Good Morning Lowcountry
Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" was not well-received by everybody in 1957. The publication of the stream-of-consciousness novel that was written on one continuous roll of taped-together paper was hailed as the bible of the so-called Beat Generation by most; but author Truman Capote sniffed, "That's not writing. That's typing."
GMLc doesn't quite remember "On the Road," although as a lover of American literature, we did appreciate it. Unlike Kerouac groupies, we didn't read it many times. We recall being more interested in the facts of Jack Kerouac's bohemian friends and high-octane, cross-country journeys than in the fictional characters and places they became in "On the Road." So we turned instantly to Neal Cassady's unfinished autobiography, "The First Third," and writing by the notable boho poets of that time.
But we can probably blame the romance of road-tripping in "On the Road" for our college-era hitchhiking, mostly in Europe. And we can likely thank Kerouac and his pals, along with jazz musicians, for kicking off the coffee-is-cool movement; they drank it by the vatful. Other drugs of choice for them were alcohol, cigarettes and amphetamines, although the harder-core among them were heroin addicts.
Anyway, September marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of "On the Road," a literary icon, and it's being celebrated in large and small ways.
The large way is the publication by Viking Press of "On the Road: The Original Scroll," the unedited "spontaneous literary combustion," as it's been called, that Kerouac committed in 1951. The scroll uses real names ... Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsburg, etc. ... and was, in essence, autobiographical.
The original 120-foot scroll has gone on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City. Then it will go, well, on the road. The scroll tour includes Denver and New York City this year, Austin and Chicago next year.
Smaller events include film releases, lectures, dedications, discussions, exhibitions, marathon readings and appearances by some who were there.
Local writer and book purveyor Jonathan Sanchez has a strong Kerouac connection. He has been a writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House in Orlando, Fla., and often works with kids at writing camps on (scroll-like) continuous story writing.
Sanchez has created a scroll out of register tape at his store, Blue Bicycle Books at 420 King St., and stretched it 120 feet down the length of the shop. He invites local writers and poets and anybody else to come in and add to the story, which begins: "He rolled into town on the back of a flatbed truck, smelling of tobacco and crushed grapes..."
The scroll will be up this month at Blue Bicycle Books, and a portion of proceeds from sales of Kerouac books this month will benefit the Kerouac House. Check the scroll's progress at beingsanchez.com/news.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Blue Bicycle and the French Hare Gallery and Galleria next door will celebrate the publication of a new book of poetry by South Carolina writers, "Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets." The party is at 7:30 p.m. and all are welcome. See kakalak.net.
Literacy comes before literature.
Today at 1:30 p.m., the Charleston County Public Library will announce a community-wide effort to promote literacy, celebrate diversity and recognize community connections. The announcement will take place at the Main Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun St.
The new initiative will include public schools, colleges, businesses, the military, arts organizations, governments, media and civic and community organizations, the library said in a teaser announcement. It will involve more than 60 events at 27 locations around the county over a five-week period.