Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! is officially underway, kicking off on Monday with a reading by Michael McClure. As if McClure alone wasn’t enough to draw a crowd, Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven, and David Amram will be there, along with lots of other special guests and a great crowd of Beat scholars and fans. You can view the whole 2015 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! line-up here.
Whether you’re attending LCK or living vicariously through others’ reports, here are a few links to get you in the spirit:::
- My interview with Tim Z. Hernandez
- Exclusive video of David Amram performing at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York City
- Confessions of an awkward Lowell Celebrates Kerouac attendee
- Photos from Jammin’ Jack at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac
- 7 Kerouac-related places to visit in Lowell
- 5 of the most famous people and things to come out of Lowell
- Lowell of yesteryear
- Kerouac’s typewriter
- The bridge Kerouac wrote about was demolished
Benedict F. Giamo’s Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester
Pope Francis is in New York City. There are cops everywhere. Everyone I know, Catholic or not, is excited. I’ve never quite seen so many people excited over a religious figure’s visit.
In light of all the enthusiasm over the pope’s visit to America, I thought it would be enlightening to close the week out with a few articles exploring Jack Kerouac’s Catholicism.
- The American Conservative’s “The Conservative Kerouac” says: “Yet this bopping, scatting, mystical jazz poet who almost singlehandedly willed the 1960s counterculture into being was himself a political conservative and a Catholic.”
- The George Bulletin‘s “Discovering the Catholic Kerouac” says: “At the core of ‘On the Road,’ and at the heart of all his work, is the Catholic and Beat insistence upon an underlying spirituality that inhabits all creation. Kerouac saw the world, and everything in it, as Holy.”
- Culture War Magazine‘s “The Apocalypse of Jack Kerouac” says: “The Catholic overtones of Kerouac’s thought are as obvious as a notion of his not utterly incompatible with Catholicism, but occasionally mistaken for it….”
- Patheo‘s “5 People It’s Easy to Forget Are Catholic” says: “He was no angel, and certainly not a practicing Catholic (he stopped attending Mass at 14), but it has been rightly pointed out that Jack Kerouac never left his Catholicism.”
- The Arts Fuse‘s “Visions of ‘On the Road,’ the Movie” says: “Kerouac’s Catholicism is just one of the elements that’ve been ‘cropped out,’ so to speak, from a new film version of On the Road, directed by Walter Salles and written by Jose Rivera.”
- Hermit’s Thatch‘s “Kerouac’s Buddha & Jesus” says: “Personal experience can play into this identification of religious or psychological style.”
- CThe Merton Journal’s “Visions of Tom — Jack Kerouac’s Monastic Elder Brother” says: “Having been baptized, brought up and educated a Catholic, by the time he was 19 he had serious misgivings though he continued to have conversations with a local priest, Fr ‘Spike’ Morisette who also had his own struggles with his faith.”
- atholic Culture‘s “Three American Sophomores: The Restlessness of Thomas Merton, J. D. Salinger & Jack Kerouac” says: “This is where Kerouac’s religion and pursuit of detachment fails—and fails hard. Taking drugs is one of the most self-centered actions possible.”
- The Eponymous Flower‘s “Jack Kerouac was Catholic” says: “Indeed, he was eager to attack the Communists like Ferlengetti and Ginsberg, from whom he disassociated himself from several times in the interview. Despite being terribly drunk, he has moments of clarity and makes one of the most sartlingly accurate description of the false prophets… “
- Livemint‘s “Hit the road, Jack” says: “Many readers never get beyond that party-hearty surface and the book’s confessional stream-of-consciousness style. Leland draws a much more complex portrait. Despite the myth that the writing of On the Road was the next thing to speaking in tongues, a laying down of ecstatic inspiration by a Beat young savage, Kerouac was in fact a meticulous, driven writer, a man who “worked hard on his spontaneity”.”
That’s barely scratching the surface. Kerouac’s religious has been dissected by scholars and laymen alike for decades.
Last month I had the exciting opportunity of reading at WORD bookstore in Jersey City with my friends and colleagues from the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. One of my very best friends, Sue Jin Chang, came out to support me and took me out for a drink at Barcade to calm my pre-reading jitters. I was, after all, reading with highly esteemed writers whom I admire.
Poet and cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Cheryl Clarke, PhD, emceed the reading.
Cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Breena Clarke read from her novel Angels Make Their Hope Here.
E. J. Antonio, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year’s festival, read her powerful poetry.
Evie Shockley performed her poetry, including a provocative piece on the recent events in McKinney.
It being a reading featuring women authors, I decided to go the feminist route and read a selection from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” about the woman who was a catalyst for On the Road.
And here is a video of me reading a snippet!
I had the opportunity to interview Sophfronia Scott for the Festival of Women Writers. She is the queen of outlining, and her discipline makes me realize how structure can actually free up creativity. Sophfronia’s first big publication was writing about Generation X for Time Magazine. Since I am interested in the notion of categorizing people and literature by generations — the Beat Generation! — I was excited to ask her about her role in speaking for a generation.
Here is a snippet from our Q&A:
Nikolopoulos: While at Time Magazine, you and David Gross collaborated on the story “Twentysomething,” about Generation X. From the Lost Generation to the Beat Generation, and from Generation X to Generation Y, society tries to label groups of people based on when they were born and their shared historical and cultural experiences. As a writer, in what ways do you see yourself speaking for your generation?
Scott: The point of the Time Magazine story was that our generation, having observed and taken in the issues of the previous generation, seemed to be proceeding with our lives in a very thoughtful, observant manner. As a writer I tend to pursue my projects in similar fashion. Yes, I want to tell a good story or write an engaging essay but I’m also conscious of the fact that the story or essay has a deeper meaning. The story or essay interests me for a reason—I know I’m trying to say something important even if I don’t know right away what it is. The novel I recently completed explores sexuality, love, identity, and faith and when you read it you may find it challenging to what you believe about these things. In the big picture my writing, I hope, on some level will always leave you questioning who you are, what you believe, what your life is, in a style that will move you in positive ways.
If you missed it, I also did a Q&A with fellow Festival instructor Esther Cohen.
And, Breena Clarke interview me for a Q&A.
Novelist Breena Clarke — whose book River, Cross My Heart was an Oprah book club pick! — recently interviewed me for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers blog.
Clarke: I’m of the generation that kind of took our counter-culture marching orders from the Beats. You’re a couple of thousand years younger than me. How did you fall under the spell of Jack Kerouac and the Beats?
You can read my answer that question and her others here.
I’m super excited to be participating in the Festival of Women Writers again this year!
I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Festival participants at WORD bookstore in Jersey City (123 Newark Ave.) on August 18 at 7:30pm.
Then September 11-13, I’ll be returning to the Catskills to teach a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.