Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac
I am proud to announce my interview with Louisa Solano about her experiences with Jack Kerouac are excerpted in Paul Maher's "Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters With Jack Kerouac." (Avalon--N.Y.) For more info. about the book see below:
Paul Maher Jr.
Jack Kerouac The synthesis and embodiment of The Beat Generation: Five significant books from Jack Kerouac's own library, signed and/or annotated by the great writer, his blue jeans and ornate wooden cross.
A quintessential Jack Kerouac archive featuring books that molded a poet, a pair of his blue jeans that may have accompanied him "On the Road" and a bohemian style wooden cross that may have hung in his house. The following is a recap of the notes and writings in the books of Jack Kerouac, and a brief description of the nature of the books themselves.New Editions 2, An Anthology of Literary Discoveries, a limited edition of copies of 1,000, with inside cover signed "Jack Kerouac", and "Neal + The 3 Stooges Jack Kerouac" written in blue ink on the spine. No publishing date. The back cover describes Kerouac's story, Neal and The Three Stooges, as "a romantic rhapsody of boyhood". The starting page of his story is dog-eared.The Philosophy of Schopenhauer is annotated by Jack Kerouac, with "The world as will (thing - in - itself) and as idea (object of the mind.)" written in his hand. In the fourth book contained in this volume, entitled "The World as Will Second Aspect The Assertion and Denial of the Will to Live, When Self-Consciousness Has Been Attained", Kerouac has underlined 42 lines of text, and has six pages highlighted in the left margin. Additionally, there are two "x"'s in the margins, emphasizing the text. Schopenhauer did not believe that people had individual wills but were rather simply part of a vast and single will that pervades the universe: that the feeling of separateness that each of has is but an illusion. This sounds much like the Naturalistic School of philosophy. The problem with Schopenhauer is that, in his view, "the cosmic will is wicked ... and the source of all endless suffering." Schopenhauer saw the worst in life, believing that he had no individual will, man was therefore at the complete mercy of all that which is about him. The text that Kerouac has underlined deals with past, present, and future, and how Schopenhauer contended that the present is all there is, and that past and future are an illusion. There is much of this philosophical ideology in many of the writings of Kerouac.Pensees, The Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal, owned and annotated by Jack Kerouac. On the title page, Kerouac has written "Pascal is not Neitzsche's 'broken Christian'---he is the Immortal Mathematician. JK". Pascal was a mathematician who became a religious philosopher. His "Pascal's Wager" claims to prove that belief in God is rational, stating "If God does not exist, one will lose nothing by believing in him, while if he does exist, one will lose everything by not believing." On one page, the sentence "What shall we conclude from all our darkness, but our unworthiness?" is circled, and asterisked. At the bottom of the page is written "Check on your past, all of it" in Kerouac's hand. On another page, there are three lines of text underlined, with an asterisk, and the notation "Thus the vicious Judas-worship of Kazgatzakis". Another circled segment of text reads: "If the Jews had all been converted by Jesus Christ, we should have none but questionable witnesses. And if they had been entirely destroyed, we should have no witnesses at all." There is a page in which "What makes us not believe in the true miracles, is want of love" is underlined and arrowed, with this notation "Dostoevsky's 'Hell is the inability to love' (or to believe in miracles)". The following is a heavily annotated paragraph, with Kerouac's comments bracketed: "Jesus Christ came to blind those who saw clearly [legal thieves] and to give sight to the blind; to heal the sick, and leave the healthy [those of self-interest] to die; to call to repentance, and to justify sinners, and to leave the righteous [hypocrites] in their sins; to fill the needy, and leave the rich [the ostentatious wastrels] empty." On the back cover leaf is written: "What would you have done if there had been no Christ?" in Kerouac's hand. There are many other notations, at least eight of them, with over 100 lines of text underlined, five assorted pages bracketed in the margin, and over 25 places where the text has been "x"d. An amazing glimpse into the profound religious nature of the "Beat" author and parochial school graduate. The House of Atreus containing the plays of Aeschylus, "The Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers Furies. This is a very early signature "John Kerouac" so it could have possibly been a schoolbook. It is signed in pencil on the cover page. There are several annotations in the book mostly made with pencil. Kerouac had a special interest in the writer's style, marking a section that reads, "Of such odes, this Trilogy, and especially the Agamemnon, presents to us the noblest surviving specimens. They may be regarded as the poet's profoundest musings on the moral and religions and historical problems suggested by mythical tale which forms the groundwork for his drama." Then another section that reads, "For we have in both, the same central idea; the succession, that is of guilt, atonement, absolution. In Agamemnon, some themes are Human action in its most violent and problematic aspects - lust for power and the violence that accompanies it; clash between male and female dominance; crime and punishment; emotion v. reason; tribalism v. democracy; pollution and purification. All are intensified because they occur within the family. Similar to Kerouac's "the Town and the City" that was a depiction of his family and growing up in a milltown. Perhaps the first inkling of inspiration. Kerouac has made notes on 12 pages, not including pencil highlights elsewhere. The last three pages are full of Kerouac's study notes. The notes read, "Koros - Fullness of head - Comfort. Hybris - Wanton ??? - Pride. Ate - Doom. Cycle which greek expected after too great success, pri?? And insolence." Then the following page reads, "Greek play prologue (anything before first chorus) - watchman. Paradus C - Paradus page 5. Episode I - Clytimnestra page 13. Stasimon I C - Statsimon page 17. Episode II Ch?? Ode - Herald page 23. Statismon II strophe, anticipation, episode. Episode III - Statsimon page 31. Koonsnos c and out - Coming of Agamemnon page 36-37. Exodus. Epilogue - actors go out. Idea very near that of Christian attitude. Plays said(???) because they are just a little pre?? To Christian idea. A bibliography of works by Jack Kerouac compiled by Ann Charters. This green paper bound book printed in 1967 is inscribed, "For Tony from Brother jack. 9-25-67 Lowell." Two years before Kerouac's death. With 5 pages of corrections made perhaps by Kerouac.The dark bluejeans are the Powerhouse 101 style from Montgomery Ward. You can almost see Kerouac aimlessly wandering down a dusty road wearing these during his travels. The wooden cross carved by an artist named Youenn measures 12.5 x 7 and still bears the worn twine that Kerouac must have used to hang it on the wall. The back of the cross bears a long, faint inscription with a few words in Kerouac's unmistakeable hand.
Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac
$15.95 (Canada Yes)
352pp, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary
Thunder's Mouth Press
Empty Phantoms: Collected Interviews with Jack Kerouac gathers together, for the first time in one volume, all known printed, recorded, and filmed interviewsincluding those celebrated, infamous, or obscurewith the acclaimed American writer and father of the Beats, Jack Kerouac.
In many instances, the interviews are transcribed from original tapes and are either unabridged, like the famous "Paris Review" interview in which the journal was excised for space constraints, or unexpurgated, such as in the infamous Northport Library interview, which had been edited to avoid issues of libel and charges of anti-Semitism. Editor Paul Maher, one of the leading young lions of Kerouac scholarship, has scoured newspapers to glean interviews unseen for decades.
Although many top-notch journalists, from Mike Wallace to William F. Buckley, conducted the interviews, it is Kerouac who dominates the proceedings, with his energy, wit, passion, anger, astute insights, playfulness, literary integrity, and searching spirituality. Best of all, the interviews are replete with Kerouacisms like "walking on water wasn't built in a day, wisdom is heartless," and "pity dogs and forgive men," which have been a cherished aspect of Kerouac's literature.
Beyond his own works, this living portrait of Kerouac isn't available anywhere else.
"This Is How the Ride Ends" Jack McClintock, Esquire (March 1970)
Like a little boy, an eternal innocent, he had no defenses. He seemed neither to need them nor to care for them, although he was sensitive enough to understand that many people do, and in beery conversation Jack Kerouac was like a one-man T-group. He always, in the phrase of Ken Kesey (whom he didn't like), brought it all up front.
The innocence in his last months made him do things that appeared simply foolhardy. A few weeks before he died in St. Petersburg, Florida, he and a friend went out (as he rarely did), drank too much and were beaten up by several angry blacks in a ghetto bar. I think it never occurred to Kerouac that he was not wanted there, not in these times. It hadn't been like that on the road.
But he had not been on the road in a long time. "You can't do what I did anymore," he said one evening about two weeks before he died. "I tried, in 1960, and I couldn't get a ride. Cars going by, kids eating ice cream, people with hats with long visors driving, and, in the backseat, suits and dresses hanging. No room for a bum with a rucksack."
For that reason and others he had lived in obscurity for at least the last eight years, many of them in St. Petersburg, perhaps the last place in the world one would expect to find Sal Paradise. It is an appallingly typical Florida city, with palm trees by the roadside, pastel concrete-blockhouses with plaster-of-Paris marlins pasted on their facades, sprinklers whirling silver pellets onto green lawns, polluted bays to cross when you go for a drive. Kerouac, ironically enough, never learned to drive, but somehow as he grew older he wound up here, in a town trying valiantly, if vainly, to throw off iits old-fogy image. His paralyzed mother lived here (and I will indulge a maudlin impulse and say that I'll never forget her wailing over his gray face in its casket: "Oh my little boy. . . . . Isn't he pretty? . . . What will I do now? as Jack's wife Stella stood in a black dress and gripped the handles of her wheelchair). It was Stella, mostly, who cared for Mrs. Kerouac, getting up and gliding toward the back of the house whenever the little bell rang.
A few months before his death, Kerouac had written a magazine article, "After Me, the Deluge," in which he castigated no less than the 1960s, and tried to assess his own feelings on being credited in large part with the development of the hippie "movement."
"It's about the Communist Conspiracy," he said of the articlein deadly seriousness, it must be added.
The article was selling well to newspaper Sunday magazines, and the Miami Herald asked me to visit Kerouac and dispatch a short profile to publish along with it. I had been thinking of approaching him anyway, and was glad to have an excuse for overcoming my reluctance to bother a man who I knew valued his privacy.
He lived in a suburb. The house was concrete block with a partial fake-brick façade and palm trees flanking the sidewalk. You had to shove the fronds aside to get on the front porch. I knocked on the door and met Stella.
She is a gray-haired woman in her early fifties, with a wide, bitter-sad smile and a deferent manner. She said, "He's not here," when I asked for Jack Kerouac.
He was, though. A shadow moved in the dim room behind her and then a face peered over her shoulder. The only photographs I had seen of Kerouac were old Associated Press biog shots in the files of the St. Petersburg Times. They show a young man, lean and handsome, with chiseled features, dark eyes, and rakishly tousled hair. Such pictures were still appearing on the dust jackets of his books, and Jack told me once, later on, "I'm always getting letters from girls who think I'm still twenty-six."
This was a different face. It had red-rimmed eyes and a day's growth of salt-and-pepper whiskers. Bu the hair was tousled and he wore a brightly colored sport shirt, and the only time I saw him with his hair combed was in his casket.
"Yeah," said the face, "You want to come in?"
Although the sun was two hours away from setting in the Gulf of Mexico, ten miles to the west, the house was dim inside. The drapes were all drawn tightly shut. Early American furniture, cherry wood and print cushions tied on with little bows. An oil painting of Pope Paul, almost cartoonlike with big blue eyes. Gray images dancing on the screen of a television set in the corner across from an early American rocker, but no sound coming from the speakers. The sound was Handel's Messiah lifting mightily from stereo speakers in another room.
Kerouac planted his feet into the carpet, tilted his head in a characteristic, little-boy way, offered a bellicose glower and said, "Are you gonna take my photo? If you try to take my photo, I'll kick your ass."
No, I assured him, I just wanted to talk. I told him why, and, when he learned that a magazine had bought the article, he became more friendly. He was pleased.
He dragged up another rocker, found an ashtray to go with it, and then slumped into the dim corner in front of the television set.
"I like to watch television like that," he said, then turned his head to call out: "Stella. Hey! Turn the music up!" Stella went and turned the music up.
He was wearing unpressed brown trousers, a yellow-and-brown-striped sport shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow. The shirt was unbuttoned and beneath it the T-shirt was inside out. His belly was large and round, oddly too large for the stocky body. He pointed to it.
"I got a goddamn hernia, you know that? My goddamn belly button is popping out. That's why I'm dressed like this. . .. . Well, I got no place to go anyway. You want a beer? Hah?"
He picked up a pack of Camels in a green plastic case. "Some whiskey? I'm glad to see you 'cause I'm so lonesome here."
We sat there and drank and talked for the rest of the evening. It was the first of perhaps a dozen such visits, and there was never a time until the last one or two visits when he didn't mention his loneliness. When I left that night about midnight he said, "Are you coming back to see me?"
I said yes, and would phone before dropping in if he would give me the number.
"I don't have a phone," he said. "I don't have anybody to call. Nobody ever calls me. Just come. I'm always here."
The visits seldom varied. Sometimes I brought a friend. We would pick up a dozen half-quart cans of Falstaff, his favorite beer, and shove aside the palm fronds and knock on the door. Stella would greet us with obvious and touching gratitude. "Jackie needs company," she would say in her quiet way.
We would push and pull the chairs around, find ashtrays, crack open the beer. There would always be a couple of books on the table next to what we came to think of as Jack's chair, usually classics. Once there was Boswell's Life of Johnson, another time a volume of Balzac, on whom he doted. There was always a stack of National Review magazines somewhere, for if Kerouac had a hero, it was William F. Buckley, Jr.
In addition to this paraphernalia, there was invariably a half-quart can of Falstaff, a pack of Camels, and a little two-ounce medicine vial with one of those white plastic caps that snap on and off. The medicine vial mystified us at first until we learned that it contained nothing more exotic than Johnny Walker Red.
"Call me Mister Boilermaker," Jack said, and when I ventured to ask why he drank the Scotch from that tiny container, he looked at me as though I were an idiot, as though I had disappointed him, and said, "So I won't spill it."
[Note: remainder of excerpt exceeds the allowed length.]