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That time Gore Vidal porked Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, 1953
“What did you and Jack do?” Allen Ginsberg asked Gore Vidal one cold January night in 1994.

“Well, I fucked him,” Vidal was pleased to reply. On the night of August 23, 1953, the two men of letters had banged one out in a Chelsea Hotel room following a Greenwich Village bar crawl. Kerouac published a fictionalized account of the assignation in The Subterraneans but, aside from a morning-after moment of “horrible recognition,” he left out the sex. Vidal was annoyed, and said so:

I challenged Jack. “Why did you, the tell-it-all-like-it-is writer, tell everything about that evening with Burroughs and me and then go leave out what happened when we went to bed?”

“I forgot,” he said. The once startlingly clear blue eyes were now bloodshot.

Palimpsest, the first of Gore Vidal’s two memoirs, fills in the lacuna with a detailed record of the evening’s events. It began with William S. Burroughs. Kerouac and Vidal had met before, and in a 1952 letter to Kerouac, Burroughs expressed interest in meeting the author of The Judgment of Paris:

Is Gore Vidal queer or not? Judging from the picture of him that adorns his latest opus I would be interested to make his acquaintance. Always glad to meet a literary gent in any case, and if the man of letters is young and pretty and possibly available my interest understandably increases.


Gore Vidal on the back cover of The Judgment of Paris, 1952
The three writers met at the San Remo bar the following year, after Burroughs’ return from Mexico. Kerouac, Vidal writes, “was manic. Sea captain’s hat. T-shirt. Like Marlon Brando in Streetcar.” Burroughs asked about a Turkish bath in Rome that Vidal had described in The Judgment of Paris. They moved on to Tony Pastor’s, a lesbian bar; afterwards, Kerouac swung around a lamppost out front, “a Tarzan routine that caused Burroughs to leave us in disgust.” Vidal was ready to go back to his father’s apartment uptown, but Kerouac had a different notion:

“Let’s get a room around here.” The first law of sex is never go to bed with someone drunk. Corollary to this universal maxim was my own fetish–never to have sex with anyone older. I was twenty-eight. Jack was thirty-one. Five years earlier, when we first met, I would have overruled the difference, but I had also arbitrarily convinced myself that Conrad’s “shadow line” extended to sex: So from the age of thirty on, a man or woman was, for my purposes, already a corpse–not that I ever had much on my mind when it came to sex with men. In my anonymous encounters, I was what used to be called trade. I did nothing–deliberately, at least–to please the other. When I became too old for these attentions from the young, I paid, gladly, thus relieving myself of having to please anyone in any way. But now here I was stuck with Jack, who had certainly once attracted me at the Metropolitan when that drop of clear water slid down his cheek. Now there was real sweat. I stared at him. We were the same height and general build. With some misgiving, I crossed the shadow line.

At the nearby Chelsea Hotel, each signed his real name. Grandly, I told the bemused clerk that this register would become famous. I’ve often wondered what did happen to it. Has anyone torn out our page? Or is it still hidden away in the dusty Chelsea files? Lust to one side, we both thought, even then (this was before On the Road), that we owed it to literary history to couple.

I remember that the bathroom was near the entrance to a large double room. There was no window shade, so a red neon light flickering on and off gave a rosy glow to the room and its contents. Jack was now in a manic mood: We must take a shower together. To my surprise, he was circumcised. [...]

Where Anaïs and I were incompatible–chicken hawk meets chicken hawk–Jack and I were an even more unlikely pairing–classic trade meets classic trade, and who will do what?


Gore Vidal, 1948

“Jack was rather proud of the fact that he blew you.” Allen sounded a bit sad as we assembled our common memories over tea in the Hollywood Hills. I said that I had heard Jack had announced this momentous feat to the entire clientele of the San Remo bar, to the consternation of one of the customers, an advertising man for Westinghouse, the firm that paid for the program Studio One, where I had only just begun to make a living as a television playwright. “I don’t think,” said the nervous advertiser, “that this is such a good advertisement for you, not to mention Westinghouse.” As On the Road would not be published until 1957, he had no idea who Jack was.

Thanks to Allen’s certainty of what Jack had told him, I finally recall the blow job–a pro forma affair, which I put a quick stop to. At what might nicely be called loose ends, we rubbed bellies for a while; later he would publish a poem dedicated to me: “Didn’t know I was a great come-onner, did you? (come-on-er).” I was not particularly touched by this belated Valentine, considering that I finally flipped him over on his stomach, not an easy job as he was much heavier than I [...]

Jack raised his head from the pillow to look at me over his left shoulder; off to our left the rosy neon from the window gave the room a mildly infernal glow. He stared at me a moment–I see this part very clearly now, forehead half covered with sweaty dark curls–then he sighed as his head dropped back onto the pillow. There are other published versions of this encounter: in one, Jack says that he spent the night in the bathroom. On the floor? There was a shower but no tub. In another, he was impotent. But the potency of other males is, for me, a turnoff. What I have reported is all there was to it, except that I liked the way he smelled.

Alas, there is no sex tape, but you can watch part one of the fascinating Omnibus profile of Vidal below (part two here).



Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Jack Kerouac talks ‘Dharma Bums’ with Hollywood legend Ben Hecht
09:41 am


Jack Kerouac
Ben Hecht

October 1958: Jack Kerouac appears on The Ben Hecht Show to discuss the Beat Generation and his latest novel Dharma Bums. Kerouac was still riding high on the first wave of success that came with the publication of On the Road in 1957, and then its follow-up The Subterraneans the following year. Now he was beginning to reap some of the rewards brought by all those long years of hard work and toil, traveling America, honing his writing to a “spontaneous prose,” where first thought was best thought—though this disguised the rewriting involved in being “spontaneous.”

As for Ben Hecht, well he was a famous journalist, author, playwright and screenwriter whose contributions to cinema earned him the nickname “Mr. Hollywood.” Between 1927 and 1964, Hecht wrote or contributed to over 150 movies—often uncredited. While some may not know the name, Hecht’s work is instantly recognizable in such classics as Hitchcock’s Notorious, Spellbound, Rope, Foreign Correspondent and The Paradine Case; or such other gems as the original Scarface with Paul Muni, or Gone With the Wind, or Stagecoach or The Front Page. Hecht was a prolific screenwriter though he thought of Hollywood as a 9-5 job rather than his career. However, he did win considerable praise and acclaim for his film work—being nominated for five Oscars, winning two, and credited with being the first writer to bring powerful and realistic dialog to the screen.
‘The Dharma Bums’ meets dapper Mr. Hecht.
Hecht had started off as a war reporter in Berlin before returning to Chicago as a crime reporter, where he mixed with the lowlifes and hustlers and learnt the language of street—this, of course, he later used to inform his screenplays. Kerouac had similarly lived the low life and learnt the lingo, and one would think this connection would have brought the two writers together, but in his interview Hecht is condescending, almost dismissing Kerouac and the Beats as the latest supermarket fashion rather than a serious literary movement.

Hecht opens with a question on the naming of the Beat Generation, before quizzing Kerouac about his philosophy being a mixture of “Catholicism and gin,” wanting to know in what proportions? Jack is stumped by the question. “G-I-N? Gin?...” he asks, before adding, “I don’t understand your question.” This is where the interview turns into an an awkward dance with both wanting to lead. Hecht asks about Kerouac’s politics (was he a Republican? No, but he liked Eisenhower) and did he believe in the Devil (again a no, as the Devil had been defeated) and what about God? and so on, and so forth. Hecht’s problem is he does not wait or listen long enough to allow Kerouac to give any insight or substance to his answers, preferring to keep the questions moving onwards to some unidentifiable conclusion that is never ultimately reached.

Kerouac sounds bemused and comes off the better of the two. While Hecht (sadly) sounds like a crusty square looking to ridicule the “Drama” bums—as he mistakenly calls them.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Home movies of the Beats: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Mary Frank and a gaggle of kids
05:24 pm


Allen Ginsberg
Jack Kerouac
Lucien Carr
Mary Frank

Shot from ‘Pull My Daisy’
This intimate 1959 footage of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and his wife Francesca (with their three sons, Simon, Caleb and Ethan), and artist Mary Frank (and her children Pablo and Andrea) is fascinating for a couple of reasons. First of all, there’s just something captivating about seeing so many legends (especially the incredibly underrated Mary Frank) in such a domestic setting. You’d expect to see them drinking at the Harmony Bar in the East Village, you just don’t picture Kerouac with a kid on his lap while they do it. It’s hardly the louche atmosphere associated with the Beats.

Secondly, if I had to guess, I’d say this footage was probably taken by The Americans photographer Robert Frank—Mary Frank’s husband. I say this partially due to Mary’s presence, and partially because the crew’s amazing short film, Pull My Daisy was made the same year, directed by Robert Frank. You can a see similar stylistic approach in the filming, but unlike Pull My Daisy, the mood is totally organic, warm and endearing.

Via The Wallbreakers

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Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ turned into an illustrated scroll
09:09 am


Jack Kerouac
Paul Rogers

Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road is currently being turned into a beautifully illustrated scroll by artist Paul Rogers.

Rogers is drawing one illustration for each page of the book, producing the work on one long scroll, just as Kerouac wrote his famous novel on one scroll of teletype paper—though he did it in “three coffee-soaked-benzedrine-fueled days.” .

A member of faculty at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Rogers has painstakingly researched “cars, buses, roadside architecture, and old signs” to insure his drawings match Kerouac’s America of the late Forties and early Fifties.
Rogers has also added extracts from Kerouac’s text which he hopes “makes the series feel like a journal and not a carefully planned out illustrated book, and it seems to capture some of the spirit of Kerouac’s ‘this-happened-then-this-then-this’ writing style.”

You can scroll through Paul Rogers’ illustrated version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road here.
Via Open Culture

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac’s brilliant 1959 short, ‘Pull My Daisy’
01:19 pm


Jack Kerouac
beat poets


”What is holy? Is baseball holy? Is a cockroach holy? Holy, holy!”

Whether you’re a Beat Generation expert, an On the Road dilettante, or have no idea of what I’m talking about, you should watch Pull My Daisy. It was written and narrated by Jack Kerouac, directed by The Americans photographer Robert Frank and Abstract Expressionist painter Alfred Leslie and it stars Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. Even the smaller parts are played by notable artists, musicians, and actors but it’s not just the “who’s who” cast that makes it an iconic Beat film. The storytelling is funny and full of vitality.

The plot is simple—a railway brakeman’s wife invites a bishop to dinner, the brakeman’s bohemian poet friends show up and chaos ensues. Slackers gonna slack.

For nearly ten years, the film was assumed to be totally improvised—the Beats’ emphasis on extemporaneous art seemed to suggest as much, plus the film looks and feels ad-libbed. In 1968 co-director Alfred Leslie told The Village Voice that it was actually painstakingly coordinated, with thorough rehearsal, hands-on direction and a professionally lit studio. Only Kerouac’s narration was off-the-cuff (and it was likely still edited). The fact that audiences assumed the entire film to be impromptu speaks to the quality of Pull My Daisy, a film that feels like it captures something raw and truly organic.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Young Hunter S. Thompson slams ‘empty head’ Jack Kerouac in 1958 letter
01:11 pm


Hunter S. Thompson
Jack Kerouac

Via Letter of Note’s Shaun Usher on Twitter:


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Feminist backlash against The Beat Generation: Cool, finger-poppin’ daddies or misogynist jerks?

I first noticed a backlash against the Beats when it was announced a few years ago that Walter Salles was making a film of Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road, with Kristen Stewart cast as Marylou, Sam Riley as Sal Paradise, Garrett Hudlund as Dean Moriarty, and Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee.

You expect to hear negative comments from aging conservative academics in English departments or that weird PhD candidate from the East Coast who supposedly had an “influential” zine once but hated every writer who didn’t sound exactly like William Faulkner.

But this round of anti-Beat Generation comments was coming from much younger people posting on non-academic literary forums, and not just 4Chan’s /lit/ board.

I visited Kerouac’s entire On The Road scroll, purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $2.5 million in 2001, displayed in its entirety, on a day when a fourth grade public school class was on a field trip to the same museum. I had seen the scroll previously when it had been laid out in thirds elsewhere, necessitating multiple visits. This time it took up an entire corridor. I didn’t get to meet the delightful hippie who travels with the scroll simply to set it up and take it down wherever it is being shown. I was peering at the typewritten text peppered with handwritten notes and corrections, ignoring the stares of the security guards who apparently thought I was going to stuff the scroll in my purse and bolt. I was also trying not to snicker at the conversation of a group of nine-year-olds looking at the nearby vintage Playboy cover featuring Marilyn Monroe (also part of Irsay’s collection) displayed on the wall above the scroll’s case.

“Who’s that?”

“It’s Madonna.”

“No, that’s not Madonna. It’s Ke$ha.”

“No, it’s Gaga!”

Their teacher asked me a question about the scroll, obviously assuming that I was a museum employee. When I explained that I was just a visitor, she apologized and said, “But I didn’t think women read Kerouac.”

That was news to me.

The backlash against the Beats in general, and Kerouac in particular, is becoming more evident and is mostly coming from Feminists.

In 2010 blogger Alexa Offenhauer imagined the domestic circumstances around Kerouac’s creation of the scroll in her post “It’ll All Be Worth It If I Get Published, or: Why I Hate Jack Kerouac”:

I can just imagine the scene, can’t you? There he is, playing with his tracing paper, painstakingly cutting it and taping it back together like the world’s first scrapbooker, all while taking himself very seriously and refusing to take any pleasure from his crafty pursuit. Then, just when his poor wife thinks that maybe he is done with the insanity and they can go for a nice walk in the park, he sits himself in the corner at his typewriter, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, and starts a typing frenzy that, as far as she is concerned, may never end.

Imagine the smell that emanated from that corner of the apartment by the end of those three weeks. The ungodly mess of cigarette ash, butts, apple cores, coffee mugs, chicken bones, and dead skin cells that must have littered the floor around him. At least, that is what it would have looked like at the end of those three weeks if I had been his wife. Minus the chicken bones, of course, because I would not have cooked for him and I doubt seriously he would have managed it for himself.

But maybe Joan Haverty not only cooked but also cleaned for him. Maybe she reminded him go to the bathroom and maybe, if she was very skillful, managed to get him in and out of the shower once or twice during that time.

I like to think that she had an affair with the grocer or the mailman while he was lost in his self-imposed, self-consumed insanity, but then I’ve always been optimistic.

Regardless of how she got through those three weeks, by the end of it, she must have been breathing an enormous sigh of relief. No matter how bohemian she was, no matter how much she believed in her husband’s literary genius, as he finally sat up, rubbed his eyes, and said, “I’m finished,” I can’t believe that she thought anything other than, “Thank God, now maybe he can sell this damn thing and then we can move to a place with a cross breeze.”

But no. After that three week marathon, which itself came after years and years of planning and working, it took him another nine years to perfect his manuscript and finally sell it.

Last August a conflict erupted first over an article on The Millions about a literary matchmaking service, Between The Covers, at an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, WORD. Kerouac fan and co-author of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ Stephanie Nikolopoulos wrote “On The Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men And Women”:

Then I encountered a woman who openly disdained Kerouac – and all that he seemed to represent. It occurred to me that women saw him as a misogynist vagabond, the bad boy who had left their broken hearts in a trail of exhaust fumes. He didn’t like being tied down by responsibilities or women. Perhaps those female readers who actually did like his writing feared adding Kerouac to their list of favorite authors for a literary matchmaking board because they didn’t want to end up with someone like him: a penniless drifter, a dreamer, an alcoholic…

In a work written by a man, the female character is usually going to be the subject of the male gaze. If that work happens to be On The Road, you’re going to end up with women like Marylou and Camille, flat characters being two-timed by hyperactive car-thief Dean Moriarty. It’s no wonder then that many women, even when they put his personal lives aside, don’t relate to Kerouac’s story.

Jezebel‘s Katie J.M. Baker wrote in response, “Why Don’t Women Like Jack Kerouac?”, dismissing the Beats as “kind of immature dicks” and asking “Do any non-teenage women actually like Jack Kerouac’s On The Road?” (Her own answer to this question is – inaccurately – no.)

“Whenever anyone tells me they ‘adore’ On The Road – which doesn’t happen often because I don’t hang out with sixteen-year-olds – I can’t help but think she or he isn’t particularly well-read, just eager to come off as adventurous, spontaneous, and/or sexy.”

One of Baker’s commenters likened being a woman who enjoys Kerouac to being a black person who likes Gone With The Wind or a banker who likes The Communist Manifesto. Another interesting take by a reader was that Dean Moriarty was actually Kerouac’s manifestation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

On April 8th this year the goddess herself Kim Gordon tweeted: “[Beat] role models are over rated. Set male evolution back to caveman era,” possibly referencing her ex-husband’s new band (Chelsea Light Moving) and their song “Burroughs.”

Is it fair to morally judge an artist’s work based on how he lived his life if all of his work is autobiographical and barely fictionalized?

Personally if I purged my bookshelves, real and virtual, of all the alcoholics and misanthropes – let alone all the manic-depressives, opium addicts, suicides, eccentric asexuals, adulterers and misogynists – I would hardly have any books left. In fact, I would probably have remaining to me some dictionaries, an anonymous booklet on reciting the Divine Mercy chaplet, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (first edition), and my husband’s copy of Henley’s Formulas for Home & Workshop.

So it would be a real bummer if from now on when I read On The Road I have to take Dean Moriarty not as a fictional, folkloric, mythic, modern Western American character but as the actual man (Neal Cassady) on which Moriarty is based, who, to be fair, was rather fucked-up. I don’t want to be a Monday morning armchair shrink and classify Moriarty as a likely bipolar, child molesting, sex addict, kleptomaniac, sociopath with ADHD who abused cannabis, amphetamines, hallucinogenics (later) and every woman who crossed his charismatic path. I don’t research Buddhism to determine whether the kind portrayed in The Dharma Bums is accurate and doctrinally sound either.

Taking Beat literature out of the context of the time and culture in which it was written robs it of too much of its power and importance. It’s unrealistic to examine written works from the late 1940’s and 1950’s and excoriate their views of women based on modern Feminist standards that would have been quite alien to men and women of that time. (Have these anti-Beat critics have ever even met and conversed with real-life old men in their eighties and nineties?)

Ted Joans’ line “So you want to be hip little girls?” from his poem “The Sermon” is over the top, yes, but try finding literature written by men from the post-war era that didn’t contain some degree of chauvinism and less than perfect female characterization.

Despite Kerouac’s many flaws, Nikolopoulos summed up the influence that On The Road had on her life as a young woman:

It didn’t occur to me that I needed a boyfriend or even a friend to accompany me to art galleries or readings or to make my life full. I wasn’t looking for my Jack Kerouac. I was Jack Kerouac.

Below, Jack Kerouac on ‘The Steve Allen Show,’ 1959:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
‘The Burning Ghat’: Short film starring original Beat Herbert Huncke

The Burning Ghat is a strange, yet revealing short film that explores the relationship between original Beat Herbert Huncke, and his long-time companion and room-mate, Louis Cartwright.

Huncke was a petty crook and junkie, who hustled around Times Square in the 1940s, where he met William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. It was Huncke who originally introduced these three young writers to the “Beat Life”—a major inspiration on their writing.

Not long after their meeting, Ginsberg wrote in his journal:

Who is Herbert Huncke? When I first knew him I saw him in what I considered the ‘glamorous’ light of a petty criminal and Times Square hustler who was experienced in the ways, thoughts, and activities of an underground culture which is enormously extensive. The attempt to dismiss him because of his social irresponsibility is something that I was never able to conceive as truthful or productive. I saw him as a self-damned soul—but a soul nonetheless, aware of itself and others in a strangely perceptive and essentially human way. He has great charm. I see that he suffers, more than myself, more than anyone I know of perhaps; suffers like a saint of old in the making; and also has cosmic or supersensory perceptions of an extraordinary depth and openness.

Louis Cartwright was a photographer (he took the portrait of Huncke above), drug addict and alleged pimp. According to Huncke, he was also someone not to be trusted. In 1994, Cartwright was stabbed to death, and his murder still remains unsolved.

The Burning Ghat was directed by James Rasin (Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar) and Jerome Poynton, and was filmed in Huncke’s apartment on Henry Street, New York.

Allen Ginsberg wrote of the film, “O Rare Herbert Huncke, live on film! The Burning Ghat features late-in-lifetime old partners Huncke & Louis playing characters beyond themselves with restrained solid self-awareness, their brief masquerade of soul climaxing in an inspired moment’s paradox bittersweet as an O’Henry’s tale’s last twist”.

Harry Smith said of the film, “It should have been longer”.

The Burning Ghat was featured at the 53rd Venice Biennial, and included in the Whitney Museum’s “Beat Culture and the New America” show of 1996. It won the Gold Plaque Award for Best Short Film at the 1990 Chicago International Film Festival.

Made the same year Huncke published his autobiography Guilty of Everything, this was to be his only on-screen, acting performance.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Original Beats’: A film on Herbert Hunke and Gregory Corso

Out-takes from ‘Original Beats’ featuring Herbert Huncke, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A Guide to Hobo Symbols

I don’t remember if we called them “hobos,” but I do recall occasionally seeing “hobo marks” made in chalk or charcoal on walls or the sides of houses, when I was a child growing-up in Scotland. The marks were mainly lines, circles, or arrows, and rarely anything elaborate.I thought there was something exciting, even romantic, about these simple marks, mainly because I knew here was a secret code that denoted some act of kindness or, gave a warning to others who followed. 

These few men were itinerant workers, who chapped doors in search of odd-jobs, or offered to sharpen tools, mend fences, mow lawns. They passed through towns in summer and fall, moving on to farms, where they picked fruit. My grandmother told me of how she had made “jeely pieces” for such men, and had given them sweet tea and a “tanner” for their pocket. She said some were ex-military, who had lost their way after the War.

There was also Highland travelers (“Summer walkers”), who migrated south for work, and “onion Johnnies,” traders who cycled over from France to sell onions and garlic. All of these men seemed to have a nobility and were different from the “jakeys” or winos, who congregated around railway stations and town centers, mooching for change.

In America it was different, hobos first appeared at the end of the Civil War, and they moved across country in search of work with the arrival of the railroad. By 1911, it was estimated there were 700,000 hobos in America. By the 1950s, this number had dramatically fallen—as Jack Kerouac, who was no stranger to the hobo-life, noted in Lonseome Traveler:

“The American hobo has a hard time hoboing nowadays due to the increase in police surveillance of highways, railorad yards, sea shores, river bottoms, embankments and the thousand-and-one hiding holes of industrial night. - In California, the rat pack, the original old type who goes walking from town to town with supplies and bedding on his back, the “Homeless Brother”, has practically vanished, along with the ancient gold-panning desert rat who used to walk with hope in his heart through struggling Western tons that are now so prosperous they dont want old bums any more. - ‘Man dont want no pack rats here even though they founded California’ said an old man hiding with a can of beans and an Indian fire in a river bottom outside Riverside California in 1955.”

Today, the hobo life continues, and every second weekend in August, a Hobo Convention is held, with races, carnivals and the crowning of the Hobo King and Queen.
With thanks to Sig Waller

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Jack Kerouac: His last interview with the ‘Tampa Bay Times,’ 1969

And of course there are those times when so much is happening—the emails to be read, the dog to be walked, the work to be done, the ‘toothpaste to be squeezed’—that a story occasionally slips by unnoticed, unacknowledged. So, it was with this piece from the Tampa Bay Times that was posted in March.

It tells the story of reporter, Jack McClintock, who:

..visited several times with Jack Kerouac at Kerouac’s home on 10th Avenue N for this story, which was published Oct. 12, 1969. Kerouac died nine days later, on Oct. 21, at St. Anthony’s Hospital.

According to Kevin Hayes, author of the book Conversations With Jack Kerouac, McClintock’s interviews were Kerouac’s last.

Kerouac was unlike the imaginary Beat writer that millions venerated. He was a maudlin drunk, who clung to his childhood beliefs, spoiled by drink, a bitter Republican, who was dismissive of the hedonistic culture his work had inspired. It’s sometimes inevitable that the youthful firebrand will evolve into the tweedy curmudgeon. Often this phase of an artist’s life is dismissed or edited out (look how Allen Ginsberg tirelessly ignored or defended, as somehow ironic, his friend’s homophobia and anti-semitism). Still, I find such phases as interesting and as valid as the sunny, glory days—in the same way “fat Elvis” is as compelling a narrative as “Sun Records Elvis,” but for wholly different reasons.

McClintock went looking for Kerouac wanting to know what happened to the Beats in the “Age of Aquarius?” After a week of no-shows, McClintock at last saw a recognizable face with “grizzled jowls and red-rimmed eyes under spikey, dark tousled hair.”

Kerouac? The face said, “Yeah,” and then: “You want to come in?”

Although the sun was two hours from taking its evening dip into the gulf 10 miles to the west, the house was dim inside. A television set in the corner was on, soundless. The sound you heard was Handel’s Messiah blaring from speakers in the next room.

“I like to watch television like that,” Kerouac said.
“You ain’t going to take my photo are you? You better not try to take my photo or I’ll kick your ass.” A threatening leer, then a laugh.

“Stella. Hey! Turn the music up!” Stella went and turned the music up. Her feet were silent on the floor.

Kerouac dragged up a rocking chair for the reporter, then slumped into another one in the corner.

He was wearing unpressed brown pants, a yellow-and-brown striped sport shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow. The shirt was unbuttoned and beneath it the T-shirt was inside out. He pointed to his belly, large and round.

“I got a goddam hernia, you know that? My goddam belly-button is popping out. That’s why I’m dressed like this … I got no place to go, anyway. You want a beer? Hah?” He picked up a pack of Camels in a green plastic case. “Some whiskey then?”

Kerouac has a hernia, his gut swollen over his pants, “My belly-button is popping out,” he said. McClintock wanted to know what Kerouac was working on:

“Well, I wrote that article,” he said, a trifle belligerently. His agent was busy selling a piece Kerouac had written, entitled “After Me, the Deluge,” his reflections on today’s world and what he might have contributed to it.

Anything else?

“Well, I’m going to write a novel about the last 10 years of my life …

The conversation moved onto the Beats, Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and Ken Kesey (“I don’t like Ken Kesey…He ruined Cassady”) before Kerouac began his drunken ramblings about the Mafia, the Communists and “the Jew,” and talking about his experiences with drugs:

“I smoked more grass than anyone you ever knew in your life,” Kerouac snorts. “I came across the Mexican border one time with 2½ pounds of grass around my waist in a silk scarf. I had one of those wide Mexican belts around me over it. I had a big bottle of tequila and I went up to the border guard and offered him some, and he said, No, go on through, senor.”

Kerouac laughed, remembering how that was.

“It should be legalized and taxed. Taxed. Yeah, ‘Gimme a pack of marijuana!’ But this other stuff is poison; acid’s poison, speed is poison, STP is poison, it’s all poison. But grass is nothing.”

By the end of the interview, Kerouac revealed a spark of his old self, his essence, his enthusiasm for writing:

“Stories of the past,” said Jack Kerouac. “My story is endless. I put in a teletype roll, you know, you know what they are, you have them in newspapers, and run it through there and fix the margins and just go, go – just go, go, go.”

McClintock has written a powerful and memorable portrait and the whole article can be read here.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats

Via the Tampa Bay News

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘On the Road’: Jack Kerouac’s letter to his editor Malcolm Cowley goes on display

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


p.s How’d you like GERARD?



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.
Via The Newberry

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Cover Versions: Worldwide covers of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’
12:03 pm


Jack Kerouac
On the Road

UK Edition, 1961
Here are my choice selections from the dozens of book covers of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road posted by the Beat Book Covers website.

Apparently this was Kerouac’s response to all the different cover designs and foreign editions:

“When I’m old, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to study languages reading these.”


Jack Kerouac’s own (unsed) concept for the book jacket, done in 1952.

USA Edition, 1958
More ‘On the Road’ after the jump…

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A 6-year-old judges classic novels based on their covers, hilarity ensues!

Sunny Chanel over at Babble hands over the blogging mic to her 6-year-old daughter and lets her judge classic novels by their covers.

Atlas Shrugged:

This is about Daydis (her spelling it’s actually – Daedalus). He is an ancient god guy who prays a lot. This book is about him crying. He is crying because he doesn’t like himself at all, because he hates himself. It looks like a saddy, saddy, saddy bookie.”

Note: she loves Greek Mythology at bedtime hence the Daedalus reference. And really, who doesn’t?



Animal Farm:

It looks like a book for kids. I think it’s about a donkey and a pig that do not like each other and they both live on a farm for animals. The same farm. It looks like it would be a funny book with a good really nice ending.



On the Road:

I think it’s about a car. A car that goes to Mexico, Indonesia and other places. It’s about a car that goes on all sorts of adventures. The guy on the cover is a teen, he likes to drive people places a lot. And he’s French.



Fahrenheit 451:

I think this is about a gigantic robot who goes on fire and he doesn’t like himself. It has a sad ending. It looks like a book for teens. The title means fire, a really really really big fire since the number is 451, that would mean it was really hot. So the robot must get really hot. Maybe that is why he is so sad.


Read more of Judging a Book by Its Cover: A 6-year-old Guesses What Classic Novels Are All About

Via Nerdcore

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Behind the Smile: John Cassavetes and his films

As a child, John Cassavetes chipped his front teeth in a fight. As his parents were too poor to buy him caps, Cassavetes didn’t smile for years. The experience made him aware of how others coped with misfortune. Later, when he started making films, his camera fixed on the facial tics and movements of his actors. These were unlike any other movies - improvised character studies, where the camera relentlessly followed, watched, examined, but rarely interrogated. We are always close-up to the characters. When we see them in wide-shots, they are isolated, the scene only highlighting their alienation: Ben Gazzara having breakfast outside after losing $23,000 at a gaming table inThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie; or Ben Carruthers taking a stroll through the gardens in Shadows; or Gena Rowlands at a loss with the world in A Woman Under the Influence.

His characters are suburban, middle-aged, all on the back slice of life. They may have flourishes of rebellion (a trip to London in Husbands), but nothing changes their direction, all stick blindly to some instinctual role.

Cassavetes’ films may not be that innovative, or offer any new or considered insights, or offer redemption, but they succeed because of the ineffable passions, the inexpressible humanity of the central characters that Cassavetes puts on screen. That’s where his genius lies - in his deep and committed humanity.

Cassavetes once told Cahiers du Cinema:

‘I am more interested in the people who work with me than in the film itself or cinema.’

Cassavetes’ films always remind me of what Jack Kerouac once wrote about literature in Satori in Paris:

“…the tale that’s told for no other reason but companionship, which is another (and my favorite) definition of literature, the tale that’s told for companionship and to teach something religious, of religious reverence, about real life, in this real world which literature should (and here does) reflect.”

Made in 1965, Cinéastes de notre temps - John Cassavetes is a profile of the great director and actor as he edits his second feature Faces in Hollywood, before taking it Paris. Cassavetes openly discusses his views on film-making and cinema, and why he takes certain roles to pay for his movie making.


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‘Whatever Happened to Kerouac?’: Essential documentary from 1985

Strange to think, had he lived, Jack Kerouac would have been 90 this week. It begs the question, what would he have been like? Rabid raving Republican? Drunk demented Democrat? A pairing of the both? A religious nut? Would he have continued writing? Become an éminence grise? Would he still have mattered? Would we have cared?

Ninety. And to think he’s been dead for almost half that time, during which he has gone in-and-out of fashion. And yet, his appeal has somehow always stayed, though arguably that appeal has sometimes been more for what he represented than for his books or writing.

Even so, Kerouac at his best captured a hope, a joyous sense of what life could be - the potential of a moment, of the living of a life, rather than the having of a life-style.

I saw Whatever Happened to Kerouac? on the day it was released, in olde fleapit cinema, southside of Edinburgh. There were around a dozen people in the audience, gathered together in the flickering dark like a secret religious group come to give devotion, as we reverentially watched what is still the best documentary made on the “King of the Beats”. But this film is no hagiography, it captures what was both good and bad about Kerouac, and most of what you need to know, answering some of the questions other bio-pics and documentaries have avoided. The essence of the film is best summed up by William Burroughs when asked, “Whatever happened to Kerouac?” responds, Jack incited:

‘’....a worldwide unprecedented cultural revolution….”

The list of contributors is a who’s who of the Beat Generation: William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady, Ann Charters, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Joyce Johnson, Michael McClure, Edie Kerouac Parker, and Gary Snyder. Directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdam, this is a must for fans of Kerouac and the Beats.


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