Sneak Peek of Burning Furiously Beautiful: Early Version of “On the Road” Tells Kerouac’s Mom’s Story

8 Jan

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From chapter 1 of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr.:

In an unpublished prose fragment, Jack Kerouac incorporated his mother and father’s French-Canadian heritage into one version of his road novel. It was centered on his mother’s birth using the pseudonym of Gaby L’Heureux. Gaby’s pregnant mother unwisely took a long journey by train to visit relatives in St. Pacome in the Quebec province of Canada. Gaby’s mother, though poor, was pure at heart, according to Kerouac. She gave birth to a set of twins before dying in her bed. Gaby survived but her twin did not. Gaby’s widowed father, Louis L’Heureux, who stayed home in Nashua, tended a gloomy bar. Outside, staring at the canopy of stars reeling over him, he adjusted his collar, securing himself unwittingly for one more cruel “blow” to his life.

The mother’s body was brought back to Nashua accompanied by her Aunt Alice and the infant Gaby. Kerouac captured in this bit of wrtiting how the train moved through the New England countryside, and how the Merrimack River wended its way through New Hampshire, a land once inhabited by Algonquin Indians waiting for “life.”

Gaby’s piercing cries irritated the travelers, and she was unaware of the life all around her. At the train station, her father took her in his arms, and he looked down to her adoringly. Alice predicted that they would never be without troubles: “Life is sad, O my love….”

This was first posted on the book’s Facebook page. For the latest, check out our page!

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