondence from a slave husband to his free wife; Joseph Whitehouse’s journal from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. More details here.
 
kerouac_cowley_letter_newberry
 
Via The Newberry
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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