Tag Archives: Penguin

Gift Guide: 5 Unique Gifts for the Mad Ones

29 Nov

Happy Black Friday?! The writers associated with the Beat Generation generally avoided vapid commercialism, but if you have a friend, family member, or colleague who is into Beat literature — or if you’re looking to spoil yourself — you may want to bless them with a gift that values their literary interest this holiday season. But what do you get for the Beat reader who has a bookshelf full of dog-eared novels and biographies?

If your friends are “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved” — you know, people who religiously read Jack Kerouac — they’ll appreciate these unique literary-inspired gifts.

Then, again, as Kerouac said: “Offer them what they secretly want and they of course immediately become panic-stricken.”

1. A cappuccino cup from Caffe Reggio.

CappuccinoCupMediumImage via Caffe Reggio

Caffe Reggio one of the coffeehouses the Beats hung out at in Greenwich Village.

2. Teavana Global Treasures Tea Gift Set.

teaImage via JC Gourmet Gifts

“‘Now you understand the Oriental passion for tea,'” said Japhy. “‘Remember that book I told you about; the first sip is joy, the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy.'” ~Jack Kerouac

3. Chronicle Books Bedside Dream Journal.

Bedside_Dream_JournalImage via Chronicle

“All human beings are also dream beings.” ~Jack Kerouac

4. On the Road key ring from Penguin.

pc_keyring_ontheroadImage via Penguin

Get your kicks on Route 66 with this On the Road key ring from Penguin.

5. Cinnamon Apple Pie Candle from SweetShoppeCandles.

pieImage via Etsy

“I ate apple pie and ice cream—it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.” ~Jack Kerouac

You can get more ideas on my Gifts for the Mad Ones Pinterest page and from my blog post last year Gift Guide for the Beat Reader.

And you know what these all pair well with? You guessed it! A copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” which is available in paperback through Lulu and Amazon and in ebook through Lulu.


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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!


Judging On the Road by Its Covers

30 Jul

Okay, by now you’ve probably heard about the six year old who guesses what classic novels are about based on their covers, but I can’t resist rehashing her cute take on this early On the Road cover:



 “I think it’s about a car. A car that goes to Mexico, Indonesia and other places. It’s about a car that goes on all sorts of adventures. The guy on the cover is a teen, he likes to drive people places a lot. And he’s French.”

The cover she was looking at was the Signet 1958 edition.  I love that she guesses that the book is an adventure in many places and correctly guesses Mexico is one of them.

The fact that she guesses the main character is French is so perfect.  Of course, her guess is based on the drawing of a man in a Parisian-inspired striped shirt and scarf, which probably anyone would guess means the character is French.

Kerouac indeed was the son of French Canadian immigrants, but the kicker is that he’s usually thought of as either being very American or being anti-American.  In the 1960s, beatniks were depicted as wearing black turtlenecks and berets. In reality, Kerouac didn’t wear a costume of striped shirts or black turtlenecks.  If you look at most pictures of him, his clothes are nondescript.  He wore a lot of t-shirts and flannel and overcoats.

That’s why it’s so fascinating to look at the 1958 edition from a historical perspective on the evolution of Kerouac’s image.  As they’d do with any author, the publishing house tried to brand Kerouac.  In 1958, the striped shirt and scarf flung over his shoulder imparted a worldly, European air, meant to invoke a bohemian vibe.



The only other edition published before that was the Viking 1957 edition.  Of course, if you know about book publishing, you already know that Signet and Viking are both imprints of Penguin.  The difference between these two covers, though, is starting.  The cover of the first edition of On the Road, the Viking 1957 edition, was all black with a small rectangular abstract image in the center.  Bouncing text announced the title.  There was no image of a person or a car at all.  And yet the book sold so well that by the next year when the Signet edition came out, the cartoony line drawing cover featured the ringing endorsement “This is the bible of the ‘beat generation.’”

It should be noted that this Singet cover not only featured the Frenchman, but in the background there was a woman in a bikini and a couple making out.  Again, the publisher was trying to brand On the Road in a very specific way.  The third incarnation of the cover design for the US edition of On the Road came in 1965 when the extraneous people were deleted from the design and just the Frenchman was left standing on his lonesome, without even a car.  It lacked sex appeal, but someone must’ve liked it because two years later all the publisher did was switch from a cream colored background to a white background.  The following year, 1968, saw a cover design of a cartoony couple embracing in a car.  It marked a return to the sex theme.



Since then, the book has undergone many significant cover design changes, but what’s so interesting is that from the 1970s to the ‘90s the covers did not feature people at all.  They returned to the more metaphorical design of the first edition, featuring variations of the sun or a car.  It’s also worth noting that this was the time period in which Jack Kerouac fell out of popularity.

It wasn’t until Penguin released the 1991 paperback that the cover design included a people again.  And this is where it gets really interesting.  The romance angle is completely dropped and has not been seen in any US cover since the Signet 1968 edition.  Now, the focus becomes about friendship—a bromance, if you will—and cool hipsters hanging out in gritty New York.  The cover of the 1991 edition is a photograph of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, the real life inspiration for the main characters of the novel.  The Penguin 1994 edition a collage of photos of Kerouac and his friends.  The US doesn’t see another woman on the cover until the Penguin 2011 amplified edition, which again embraces the photographic collage style.



Other covers published between the ‘70s and today tended to be text only, feature landscape (with or without a car), or a picture of the lone traveler.  They tend to be spectacularly uninspired and ugly.

In Germany and France, where the film version of On the Road has already been released in theatres, there are new editions with covers boasting the poster image for the film.  Will we be seeing a US edition with the actors’ faces instead of Kerouac’s on the cover?

Which cover inspires you to read On the Road?

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.