COLUMN THIRTY-TWO, APRIL 1, 1998
(Copyright © 1998 Al Aronowitz)
QUESTION ABOUT JACK KEROUAC
Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 19:36:39 -0500
Subject: Kerouac, The Who
Dear Mr. Aronowitz,
Congratulations on the superb series of articles you have been reprinting, introducing and also currently writing for your page. I have enjoyed them all but especially the one from the old Post series on the Beat Generation, I mean the interview with Jack Kerouac, which was most perceptive and sensitive to the real literary merit, and looming revolutionary socio-cultural impact, of the best of the Beat works.
Did you ever meet Kerouac after this interview? His Sixties' persona has been painted very negatively, even by friends such as the late John Clellon Holmes in whose reminiscences he comes across as a drunken, racist fool whose genius of the early-to-mid-'50s had dimmed to the point almost of non-recognition. The stories of Jack's reported animus towards Jews in this era have, especially, greatly disturbed me. How could a man who could demonstrate the sensitivity to suffering revealed in all his major artistic works have said the kinds of things about Jews that Holmes and others who knew him in the '60s have reported he said?
Does this portrait seem recognizable to you, who had known him? Considering the many, many Jews who helped Kerouac on his way and/or whom he loved (Ginsberg, Jerry Newman, boyhood jazz friend Seymour Wise, Gil Millstein ((who basically launched Jack's fame)), Carl Solomon, Larry Rivers, Joyce Glassman ((I liked your comments about the contretemps you have had, or rather that she has continued to have, with you)), I could go on and on.. It seems incredible Kerouac could have spoken against Jewish people in the way that has been reported, yet the proof seems overwhelming. The biographies, with the exception of Gerry Nicosia's and Tom Clark's fine books, largely overlook this issue. The issue of alcoholism does not seem adequately to explain all this.
If you have any comment on this matter I would be most interested in your views.
On a rock music note, I loved your Mick Jagger piece and was delighted to hear that you liked their current show. Question: did you ever see The Who and did you ever write about them? Perhaps about Tommy as performed at the Met? A great, great, band, especially, live.
Gary Gillman, Toronto.
P.S. I saw you a couple of years ago at a Beat Conference at NYU. You were in the basement club (made an introduction in fact) where Jan Kerouac read, and so well I thought too - so saddened I was to read of her untimely death. G.G.
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Date: Sun, 08 Feb 1998 19:09:27 -0500
always wanted to hear a first person account of the time dylan turned on the beatles. thanks for the article; it was a great read. great web site.
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Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 23:58:28 EST
Your site and most likely sight are excellent and I would greatly appreciate your feedback on this alternative last chapter I wrote for Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Of course if you think it 's worth posting on your site i would be honored- if not, I have no GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Here it is:
So Dean drove back to New York and in my fevered haze, I thought I could see his bony ankle pushing out of his shoe, leaning on the gas all the way; the old car rumbling and sighing but moving for him like I knew it wouldn't for me. Later I understood that he must have been afraid of my disillusion in that fever. He was the ultimate cowboy of experience and life and I am sure he could not bear to see me not understand because he believed we understood everything and that knowledge would take care of us. So I forgave Dean for leaving me there in dry Mexico City just as I would have forgiven him if he left me there to die.
It was a long time before I had the energy to be a stranger again and hitch-hike back up to New York. On a bright, moonlit night some where in Texas, I came a cross a camp fire of old, gray, hobo men and I felt honored when they made room for me and shared their whiskey and their stories. And listening to the stories of those men, I realized that maybe we had never found Old Dean Moriarty, but wherever he is, he is proud because we found the America he had searched for so long. And maybe we had found Dean's father and he knew because we found that spirit of the west I have tried to capture when I write and sometimes failed and sometimes not. And beside me suddenly I saw Dean's angular chin and hard warm eyes and we had that American bug so sought after that we sensed each other even though he was on the road between New York and San Francisco and two disillusioned wives. We sensed each other in the Texas night and on the dusty road and I thanked him for showing me why our fathers' believed in America and he grinned yes at me and I knew he would remain young and all knowing forever.
THankee for yo' time and thyme!
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SOPHIA SPEAKS OUT!
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 09:04:59 -0500
Subject: Just being friends with you is thanks enough
Listen, before I step back in and try to figure out where to put you on line (another 2 hour shift I bet), I wanna tell you that I did indeed read the March Column.
I am sort of amused by all the bruhaha over this Clinton thing. As a married woman I should never admit this, but I'd have to say, if I was president, and I saw some nice looking and interesting guy roaming around the white house, I'd ask Secret Service to go fetch.
Sooner or later the press would find out that I could be even more shocking than that! First on my agenda would be to have the best Nitrous Oxide party the oval office has ever seen. Then I'd sneak my new-found honey off to the Lincoln room for Presidents day. Hmm, I wonder what we could partake in, on top of that extra long dining room table they've got all decked out. In my state of perpetual artistic poverty, my erotic binges food wise have never afforded going further than whipped cream and some syrup. But Boy! The president's got master chefs on stand by! Think, of the possibilities!
Secondly, I'll have to admit to you Al, that I think Democrats and Republicans at this point, are all cut with the same paper doll scissors. I don't care for either party. They both suck. Residing on the lowest rung of the American power structure, I am hurt and disgusted that my life means so little to everyone higher up. See, I have the three sixes upon my head...Female, poor and artist. Oh, sometimes my hair can hide the obvious,..but when the wind blows, it's there for all to see. I'm pretty much branded for life I think. In many ways I simply try to stay on the outskirts and observe.
And it's in the observing where I am most impressed with your writing. That story you printed from 1959 is the perfect example. I don't know how, but it's all right there in your writing! You captured the hypocrisy, the ride the wave mentality and the REALITY of the entirety. You just amaze me. I know it shouldn't be, but I am truly impressed by this body of written work that I keep running into. Did the paper really print the whole thing???!!! I really don't know if I could ever adequately explain myself in this area other than to say, with my vast amount of reading and searching for that which I find of value AND written well enough to keep me around start to finish, your work is part of the few.
All I keep thinking when I read your stuff is,..WHAT A FIND! I did this with Colette, William Saroyan, Dorothy Parker, Boccaccio, Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence. These are the favored and the few to me. I intend within my lifetime to read everything these people have ever written. That's exactly how I feel with you. I think, when you look at these names, that there are traits they all share. Wit, fine tuned powers of perception, and the ability to show me time and place with the understanding that what they're telling me is REAL. It has been this kind of connection with these writers that has kept me alive and enabled me to move forward. Before this, I was in some ways without ground under my feet. I'm telling you, these people showed me my past. And it is the same way with you. Maybe it could be said, that your writing is simply journalistic and not literary, but I say, hey, Al, you are showing me a past that is very much present AND shows me the future. If you gave everybody fake names and made up places, your stuff is the same as literary fiction (Maybe better).
As stupid as it sounds, you are a real inspiration to me. I'm sorry your daughter can't share in this. But hey, I'd like to. I am nobodies' replacement, but I thank the fates that have allowed me even for one moment to be a part of your life. If either of us should die tomorrow, just know, I believe in your work, and I believe I move forward in the traditions of your work in many ways. I too, am spilling the beans on Bohemia. You'd see it clearly if you read the synopsis of The New Renaissance. (it's only a matter of time till I find an agent who sees it too, and remembers the beat tradition) I am inspired to keep moving forward, in order to make sure that the things you have written about, and the things I have written about, will find a way to get to the people who come after us, and who will benefit from what it is we talk about. Because,...the things that you and I have seen and experienced are universal. It doesn't end with us. The counter culture may very well be on the verge of being recognized as a real segment of society. Not just an aberration that will simple go away if all good Americans try to ignore it. There's no way to snuff it out Al. Today at least, I have hope that I may be recognized within my lifetime, and I'll move as fast as I can to make sure you're a part of it in your lifetime too.
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