A few years ago, I was at the New York Public Library, browsing the shelves for something new to read, when I stumbled upon Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road.“ I immediately added it to my stack of books (I greedily hoard books from the library and end up with outrageous fines) and headed to the check-out line. Tunneling through New York City on the subway, I read the book, never thinking that one day I might work with the book’s author, Paul Maher, Jr.
I’d been studying Kerouac for well over a decade and always had vague plans of “one day” writing a book on him; by vague plans, I mean I had not only read voraciously (Kerouac’s books, biographies on him, books about the era) but also taken copious notes, interviewed, written well over a hundred pages, and blogging, but was doing it more for my own research — both academic and for fun — than any tangible book plans. It was like I was living out that line in the opening of On the Road: “…always vaguely planning and never taking off.” It was quite some time after I’d read American Journey that I came upon Paul’s website The Archive – Sketches on Kerouac. I left a comment on one of his entries, without thinking too much about it, and was stunned and thrilled when he wrote back. We began talking about Kerouac and writing, and he told me he was thinking of reworking American Journey and asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating on it.
It was quite possibly the worst timing ever. By that point I was entering my thesis semester for my MFA, where I had to write two theses, one creative and one academic/research. I was also working full-time. But there was no way I was going to say no to the opportunity of working with Paul. Besides American Journey, he’d also written the incredible biography Kerouac: His Life and Work. This was a dream opportunity. I said yes.
Check back tomorrow for my exclusive interview with Paul Maher, Jr.
And check back Monday to hear all about reading with David Amram!