Thursday, July 31, 2008

jack kerouac's american journey: the real life odyssy of "on the road" book review

i will read just about anything on the beat generation, specifically material on jack kerouac or allen ginsberg. "jack kerouac's american journey: the real-life odyssey of on the road,"by paul maher, jr., caught my attention for two reasons. first, the author had already written a full-length kerouac biography, "kerouac: the definitive biography," which i read - and would recommend without reservation. he also published, "empty phantoms: interviews and encounters with kerouac," which is on my bookshelf, but i haven't read it yet. so maher certainly has the bona fides to write about kerouac!

and, second, i picked it up at the strand annex at 50% off as part of it's going out of business clearance sale. even with the substantial price discount, this book was a disappointment. it was carelessly put together and contained too many FACTUAL errors, in addition to simple typos, to ignore. early on, maher incorrectly refers to the unpublished manuscript, "and the hippos were boiled in their tanks," by it's earlier and REJECTED title. "i wish i were you: the philip tourian story!" this work, co-written with william s. burroughs (they each, in turn, wrote alternating chapters) covered the murder of david kammerer by lucien carr. that mistake was so glaring that i repeatedly had to reread the sentence in an effort to figure out what maher could have been up to?!

then there were the comical ones. when neal cassady was expecting his FIRST child, maher wrote he was expecting his FIFTH child. while cassady may have fathered five children, there are only three he had with carolyn cassady and one with diane hansen. this was, i hope, a simple typo. but glaring mistakes like these seriously undermine confidence in this book.

substantively, maher recounts the real genesis of on the road: the multi-year process of road trips and the various efforts kerouac made recording them and, then, slowly molding the raw material into what would become "on the road." while the myth that "on the road" was written in one long benzedrine high still has legs, no serious kerouac fan (much less, scholar) take it seriously.

skip this book. instead, read the "road chapters" of ANY kerouac biography (even maher's own) and it will be a much more rewarding experience.

check out paul maher's "on the road: the original scroll"

next up: back to running - haruki murkami, "what i talk about when i talk about running," has finally been released!


Viper said...

I'm with you on all things Beat. Glad you steered me away from this one. The appearance and credentials definitely stack up to seem intriguing. Too bad.

I look forward to your review of Murkami's book. I've read very varying opinions.

DawnB said...

Frank you're not only a running machine but a bloging machine awesome :)

Just_because_today said...

where do you find the time????

Paul Maher Jr. said...

Hey, i saw this and I agree. Here's why; the book was in its first draft manuscript form when the publisher folded and bought out by a larger press. They in turn rushed the book out to meet the 50th anniversary of OTR. I'M SORRY!