Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Other Writers in Uniform

21 Sep
Flavorwire posted photos of writers from the Lost Generation’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to the Beat Generation’s Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in uniform. 
 
So often the media portrays writers as counter-culture rebels who refused to conform, but every once in a while we catch a glimpse of them wearing a uniform just like everyone else. In Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” Paul Maher Jr. and I were careful to show the tensions between Kerouac conforming and rebelling.
I think that’s how all our lives are. There are moments when we fall in line because it is advantageous to us or because we feel called to do so and moments when we blaze our own path.

It’s Walt Whitman’s 196th Birthday! …Or a Post that Includes References to President Lincoln and Bon Jovi

31 May

WaltBirthplace

Here I am in 2013 standing outside Walt Whitman’s Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center in Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in Huntington, Long Island. He’s best known for Leaves of Grass. American schoolchildren are probably most familiar with the poem “O Captain! My Captain!” from the poetry collection. Written in 1865 and not included in Leaves of Grass until the fourth edition, the poem is about the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

There’s so much more to Whitman than that, though.

Walt Whitman is a complex and endlessly fascinating figure of the American poetry scene. He is regarded as the father of free verse poetry. He was also a reporter. He wrote a temperance novel: Franklin Evans (1842). He didn’t believe that all the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually Shakespeare’s. (Hm… what would Miguel Algarin say?) He at first called for the abolition of slavery … and then later thought the movement was a threat to democracy. He’s been inducted into the Legacy Walk, which celebrates LGBT history and people. He passed away in Camden, and the Garden State claimed him in the New Jersey Hall of Fame; that same year (2009), fellow literary luminaries William Carlos Williams and F. Scott Fitzgerald were inducted in the category of “general” while Whitman was inducted in the category of “historical.” (Jon Bon Jovi was one of the inductees honored in the category “arts and entertainment.) Andrew Carnegie said Whitman was “the great poet of America so far.”

“So far.”

Has any other “great poet of America” come along who has taken Whtiman’s place? It’s difficult to say, but this week we’ll be honoring the Good Gray Poet and talking about the poets that have been inspired by him.

Yep! You guessed it. The Beats.

Happy 118th Birthday, Fitzgerald!

24 Sep

442px-F_Scott_Fitzgerald_1921Photo circa 1921, “The World’s Work” (June 1921 issue), via Wikipedia

The man who perhaps best captured the glitz and the glam of the roaring twenties, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Fitzgerald is, of course, the author of The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender Is the Night, and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” He was connected with a group of expatriates living in Paris, who became known as the Lost Generation.

It was this Lost Generation that inspired Jack Kerouac to come up with the term the Beat Generation when he was having a conversation with John Clellon Holmes one day. However, in many ways, Kerouac’s content is dissimilar to Fitzgerald’s. F. Scott — named after Francis Scott Key, the lyricist of “The Star Spangled Banner,” and his second cousin, three times removed (whatever that means!) — glamorized America’s economic boom during the Jazz Age, while Kerouac glamorized the American hobo that sprung up following the Great Depression. Yet, their language, their syntax, is similar in capturing all that jazz.

 

You might also like:::

Life Continues to Be Absurd: Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fizgerald, and Eugene O’Niell

 

Kalo Mina! October 2013!

1 Oct

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kalo mina! Happy October 1st! The first day of fall was September 22, but the weather today feels more like late spring. The sky is a bright, bright blue, the color of parakeet feathers. I walked down to Union Square at lunch today and was tempted to play hookey just so I could sit in the grass and look up at the sky and dream.

September brought routine back to the city, and it was a busy month. A few highlights:

  • Attending Greek American Fashion Week and seeing the latest collections by Tatiana Raftis, Angelo Lambrou, Nikki Poulos, and Stratton, with hair by Christo Curlisto
  • Seeing Jonathan Collins’ Beat Traveller art exhibit in Paterson with Larry Closs
  • Conducting a live interview with Tim Z. Hernandez about his book Manana Means Heaven at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul and getting to meet all the great people who work at the bookstore as well as Tim’s insightful agent
  • Reading one of my personal essays about road trips, homelessness, and God as Jason Harrod softly strummed guitar at his album release party
  • Retreating to Connecticut for the Scripps TriState alumni book club
  • Attending the Brooklyn Book Festival with friends whom I co-lead a monthly writing workshop with and getting to hear Justin Torres read from We the Animals again. He’s brilliant. I’m obsessed
  • Watching Into the Wild. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but at least I had read the book by Jon Krakauer before. The film devastated me. It was beautiful and painful and haunting and true, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days….
  • Brunching with author Isobella Jade
  • Hearing Davy Rothbart read from My Heart Is an Idiot. I once wrote that a story of his made me “wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac.” Yep, he’s that good. I was too shy to talk to Davy, but I met his dad and, despite my efforts to become invisible at the mere mention of audience participation, Brett Loudermilk selected me out of the audience to pull a sword out of him. Yes, you read that right
  • Reading Kristiana Kahakauwila’s story collection This Is Paradise — this is Literature. I am savoring it
  • Discovering H&M Home — whoops! There went all my money!
  • Finally getting Internet set up at my new place
  • Talked to my sister for the first time since she moved out of New York City
  • Imbibing my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall
  • Attending A Global Conversation: Why the UN Must Focus on Women’s Leadership
  • Oh and launching the e-book edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Paul Maher Jr!!!

So yeah, that was my September. What about you? Did you read any good books? See any movies that moved you?

Friday Links: Tennis

30 Aug

tennisSir John Lavery’s Played!

We writers aren’t known for being the sportiest bunch. Oh, sure, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you read my blog regularly you know that I write about one such writer: Jack Kerouac, who went to Columbia on a football scholarship. I don’t know how it is that of all the writers I’ve read—and mind you I was a voracious reader from childhood on, reading both male and female authors—I grew most attached to one that was a jock. I guess that’s just irony.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was the cliché example of the girl in the glasses picked last in gym class. Most of my friends lived for the days we had gym, which was only maybe twice a week when I was in elementary school. I hated it. I would’ve rather sat in science class or written an essay than be forced to participate in a rousing game of What Time Is it Mr. Fox? or kickball.

In high school, I started taking tennis lessons. This was very much encouraged by my father, who thought it was great for my future—that it would help me succeed in life and business. I’m sure even in today’s economy there are corporate types who discuss mergers over a competitive game of tennis or golf. I mean, I did see it on an episode of Friends so it must be true. I’d bet there are even publishing types who do so. The reputation of writers and editors, though, is more akin to writing a book contract on a cocktail napkin during our three martini lunches. And so it surprised me that I actually liked tennis. I didn’t like it enough to actually exert too much energy running for the ball, but I liked it enough to make a bit of an effort to endure physical activity. I only took lessons for about a year—there were other things to do with my time, things like study for the SATs and hang out at diners—but I held onto my racket for quite some time. It made the move with me from New Jersey to my first apartment in New York. But it didn’t make it to my second apartment. I hadn’t made friends with the type of people who belonged to tennis clubs. I’d made friends with the type of people who were also picked last for gym class.

In celebration of the US Open, today’s Friday links are tennis related:::

Jason Diamond writes about David Foster Wallace and tennis literature (Flavorwire)

Harvest Books even put out an anthology called Tennis and the Meaning of Life

I myself am a bit partial to the use of tennis in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus

The Great Gatsby came out around the time tennis was becoming popular in the US; Greg Victor offers a few thoughts on this (Parcbench)

I once sat behind this tennis star and author at Z100’s Jingle Ball

One of the earliest paintings to depict tennis was recently sold at auction (BBC)

Love this fashion spread depicting The Royal Tenenbaums, which of course featured a tennis prodigy (This Is Glamorous)

Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in 1950 when she entered the U.S. Championships

Have a sporty Labor Day weekend! Let me know if you’re doing anything fun.

Should Women Dismiss Beat Literature?

18 Jul

 

funnyfacebookstorewdsdsdsdsdsImage via Dangerous Minds
Google+ was all the talk at BEA this year and last. I’ve been on the social media platform for a while now, but just the other day decided to see how it compares with Facebook for finding the latest conversations on the Beat Generation. I did a keyword search and immediately found an article that was right up my alley: “The Feminist Backlash Against the Beat Generation.”
Kimberly J. Bright writes for Dangerous Minds about her experience viewing the now legendary scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and having another person there remark in surprise that she was there of her own volition. Bright writes:
Their teacher asked me a question about the scroll, obviously assuming that I was a museum employee. When I explained that I was just a visitor, she apologized and said, “But I didn’t think women read Kerouac.”
That was news to me.
The backlash against the Beats in general, and Kerouac in particular, is becoming more evident and is mostly coming from Feminists.
Oh, how I could relate—which Bright noted, referencing my apparently controversial Millions article. Just like Bright, I never knew some works of literature were supposedly for men and others were for women. How silly of me to not realize there was an entire list of writers whom I should ban without reading them to decide for myself or that I should dismiss the literary and cultural merits of a highly innovative and influential body of literature just because certain aspects of it might offend my sensibilities.
I attended a women’s college, where we read a wide breadth of literature and learned to think critically about works—literature that included Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Isaac Asimov, Kathy Acker, comic books, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Richardson, and Jane Austen. In my MFA program, we specifically discussed the distinction between the author and the work as well as the literary merit versus our individual preferences.
Bright went on to write:
Personally if I purged my bookshelves, real and virtual, of all the alcoholics and misanthropes – let alone all the manic-depressives, opium addicts, suicides, eccentric asexuals, adulterers and misogynists – I would hardly have any books left.
It seems a bit hypocritical, to me, for people to lambast the Beats while still reading other authors whose personal lives and even the content of their work are not any less controversial. This summer everyone rushed out to watch The Great Gatsby, read or reread the novel, and plan their weddings around the theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story that placed women as secondary characters, kills off one of the women, glorifies a criminal, includes affairs, and exalts illegal substances. It should also be noted that Fitzgerald is widely known to have plagiarized his wife’s work for some of his own books. If we’re dismissing authors on so-called moral grounds, perhaps we should then also dismiss:
  • Miguel de Cervantes (prison time after the money he collected as a tax collector went missing)
  • Paul Verlaine (prison time after shooting Rimbaud)
  • O. Henry (prison time for embezzlement)
  • Jean Genet (prison time for lewd acts)
  • Leo Tolstoy (secretly abandoned his wife in the middle of the night)
Of course, choosing whose work is “worth” reading becomes problematic because whose morals must we go by? Furthermore, which attributes of a person are more or less important when deciding whether we should read their literature? Should we praise Betty Friedan’s entire body of work because she is pro-choice? Should we dismiss her entire body of work because she did not further lesbian politics? Or vice versa? Should we dismiss her altogether? What about Bill Clinton? Should we not read the former president’s books because he cheated on his wife? Because he wielded his position of power over a twenty-two-year-old intern? Should we dismiss Jack Kerouac’s work because of the way he treated his daughter? Should we praise his work because of the way he treated his mother?
I don’t mean to make light of any of these issues or to excuse anyone from anything. My point is simply that we need to take a closer look as to why we excuse some authors but not others. Why have the writers who have been marketed together as the Beat Generation been targeted while others get a free pass?
And why don’t those so-called feminists who target the so-called Beats acknowledge the many women writers associated with the generation? Here were women who faced tougher socio-political times than we do today who got their own apartments, who studied at well-known undergrads and went on to work toward their MAs, who didn’t just sit around cooking dinner for their husbands but created works of their own. Should we forget their body of work or negatively lump it into a category we don’t read because of their associations?

Jack Kerouac’s Angry Postcard to His Editor

24 Dec

In 1956, Viking Press expressed an interest in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  The author had been writing and rewriting his novel for years, and Kerouac was growing impatient as it languished in the publishing house.  He was working with an editorial consultant named Malcolm Cowley, who had first gained renown for his 1929 book of poetry Blue Juniata before writing one of the first books about the Lost Generation.  Having been associated with the Lost Generation, it in many ways made sense that he was attracted to the Beat Generation.

By the 1940s he was editing Viking Portable editions.  He championed the work of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway, and John Cheever.  His interest in Kerouac’s On the Road is important to literary history.  What many people forget is that Kerouac was already an established novelist before On the Road.  He’d written a semi-autobiographical novel entitled The Town and the City that got respectable reviews with comparisons to Thomas Wolfe but which tanked when it came to sales.  Kerouac had literary contacts, but selling On the Road still wasn’t easy.  Cowley was interested but took his sweet time getting back to Kerouac.

On July 9, 1956, Kerouac sent him a postcard depicting the Lower Falls in Yellowstone National Park threatening to sell On the Road elsewhere if he didn’t receive his contract and advance from Viking.  You can read Kerouac’s postcard to Malcolm Cowley (as well as 14 other postcards from authors) at Flavorwire.

10 Quotes for Writing When You’re Staring at a Blank Page

14 Nov

The blank page.  So full of potential, yet perhaps the most intimidating for some people.  If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or just starting a new writing project, you may be facing the blank page wondering where to begin your story or what you even want to say.  Here are some famous quotes by authors who have come before us to inspire and encourage us when we’re faced with a blank page:

So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it.  ~Harold Acton

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.  ~Vladimir Nabakov

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air.  All I must do is find it, and copy it.  ~Jules Renard

If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages. ~William Campbell Gault

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~William Wordsworth

Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.  ~William Makepeace Thackeray

Write down the thoughts of the moment.  Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.  ~Francis Bacon

First thought best thought. ~Allen Ginsberg

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~Joseph Heller

 

How do you approach a blank page?