October 28, 2007

Kerouac - 50th Anniversary of On The Road

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the publication of On the Road, here's an from a 1968 interview with Jack Kerouac first published in the Paris Review. Conducted by Ted Berrigan.

The Kerouacs have no telephone. Berrigan had contacted Kerouac some months earlier and had persuaded him to do the interview. When he felt the time had come for their meeting to take place, he simply showed up at the Kerouacs' house. Two friends, poets Aram Saroyan and Duncan McNaughton, accompanied him. Kerouac answered his ring; Berrigan quickly told him his name and the visit's purpose. Kerouac welcomed the poets, but before he could show them in, his wife, a very determined woman, seized him from behind and told the group to leave at once.

“Jack and I began talking simultaneously, saying 'Paris Review!' 'Interview!' etc.,” Berrigan recalls, “while Duncan and Aram began to slink back toward the car. All seemed lost, but I kept talking in what I hoped was a civilized, reasonable, calming, and friendly tone of voice, and soon Mrs. Kerouac agreed to let us in for 20 minutes, on the condition that there be no drinking.

Once inside, as it became evident that we actually were in pursuit of a serious purpose, Mrs. Kerouac became more friendly, and we were able to commence the interview. It seems that people still show up constantly at the Kerouacs's looking for the author of On the Road, and stay for days, drinking all the liquor and diverting Jack from his serious occupations.

As the evening progressed the atmosphere changed considerably, and Mrs. Kerouac, Stella, proved a gracious and charming hostess. The most amazing thing about Jack Kerouac is his magic voice, which sounds exactly like his works. It is capable of the most astounding and disconcerting changes in no time flat. It dictates everything, including this interview.

“What encouraged you to use the “spontaneous” style of On the Road?”

“I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me, all first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious, all detailed, with real names in his case, however (being letters). I remembered also Goethe's admonition, well Goethe's prophecy that the future literature of the West would be confessional in nature; also Dostoyevsky prophesied as much and might have started in on that if he'd lived long enough to do his projected masterwork, The Life of a Great Sinner. Cassady also began his early youthful writing with attempts at slow, painstaking, and all-that-crap craft business, but got sick of it like I did, seeing it wasn't getting out his guts and heart the way it felt coming out. But I got the flash from his style. It's a cruel lie for those West Coast punks to say that I got the idea of On the Road from him. All his letters to me were about his younger days before I met him, a child with his father, et cetera, and about his later teenage experiences. The letter he sent me is erroneously reported to be a 13,000-word letter . . . no, the 13,000-word piece was his novel The First Third, which he kept in his possession. The letter, the main letter I mean, was 40,000 words long, mind you, a whole short novel. It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better'n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves. Allen Ginsberg asked me to lend him this vast letter so he could read it. He read it, then loaned it to a guy called Gerd Stern who lived on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, in 1955, and this fellow lost the letter: overboard I presume. Neal and I called it, for convenience, the Joan Anderson Letter . . . all about a Christmas weekend in the pool halls, hotel rooms and jails of Denver, with hilarious events throughout and tragic too, even a drawing of a window, with measurements to make the reader understand, all that. Now listen: this letter would have been printed under Neal's copyright, if we could find it, but as you know, it was my property as a letter to me, so Allen shouldn't have been so careless with it, nor the guy on the houseboat. If we can unearth this entire forty-thousand-word letter Neal shall be justified. We also did so much fast talking between the two of us, on tape recorders, way back in 1952, and listened to them so much, we both got the secret of LINGO in telling a tale and figured that was the only way to express the speed and tension and ecstatic tomfoolery of the age . . . Is that enough?

How do you think this style has changed since On the Road?

What style? Oh, the style of On the Road. Well as I say, (editor Malcolm) Cowley riddled the original style of the manuscript there, without my power to complain, and since then my books are all published as written, as I say, and the style has varied from the highly experimental speed-writing of Railroad Earth to the ingrown toenail packed mystical style of Tristessa, the Notes from Underground (by Dostoyevsky) confessional madness of The Subterraneans, the perfection of the three as one in Big Sur, I'd say, which tells a plain tale in a smooth buttery literate run, to Satori in Paris, which is really the first book I wrote with drink at my side (cognac and malt liquor) . . . and not to overlook Book of Dreams, the style of a person half-awake from sleep and ripping it out in pencil by the bed . . . yes, pencil . . . what a job! Bleary eyes, insaned mind bemused and mystified by sleep, details that pop out even as you write them you don't know what they mean, till you wake up, have coffee, look at it, and see the logic of dreams in dream language itself, see? . . . And finally I decided in my tired middle age to slow down and did Vanity of Duluoz in a more moderate style so that, having been so esoteric all these years, some earlier readers would come back and see what ten years had done to my life and thinking . . . which is after all the only thing I've got to offer, the true story of what I saw and how I saw it.

September 28, 2007

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss turned 50 years old in 2007!

The Cat in The Hat turned 50 as one of the bestselling children’s books of all time. It's as popular as ever with young readers, and first editions now fetch prices well into the thousands. Whether you're investing in a child's imagination or your personal collection, this classic is always a worthwhile acquisition.

September 27, 2007

What Are Some Useful Guides to Collecting?

A list of some useful guides to collecting vintage paperbacks or first editions:

- McBride's A Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions. Comment: Essential if you are interested in eventually becoming a seller or a serious collector.

- Ahearn, Allen. Book Collecting: A Comprehensive Guide. Comment: Another essential book with numerous examples and references.

- Bradley, Van Allen. Gold In Your Attic and More Gold In Your Attic. Comment: Essential for book sellers.

- Carter, John. ABC For Book Collectors. Comment: All purpose guide, probably a little outdated but useful.

- Tannen, Jack. How To Identify and Collect American First Editions. Comment: Haven't used it so no comment.

- Wilson, Robert A. Modern Book Collecting. Comment: Excellent little book, with several humourous anecdotes and a good no-nonsense guide to book collecting.

- Zempel, Edward N. and Linda A. Verkler. First Editions: A Guide To Identification, Third Edition. Spoon River Press. Comment: Haven't used so no comment.

- Ellis, Ian C. Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books, 1996. Comment: Good quality book.

September 26, 2007

Special Collections - University of Calgary

The University of Calgary has some excellent resources and books that are available for viewing on the web.

They have some good material on Mordecai Richler and Alice Munro as well as a section on Canadian paperbacks.

It is heartening that Canadian Universities are attempting to keep the heritage of printed in Canada and Canadian authors in the public view and for historical purposes.

September 25, 2007

The Origins Of Science-Fiction

The literary genre of science fiction is diverse and since there is little consensus of definition among scholars or devotees, its origin is an open question. Some offer works like the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh as the primal texts of science fiction. Others argue that science fiction became possible only with the scientific revolution, notably discoveries by Galileo and Newton in astronomy, physics and mathematics. Some place the origin with the gothic novel, particularly Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Science fiction developed and boomed in the 20th century, as the deep penetration of science and inventions into society created an interest in literature that explored technology's influence on people and society. Today, science fiction has significant influence on world culture and thought. It is represented in all varieties of ordinary and advanced media...

More at History of Science-Fiction on wikipedia.

September 24, 2007

A (Very) Short History of Ace Books Double Novels

Ace Books began publishing genre fiction starting in 1952. Initially these were mostly in the dos-à-dos (back to back) format, but they also published a few single volumes, in the early years, and that number grew until the doubles stopped appearing in about 1978. The dos-à-dos format was discarded in 1973, but future double novels were continued for a while.

Ace published science fiction, mysteries, and westerns, as well as books not in any of these genres. Collectors of these genres have found the Ace doubles an attractive set of books to collect, because of the unusual appearance of the dos-à-dos format. This is particularly true for the science fiction books, for which several bibliographic references have been written.

Between 1952 and 1968, the books had a letter-series identifier; after that date they were given five-digit numeric serial numbers.

Taken from Wikipedia.