Today is the birthday of Beat novelist Jack Kerouac (books by this author), born in Lowell, Massachusetts (1922), to parents who were French-speaking Québécois. He grew up speaking French, and didn’t start learning English until grade school.
He was a track and football star in high school, and he got a football scholarship to Columbia in New York, where he met Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Jack Kerouac idolized Neal Cassady, and he typed the story of their cross-country adventures together on a single scroll of paper, 120 feet long, which was published in 1957 as On the Road. He depicts Neal Cassady — whom he calls Dean Moriarty — as a charismatic bad boy American hero. Kerouac took a backpacking trip with another friend whom he idolized, the poet Gary Snyder, and he turned Snyder into the character Jaffy Ryder and made him the hero of The Dharma Bums (1958).
From On the Road:
"I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds."
Ten Thousand Saints
I caught a bit of a “Here and Now” broadcast on WBUR, an interview with Eleanor Henderson, author of the novel “Ten Thousand Saints,” which depicts the late 80s post-punk “straight edge” movement. It looks like I have found a summer read.
|Richard Hudak (Andover, MA)’s review of Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel|
Read from July 21 to 30, 2011 Henderson manages to take a “scene” and make it universal by populating it with real people whose virtues and foibles become recognizable as our own. This is not simply a story of the straight-edge movement and resistance to gentrification on New York’s Lower East Side, and the desert land of late ’80s exurbia, but a tale of generations, loss and redemption.
|‘Ten Thousand Saints’ Spins Straight Edge Punk Into Literary Gold|
Eleanor Henderson’s debut novel, “Ten Thousand Saints,” was hailed in the New York Times as “fierce, devoted and elegiac” in her depiction of teens who reject drugs, sex and meat in favor of Straight Edge punk culture. Jude, the novel’s hero grows up in Vermont in the 1980s as the child of hippie parents.
|Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel|
Books like this don’t come along every day. The characters in this story are so well developed they don’t seem fictional but rather like people you may know, walking among the landmarks and bums of New York and the small towns of Vermont.
|In ‘Saints,’ A Straight-Edge Coming Of Age : NPR|
On Aug. 6, 1988, a collection of squatters, anarchists and youths took over Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan’s East Village to protest a new 1 a.m. curfew. By the time the fated hour rolled around, the gathering had turned violent as police attempted to shut down the park.
At that time, knowing nothing of his people, I thought that he had no observances or wakwa at all, and stood in no relation to anything in the world, except to the soldiers to whom he gave orders, and my mother and myself.
Stone Telling’s description of her father Kills, of the Condor people, in Ursula K. LeGuin’s novel Always Coming Home, an “archaeology of the future.”
This quote often haunts me when I consider our own culture, and how it seems to me to resemble LeGuin’s description of the culture and cosmology of the Condor people.