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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Kerouac Fans Celebrate 50 Years On the Road

On September 5 Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel On the Road turns 50 and the city of Lowell will celebrate the work of its native son with a marathon reading of his influential masterpiece. The novel will be read by 48 readers including poets, authors, artists, fans and professors-including UMB’s own Professor Lloyd Schwartz-and will begin at 10am at Olive That & More at 167 Market Street in Lowell.

The event is part of an ongoing series of events that began in June to honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s preeminent work. On the Road takes readers along for a spontaneous and drug-fueled journey across post World War II America at the birth of what Kerouac would dub the “Beat Generation.” The novel focuses heavily on its characters, who are in a constant state of perpetual motion, and offers countless glimpses of this subculture of artists through the eyes of one of their own.

Throughout the summer, the city of Lowell has been energized with the culture of the counter-culture. Fans and artists influenced by Kerouac’s Beat Generation have flocked to the city to take part in the festivities that have included poetry slams, concerts, public art displays, theatrical performances and the pinnacle of it all, the exhibition of Kerouac’s famed scroll manuscript of On the Road.

The Scroll

Kerouac’s legendary scroll will be on exhibit at the Boott Cotton Museum, Lowell National History Park through October 14. The scroll is a continuous 120-foot long, single-spaced roll of teletype that Kerouac created by taping together individual sheets to allow him to complete his first draft uninterrupted. The technique proved amazingly effective as Kerouac, using his journals as a guide, completed the draft in an astonishingly efficient three weeks during the spring of 1951. Fifty years later in 2001, Indianapolis Colts owner James Irsay purchased the scroll for $2.4 million and has since taken it on a cross-country tour, mirroring that of the books protagonist, and is expected to continue until 2009. The exhibit is open daily from 10am-5pm; Thursdays 10am-7pm.

The Man

Jean Louis “Jack” Kerouac was born in Lowell March 12, 1922 to French-Canadian parents. Kerouac was the youngest of three children; his brother Gerard died at the age of nine when Jack was just four years old. The tragedy became the subject of Kerouac’s later novel Visions of Gerard. In 1939 Kerouac graduated from Lowell High School and made his way to New York City where his writing career blossomed and he joined writers such as William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg to form the foundation of what would become the Beat movement. In 1946 Kerouac met Neal Cassady and their subsequent travels across the United States and Mexico became the inspiration for his signature novel On the Road. The novel catapulted Kerouac to the forefront of the Beat Generation and he was dubbed the “King of the Beat Generation.” A mere twelve years later however Kerouac died, the result of a lifelong affliction with alcoholism, and was laid to rest in his hometown of Lowell.

Beat It

On the Road is widely hailed as one of, if not the, defining novel of the Beat Generation, a distinct group of American writers and artists that reached their peak during the 1950s and early 60s and was centered mostly in New York and San Francisco. The most notable icons of this generation include Kerouac himself along with Ginsberg, Burroughs and John Clellon Holmes. Beat writers are often classified as anti-conformity and counter-culture producing an avant-garde style that was often perceived as obscene or inflammatory. Beat writers often exhibited ideals that challenged contemporary opinion on subjects such as censorship, free speech, gay rights, and drug use.

On the Road

Kerouac romanticized the life-style of this subculture or artists with his road story that not only inspired countless writers to pick up a pen, but also inspired a generation of American youth to hit the road. The idea of the great American road trip in many ways sprang forth from Kerouac’s novel. The story chronicles three years of capricious wandering across the continent in a fluid and fast moving stream of consciousness narration. The novel is highly referential of Kerouac’s own experiences criss-crossing the country with companion Neal Cassady-immortalized as the much cooler named Dean Moriarty-during the late 1940s. Actual events and people, including fellow literary and poetic figures of the time, directly inspire much of this story of exploration and discovery.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

September 5 – 50th Anniversary of the publication of On the Road. 10am On the Road marathon reading at Olive That and More, 167 Market Street, Lowell.

September 67- 9:30 p.m. Mill City Open Mic and Poetry Slam at Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus, 61 Market Street, Lowell.

7 p.m. Visions of Kerouac Concert. French Canadian jazz bassist Normand Guilbeault sets Kerouac’s text to music. McDonough Arts Magnet Theater 40 Paige St, Lowell.

September 77:30 p.m. Kerouac tribute concert with the David Amram Trio at Boarding House Park. Tickets Required. Visit www.lowellsummermusic.org for more information.

September 8Kerouac’s Influence: Writers of the Next Generation will be a gathering of creative and scholarly people whose work and lives have been touched by the work of Kerouac at local venues around town.1-2:30 p.m. Ken Janjigian, Larry Carradini and J.D. Scrimgeour at the Brush Gallery 256 Market St.3-4:30 p.m. George Wallace and Dave Robinson at Life Alive 194 Middle St.6-7:30 p.m. Jay Atkinson and Mark Schorr at Brew’d Awakening 61 Market St.

September 91 – 3 p.m. Boston/North Shore Regional Writers Series at the Boott Events Center.4 p.m. New England Orchestra, A Celebration of Jack Kerouac. Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Liberty Hall.

September 127 p.m. Emerson College poets Daniel Tobin, Richard Hoffman and others read.

October 4 & 5UMass Lowell’s 9th Jack Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature with a special focus on On the Road.

For more information on the celebration and events, visit www.ontheroadinlowell.org

Kerouac Trivia

Kerouac mentions his best friends George Apostolos and Sebastian Sampas, killed during World War II, on numerous occasions throughout his writings.

Kerouac’s boyhood friends George Apostolos and Sammy Sampas were the uncle and cousin, respectively, of Ted Leonsis the prominent businessman.

At the time of his death in 1969, Kerouac’s estate was worth little more than ninety-one dollars, but by 2004 had grown to an estimated $20 million.

Kerouac did not learn to drive until 1956 (at age 34) and he never had a driver’s license.

In a scene from Bob Dylan’s 1978 film Renaldo and Clara, Dylan and poet Allen Ginsberg are seen at Kerouac’s grave.w

The alley that separates the City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio Saloon on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood is officially named by the city as Jack Kerouac Alley. The alley is famous for being a meeting ground for many luminaires of the Beat Generation, including Kerouac who often drank at Vesuvio.

Kerouac was related to botanist Brother Marie Victorin (born Conrad Kirouac) from his father’s side, while his mother was a second cousin of Quebec Premier René Lévesque.

Kerouac invented his own fantasy baseball league when he was a child. He continued playing this game well into adulthood.

Kerouac appeared as the character Gene Pasternak in Go by John Clellon Holmes.

The 10,000 Maniacs 1987 LP “In My Tribe” contained a song titled “Hey Jack Kerouac”

In Steve Earles album “The Hard Way” the first song “The Other Kind” mentions Jack Kerouac and being back out the on the road again an obvious influence on his music.

The King Crimson album Beat contains the song ‘Neal and Jack and Me’, a tribute to the spirit of On the Road.

Characters in On the Road have real-life counterparts: Sal Paradise = Jack Kerouac, Dean Moriarty = Neal Cassady, Carlo Marx = Allen Ginsberg, Old Bull Lee = William S. Burroughs.

Kerouac typed on an Underwood typewriter.

Photos at right: Kerouac and Underwood, man and machine.