A Year in Books/Day 26: Door Wide Open

  • 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)

    Signature of Jack Kerouac

    Image via Wikipedia

  • 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