I bought a great copy of the first paperback edition of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur while on vacation.
What is on your reading list this month?
Do your reading habits change with the seasons, or are you always equal opportunity?
I’ve kind of been all over the place this month, reading wise, which is pretty typical of me.
Since 1st May, I’ve finished:
- M Train by Patti Smith
- Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction by Cathy Whitlock
- The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd by Michelle Morgan
- Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales
I’m in the midst of reading:
- Spencer Tracy: A Biography by James Curtis
- Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style by Cintra Wilson
To be finished by 31st May:
- Art on the Block: Tracking the New York Art World from SoHo to the Bowery, Bushwick and Beyond by Ann Fensterstock
- I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist by Betty Halbreich with Rebecca Paley
- Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters Edited by Bill Morgan and David Stanford
What is your favourite book this month?
Which book on your list do you most look forward to reading?
Please share with me in the comments.
[This originally appeared on the blog one year ago.]
Oh, Jean-Louis. You problematic, magnetic SOB. Ninety-two years to the day after your birth, and we-the writers, readers, and open souls of the world-still cannot escape your torturous orbit. As for me: my heart is willing, but my mind is not quite able to sprint the final few yards into your embrace. I promise to try again, like I always do. You know how it goes. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s not me, it’s you. It’s the two of us, together. I love you and hate you and love-hate-hate-love you. This dance we do will never end; the steps and the rhythm will change, but the tune will echo to eternity. Until next time.
Love and kisses and shrugs,
“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”-Jack Kerouac
“Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”-Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born 10/21/1772)
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”-Jack Kerouac (died 10/21/1969)
Beat poet and interesting character Gregory Corso discusses Jack Kerouac.
- Title: The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats The Beat Generation and American Culture
- Editor: Holly George Warren
- Year Published: 1999 (Hyperion)
- Year Purchased: 2000/2001
- Source: Barnes & Noble clearance rack
- About: Whether the Rolling Stone moniker entices or repels you, this is a fine compilation of essays, musings, reviews and treatises on The Beat Generation and its various, and fantastically varied, players. Although many of the entries were written expressly for this book, others are from Rolling Stone’s archives or from outside sources. Lydia Lunch, Hunter S. Thompson, Graham Parker, Johnny Depp, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and Lester Bangs number among the crazy quilt of contributors. The insiders’ perspective is voiced by Michael McClure, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Carolyn Cassady and William S Burroughs. The cacophony of opinions, insights and viewpoints is bold and often contradictory, which should be the intent of any decent compilation. The entirety of the beat experience is presented in vivid, emotive, intelligent terms. Each entry is a micro world of its own, quite unlike any of the others. The photos are notable, and many are rare. If you have any interest in the subject-which really encompasses many subjects loosely gathered under a too-small banner-make this part of your to-read list.
- Motivation: I have a long, deep shelf dedicated to the writers and miscellaneous participants of The Beat Generation. This was one of the earliest non-fiction additions to my collection.
- Times Read: 3
- Random Excerpt/Page 85: “Bob Kaufman and John Wieners are the greatest of the nonsense Beat poets, whatever that means-the social second unit?-people who didn’t spend scads of time with the frontrunners. They’re also two supreme sufferers, and Kaufman, in particular, swallowed more broken glass than all the others combined.”
- Happiness Scale: 9
Jack Kerouac reading from ‘On the Road’.
“I think of Dean Moriarty.”
- Title: On the Road
- Author: Jack Kerouac
- Year Published: 1957 (The Viking Press)
- Year Purchased: Unknown
- Source: Unknown
- About: Do I really have to go into this? Sal, Dean, Marylou. You know the drill, right? In case you don’t, I’ll dedicate a few disjointed sentences to your enlightenment: Although not his best book, ‘On the Road’ is certainly Kerouac’s main claim to notoriety and immortality. It is a great gateway to his other work. Hell, even poor Kerouac is better than most and this is very, very far from being his worst. You’ll meet some of his Beat Generation friends on the pages. Since it captures a state-of-mind that most young Americans experience to one degree or another, it is a must read: exhilarating, chaotic, life affirming. If you haven’t read it yet, and want to, do so before the film is released. Please.
- Motivation: I think most teenagers go through a Beat phase. This novel is usually the first thing they read. I was a little different-I devoured a few random biographies before taking the ritual plunge with ‘On the Road’. However, I didn’t truly appreciate any of it until a second go-round with the whole gang in my late twenties.
- Times Read: 2-3
- Random Excerpt/Page 180: “At dusk I walked. I felt like a speck on the surface of the sad red earth. I passed the Windsor Hotel, where Dean Moriarty had lived with his father in the depression thirties, and as of yore I looked everywhere for the sad and fabled tinsmith of my mind. Either you find someone who looks like your father in places like Montana or you look for a friend’s father where he is no more.”
- Happiness Scale: 8
- Title: Door Wide Open Jack Kerouac & Joyce Johnson A Beat Love Affair in Letters 1957-1958
- Author: Introduction and commentary by Joyce Johnson
- Year Published: 2000 (Penguin Books)
- Year Purchased: 2003/2004
- Source: Unknown
- About: When 21-year-old novelist Joyce Johnson (then Glassman) embarked on a relationship with Jack Kerouac, she met all of the surface requirements of non-conformity. In her letters, she made a calculated, mighty effort to match her peripatetic lover’s passionate, friendly detachment; as if writing it down made it so. But her commentary, written in her sixties, reveals the truth of a young woman desperately trying to break free of the gendered emotional conventions of the 1950s.
- Motivation: I love the intimacy, and sense of immediacy, found in the personal letters of famous people (especially writers and artists). When the correspondence is between one of the leading-and most controversial-icons of his time and one of the few women artistically associated with the Beat Generation, then I’m extra intrigued.
- Times Read: 2
- Random Excerpt/Page 45: “The need and love Jack finally declared obliterated from my mind any consideration of the consequences of the earthquake. Nor did I take sufficient note of the fact that Jack had written this letter, so different in tone from all the others, during one of the few periods in recent years when he was completely sober. I only knew there suddenly seemed to be a profound change in our relationship. Here were the feelings, the “real” feelings, he had always held back.”
- Happiness Scale: 8