Tag Archives: Billy Koumantzelis

What’s Your Sign, Man?

3 Sep

I went to Philly the other day and visited the site of printer and author Benjamin Franklin’s house. To get there, I had to pass through this little tunnel:::

franklin

The sign made me laugh. Imagine being so famous that historians noted not just the site of your house but the little passageway you walked through to get there! His house is no longer standing, but excavations show aspects of the infrastructure. The signage there is equally humorous, as it seems to reveal a strange relationship between Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read. He seemed very concerned about her ability to manage the household and seemed to think she might burn the whole place down. I was so fascinated by his strange letters to her that when I got home I did a little digging into their relationship. It turned out that our Founding Father wasn’t in a traditional marriage! Apparently, he had proposed to dear Deborah but her mother didn’t approve of him so while he was traipsing through merry old England, Deborah married some rake who took her money and ran, never to be heard of again. Ben and Deb technically then entered into a bigamous, common-law marriage. They had two children together and also raised Franklin’s illegitimate child. They don’t teach that in the history books in school!

* * *

Maybe one day Lowell will put up a bunch of signs pointing out where Jack Kerouac went to church and where he wrote while he drank. My friend George Koumantzelis, who is the nephew of Kerouac’s friend Billy Koumantzelis, recently brought Grant Welker’s article “Is Lowell missing the Kerouac beat?” for The Sun to my attention. Welker writes:

Lowell has a small park with a memorial on Bridge Street dedicated to Kerouac and has a walking tour organized by the National Park Service, but it doesn’t have a permanent center — a museum, library or open-to-the-public childhood home — dedicated to the writer, whose popularity continues to grow here and abroad more than 45 years after his death.

In the meantime, we can still laugh about the signs Constantine Valhouli made!

* * *
What books on Benjamin Franklin would you recommend?

 

Advertisements

Jamming Jack

7 Nov

Friday night at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac we all headed over to the White Eagle Pub, a dive bar on Market Street.

WP_20131011_020

The evening started off with a viewing of Brent Mason’s documentary Grave Matters. The thirty-minute film got off to a riotous start when one of the people in the crowd fell or fainted off their chair! The film had to be stopped, but after it was determined she was okay, the documentary started rolling again. Whew, what excitement. Canadian musician and filmmaker Brent Mason explores Jack Kerouac’s life and legend by documenting his visit to the author’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Complete with interviews from people like Kerouac’s friend and eventual pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.

Billy was there in the audience and afterwards he introduced me to Brent–who was there with his teenaged son–and Jim Sampas. Jim played some recordings of Jack reciting his work.

David Amram led Jamming Jack and was magnificent as always. I’ve seen him play a few times now, and each time feels unique.

He also invited people up to read and perform in what turned out to be an inspiring evening.

Jerry

Here Lowell’s very own actor and screenwriter Jerry Bisantz, of Image Theater, performs as Jack Kerouac.

Steve

Christopher Barry and his youngest brother Stephen Barry each performed their poetry. Stephen (pictured above) had flown all the way from California to be at the event. I’ve met Chris a few times, and it’s always a pleasure hearing him read. It was nice meeting his brother and seeing that talent obviously runs in the family.

SteveD

Jazz-poet Steve Dalachinsky, whom I’d heard read at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac two years ago, was back to read more poetry! He is brilliant. His wife Yuko Otomo was in the audience, and I wish she’d read too.

Drummer

Throughout the performances, David was playing the piano. He also selected some wonderful young musicians to accompany them. I believe the drummer and the guy on the tambourine were local students. The guy on the box-drum came from further away and was at LCK two years ago. If anyone has their names or contact info, please do pass it along. They were phenomenal.

Toward the end of the evening, David starts talking, says something about an author who wrote a new book, and that she doesn’t know he’s going to call her stage, and then calls out my name! The last time I read with David I was so nervous I could barely eat the entire day. I didn’t have time to get nervous this time around! I read one of Kerouac’s prose-poems. So beautiful! I don’t know that I did it justice, but it was such an honor to get to read Kerouac’s own words in his hometown and with so many phenomenal musicians and writers there.

The event made me kind of sad… It was so fun and inspiring, and I wish that Kerouac would’ve gotten to see that his literature continues to be appreciated to this day by people who are willing to come from far-flung locales of Canada and California and from people in their teens to people in their 80s.

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Confessions of an Awkward Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Attendee

5 Nov

bus

I hit the road last month to attend Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!

Confession time! In most circumstances I feel like a hanger-on if I’m in the company of whomever is the man or woman of the hour. Maybe it’s related to the Imposter Syndrome Sheryl Sandberg talks about in Lean In. Who am I to talk to someone of great stature? I never want to bother anyone, make it appear that I’m trying to get something out of them, or come out as some zealous fan. So, my typical response is to just keep to myself.

The first year I attended LCK I went alone and barely talked to anyone. I had been studying Kerouac’s literature for more than a decade and was fascinated by everything around me. It felt so surreal to be in Kerouac’s stomping grounds, to see his birth home, the Grotto, the Pawtucket Falls, the mill town he’d loved and written about. Roger Brunelle gave excellent tours, and I was enthralled by every moment of it. I loved every moment of it, and even though I had no one to share it with I didn’t really mind.

This year was completely different. My friend Julie Parker let me crash at her beautiful home outside of Boston, which was brimming with books and paintings and so full of inspiration. She’s a design consultant who does package design, marketing, and brand identity, so when we weren’t at the festival we had endless conversations about publishing and self-promotion.

I got to meet Paul! Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. Paul and I have been collaborating together for almost two years, and I probably spend more time talking on the phone with him than anyone else except maybe my mom when she’s in the States (when she’s in Greece, it’s difficult with the time difference), but we’d never met in person. I guess I was worried by meeting in person, something would change. It ended up being awesome. He gave Julie and me a tour of Lowell, and since he himself grew up there, his insight and stories were really personal.

I also got to catch up with David Amram and Billy Koumantzelis. I first got to know each of them from interviewing them about their friendship with Jack Kerouac, and since then I’ve been careful not to assume they’d remember me or talk to me beyond that. I completely understand that they’d have other, more important, people to talk to. But I didn’t want to go to my default of keeping my distance for fear that would make it seem like I didn’t want to talk to them. Ugh. My head gets so mixed up sometimes! Anyway, I did end up getting to spend time with both of them, and they’re both so gracious and fascinating individuals. For all the negative things that have been said over the years about Jack Kerouac, I have to say that he sure knows how to pick friends. These guys are stand-up gentlemen. Even though I first got to know them because of their friendship with Kerouac, that doesn’t even matter to me anymore. I just like talking to them and hearing their perspectives. When I had first interviewed Billy, I was curious about who he is, and at one point he stopped me and said, “Aren’t you here to ask me about Kerouac?”

Through one of David’s concerts at Cornelia Street Café, I’d met the poet Christopher Barry. He was at LCK too and introduced me to his brother, Stephen Barry, who is also a poet. Chris is a great guy, and it was fun chatting with him and his brother. David also introduced me to Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo, who are these amazing poets from New York City. Seriously. Probably among the best I’ve ever heard read—and I’ve heard a lot of poets read over the years. I probably would’ve been too shy to ever introduce myself if it weren’t for David. Billy also introduced me to Jim Sampas. You know, the guy behind One Fast Move or I’m Gone and the new film Big Sur. I sat there kind of stunned, saying, “I’m a big fan of your work.” I gave him a postcard for Paul’s and my book, Burning Furiously Beautiful, and Jim said, “I think I’ve heard of this.” Wow. I also got to meet the documentary filmmaker (Grave Matters) Brent Mason. Super nice guy. I met Stephen D. Edington, the organizer of LCK. He’s given sermons at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, which I’ve read online and found quite interesting.  And, I got to meet Roger Brunelle and his wife, both of whom were so warm. I don’t know why I get so nervous to introduce myself and talk to people sometimes….

Another highlight, though, was meeting people from the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page. I was so touched when they came up and introduced themselves. I am so thankful for the network we have on that page, and it’s been great meeting like-minded people offline.

I guess I write all this to show that even if you sometimes are predisposed toward awkwardness, shyness, and over-thinking things, good things happen when you step out of your comfort zone. A colleague of mine recently posted on Facebook about how his daughter was having trouble with good greetings, that it took her a while to warm up to even people she knew when she’d see them again. I feel a lot like that little girl sometimes. Although this is supposed to be a recap of my time at LCK, I think it’s important that I share my true story. I’ve gotten the impression sometimes that people think if you read Kerouac, you’re trying to be cool. I never really had the impression of Kerouac as the cool guy. I always thought of him as the guy shambling after his friends. I think if you really read and study Kerouac, you understand that he too battled shyness, that although he had a lot of successes he also had a lot of failures, that he was prone to both self-assurance and worry. I think that if we just be ourselves and use our gifts and if we are open to opportunities and push ourselves little by little out of our comfort zone, we will surprise ourselves by what we can do. The key though is that it’s not about being in the spotlight or about others in the spotlight; it’s about the blessings of creating art, doing what we love, and fellowshipping with others.

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Big Sur Comes Out Today

1 Nov

BIG_SUR_400

Kalo mina! The film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur comes out today. Will you be watching it?

It stars Jean-Marc Barr as a Jack Kerouac who’s overcome by the notoriety that descends on him after the publication of On the Road. Barr told Salon:

“I’ve been living Kerouac all my life. So there was nothing to play.”

Though that statement seems over-reaching, from the trailers the half-French Catholic does seem to get to a closer emulation of Kerouac than other recent actors.

Of course, he’s also playing Kerouac at a much different point in his life than he’s been portrayed in the other recent films. In “What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation” for The Atlantic, Jordan Larson wrote:

But the current Beat revival arguably goes too far with its re-imagination of the Beat writers’ livelihoods as simple adolescent goofing around—its most prominent writers were, after all, well into their grown-up years when they wrote many of their most notable writings.

Kerouac is definitely an adult in Big Sur. A rather depressed one at that. And it brings up the point I discussed earlier this week when mentioning Karen Yuan’s argument in the article “Notebook: Hollywood shouldn’t glamorize the Beat Generation’s self-destruction” for The Michigan Daily, and that is, whether portraying them as adolescents or as adults, Hollywood and the Beat Generation is being criticized.

What’s interesting about Big Sur, though, is that the executive producer is Jack Kerouac’s nephew Jim Sampas. He was also the producer of One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur. Sampas also produced Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake and Joy Kicks Darkness, among other projects.

In 2009, Sampas told IFC:

“‘Big Sur’ is Jack’s most personal and confessional novel. I am blown away by his courage in writing about his own spiral downward with such honesty and depth. My goal is that this film we’ve created influences a younger generation to embrace this work. And if people who see this film are inspired by Jack no holds barred honesty, wouldn’t that be incredible?”

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Sampas, a fellow Greek American, at this year’s Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, when Billy Koumantzelis (check out his CD on his time with Kerouac) introduced me to him. It will definitely be interesting to view this film in light of the others.

I’ve read mixed reviews, and I’d love to hear what others think of the film. Please post comments if you see it!

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Limited Time Offer: 10% Off the Paperback of Burning Furiously Beautiful

10 Oct

528764_288645227899680_240973182_n

Exciting news!

Pop the champagne! The paperback edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now on sale.

Limited-time offer

We’re giving you an extra 10% off now through the end of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac. (Unfortunately, the books won’t arrive in time for us to sell physical copies at the festival, but at least you’ll get a discount!)

What’s the book about, you ask?

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is the most up-to-date and accurate account of the development of American writer Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking 1957 novel, On the Road. Using archival resources as the foundation of this book, Kerouac scholars Paul Maher Jr. and Stephanie Nikolopoulos have fashioned a gripping account of the internal and external experiences of Kerouac’s literary development.
Fueled by coffee and pea soup, Jack Kerouac speed-typed On the Road in just three weeks in April 1951. He’d been traveling America for the past ten years and now, at last, the energy of his experiences flowed through his fingertips in a mad rush, pealing forth on a makeshift scroll that he laboriously taped together. The On the Road scroll became literary legend, and now Burning Furiously Beautiful sets the record straight, uncovering the true story behind one of America’s greatest novels.
Burning Furiously Beautiful explores the real lives of the key characters of the novel—Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, Carlo Marx, Old Bull Hubbard, Camille, Marylou, and others. Ride along on the real-life adventures through 1940s America that inspired On the Road. By tracing the evolution of Kerouac’s literary development, this book explains how it took years—not weeks—to write the seemingly sporadic 1957 novel. Through new research and exclusive interviews, this revised and expanded edition of Jack Kerouac’s American Journey (2007) takes a closer look at the rise of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation, giving insight into Kerouac’s family roots, his time at sea, the shocking murder that landed Kerouac in jail, his romances, and his startlingly original writing style.
Who is my coauthor?

Paul Maher Jr. is the author of the critically acclaimed biography Kerouac: His Life and Work and Empty Phantoms: Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac
Check out my exclusive interview with Paul here.
You can judge our book by its cover
We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on our cover. Credit goes to Igor Satanovsky. He’s an award-winning cover designer that I’ve worked with for many years now on various publishing projects. Igor also is a poet (buy his book here!) and studied with Allen Ginsberg.

* * *

Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Friday Links + More Than a Thousand People Like Our Book!

16 Aug

528764_288645227899680_240973182_n

Paul emailed me the other day that we’d crossed the thousand-“like” threshold on our Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I wrote him back: “!!!!!!!!!” …Give or take a few exclamation points.

I cannot thank all of you enough for your support. It means so much to me and for so many reasons. I’m not really a numbers person. Friends have asked me about my writing in the past, and I’ve said that all those Friday nights I spent at home in front of my computer instead of hanging out with friends and all that time I spend frustrated as I edit and rewrite will all be worth it if I reach just one person with my writing. I wasn’t speaking specifically about this book, but it holds true in the sense that if I can enlighten even one person on the fact that Jack Kerouac was a literary artist and not just some beatnik cartoon or if I can give hope to one writer out there who is struggling with yet another draft and thinks they’re rubbish because they mistakenly believe the myth that Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks then I know I’ve done my job. Having a thousand people excited about the book, though, now that’s cake with a whole lot of icing on it!

I feel fortunate to have Paul as a coauthor. He’s so knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to writing about Jack Kerouac. He’s also really easygoing, and I think we’ve been able to work together well. Sometimes we get sidetracked and talk about things like woodland creatures and hot dog vendors and really bad sitcoms, and it’s all quite fun.

We also lucked out to have Igor Satanovsky as our cover designer. We get so many compliments on the cover. It’s usually the first thing people see when it comes to our book, so it was really important to us to have a strong cover and Igor nailed it.

We’ve been really privileged to have some people who have rallied around us and inspiring, encouraging, supporting, and even promoting us.

Most importantly, our families have given us time and space to write. My sister has attended almost every single reading I’ve ever given, Kerouac-related or not. My mom goes around sticking the postcards for our book anywhere she can. My father always made sure I got the best education I could get, which furthered my writing skills.

Many moons ago, before I even began working on this book, David Amram spent time talking to me about Kerouac and dispelled the whole idea of the so-called Beat Generation mythology. Since then, he’s invited me to read with him, has promoted my work in his own shows, and continually pushes me to think about life and art in new ways.

George Koumantzelis has gone out of his way to support our work. Oftentimes getting people to agree to an interview is like pulling teeth, but George actually invited me and arranged for me to interview his uncle Billy, who was Kerouac’s pallbearer. Billy and George have been tremendously gracious toward me. George often sends me helpful news links and posts my blog entries on Facebook.

The first time I ever got to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful was thanks to poet RA Araya, who invited me to read at The Sidewalk Café. He has since invited me many more times to read at various venues, and even when I haven’t read he’s passed out postcards for the book. He also frequently posts my work on Facebook.

One of the goals with our Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page was to create an inviting space for Kerouacians, those interested in Beat literature, road trippers, people who dig the history and culture of the ’40s and ’50s, writers, fans of the On the Road film, and the curious. We wanted a page that was informative and entertaining but also a safe place where people could ask questions and connect with each other. We don’t have a thousand people commenting on every single post, but we do have some regular posters as well as people who are actively engaged in leaving comments and forwarding posts. I’ve had the pleasure of even meeting a few of these people in person, which has been super fun. I never really had any friends that were into the Beats so it’s exciting to connect with others who are passionate about their literature.

There are so many people who have helped us get where we are today, in both small and big ways, specific to this book or in more general ways. The post would go on forever if I listed out each and every name, but the support is meaningful and doesn’t go unnoticed. It makes all the difference.

If you aren’t on our Facebook page yet, please do feel to join us. This isn’t some exclusive hipster club. People don’t try to one up each other on our page. We’re just super passionate and want to connect with others.

* * *

Reaching over a thousand “likes” by no means happened overnight. A lot of work goes into finding interesting things to post, responding to people’s comments, commenting on other Facebook pages, and getting lost in the time suck of social media. I’ve also done my fair share of going to talks on social media and scouring the internet for the latest hot tips. So, for today’s Friday Links, I wanted to leave you with a few helpful links for growing your social media. I’m by no means a pro, but some of these people certainly are.

 

Alt SLC registration just opened up! It’s a great way to learn about blogging

Dave Charest writes How to Get Facebook Likes for Your Page (The Easy Way!)

Author Laura Vanderkam writes about how to Grow your blog readership overnight! (or slowly over 3.5 years)

Conduit offers Ten Tips for Growing Your Target Audience Using Social Media

Photos tend to get more likes than just text, and Lark and Linen provides a Tutorial: Editing Your Photos

Samantha Murphy says that using “I” gets more thumbs up in How to Get More Likes, Shares on Facebook

In case you missed them, here are some of my previous links on social media:::

The true, true story behind the Facebook fauxlore of the Kerouac-Burroughs fight

I am one in a million

My Goodreads To-read list

How many stars should a book get on Goodreads?

Playing around on Google+ I found an article about, well, me

Why I Tweet and post on Facebook

Building your book before you write it

My takeaways from Cup of Jo’s advice on blogging as a career

Social media lessons from last year’s SWSX

I heart social media

Galley Cat’s advice for writers on Pinterest … and I’m on Pinterest

What are YOUR tips for growing your social media?

Fun Fact Friday: The First AOL Instant Message Was Sent by a Greek

26 Apr

ted

So here’s a fun fact I just read this week, via Yahoo: Ted Leonsis was the very first person to ever sent an AOL instant message.

If you don’t know who Ted Leonsis is here’s a quick run-down of just some of his achievements:

  • He was a senior AOL executive for 13 years
  • He is the co-CEO of Groupon
  • He is a founding member of the Revolution Growth Fund
  • He is the majority owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, and the Washington Wizards
  • He’s on the Board of Directors for American Express
  • He produced the award-winning documentary Nanking
  • He is the author of The Business of Happiness
  • He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Lowell, MA
  • He currently lives in Potomac, MD, at Marwood, previously owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Al Gore
  • He mentors through the Hoop Dreams program

Successful people are often thought of as ruthless and privileged, but Ted Leonsis is a self-made millionaire who follows his heart. This is the promotional copy for The Business of Happiness:

When the plane he was on prepared for a crash landing, Ted Leonsis asked himself the crucial question, If today is my last day on earth—will I die happy?. . . and realized the answer was no. Despite having achieved massive business success—he was a self-made multi-millionaire at the age of twenty-seven—he realized he would die unfulfilled. He told God that if he survived, he would turn his life around, give back more than he took, and pursue happiness. After walking off that plane, he got to work.

And while I mentioned Nanking above, I should also point out that his other documentaries are equally about social justice. Kicking It is a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell about the issue of homelessness, and A Fighting Chance tells the motivational story of Kyle Maynard, a wrestler who was born without arms and legs.

Ted Leonsis and the stories he helps get to the public are examples that no matter what our circumstances we are all capable of achievement.

My Year in Review: 2012

4 Jan

What a full year 2012 was! Here’s a quick little recap:::

aj_originalcov

In January I announced that the rumors were true. But it took the full year for it to finally look like this.

logored

In February I joined Pinterest to discover how it may help me as a writer and have been happily pinning ever since.

creatingspace

In March my personal essay was included in the book Creating Space.

p1015624

In April I was one of the editors representing the Burnside Writers Collective at the Festival of Faith & Writing. It was so special to get to catch up with the other editors and writers, whom I just adore. I also had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop while I was there.

reading

on_the_road

Image via On the Road with Bob Holman / Rattapallax

In April I also worked to create awareness about what we lose when we lose a language. My interview with poet Bob Holman appeared in BOMBlog.

In May I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. I had a fantastic thesis advisor and a beloved peer group, who challenged me to dig deeper in my memoir about growing up Greek American. After I read a snippet at our thesis reading, an instructor I’d never even had came up to tell me how much he liked my work!

2305th_flyer

Image via The Human Tower / Rattapallax

In June I witnessed the world record being broken for the tallest castell on a rooftop.

paris-review-issue-201-cover

In July I heard Amber Tamblyn read for The Paris Review at the Strand. Afterwards we somehow ended up on the elevator together, and I didn’t say anything to her. I never know in those situations if it’s polite to say something like “nice reading” or if the person just wants her privacy. I know she’s involved in the Beat literature community, though, so I should’ve probably talked to her about that.

570_Road

Image via The Millions

In August an article I wrote about a funny incident I had related to Jack Kerouac sparked a fiery debate and went viral, getting mentioned everywhere from The New Yorker to The Paris Review.

amramstef1

Photo via RA Araya

In September I had one of the most surreal moments of my life–reading with David Amram. I got to hear him perform again, this time as an enthralled audience member, in December.

miguel

Photo via RA Araya

That month I also read for poet Miguel Algarin‘s birthday bash.

p1016108

I also road tripped through northern and central California, visiting Cannery Row, City Lights Bookshop, The Beat Museum, and attending my college friend’s wedding.

p1015207

In October Hurricane Sandy hit New York, and I spent a lot of time in bed.

p10157001

In November I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo, but I had a lot of fun creating this ever-evolving Pinterest board for the book I never wrote.

I also gave a reading that got upstaged by a wedding proposal.

p1016239-e1355694672538

In December there was a flurry of Jack Kerouac-related activities to promote the film adaptation of On the Road, and I got to see author Ann Charters and film director Walter Salles in person at IFC. I also got to take a writing class with screenwriter Jose Rivera at 3rd Ward.

I also went out to Lowell and got to meet Jack Kerouac’s friend and pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.

 

What were the highlights of 2012 for you?

Gift Guide for the Beat Reader

14 Dec

The writers associated with the Beat Generation were anti-Consumerism, and I have a hard time believing they’d want anyone to buy beatnik merch. They would want you to buy and read their literature instead. However, if you have friends who love Beat literature, you may be hesitant to buy them On the Road because chances are they probably already have dog-eared paperbacks of both the standard novel and the scroll version. Here are a couple of alternative Beat-inspired gifts.

Amram

Musician and author David Amram did jazz-poetry performances with Kerouac and other poets. He also wrote the scores to films such as Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate and has jammed with a wide variety of musicians. David Amram: The First 80 Years chronicles his genius talent. (You can watch a video of me reading with Amram here.)

logo

Another gift-worthy film is Ginsberg’s Karma, a “documentary about the legendary poet Allen Ginsberg and his mythical journey to India in the early 1960s that transformed his perspective on life and his work.” The film was edited, produced, and directed by Ram Devineni, and features poet Bob Holman. I saw this film at the PEN World Voice Literary Film Feast a few years ago and was inspired to get involved in some of their subsequent projects.

billykoumantzelis

Billy Koumantzelis was a friend of Kerouac’s back in their hometown of Lowell and served as a pallbearer at his funeral. I picked up this CD when I was at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac in 2011. It’s full of stories about Kerouac hanging out at bars, getting into fights, and appearing on The William Buckley Show and makes a great gift for someone who wants to hear stories from someone who knew Kerouac. (I got to meet Koumantzelis last week, and he is a true gentleman. I’ll be sharing stories from that soon.)

corso2

Allen Ginsberg had a portrait of poet Walt Whitman hanging in his apartment. This framed portrait of Gregory Corso is a great tribute to a poet who loved the Classics.

YouCantGoHomeAgain

Jack Kerouac was inspired by author Thomas Wolfe. Bundle up Look Homeward, Angel and You Can‘t Go Home Again for the Kerouac fan.

the-visitation

Kerouac wrote about the Grotto in Lowell, which is a beautiful and peaceful space to visit. Artist Jonathan Collins, whom I met at one of my readings, did a series based on the Grotto, which would make a lovely gift.

Larry-Closs_Beatitude_Anthony-Freda-194x300

Another person I met at a reading was Larry Closs, author of the book Beatitude.
 I stayed up late one night reading this heartbreaking-but-hopeful book of love, friendship, and the power of literature. You can read the synopsis here.

museum-sign

I haven’t finished my California road trip posts yet (so many posts, so little time!), but it will include my visit to The Beat Museum in San Francisco. I was greeted by none other than proprietor Jerry Cimino himself, whose stellar work in preserving Beat history I’ve been following for many years. He took some time out to chat with me and show me the plethora of rare and first-edition Beat books. Even if your budget isn’t big enough for a first edition, you can still get archival lit mags, which make a really cool gift.

Sea

Another place soon to be featured on my California road trip is City Lights Bookstore. In addition to rare and signed copies of books, you can also get some exclusive works here. At Sea is an “Exquisite handmade letterpress edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s new poem” for poet Pablo Neruda.

Of course there are tons of biographies, walking tour books, graphic novels, films, and so forth that would also make great gifts, but if you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path (heh), these might be the gifts you’re looking for.