Friday, May 25, 2018
In our book swap, which I got the better deal of, Marc Brüseke sent me the book I previously reviewed and the above 4 poetry chapbooks published by Analog Submission Press.
I really enjoyed Sticks of Tea, which comprises 3-line word play inspired by haiku. I have been experimenting with this form myself in my journal. A Face Now Rendered Indescribable and Cumulative Impact Zone are both thoughtful free verse in the Beat vein. All three of the latter are by Marc. Fat Pink Demons is by Gregarious Beach, and it's hard to describe. It takes a poetic form, consisting of short word phrases that trigger a lot of connections in the reader.
If you are looking for some off-the-beaten-track (no pun intended) poetry, check these or any of the other chapbooks available at http://www.analogsubmission.com/.
Support small presses and local poets!
I just finished Get It Back To Give It Away by Marc Brüseke. It's a quick read -- 130 pages. As the back cover says, it's the "story of Richard Marx as he travels through Hungary and Croatia jotting down notes and poems in his pocketbook while meditating on the transient nature of travel."
I met Marc via this blog (he currently resides in Europe) and we traded books via the mail. As he described his book in his note to me when the book arrived, it is a "fusion of prose & what I've been calling 'photo-sketch' poetry (inspired by Kerouac's sketch method & Roland Barthes' photographic analysis) --> I basically look at photos I've taken and then though the use of memory & personal reflection & visual cues I write them up as poems." The book is about 1/3 such poems and 2/3 prose that is Kerouacian in style.
The prose sections are journal-like, written in first-person and describing the narrator's experiences traveling. As you can imagine, there's a lot of sight-seeing, drinking, eating, people-watching, smoking, talking, walking, and navigating public transportation. There's a love story of sorts, too, but I don't want to give too much away.
I enjoyed Marc's book. It's reflective, descriptive, authentic, and engaging. I wanted the journey to continue at the end. Perhaps he'll do a sequel.
Get It Back To Give It Away is available on Amazon here or at Marc's website: http://www.analogsubmission.com/.
Item #48 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's The Town and the City. It's A Harvest Book by Harcourt, Inc., copyrighted originally by Harvest in 1970 and this edition looks to be 1983 with no printing number discernible. The provenance is unknown but I likely bought it used from Amazon. This copy is in okay shape, 499 pages, 5-1/4 x 7-7/8".
The Town and the City is Jack Kerouac's first published novel (Harcourt Brace). It hit the shelves in 1950 but brought him little in the way of the critical acclaim or broader recognition that On The Road did 7 years later (read the 1950 NY Times review here). It's a Wolfean story of the Martin family from Galloway (Lowell, Massachusetts, the "town"), "whose five sons and three daughters are each endowed with an energy and vision of life that drives the narrative from the early part of the century to the years following World War II" (from the back cover).
Jack draws on his own family and friends for characters using pseudonyms as usual, but his writing style is much more traditional in this novel. His powers of description are evident, and there are hints at his spontaneous style to come as well as the Beat Generation values which bear fruit in his later writing. New York City settings play a prominent role in the story (the "city"), as do familiar beat characters like Ginsberg, Burroughs, Carr, etc. (via pseudonym).
This is an important book in that it establishes Jack's early skills as a novelist and provides an insightful contrast to his later-developed style. If you're a Kerouac fan it's essential reading, but I suspect you'll like it if you're a fan of a good novel.
Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (29th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Item #47 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake by Jack Kerouac. As the cover shows, it's a combo of 2 audio CDs and an unabridged illustrated screenplay. This copy appears to be a 2003 Gallery Six first edition and first printing. The provenance, I believe, is that it was a gift from a colleague when I left my professorship at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania in 2006. It's in good shape.
Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake is a screenplay that Kerouac wrote based on his novel, Dr. Sax, which we discussed a couple of blog posts ago. Sadly, I have yet to sit and listen to the CDs while following along with the written screenplay. It should be good and it's on my bucket list. Robert Creeley narrates and Lawrence Ferlinghetti plays the part of the Wizard. Even producer/director Jim Sampas plays a part. Music is provided by Blue Note recording artist John Medeski.
What did you think of Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake?
Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (28th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac.
Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf
I borrowed this book from my great friend, Richard Marsh, who was turned on to it by UK Kerouac scholar Dave Moore (keeper of the wonderful Character Key to Kerouac's Duluoz Legend). I read it in about three sittings across two days. While it covers some of the same ground as Kerouac (young adults living a bohemian lifestyle in downtown NYC circa 1948), Chandler Brossard's terse style is quite different from Jack's spontaneous and rambling prose. The main characters drink a lot and smoke "tea" (marijuana) and have uncommitted sex with each other and discuss literary subjects.
According to Wikipedia (always suspect), Brossard was not happy that reviewers characterized the book as a beat novel, thinking that French critics knew better, perceiving it as the first "new wave" novel by presenting a nightmare as flat documentary. Others have called it an attempt at being an American existential novel a la Hemingway (click here for a review of the book). As with Kerouac, primary characters represent real-life people (for example, writers Anatole Broyard and William Gaddis).
I was engaged enough by the book, although I didn't really dig Brossard's writing style. The Greenwich Village descriptions put the reader right there, but the dialogue is a bit unrealistic (to me). Most importantly, I didn't really care about any of the characters, but I suspect that was Brossard's intention, paralleling the characters' attempts at being too cool for traditional love relationships.
Would I recommend it? Yes. It's a fun read, especially if you dig the Greenwich Village scene in the later 40s. I'm not running out and finding more Brossard to read, but I'm glad I read Who Walk in Darkness.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Item #46 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this copy of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation. Published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 2005, this appears to be a first printing (paperback). It's in very good condition and the provenance is uncertain (although I seem to remember it being a gift from Crystal).
Kerouac wrote this 3-act play in 1957 but never got it produced in full during his lifetime. The third act was the basis for the 1959 film, Pull My Daisy, which you can watch here. The full manuscript sat in storage until it was "re-discovered" in 2005 in a New Jersey warehouse. The world premiere of Beat Generation as a play was performed by the Merrimack Repertory Theater during the 2012 Jack Kerouac Literary Festival/Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts. I attended, and it was well done. Joey Collins, the actor who played Milo (Neal Cassady), was phenomenal -- the best I've seen (with apologies to Garrett Hedlund). You can read my review here.
This is an important addition to the Kerouac oeuvre, and deserves a spot on your own Kerouac bookshelf.
Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (27th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake by Jack Kerouac.
Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Item #45 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this Grove Weidenfeld (a division of Grove Press, Inc.) copy of Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac (published in 1959, written in 1952 about 1930-36 Lowell, Massachusetts). It's a 1987 edition, 5th printing, and is in okay shape. I don't remember the provenance. The title page shows a subtitle: Faust Part Three.
Among Kerouacophiles I've met, Dr. Sax ranks right up there as one of Jack's best novels. It's both a memoir of his youth in Lowell, MA, and a fantasy novel. The back cover sums up the novel nicely:
In this haunting novel of intensely felt adolescence, Jack Kerouac tells the story of Jack Duluoz, a French-Canadian boy growing up, as Kerouac himself did, in the dingy factory town of Lowell, Massachusetts. Dr. Sax, with his flowing cape, slouch hat, and insinuating leer, is chief among the many ghosts and demons that populate Jack's fantasy world. Deftly mingling memory and dream, Kerouac captures the accents and texture of his boyhood in Lowell as he relates Jack's adventures with this cryptic, apocalyptic hipster phantom.I love the opening lines:
THE OTHER NIGHT I had a dream that I was sitting on the sidewalk on Moody Street, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Mass., with a pencil and paper in my hand saying to myself "Describe the wrinkly tar of this sidewalk, also the iron pickets of Textile Institute. or the doorway where Lousy and you and G.J.'s always sitting and dont [sic] stop to think of words when you do stop, just stop to think of the picture better--and let your mind off yourself in this work." (p. 3)Can't you just picture that "wrinkly tar" sidewalk? Jack is describing his writing technique right from the outset (e.g., "Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind" from Belief & Technique for Modern Prose; see also Essentials of Spontaneous Prose). As with all of Jack's novels, the prose is beautiful and at times playfully cryptic ("it's Sanurnday Sun Night"; "Frezels! Grawms! Wake to the test in your frails...."), and in this novel it's especially challenging (for me, at least) because of the fantasy elements.
Dr. Sax is the source of the famous story from Jack's youth about walking across the Moody Street Bridge with his mother one night and seeing a man carrying a watermelon drop dead (Book Four in Dr. Sax is titled, "The Night the Man with the Watermelon Died"; see p. 127).
There's a lot to say about Dr. Sax, but it's pretty much been said before so I'll leave that to the true Kerouac scholars. Suffice to say that Dr. Sax is Jack Kerouac at the height of his writing powers despite what the NY Times said about it. And that ain't no Harvard lie.
Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (26th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Beat Generation: An Original Play by Jack Kerouac.
Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf