Search results for 'steinbeck'

From the Comments Section: Kerouac and Steinbeck

31 May

john

If you happened to read the comments from my post Research, Research, Research, you saw me and author J. Haeske — of the fantastic photo tour blog Retracing Jack Kerouac and the book Anywhere Road — discussing why I had posted a photograph of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row while doing research on Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Hopefully, I did a decent job answering the question. I’ve written about Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck before, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to revisit the archives.

Ramblin’ Jack: Just Because You Don’t Like a Book, Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Well Written — in which I write about how I used to hate Steinbeck

Big Sur and the Best Laid Plans — in which I talk about reading Cannery Row and offer some Steinbeck and Kerouac links

Overarching Writing Tips from Big Sur Writers: Don’t Censor Your First Draft — pretty much what it sounds like; includes tips from Kerouac and Steinbeck

Road Trip: The Salad Bowl of the World — in which I write about writers writing about Salinas Valley

Road Trip: Monterrey — in which I write about Kerouac and Salinas writing about Monterrey

Sweet Ride: Penguin Book Truck — I don’t mention in the article that Penguin published both Kerouac and Steinbeck

 

Do you see the similarity between Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck … or is it just me?

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The First Critique Kerouac Read of “On the Road” on This Day in 1957

5 Sep

OnTheRoad

After years on the road, multiple drafts, and arguments over edits, Jack Kerouac at last saw the publication of the book that would put him on the map — On the Road — on this day, September 5, in 1957. He and his girlfriend, Joyce Johnson, who would become an author in her own right, excitedly went to see how the Beat Generation novel was received by the media:

Together they picked up a copy of the midnight edition of the September 5 The New York Times and headed over to Donnelly’s Bar to read the review that would shift his fortune.

The reviewer, Charles Poore, enamored with Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Bernard Malamud, had passed on reviewing On the Road because of illness. Had he been the reviewer, the fate of the novel might have changed. Such was Poore’s clout that many publishers determined their publication dates based on who would write the book review that day. Poore’s day was Thursday, but this Thursday, the Bronx-born Gilbert Millstein, who had been working for the Sunday department since 1949, had filled in and appraised On the Road as a cultural milestone:

“On the Road” is the second novel by Jack Kerouac, and its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied by a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).

The critic predicted that though the vast majority of book reviewers would misunderstand the intentions of its author and that the work would be misconstrued as superficial, the writing itself was the “most beautifully executed, the clearest, and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.”

Continue reading the story of how Kerouac’s On the Road came to be published and how it has been perceived throughout history in the book I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu. Join our community of beatific readers on Facebook and Goodreads for more exclusive snippets, news, and readings.

A few more celebratory links:::

  • Is On the Road a classic? asks Salon.
  • Read about On the Road‘s ever-evolving cover design here.
  • Earlier this summer I sent to see the infamous “Joan Anderson letter” that inspired Kerouac’s writing style, which I blogged about here.
  • I explained what exactly those roman candles that Kerouac waxes poetic about are here.
  • I explore the character of Rollo Greb here.
  • Tim Z. Hernandez talked with me about Kerouac’s Mexican Girl.
  • I wonder about On the Road‘s dilemma here.
  • Lastly, here are 20 reasons to read On the Road.

September 7, 2016 — Correction: Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend, mentioned above, was Joyce Johnson. She is the author of Minor Characters, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent book is The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac.

Dream Journal: Travels with Chuck D.

15 Aug

Voyage

Jack Kerouac kept a dream journal. This log of nightly dreams was later published by City Lights Press in 1960 as Book of Dreams. Even before it was published, though, Kerouac encouraged others to pay attention to their dreams. He told Allen Ginsberg to infuse his poetry with his dream life.

When I was a high school student, my psychology teacher assigned us the task of keeping a dream journal. Isn’t that the most fantastic homework assignment you can think of?! According to psychology, we dream every night, but only some nights we remember our dreams. Keeping a dream journal was supposed to help us better remember our dreams. I know some people who hardly ever dream, but I have wild dreams—especially after eating pizza!

This past Friday night I had a doozy of a literary dream! I dreamt that I was writing a book entitled Travels with Charlie, which was a riff on John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Steinbeck’s book is a chronicle (it was purported to be nonfiction but it’s since come out that portions of it were made up) of the American road trip he took with his standard-sized poodle. My book, however, was about Charles Darwin’s travels. Incidentally, in real, waking life I once edited a reissue of his travelogue The Voyage of the Beagle. I didn’t make the connection in the dream, but perhaps there was some connection between Steinbeck’s poodle and Darwin’s Beagle. In the dream, I was retracing Darwin’s footsteps for a book about his “road trip.” I kept referring to Charles Darwin as Chuck D. or Chuckie D.—like the rapper!

I definitely need to start a dream journal!

Do you keep a dream journal? What is the wildest dream that you’ve had lately?

How Many Stars Should a Book Get on Goodreads?

7 Aug

redpony

Yesterday I wrote about my experience on Goodreads. I think most people use it to write and read reviews of books, but truth be told I don’t do that. The only “review” I give is ranking a book through Goodreads’ star system, and I only do that because it seems sort of mandatory.

I actually feel a sense of anxiety in ranking books. I have very idiosyncratic tastes. I often read books that have gotten a lot of hype and dislike them. But give me a book that the general reading public finds “strange” or that “no one” has heard of and I smatter it with stars.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all have different tastes and that a book can be worthwhile even if we didn’t enjoy it. I know that sounds strange, crazy even, but hear me out: I don’t particularly love the story of Hamlet (I mean, come on, it has a ghost in it), but the dialogue, structure, and literary techniques are genius, pure genius.

Also, tastes change over time. I didn’t like David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars the first time I read it. It was required summer reading when I was in high school, and I was decidedly not into love stories or books that heavily emphasized ethnicity issues, a topic my school focused on a lot. When I read it again in college, though, I was drawn into the story itself as if I were reading it for the first time. Sometimes I don’t even re-read a book and my opinion of it changes. I was looking over my Goodreads list and was surprised at how I’d rated some books. Books with three or four stars are the trickiest. I can really enjoy a book yet give it a lower ranking just because it’s not something I feel will stand the test of time or because it doesn’t have that extra little something. In contrast, sometimes I’ll give a book a slightly higher ranking than my gut reaction to it because it is a good book and I don’t want to discredit it even though in my mind there was something missing from it. See, this is why I should probably actually write reviews!

Anyway, here’s a bit of insight into the method of my ranking madness:

  • Five stars—the highest a book can get—are only for books that I feel have changed my life in some way, that are impressively written, and/or that I would reread. They’re the books I would own a copy of, have either marked up profusely or am careful to keep pristine, and would selfishly not lend out. Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is a book I gave five stars to. An eighteenth-century British novel, it still feels strikingly fresh and relevant to today’s postmodern literature. Read it. It’s wild.
  • Four stars are for books I enjoyed a lot and got absorbed in reading and would recommend to others. I would want to own a copy of the book. I gave J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye four stars, for example, because I recognize it’s a well-written, thoughtful book with deep implications for our culture but it didn’t really move me. I read it when I was a teenager and I read it again a year or two ago for my alumnae book club and my reaction was the same.
  • Three stars are for books that are good—good in the sense that they are solid reading for on the subway, on a plane, or at the beach. Maybe the story was appealing or maybe there was something interesting about the writing style that got me thinking. I’d pass the book along to my mom or a friend without wanting it back. A book like Ethan Hawke’s Ash Wednesday gets three stars. It met my expectations but didn’t blow me away.
  • Two stars are for books that somehow miss the mark for me personally. They’re for books I couldn’t get into, that tried too hard, that maybe had an interesting concept but failed to execute it properly, or that didn’t use interesting diction. Oftentimes they’re for books I was excited to read but weren’t worth the hype. They’re for books where I tend to feel cheated for some reason. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women gets two stars from me. I’d heard so much about this book I was really expecting it to be something special, but it was kinda a snooze fest. Sorry.
  • One star is for books that irritated me. John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony is an example of a book I only gave one star to. I read it back in high school and maybe I’d feel differently now but at the time I remember feeling tortured as I read it. (Conversely, I gave five stars to Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Cannery Row.)

Do you think I’m too harsh? Too fickle? How do you rank books on Goodreads? Do you ever go back and change your ranking?

Friday Links: Homer and Kerouac

26 Jul

the-odyssey

Happy Friday! Any exciting plans for the weekend? I’ll be at the New York City Poetry Festival. Poet RA Araya invited me to read as part of the line up for Miguel Algarin’s Brooklyn Poetry happening on Saturday at 11:40 at the Algonquin stage on Governor’s Island. If you want to come, take the first ferry out of Battery Park. It’s free! The ferry’s free, the poetry reading is free. If it’s anything like last year, you can envision yourself lofting in the grass and losing yourself to the Siren-pull of beautiful words. Speaking of Sirens, I’ll be reading from The Odyssey in its original Homeric Greek (help!) and from the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

In light of this, here are a few Friday links on the topic.

Literary Elitism vs. Populism (Is Homer much better than Kerouac?)

The New Yorker rejects Homer and Kerouac

Paul Maher Jr.’s Jack Kerouac’s American Journey: The Real-Life Odyssey of “On the Road”

“Like Odysseus in Homer’s poems, Kerouac in The Duluoz Legend is a restless adventurer that embarks on an epic journey — an Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer in modern guise,” writes LewRockwell.com

“Dean Moriarty was the Odysseus of Tennyson not Homer, sailing away again from his island-kingdom not because he loved his family less, but because he loved more the drumbeat of heroic adventure in his breast,” writes HistoryJournal.org

Steve McCurry looks at Travelers’ Tales

“[T]he Odyssean archetype of the indomitable wanderer has persisted down to modern times in works as diverse as James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain,” and even in the film “O Brother, Where Art Though?” in 2000,” writes Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Everything since the Greeks has been predicted wrong, he says, because geometrical systems of thinking are fundamentally flawed. On the Road, then, is not just a travel memoir, a series of successive “kicks” from travel and all its accompaniments; it is Kerouac’s aesthetic manifesto that he sets up in opposition to the dominant idea of beauty-as-geometrical-harmony. This is why On the Road arrives out of nowhere and goes nowhere. That is why if you look for structure, for symmetry, for a narrative with a categorical beginning, a clear ending and internal consistency throughout, you will be disappointed,” writes anenduringromantic

“I listened to Snyder attentively. I wanted to understand more. In preparing to write the nonfiction saga of our long walk across Turtle Island –  Odyssey of the 8th Fire – I’d been informed by books telling of our human journey: Homer’s Odyssey, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways,  Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and Paolo Cohelo’sThe Pilgrimage. Inevitably, Kerouac’s On the Road also touched me with its entraining cross-America accounts of reaching outward, inward, downward, upward,” writes Steven McFadden

 

 

Retracing Jack Kerouac Mentions Me

7 Jun

RJK

The other day I mentioned how J. Haeske and I have been talking about the correlation between Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck. I feel honored that the Retracing Jack Kerouac blog linked back to that conversation.

On the blog, Haeske reveals that it’s one of Steinbeck’s books that’s his favorite—not Kerouac’s. Can I let you in on a secret? Saul Bellow is probably* my favorite author. (*It’s hard to pick just one! That’s like picking your favorite child! Kerouac’s obviously right up there among my favorites with Bellow.) It’s interesting to discover that although we primarily blog about Kerouac and go to great lengths to read his works, study his literary techniques, research his biography, and retrace his footsteps, there might be one other author or book that for whatever reason we call our favorite.

Is that weird? Do you have a favorite book? Is your favorite book different from your favorite author?

Sweet Ride: Penguin Book Truck

30 May

Talk about a sweet ride! Look what I spotted at BookExpo America:

Penguin

That’s the Penguin Book Truck. Here’s Penguin’s press release on it:

Penguin Group (USA) Launches The Penguin Book Truck And Pushcart

NEW YORK, May 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Penguin Group (USA) announced today the launch of its first mobile bookstore: the Penguin Book Truck and the Penguin Book Pushcart.  Inspired by the long tradition of the library book mobile and the recent popularity of food trucks, this mobile bookstore is the perfect way to bring authors and books directly to readers.

The Penguin Book Truck and Penguin Book Pushcart will make their debut on May 30th at New York’s Javits Center during the Book Expo of America.  The Penguin Book Pushcart will be at the Delecorte Theater in New York City’s Central Park for performances at the 2013 season of Shakespeare in the Park.  The Penguin Book Truck and Pushcart will also visit the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, ” Tom Sawyer Day ” at the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT and numerous other bookstores, festivals, library events and author signings throughout the year.  In October, in conjunction with the National Steinbeck Center’s kickoff of the 75th Anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck ‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath, (published by Penguin) the Penguin Book Truck will travel West on Route 66 from Oklahoma to California, following the route of the fictional Joad Family and stopping at numerous museums, universities and historical sites along the way.

The Penguin Book Truck and Pushcart will stock books from all Penguin Group imprints and include a wide selection of titles by authors ranging from Patricia Cornwell to John Green , Elizabeth Gilbert to Khaled Hosseini , Nate Silver to Sylvia Day as well as Penguin Classics. The selection will also be customized for individual events.

Susan Petersen Kennedy , President of Penguin Group (USA), said: “We think the Penguin Book Truck and Pushcart will allow us to, directly and in partnership with bookstores, connect writers with readers and to spread the iconic Penguin brand in fun and exciting new ways. This will be a movable feast of today’s great books.”

Featuring Penguin’s iconic orange logo the Penguin Book Truck is 27 feet long with 96 linear feet of bookshelves on both sides. The truck is LED lit for nighttime events, has awnings to protect shoppers from the elements, and cafe tables and chairs where browsers can sit and authors can sign books.

The Penguin Book Pushcart is inspired by the design of the classic New York City hotdog cart.  It will be transported by the Penguin Book Truck to various locations including bookstores, parks, beaches, sidewalks in shopping districts, summer theaters, and green markets.

To learn more, view photos and follow the schedule of the Penguin Book Truck and Pushcart, you can visit them online at www.penguinbooktruck.com or follow them on twitter @PenguinBookTruck or on facebook at www.facebook.com/PenguinBookTruck.

About Penguin Group (USA)

Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children’s trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Viking, G. P. Putnam ‘s Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books , Gotham Books , Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne , among others. The Penguin Group (www.penguin.com) is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.

Wish I could hitch a ride to Tom Sawyer Day and of course get my kicks on Route 66 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck‘s novel!

Books and road tripping? Jack Kerouac would be proud. Hm… maybe they’ll let me take a cross-country trip on the Penguin Book Truck when Burning Furiously Beautiful comes out. An author can dream….

My first thought, though, when I heard about the Penguin Book Truck was that it reminded me of a book I had edited come to life:

Parnassus

Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels.

 

 

Road Trip: Cannery Row

23 Nov

What’s a road trip to Monterey without a stop to Cannery Row?!  I had read Cannery Row during my layover in Wisconsin so I was all prepared to visit John Steinbeck country.

 

 

 

Road Trip: Monterey

19 Nov

Most people associate John Steinbeck with Monterey.  Many of his famous novels, including Cannery Row, were set in Monterey.  Not surprisingly, there are many tributes to him in the toursity little town.

 

Steinbeck photobombing me

Jack Kerouac also wrote about Monterey.  One of the most beautiful passages about Monterey in Big Sur is:

But it is beautiful especially to see up ahead north a vast expanse of curving seacoast with inland mountains dreaming under slow clouds, like a scene of ancient Spain or properly really like a scene of the real essentially Spanish California, the old Monterey pirate coast right there, you can see what the Spaniards must’ve thought when they came around the bend in their magnificent sloopies and saw all that dreaming fatland beyond the seashore whitecap dormat–Like the land of gold–The old Monterey and Big Sur and Santa Cruz magic….

 

Road Trip: The Salad Bowl of the World

15 Nov

One of the reasons I was excited to travel the California coast from San Francisco to Monterey was because we’d pass Salinas.  John Steinbeck and Jack Kerouac wrote about Salinas Valley.  Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was set in Salinas.  In 1960, Kerouac published a piece called “The Vanishing American Hobo” in Holiday magazine, which in part said:

I myself was a hobo but only of sorts, as you see, because I knew some day my literary efforts would be rewarded by social protection — I was not a real hobo with no hope ever except that secret eternal hope you get sleeping in empty boxcars flying up the Salinas Valley in hot January sunshine full of Golden Eternity towards San Jose where mean-looking old bo’s ‘ll look at you from surly lips and offer you something to eat and a drink too — down by the tracks or in the Guadaloupe Creek bottom.  

Kerouac also wrote about Salinas in Big Sur.  Even though it was in Selma, California (called Sabinal in the novel) — the Raisin Capital of the World — that Kerouac wrote about picking crops with “the Mexican girl,” Terry, in On the Road, I imagine it to be very much like Salinas.

The Salinas Valley, which begins south of San Ardo, and runs all the way to Monterey Bay, is known as “the Salad Bowl of the World.”  Most of the green salad produce you eat in the US comes from the Salinas Valley.  Named during California’s Spanish colonial period, Salinas means a salty lake or marsh.  The climate and growing conditions make the valley particularly fertile.

I saw signs promising 7 avocados for $1.  Do you know how much I pay for an avocado here in New York City?  $2 for a single avocado!  I was super excited — “stoked” to use the lingo I picked up while living in Cali (yes, people really talk like that there).  However, in keeping with the everything-going-awry theme of the trip, we did not get to make the stop because our bus had broken down earlier on the trip and we were already two hours behind schedule.  I took these photos from the window of the bus.