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Jack Kerouac's Letters

Jack Kerouac created a modern American folk hero in the Beat generation classic, On the Road (Bantam), out of his vagabond adventures with friend Neal Cassady. A new book sheds light on Kerouac and his life during the writing of a novel that changed a generation.

Selected Bibliography of Joyce Johnson
What Lisa Knew: The Truths and Lies of the Steinberg Case, 1990
In the Night Café, 1989
Minor Characters, 1983
Bad Connections, 1978
Come and Join the Dance (Joyce Glassman), 1962 Selected Bibliography of Jack Kerouac
The Town and the City, 1950
On the Road, 1957
The Subeterraneans, 1958
The Dharma Bums, 1958
Desolation Angels, 1965 Non-fiction:
Selected Letters 1940-1956, 1995
Selected Letters 1957-1969, 1999 Poetry:
Mexico City Blues, 1959

Door Wide Open (Viking), is a series of letters between Kerouac and Joyce Johnson, his lover and fellow writer. Their relationship began when Johnson, then 21, met 34-year-old Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat poem Howl (City Lights Books). The writers found a connection in their shared feelings of restlessness and despondency and wrote to each other during Kerouac's greatest adventures, from Africa to San Francisco to Mexico City to Florida, while Johnson remained in New York. Kerouac's letters are filled with advice about life: "Don't worry about your dream, dreams are not prophetic at all, put no stock in dreams & omens." Johnson established her independence while running in the Beat circle with Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Lucien Carr and others. But Johnson, like so many other Americans who admired the Beat philosophy on life, never took the leaps toward utter freedom that Kerouac took without a second thought.

Here are a few excerpts:

Joyce to Jack in Mexico City, April 14, 1957
I went to hear Miles Davis, who is playing at the Café Bohemia in the Village....The place was packed, but silent as a cathedral—everybody at the bar looked sad and a little apprehensive....It was like a dream....I read some Jane Austen and went to bed and had a dream about being put into a prison for wayward girls and not being able to get out ever because it was supposed to be good for me.

Jack to Joyce, mid-October 1957, from Orlando, Florida
Get your novel done, don't worry about whether it's good or bad, just do's written in the stars, you have no Power over the Stars any moren I do. The Already Stars....These next five years I will be so busy writing and publishing and producing I wont have time to think about l' don't be sad about brunettes and least we are friends like 2 fingers intertwined....

Jack to Joyce, mid-October 1957, from Orlando
Dear Joyce,
Thanks for your letters which help me a great deal, make me happy, a little lonely down here....Rye & coke at my desk here, near at hand, dont drink beer anymore....Very happy life now. Especially with the great news, of Road back on the bestseller list for next Sunday, NUMBER ELEVEN!....

This article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Personal Journaling.

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