Tag Archives: Flavorwire

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.
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The Perfect Novel for My Personality … and Yours!

29 Jul
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Obsessed with Buzzfeed quizzes, I of course find Myers-Briggs types fascinating. Perhaps as a memoirist I’m always on the quest to know myself better. Or maybe it’s because I’m Greek. Wasn’t it Socrates who said, “Know thyself”? At times, the Myers-Briggs test seems to know me better than I know myself. It narrows in on aspects of my personality that I haven’t thought about before even though they’re true.
Maybe that’s because I’m an ISTJ, and “The ISTJ is not naturally in tune with their own feelings.” ISTJ means Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging, or “Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Thinking.” ISTJs are quiet, reserved, loyal, dependable, keep in line with the law, and like tradition. You can read the breakdown here.
When I came across Flavorwire recently published “A Classic Book for Every Myers-Briggs Personality Type,” I was curious what novel would be paired with my personality type. Would it be one of my favorites? Would it be something that resonated with me on a soul level?
Would it be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?
Saul Bellow’s The Dangling Man?
Maybe Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way?
Perhaps Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ?
According to Flavorwire, the novel that best suits me is…
ISTJ: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
With interest in traditions and loyalty, and an ability to make a huge impact despite being quiet, ISTJs will appreciate Wharton’s masterpiece of manners.
I actually do love Edit Wharton’s writing. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to a make-believe puppy I created named after one of her characters.
The part about my supposed “interest in traditions” is interesting though, particularly when it comes to my reading habits. I do like tradition. I was the kid in the family who always insisted we HAD to have Christmas at our house and do it a certain way because it was tradition. But, I think sometimes we read to escape ourselves, to stretch ourselves, to live out in our imaginations the parts of our personalities that we are too rule-abiding, too anxious, too conformist to live out in our actual lives.
What personality type are you? Do you find it to be an accurate portrayal of yourself? What book would you pick for your personality?

Friday Links: Best Indie Bookstores

22 Nov

Happy Friday! Flavorwire’s recently been doing an indie bookstore roundup, which has been fun to peruse. I thought I’d share those with you and also offer a few of my own picks, which are mainly Beat-related or New York City-bound.

Roundups

Beat Bookstores

New York City Bookstores

What are the best indie bookstores in your neighborhood?

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

[2/12/14: edit made to this post to fix a spacing issue]

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.

Friday Links: Flavorwire’s Kerouac Obsession

8 Mar

Flavorwire is obsessed with Jack Kerouac. Here’s a round-up of articles referring to him this year:

Notice a trend?

Jack Kerouac Dropped Out of College. So What?

27 Jan

Is genius born or created?  By now everyone has read, or at least heard, about how Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College and went on to become the cofounder of Apple and one of the most important entrepreneurs of our time.  Perhaps less known is the fact that Jobs continued to audit classes at Reed.  He actually credited a calligraphy course he took as having a major impact on the Mac.  When I was taking a shuttle from the San Francisco airport to my hotel out in Walnut Creek, I had a midnight conversation with a businessman who had read the biography on Jobs and told me about how the computer genius’ interest in art was fundamental to his vision for building a successful brand.

Back in September, Flavorwire posted an article called “10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.”  This is what they wrote about Jack Kerouac:

In high school, Beat hero Jack Kerouac was no poet — he was a jock, star of the football team. His athletic skills won him a scholarship to Columbia University, but he and the coach didn’t get along. The two argued constantly and Kerouac was benched for most of his freshman year. Then, he cracked his tibia and, his already tenuous football career over, dropped out of school.

I love Flavorwire, and I understand that the writer was trying to keep the text short and irreverent, but I think it’s worth dissecting the often repeated line that Kerouac dropped out of Columbia University.  Implicit in remarks about his football scholarship and dropping out is the suggestion that Kerouac was neither intelligent nor studious—the same way that many critics like to point to how quickly he supposedly wrote his novels.  If he were a computer genius, like Steve Jobs, perhaps his craft would not be questioned, but because the arts are subjective, Kerouac’s dropping out of college is often reported more as a jab than as evidence toward his natural gifts.

To say that Kerouac was a jock and not a poet in high school undermines his academic achievements.  In reality, Kerouac, who didn’t even feel completely comfortable speaking English when he went off to school (he spoke his parents’ French Canadian dialect), did so well in school that he skipped a grade.  He spent a lot of time at the public library in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, voraciously reading the classics.  When he was not on the football field, Kerouac was part of a roundtable discussion group on philosophy and literature.  His father was a printer, and so even at a young age, Kerouac produced his own writing.  Like Jobs, Kerouac did not come from money, and the scholarship he earned helped him attend the university, where he studied English under the tuition of great professors.

Kerouac left Columbia, then he returned to resume his studies, and then dropped out for good.  However, like Steve Jobs, Kerouac continued his studies even after he dropped out of college.  He enrolled at The New School, where he studied literature.

 

After Kerouac moved to Ozone Park, Queens, and holed himself up writing, his friends jokingly referred to him as “The Wizard of Ozone Park.”  Do you know “The Wizard of Menlo Park” (New Jersey) was?  Thomas Edison, who after only three months of formal schooling, dropped out.

 

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This post has been updated. I wrote “college” when I meant to write “school,” when referring to Kerouac’s ease with English.

 

 

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.

“On the Road” Makes “30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Turning 30”

14 Jun

 

Flavorwire listed “30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Turning 30,” and guess what’s on the list?!  That’s right, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Unfortunately, this follows its inclusion:

Plus, then you’ll have ample time to develop your scorn towards it.

Why the scorn, Flavorwire?

As, I wrote in the comments field:

In the 10+ years since I first read “On the Road” when I was a teenager, I have not developed any scorn for it. In fact, as I’ve delved further into Kerouac’s life and work, I’ve come to see just how brilliant his writing is, especially considering English was not his first language. He had to learn the colloquialisms that he’s so often criticized for using. When “On the Road” was published in 1957, it was groundbreaking to use the type of slang Kerouac used and to improvise the way he did.

The comments section isn’t all that kind to the novel, either.  One commenter called it “one-dimensional.”

Really?  I can certainly understand a reader not liking the voice or even the story.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.  There are plenty of people in the comments section admitting they don’t like Jane Austen or Nathaniel Hawthorne.  It’s okay not to enjoy something.  Not everyone has the same taste.  That’s what makes us unique.  But—you knew there was going to be a but—there’s a difference between personal taste and fact.  The fact of the matter is that On the Road is multi-dimensional.

On the Road is about so much more than the literal exploration of a road trip.  Perhaps Dean Moriarty is a bit one-dimensional in the sense that he acts impulsively, living for his own happiness, and never really grows out of that.  The narrator, Sal Paradise, is on a spiritual quest of sorts, though.  He hits the road, trying to leave behind the East of his youth to find himself in the West.  He befriends Dean, even though he knows he’s conning him.  He’s constantly caught between what he thinks he wants and what he really wants.  He’s searching for meaning and beauty and love and friendship.  He’s a complicated character, not entirely sure of what he wants.

Also on the list were a couple of Greek authors!  Namely, Homer and Jeffrey Eugenides.

Huckleberry Finn Grows Up to Be Dean Moriarty

2 Apr

Flavorwire recently had a fun post on kid literary characters and their grown-up counterparts.  They said that Huckleberry Finn would grow up to be Dean Moriarty, the character based on Neal Cassady in On the Road:

 

Huckleberry Finn and Dean Moriarty

Mark Twain’s original American boy vagabond in search of adventure would inevitably grow up to figure as the care-free rover in Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel. Moriarty is described as “a side-burned hero of the snowy West” and a “holy con-man,” which seem to us to be pretty accurate descriptions of how the lawless, fanciful Huck might have turned out. And after all, even though Moriarty and Sal never set off down the river on a raft, you can bet they would have if they could’ve — and we think Huck would be itching to try that ’37 Ford sedan.

Find out all the other great counterparts here, and feel free to add your in the comments section.  I’d add:

Harold (of Harold and the Purple Crayon) grows up to be Chip Kidd in Cheese Monkeys.

Who would you add?

 

Writing Wednesday: Writing Mentors

16 Mar

I need a writing mentor, I more or less said in a post in January.  I have to admit, though, I felt a little awkward saying it.  Needing a mentor implies the need for help.  And who likes to admit they need help?

Well, it turns out, some of the best authors around have had writing mentors.  Flavorwire posted a great little montage called “A History of Famous Literary Mentorships.”

It featured literary mentoring between such notables as Henry James and Edith Wharton and Joyce Carol Oates and Jonathan Safran Foer.  I would’ve added Allen Ginsberg to the list.  He was constantly running around to different publishers, championing his friends’ works.

I currently have a publishing mentor.  It’s been great bouncing thoughts off her and hearing about her experience.  I also mentor someone, which has been really fun.

While I consider all my workshop instructors and classmates my writing mentors, I’m still seeking someone who can be a one-on-one mentor.  It would be so helpful to get an outside, experienced viewpoint on both my writing and my writing career.

I wonder if my writing would be different if I had a mentor.