1. I’m proud to present in these pages an original work of fiction by Jan Kerouac. This is an excerpt from Jan’s newest and not-yet-published novel Parrot Fever, and the reason I’m proud to present it is not that she’s Jack’s daughter, but rather that I like the story very much. I hadn’t read any of Jan’s fiction before, and was surprised and pleased by this clever and gently hopeful piece. Here it is.
2. The Beat exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York is now open. This is a very thorough and well planned survey of the universe of Beat-related art and culture, focusing heavily on the works of several not-especially-well-known artists of the 50’s and 60’s, such as Wallace Berman, Jay Defeo, and Bruce Conner, as well as some better known names like Larry Rivers and Robert Rauschenberg. The exhibit is organized into rooms representing Beat locales, like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. There are many artifacts and literary collectibles on exhibit as well, including the original scroll manuscripts (behind glass) of ‘On The Road‘ and ‘Dharma Bums,’ as well as the original typewritten ‘Howl.’
My impression? I liked it more than I thought I would. I hadn’t expected such a comprehensive, sweeping presentation. Most of the actual artworks were dark, sardonic and depressing, as befits the era of cultural repression and nuclear fear. However the work I liked best was probably a small and lovingly wrought collage of cut-out church steeples put together by poet Gregory Corso, who is not generally thought of as a visual artist.
The Whitney gift shop also has lots of new Beat-related goodies, and I was unable to leave there without getting mugged for $150. The good news: I now finally own, along with lots of pretty-colored stuff I don’t need, the video of “Pull My Daisy,” which I’ll write up here as soon as I find the time.
3. Daniel Pinchbeck, the son of Beat chronicler (and Jack Kerouac’s former lover) Joyce Johnson, wrote an article on “Children of the Beats” for last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (Nov. 5). He interviewed Jan Kerouac, Parker Kaufman (son of poet Bob Kaufman), Village Voice writer Lisa Jones (daughter of Amiri Baraka and Hettie Jones), John Cassady, Neal’s other son Curt Hansen and others. Several of the interviews focused on the horrible parenting skills of the Beats, and the Kerouac and Kaufman sections in particular seemed to show hopeless lives in the process of self-destruction.
Without a doubt Kerouac and Kaufman were not father-of-the-year material, but the article struck me and others I spoke to as overly dark. Even the excerpt from Jan Kerouac’s novel that I mentioned above shows a bright side that this article does not portray. And as someone in the BEAT-L mailing list asked, why weren’t the successful grown children of Michael McClure and Gary Snyder included? In any event, the Jones and Cassady/Hansen interviews avoided tragic overtones, and the article was definitely interesting and provocative.
The New York Times also gave the Whitney exhibit (see above) a shitty review the day after the opening.
4. This is late notice, but Jim Carroll is appearing in an online chat at Sonic Net tomorrow (Nov. 15) at 7 pm. You might also want to check out Sonic Net’s “Shows” section to catch Allen Ginsberg (of all people) interviewing Beck and members of Hole at this summer’s Lollapolooza.