Tag Archives: Guardian

“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As The Guardian reports, until around 2005, Kerouac’s play “The Beat Generation” sat unpublished in a New Jersey warehouse.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.

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and The Canterbury Tales

18 Jun

Jack Kerouac once quipped back at a journalist, “I’m not a beatnik; I’m a Catholic.”  Despite the Beat Generation being associated with the countercultural movement—sex, drugs, and … jazz—Kerouac’s writing so often points toward the spiritual.

Visions of Gerard describes his saint-like brother who died at age nine and touches upon life in the Catholic church in Lowell, Massachusetts.  When he left home, Kerouac began exploring Buddhism.  Ultimately he grew disenchanted by it, though, an experience he describes in Desolation AngelsOn the Road is tinged with the idea of holiness.  Check out this quote:

As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, “Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?  In some ways, Sal Paradise—what a name!—is on a pilgrimage.  The point of the trip itself isn’t religious, but along the way Sal sees God in nature and in the act of traveling.  Throughout On the Road, Kerouac writes about searching for the holy.  What he finds there on the open road is the beatific—the blessings that seem contradictory to what the world says are blessings.

If you think about it, one of the earliest road trip novels is about a pilgrimage: The Canterbury Tales.  Chaucer’s fourteenth-century tale has all the seedy characters one might find William S. Burroughs depicting.  The pilgrims are road tripping from Southwark to the Saint Thomas Becket shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.  Just like how Sal Paradise finds he has tell good stories to anyone who picks him up while hitchhiking, the cast of characters in The Canterbury Tales each tell a story along the journey.

To support the National Literacy Trust, a group of modern-day pilgrims recently reenacted The Canterbury Tales.  You can read about it, see photographs, and listen to portions at the Guardian.

 

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Don’t forget!

I’m reading tonight at 7:00 at The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy), here in New York City, as part of the Storytellers event, hosted by C3.

New Yorker Quips Greeks Invented Tragedy, Not Much Else Lately

15 Jun

 

I’m getting sick of the way everyone’s always ragging on Greece.  I just read this comment in “Greece Vs. The Rest” in The New Yorker:

Greeks are fond of pointing out that they invented democracy; they invented tragedy, too, and that is what their situation increasingly looks like, whoever wins the election. The problem is that in recent years they haven’t invented much of anything else.

The author clearly thinks he’s being witty, but it is an insensitive and erroneous remark.  We don’t go around mocking other countries that are experiencing crises.  Why is it okay to denigrate Greece?  Is it because, yes, “Greeks are fond of pointing out that they invented democracy,” and therefore come off as braggers?  Or are other countries purely jealous of how much Greece has influenced the world?

Greece in fact is innovating.  Greece is part of the Global Monitoring for Environmental and Security Initiative.  Three years ago, Nanophos SA received first prize for Innovation and Sustainability in the International Exhibition “100% Detail.” Lavrion Technological and Cultural Park is linking culture and technology research. Furthermore, many well-known international companies—such as Coca-Cola, Ericsson, and Motorola—conduct their research and development in Greece.

Sorry, Greece did not invent the ipod.  Let’s remember that much of modern Greece was under oppression.  During World War I, many Greeks were killed, and Greek refugees fled Turkey for Greece, which led to its own economic stresses.  During World War II, Nazis occupied Greece, sending Greek citizens to concentration camps.  From 1946 to 1949, Greece had a civil war, when it rose up against Communism.  And now, even in the years leading up to the economic crisis, the media has lampooned Greece, scaring off tourists and investors.  It’s hard to be creative and inventive when you’re fighting for your life.

What I do agree with is the author’s statement:

An unsustainable burden is being loaded on those sectors of the population who were already paying.

Just like here in the US, where the rich are able to write everything off so as not to pay taxes, there are many people in Greece who are not paying taxes.  Those who do pay their taxes are being overtaxed.  These are the people who are poorer, who are older, who are retired, who are more generous to those in need, who do what is right, who are loyal to their country.

This is why we saw a 77-year-old man shoot himself in the head in Syntagma Square—the Times Square of Athens—back in April.  As the Guardian reported, he shouted, “I’m leaving because I don’t want to pass on my debts.”

It saddens me that the media is not more compassionate towards Greece.  Yes, there are many things that need to change there, but the blame cannot be placed solely on Greece.  The country has suffered many hardships.  There are real people living in Greece who are, yes, experiencing tragedy.  Maybe we need to cling to our heritage to remind us of what we can accomplish and give us some hope for our future.  Maybe instead of lambasting Greece, the foreign media should believe in Greece.  Because you know what?  Greece has overcome many trials and tribulations, and will rise again.