Tag Archives: Da Capo

“Beat Generation” Premieres during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

10 Oct


Kerouac’s play “Beat Generation,” written the same year that On the Road was published, will also have its premiere tonight.  The event stage production is taking place during Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, the week-long literary where fans from across the country make their pilgrimage to Kerouac’s hometown in Massachusetts.

As The Guardian reports, until around 2005, Kerouac’s play “The Beat Generation” sat unpublished in a New Jersey warehouse. In 2006 Da Capo Press published the play, with an introduction by A. M. Holmes.  Kerouac, who had a great interest in film, never got to see his own play put on or his novels made into a film.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) raised funds through Kickstarter to stage the play in Lowell and is presented with UMass Lowell.  It was made with “the support and collaboration of Kerouac Literary Estate representative John Sampas,” according to MRT.

The play centers around the same group of New York City friends Kerouac often wrote about, as they pass around a bottle of wine.  Perhaps even more so than his novels, which are rich in poetry, the emphasis in “Beat Generation” is on dialogue.  Kerouac had a great ear for the unique syncopation of everyday language and the lingua franca of the working class.  As Kerouac himself said:

One thing is sure: It is now a real play, an original play, a comedy but with overtones of sadness and with some pretty fine spontaneous speeches that are as good as Clifford Odets.

Odets (1906-1963) was a playwright raised in Philly and the Bronx who wrote such plays as Waiting for Lefty and Golden Boy.  Born to Russian- and Romanian-Jewish immigrant parents, Odets used ethnic language and street talk in his plays.  Arthur Miller said of Odets’ work,  ″For the very first time in America, language itself . . . marked a playwright as unique.″  Kerouac himself was the son of immigrant French-Canadian parents and made use of both ethnic language–his own joual dialect as well as Greek and Spanish–and street talk.

For information on the special events surrounding the play as well as tickets, visit MRT.

Do the Brits Love Kerouac More than the Yankees?

3 Dec


Jack Kerouac is the Tupac of the literary world.  Even though he died in the infamous year of 1969, new works of Kerouac’s keep surfacing.  Recent years have seen the publication of Orpheus Emerged (2002) and When the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (2008), for which he collaborated with William S. Burroughs.  Around Thanksgiving The Sea Is My Brother came out.

Sort of.

The Sea Is My Brother was published in England on November 24, 2011, but it won’t come out in the States until March 6, 2012.  I know this because I’ve been stalking the BN.com product page and was confused when all of a sudden I started getting news that the novel had come out.  I thought maybe it had been released early.  Okay, for any of you who work in publishing, you know that I was really taking a wild leap with that one.  Pub dates shift out further.  Books rarely come in earlier than expected.  So what gives?  Why is a quintessential American author – the author that hitchhiked his way across the United States – being published overseas before in the States?

The good news is if you go to Penguin’s website, you can have the book shipped to you from the UK.  (The rights for the ebook are restricted to the UK.)  You just have pay a whole lot more than if you wait until spring.  Dear Santa….

Here’s the synopsis from Penguin:

Described by Kerouac as being about “man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies”, the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime. He wrote in his notes for the project that the characters were “the vanishing American, the big free by, the American Indian, the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes”. The novel follows the fortunes of Wesley Martin, a man who Kerouac said “loved the sea with a strange, lonely love; the sea is his brother and sentences. He goes down.”

Jack began this work not long after his first tour as a Merchant Marine on the S.S. Dorchester in the late summer of 1942 during which he kept a journal detailing the gritty daily routine of life at sea. Inspired by the trip, which exemplified Jack’s love for adventure and the character traits of his fellow shipmates, the journals were spontaneous sketches of those experiences that were woven into a short novel soon after disembarking from the S.S. Dorchester in October of 1942.

The book also contains correspondence between Kerouac and his Greek childhood friend Sebastian Sampas, with whom he grew up with in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Sampas died while serving in World War II, and Kerouac married his friend’s sister, Stella Sampas.

The BBC’s interview with Dawn Ward quotes the editor as saying Kerouac “‘opens up and shows a side to him that we don’t normally see in his books.'”

The top image is from the hardcover edition published by Penguin the UK.  Below is the cover image being used by Da Capo, an imprint of Perseus Books, which is publishing the book in the States.