Mark Van Doren passed away on this day in 1972, at the age of seventy-eight. Originally from Illinois, Van Doren worked for many years at Columbia University, at one point testifying on Allen Ginsberg’s behalf to keep the young poet from going to jail. Two days before his death, Van Doren underwent surgery at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital for circulatory problems. He is buried at Cornwall Hollow Cemetery in Connecticut.
Robert Lax was born on this day in 1915 in Olean, in the Southern Tier region of New York.
Lax studied poetry with Mark Van Doren at Columbia University and graduated in 1938, right before Jack Kerouac arrived on campus. Similarly, they both took on a life of wandering. Lax worked for some prestigious magazines — The New Yorker and Time – and then joined the circus as a juggler.
Eventually, he found his way to the Greek island of Patmos. The island is known as a place of pilgrimage, as the apostle John had lived there. Lax himself went on to live here for more than thirty years, living the life of a hermit and writing beautiful poetry.
Kerouac indeed did end up getting in contact with his fellow alum. You can read his letter to him in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956.
On this day in 2006 we lost Alan Ansen.
Today we celebrate his life and work. Ansen, a graduate of Harvard, was secretary to none other than the great W. H. Auden, who had come to New York City in 1939. He hung out with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, and is even written into their works. By the 1960s, he had moved to Greece, where he lived on Alopekis Street in Athens, and hung out with other expatriate poets such as James Merrill (who went on to get the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1977), Chester Kallman (one of Auden’s lovers), and Rachel Hadas (who went on to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship).
Ansen passed away in Athens at the age of eight-four, but leaves behind his poetry and prose. Check out:
I think reading someone’s work is one of the best way to celebrate their life. Do you have a favorite poem by Ansen?
Lionel Trilling passed away on this day in 1975, at the age of seventy. He had lived through a lot: World War I, the Lost Generation, women’s suffrage, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the Beat Generation, Hippies, and Disco. It’s no wonder his politics, a topic on which he wrote, shifted and swayed and remain up for discussion.
Trilling taught Columbia’s Colloquium on Important Books, where among his students were Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr.
March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969
Jack Kerouac was only forty-seven years old when he passed away. The day before he died, he’d been drinking whiskey and writing at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida, when he suddenly felt ill. He called out to his wife, a Greek American from his hometown of Lowell, and Stella Sampas Kerouac got him to St. Anthony’s Hospital, where he ultimately died from his internal hemorrhage. He was buried in Edson Cemetery in Lowell, in the Sampas family plot.
Photo circa 1921, “The World’s Work” (June 1921 issue), via Wikipedia
The man who perhaps best captured the glitz and the glam of the roaring twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Fitzgerald is, of course, the author of The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender Is the Night, and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” He was connected with a group of expatriates living in Paris, who became known as the Lost Generation.
It was this Lost Generation that inspired Jack Kerouac to come up with the term the Beat Generation when he was having a conversation with John Clellon Holmes one day. However, in many ways, Kerouac’s content is dissimilar to Fitzgerald’s. F. Scott — named after Francis Scott Key, the lyricist of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and his second cousin, three times removed (whatever that means!) — glamorized America’s economic boom during the Jazz Age, while Kerouac glamorized the American hobo that sprung up following the Great Depression. Yet, their language, their syntax, is similar in capturing all that jazz.
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Life Continues to Be Absurd: Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fizgerald, and Eugene O’Niell
Along with two other very talented writers and editors, Maurice and Nana, I will once again be hosting the Redeemer Writers Group after our summer hiatus. The dates for our fall “semester” have now been finalized:
September 22, 2014. 7-9pm.
October 20, 2014. 7-9pm.
November 17, 2014. 7-9pm.
The writing workshops are completely free and open to anyone interested. Please bring a one- to two-page work of your own writing in any genre that you would like critiqued to share with the group. We are a Christian-based group open to writers of all skill levels and genres. The writing workshop will be held at the Redeemer
Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room. NYC.
Simona David attended my writing workshop at the Festival of Women Writers in Hobart, New York, this weekend and afterward asked to interview me for her radio show! We sat down in the lovely Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books, where she asked me about how I got my start as a writer, who my mentors are, and the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful. The interview airs today at 1pm EST on her show “Accent on Mondays” on WIOX, 91.3 FM in the Catskill Mountains.
Simona is an author as well. She wrote the essential art guide Art in the Catskills and Self-Publishing and Book Marketing: A Research Guide. It was so great chatting with her and getting to know her and her work.
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road turns fifty-seven years old today! It’s such a vibrant work that continues to inspire people to pick up a pen or hit the road that it’s hard to believe it’s been around for so long.
The above picture is what the novel looked like when it first came out. Paul and I actually emulated its design on the title page of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which I personally was excited about! Since 1957, Kerouac’s novel has undergone many, many cover transformations. I talked about the significance of these design changes here. And I talked about On the Road’s “girly” makeover here.
The novel has since inspired other artists, such as Tim Z. Hernandez, who actually tracked down “the Mexican girl”; Larry Closs; Jonathan Collins; and J. Haeske.
The film adaptation (you can read my experience going to see it here), which has a long history, came out recently and starred some of Hollywood’s biggest names. It sparked a lot of dialogue, including whether Hollywood was glamorizing the Beats.
Of course, even when it was first published, On the Road received criticism for its morality or lack thereof.
Despite these digs at its morality, one of the creeds I’ve heard over and over again — and with which I disagree – is that On the Road is a book only for teenagers.
And if you’re not a teenager and you read On the Road, it supposedly makes you undateabable. Unless maybe you’re a woman.
It seems like everyone has an opinion about On the Road. What’s yours?