Archive | August, 2012

Videos from Premiere Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

31 Aug

Here’s video from the very first reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, cowritten with biographer Paul Maher Jr.  This is the reading that took place at The Sidewalk Cafe, to celebrate poet RA Araya’s birthday, and the awesome band I collaborated with is called flashbackpuppy.  Not only was this my first reading from the book — it was also my first time reading with a live band!  We didn’t rehearse the collaboration at all.  I literally met them for the first time when I got up on the stage.

Video via Liz Koenig

Video via Fred Rodriguez

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Don’t forget to come out this Monday night, September 3, at 8:30, to  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St., NYC).  Just steps from where Jack Kerouac and David Amram did their jazz-poetry readings in 1957, I’ll be reading about Kerouac while David Amram plays!  If you’ve ever caught any of his performances, you know that Amram is not only a phenomenal musician but also a great storyteller.

Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.

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9/2/12: That’s Jon Martinez on bass, Patrick Conlon on drums, Peter Beckett guitar playing in the videos.

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Photo from Mediabistro Party!

30 Aug

Went to an industry party thrown by Mediabistro last week to talk shop (I’m an editor by day…) and promote Burning Furiously Beautiful (…and a writer by night).  Check out the photo Roger Resnicoff took of me with some friends.

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Don’t forget to “like” Burning Furiously Beautiful on Facebook to stay in the loop.  Paul Maher Jr. and I have some fun archival photos up there.  Plus it’s a great way to meet other fans of Kerouac’s.

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Upcoming Appearances

September 3, 2012.  8:30pm.  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St.).  New York, NY.  I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road as David Amram plays, just like the first jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac did in 1957. Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.

Tasty Tuesday: Photos of Meze at Parea Bistro

28 Aug

 

 

My friend Demetrios and I went to Parea Bistro for dinner.  I let him do all the ordering, and we got a ton of different meze.  Every single thing was delicious!  I think my favorite might have been the htipiti, which is a spicy feta cheese dip that has jalopenos in it.  I also got a Santorini Sunset, which is a Makedonikos rose semi-dry wine with elderflower liquor and a splash of tonic water.  Hey, if you can’t make it to Greece, at least you can drink like you’re on an island!

Parea Bistro is located at 36 E. 20th Street, New York City.

Character Growth in “On the Road”

27 Aug

A friend of mine told me he was reading On the Road and couldn’t figure out what the point of the novel was.  He was only partway through and wanted to know if the characters ever grow.

I thought it was such a fascinating question!

As I’ve posted before, I do believe that the narrator, Sal Paradise, grows.  He is exceedingly complicated.  He’s zigzagging across America, refusing to conform to society.  And yet he keeps stating that’s what he so desperately wants.  He wants the house and the wife.  Likewise, he’s Sal Paradise—oh what a name!—is out cavorting with a car thief, and yet he’s constantly thinking about God and heaven and the holy.

I guess I can kind of relate to Sal Paradise a bit, and maybe that’s why I feel like the whole notion of whether his character grows is a complicated one.  I so often feel torn between two things that don’t seem to fit together.

I don’t know if it’s an American thing or a contemporary reader thing, or both, but it seems like we have this notion that characters have to change, grow, evolve.  We want them to become people by the end of the story.  …I guess that’s because we want that for our own lives.  We like inspirational stories—be they self-help books or Hollywood movies.  We think if this lowly character can overcome this-or-that, maybe we can too.

But how often does life play out like an inspirational book or movie?  Isn’t it more often the case that life is pretty mundane?  That we continually struggle with the same issues over and over again?  Aren’t we always searching for meaning?  Significance?  Trying to understand ourselves better?

I suppose if I’m honest, I do want to like the characters I read about, and I do want them to grow.  But I don’t think they have to.  I think part of what I love about On the Road has more to do with the language.  I’m not a huge fan of Kerouac’s poetry—though I do enjoy a few of his haikus—but I love the poetry imbued in On the Road.  I love reading his novel because of how sensual, visual it is.  I feel like I’m looking out the car window with him.  I don’t really care whether he’s in California or Mexico, whether he’s picking cotton or hitchhiking.  It’s all just so beautiful.

Moose!

24 Aug

Last Friday night I went to The Buffalo Readings to celebrate poet Kate Levin’s birthday.  It was my first time at the reading series, and everyone was encouraging and inviting, making me feel like part of the group.  It was a real laid-back sort of evening, very far east in the East Village.  A hot and rainy night, where we crowded together on metal folding chairs, listening to different poets read from iphones and sheets of tattered paper stapled together.  Musicians jammed on various instruments, while the poets read.

One of the prose writers told me a hilarious story about working at a camp with Gregory Corso, saying the Beat poet hated all the kids.

I also spent some time chatting with Steve Cannon, the founder of The Gathering of the Tribes.  We talked for quite some time about the business of poetry and the arts, but we also talked about life … about where we were from and what we’re doing with our lives.  I walked away feeling so blessed when he said, “you’re my type of person.”

Here are a few photos poet RA Araya — who is probably one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met; the type of person who is the glue that holds everyone together — took.  The first two are of me promoting Burning Furiously Beautiful (since it was my first time there, I wanted to hear everyone else and didn’t read, but I happened to have a few postcards for the book in my bag, which I was more than happy to share), and the last two are of me with Steve Cannon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re in the New York City area, you may want to check out this Charlie Parker Festival.

 

Road Trip with Kevin Russ

23 Aug

I stumbled down the rabbit hole of the Internet into some incredible road-trip photography by Kevin Russ, via Miss Moss. Looking at his photographs of grazing buffalo and wild horses that can’t be broken is like looking into the great American West of the past—and yet his photographs were taken with an iphone.

Kevin Russ’ photographs, wild and natural, rustic and warm, capture a moment that could be any moment in time. Massive mountains and deep gorges speak to the untamed beauty of the American landscape—the type of view that makes you pull over on the side of the road, speechless. You feel small. Not insignificant, but no longer the center of the universe. Your perch in the corner office becomes a little less important. Your eyes readjust. You begin to see.

The photographs have such a timeless quality to them even though there are signs of modern-day life in some of them. There are no people in the photographs that Miss Moss featured, and yet the contemporary traveler is present. There’s the lone yellow school bus traveling in the distance. Mundane-looking cars parked by a corral. The camper on the side of the road. A pastoral home, with what appears to be a kerosene lamp. Teepees. Yellow stripes dashing down grey pavement.

What’s interesting about the absence of people in the photographs is that Russ is actually an amazing portrait photographer. I liked his road-trip work so much that I did a bit of digging around on the Internet and found more of his photos on CameraLuv. He shoots hipsters with envy-inducing haircuts in front of abandoned tires, layers of newspapers, beat-up vans, and industrial fences. Is it any surprise he’s based in Portland?

So then I found his Flickr page and discovered he’s done photography for Radiant, a publication that has published my writing.

I want to languish all day on his Tumblr.

Seeing Kevin Russ’ photography makes me kind of wonder what it would’ve been like if iphones were around when the poets and writers of the Beat Generation were crisscrossing the United States. Allen Ginsberg was the itinerant photographer of the group, capturing hipster friends Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, and the like on their travels.

3 Takeaways on Blogging Advice from A Cup of Jo

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about social media, but when I ran across this article, “Blogging As a Career,” with A Cup of Jo’s Joanna Goddard, I knew I had to share it with you.

You’ll want to read the whole article because there’s a tenderness to it, touching on heartbreak and personality types, but here are my three takeaways:::

Follow your dreams. – As cliché as this may sound, you can’t force yourself to enjoy a career that isn’t the right fit for you (in Joanna’s case, law).  You’ll be more successful when you discover what you want and really go after it.  Following your dreams is not easy.  It requires sacrifice.  You may end up not even being able to afford to add a sliced tomato to your bagel with cream cheese.  You may have to work on your honeymoon.  But it’s worth it.

Don’t be afraid to fail. – Sometimes the things in life that feel like the most excruciating at the time, end up propelling you forward.  There is risk involved in work and love and life.

Stay true to yourself. – There are so many blogs out there.  Don’t try to copy other blogs.  Blog in your own voice.  As Joanna says, “When you write a post, imagine your mom or best friend reading it.”  To earn a living as a blogger, you need to secure advertisement; choose companies you love.

Joanna also gives advice on work-life balance, how to start a magazine career, and other insight, so check out her complete interview on her blog.

Evening of David Amram’s Chamber Music and Readings from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

21 Aug
This promises to be an unforgettable evening:
An Evening of David Amram’s Chamber Music
and Readings From Jack Kerouac’s On The Road with music
Friday, September 7, 8:00 pm

 

Symphony Space, Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
2537 Broadway @ 95th

 

A tribute concert to celebrate the chamber music of composer David Amram
as a part of the New York Chamber Music Festival

On Friday September 7 at 8 pm, the acclaimed New York Piano Quartet, internationally renowned flutist Carol Wincenc, violinist and former MET Orchestra concert master Elmira Darvarova, eminent cellist Wendy Sutter, New York Philharmonichornist Howard Wall, Metropolitan Opera principal percussionist Greg Zuber, actor John Ventimiglia (of the The Sopranos), famed pianists Tomoko Kanamaru and Hsin-Chiao Liao, talented young musicians from the award-winning ensemble Face the Music with artistic director Jenny Undercofler, the much talked about David Amram Quartet and multi-instrumentalist David Amram himself, will gather at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Symphony Space to celebrate the chamber music of one of the most significant American composers of all times — the indefatigable David Amram, as part of the 2012 New York Chamber Music Festival.

This celebration of David Amram’s chamber music includes a wide variety of the composer’s works which represent his prolific career spanning many decades. Works include the 1960 Violin Sonata, the 1979 piano quartet Portraits, the 1977 Native American Portraits, the 1982 Blues and Variations for Monk, the 1993 Theme and Variations on Red River Valley, the Andante movement from the Concerto for Flute Giants of the Night (commissioned and premiered in 2002 by Sir James Galway), its chamber music version presented at this concert by flutist Carol Wincenc in its New York premiere, and the very recently written 2012 Cancion de Verano (Summer Song), also performed in its New York premiere, by the acclaimed young musicians ensemble Face The Music.  Several of these works are inspired by David Amram’s legendary collaboration with Jack Kerouac, whose iconic work On the Road has its own presence at the September 7 concert, with 5 readings, performed by actor John Ventimiglia (of The Sopranos) and David Amram’s daughter Adira Amram.
Program
Violin Sonata (1960)
Elmira Darvarova (violin) and Tomoko Kanamaru (piano)
Theme and Variations on Red River Valley (1993)
Carol Wincenc (flute) with the members of the Face the Music ensemble
Andante from Giants of the Night* (2002)
Carol Wincenc, flute and Hsin-Chiao Liao (piano)
*New York premiere of the chamber version
Portraits (1979)
Members of the New York Piano Quartet with Wendy Sutter (guest cellist)
Intermission
Cancion de Verano (Summer Song)* (2012)
Members of the Face the Music ensemble
*New York premiere
Blues and Variations for Monk (1982)
Howard Wall (horn)
5 Readings from “On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac (2011)
John Ventimiglia and Adira Amram with the David Amram Quartet
Native American Portraits (1977)
Elmira Darvarova (violin), Greg Zuber (percussion), David Amram (percussion), Tomoko Kanamaru (piano)
*
Tickets: $20 in advance (Symphony Space Members, Students, Seniors $15; Day of Performance $25) at symphonyspace.org or call their Box Office at 212-864-5400

 

David Amram has conducted more than seventy-five of the world’s great orchestras, composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber works, written two operas and, early in his career, wrote and conducted many scores for theater and films, including Splendor in the Grass and The  Manchurian Candidate. Since being appointed by Leonard Bernstein as the first composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1966, he has become one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, listed by BMI as one of the 20 Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States since 1974. The Boston Globe has hailed him, “The Renaissance Man of American Music.”
For twenty-nine seasons, Amram was the Music Director, Conductor and Narrator of Young People’s, Family and Free Summer Parks concerts for the Brooklyn Philharmonic at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; and for seventeen seasons, Amram was the Musical Director and Conductor of the International Jewish Arts Festival, conducting members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.  In addition to conducting, he has also performed with symphony orchestras as a soloist on instruments from all over the world, combining jazz, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Native American and folk music alongside the European classics.
Today, Amram continues to perform as a guest conductor and soloist while continuing a remarkable pace of composing. Recently acclaimed new works include Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie; Three Songs: A Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; and Giants of the Night, a flute concerto commissioned and premiered by Sir James Galway.  A Little Rebellion: Thomas Jefferson, a piece for narrator and orchestra, was premiered at the Kennedy Center with Amram conducting;  and Kokopeli, A Symphony in Three Movements, had its world premiere with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, also with Amram conducting.
A pioneer player of jazz French horn, he is also a virtuoso on piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries, as well as an inventive, funny improvisational lyricist.  He has collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack Kerouac, Leopold Stokowski, Langston Hughes, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Eugene Ormandy, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Alan Ginsberg, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Paddy Chayevsky,  Johnny Depp, Archibald MacLeish, Pete Seeger, Tito Puente and Joseph Papp.
A documentary feature film, David Amram: The First 80 Years, is currently being shown at major music and film festivals throughout the United States and internationally. Directed by Lawrence Kraman, the film includes the New York premier of his Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie and highlights of his comic opera 12th Night.  Amram is also featured in Andrew Zuckerman’s book and new feature film documentary Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another, as one of the world’s 50 Elder Thinkers and Doers;  and his instructional video, Origins of Symphonic Instruments, released by Educational Video, is shown in over 6,000 schools throughout the United States and Canada.
On Sept 7th, 2012, the 4th Annual New York Chamber Music Festival presents an entire evening of Amram’s chamber music compositions at Symphony Space in Manhattan; and on September 21st and 22nd, Amram conducts the Colorado Symphony in Denver for a program which will include a live recording of his Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie.
For further information of Amram’s activities, access his webpage.
If you haven’t visited the appearances section in a while, you may have missed this news:
September 3, 2012.  8:30pm.  Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St.).  New York, NY.  Stephanie will be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road as David Amram plays, just like the first jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac did in 1957. Amram & Co. includes David Amram, Kevin Twigg, John de Witt, and Adam Amram.  $10 cover, plus $10 minimum.
See you there!

Ramblin’ Jack: Just Because You Don’t Like a Book, Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Well Written

20 Aug

Over the years, many readers have criticized Jack Kerouac’s work for its rambling prose and sounding too colloquial.  Everyone is certainly welcome to his or her own opinions.  The world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked exactly the same thing.  The literary arts are, to a certain degree, subjective.  One doesn’t have to like or enjoy a work, though, to see its importance and value.  Even if it doesn’t change the likeability of a work, it’s important to consider its artistry before completely dismissing it.

Take Of Mice and Men.  This book did nothing for me when I read it in high school.  I didn’t like the story.  The writing style was just fine, but not particularly innovative.  Still, it was a classic!  John Steinbeck!  I should like it, right?  I didn’t.  I moved on to The Red Pony.  Hated it even more.  But I was determined to like John Steinbeck.  Finally, I read Travels with Charley, which became one of my favorite books.  Same thing with Kurt Vonnegut.  As a teenager, I didn’t feel cool because I thought Breakfast of Champions was simultaneously silly and trying too hard.  Afterward, I read Cat’s Cradle, and even though the nature of the subject matter wasn’t of interest to me, I loved the book.

Sometimes it just takes finding that right book by an author.  Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean we’re going to all like the same book.  And that’s okay, but it doesn’t mean we should dismiss it—it’s a classic for a reason—or give up on the author.  If we do, we face missing out on some really great literature.

I don’t enjoy all of Jack Kerouac’s books.  And perhaps my favorite of his works is one that many people don’t read: Visions of Gerard.  For the people who don’t like Kerouac because of his subject matter, I’d encourage them to check out some of his other books.

However, even for the books we don’t like, we can still learn from them and sometimes even appreciate them.  When I was getting my Master of Fine Arts—I spell this out to emphasize the artistic nature of literature—in creative writing at The New School, instructors always stressed that we didn’t have to like everything we read but we had to keep an open mind and give each work a fair shot.  One of my first instructors always asked whether we liked the book, sometimes taking a poll.  Of course the interesting part came when we debated why or why not.

I’ll be honest: I read a lot of books I did not enjoy.  Many I ended up giving away to anyone who would take them.  But I kept some of the books I did not like—because even though I didn’t find reading them a pleasurable reading experience, either because they weren’t the style I enjoy or the subject matter bored me, I recognized their brilliance.  Sometimes the books I hated reading the most ended up being the very ones that had the most profound influence on my understanding of literature and the craft of my own writing.

One of these books was Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy.  The antithesis of a beach read, this book requires the reader to concentrate and piece together and analyze.  It’s not so much that the language or concepts were difficult—in fact, quite the contrary.  It was the author’s style, the limited view he gave the reader, that made the book both frustrating and genius.  It challenged my view of what literature was, how literature was supposed to work, and why we read—in a good way!

Now, as far as Kerouac’s prose stylings, there are a few things worth considering:

  • Kerouac’s first language was not English.  He was born in Massachusetts to immigrant parents who spoke to him in the French-Canadian dialect joual.  When he went off to school, half the day was taught in French Canadian and the other half in English.  It wasn’t until he reached high school that he began to feel comfortable speaking in English.
  • While many people critique the American colloquialisms Kerouac uses, it’s worth noting that people praise Mark Twain for doing the same thing.  Kerouac was working to capture a unique American sound, the language of his times.  He used to tape record conversations with his friends and refer to letters they wrote him, just to capture authentic speech patterns and diction.
  • The so-called rambling prose wasn’t just echoing true-to-life conversations and speech patterns; it was also referring to the stream-of-consciousness narrative of modernist novels.  One of the books he read that influenced his writing style was James Joyce’s Ulysses, an experimental novel that employed stream of consciousness.  In fact, you know that famous quote from On the Road about the roman candles?  The one that goes:

… but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Well, compare it to this line from Ulysses:

…O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!

  • Kerouac read voraciously.  He read the Greek Classics, comic books, the Russian masters, westerns, the bible, and history books.  In his journals, he refers to these works, evidence of his thoughtful contemplation of what he read.  These works influenced both the content and prose style of his own writing.
  • In addition to books, Kerouac’s writing was deeply influence by music.  If you read his work aloud or dissect his sentence structure, you can hear the bebop rhythm of his prose.  He and his musician friend David Amram used to improvise jazz-poetry readings together, creating it spontaneously, on the spot.  This is a lot harder than it sounds.  You have to really have a firm grasp on chord progression, rhythm, rhyme, and language—all while taking cues from someone else who is also improvising.

Sometimes works that seem effortless are the hardest ones of all to create.

 

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road discusses in more detail Kerouac’s literary development.

14 Road Trip Movies for Every Personality

17 Aug

When I was an arts & entertainment editor for an indie paper in LA county, I used to work a lot with the big Hollywood studios to promote their films.  At the time, the American Pie franchise was all the rage, and the PR execs in Hollywood contacted me about coordinating a free screening for my readers of the similarly raunchy teen comedy Road Trip.  Not exactly the highest form of entertainment, but it just went to prove that there’s a road trip movie for everyone.

As I’ve been working with Paul Maher Jr. on Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming film of On the Road and wondering who it will appeal to.  Will it be the die-hard Beat fans that pilgrimage out to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac?  Will it be a new crop of hipsters in the making?  Will it be a bunch of fanged teenyboppers brought in by Twilight’sKristen Stewart, who’s playing LuAnne?  Will it be the social justice league brought in by Walter Salles, of The Motorcycle Diaries?

For the wine lover: Sideways

For the BFFs (emphasis on the last F): Thelma & Louise

For the quirky, dysfunctional family: Little Miss Sunshine

For remembering your own family road trips gone awry: National Lampoon’s Vacation

For brothers: The Darjeeling Limited

For the beer-lovin’, truck-drivin’, betting type: Smokey and the Bandit

For the hippie: Easy Rider

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For the revolutionary: The Motorcycle Diaries

For the reader who shuns conventional life and his family: Into the Wild

For the scamming father-daughter team: Paper Moon

For fashionable gangsters in love: Bonnie and Clyde

For bored, hormonal teens whose girlfriends are on vacation: Y Tu Mama Tambien

For quirky con artists and an heiress who like their trips European: The Brothers Bloom

For the spoiled heiress and the desperate journalist: It Happened One Night

There are so many other road trip movies.  Which are your favorites?