by Jack Kerouac
Penguin Ink, 2011
224 pages / $12.84 buy from Amazon
1. The movie, based on Jack Kerouac’s book, based on Big Sur, 36.1075 °N, 121.6258 °W.
2. Voiceover beginning to end, front to back.
3. I think of all the times I’ve been to Frisco, ages 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 9, 11, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 28. I think of City Lights, North Beach, Sea Otters, Strip Clubs, Merry-Go-Rounds, Mirrored Ceilings, Fake IDs, Suspension Bridges, Soccer, Coffee and Bread.
4. Boredom. On my fifth birthday there were too many children and too many presents. In the backyard my father starred in Oscar the Grouch’s Cooking Show. He juggled raw eggs and ate tuna fish/jellybean/sauerkraut sandwiches. There were words the whole time but nobody talked.
5. Iodine blast. Iodine: A novel by Haven Kimmel from a song by Leonard Cohen from iodine, I, atomic number 53. From my mother’s skin before I was my mother’s.
6. Big Sur: A descent into madness, a portrait of hell, a catalogue of imperfections.
7. When I read the intimate details of our lives out loud it hurts less.
8. Things included but not mentioned in this essay: words, cigarettes, stars, beer, wine, whiskey, sand, waves, women, rhymes, slow motion, flames, bottles, trees, water, haze.
9. City Lights is my second favorite bookstore in America. Anthony Edwards as Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene in ER, the longest running primetime medical drama until it wasn’t. Dr. Mark Greene eating a Chicago Hot Dog over the Chicago River on a break from Chicago’s Cook County General Hospital. When I eat a Chicago Hot Dog over the Chicago River I think of Sandra Bullock, not Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I never liked ketchup.
February 6th, 2014 / 4:45 pm
Although justly famous in this country for his short fiction, Borges the poet remains largely unknown to American readers. This dual-language collection of his sonnets can go a long way towards remedying that deficiency. From his early atmospheric verse in Fervor de Buenos Aires, to his late poems of aging, nostalgia and death, written in the penumbra of near total blindness, Borges left behind a remarkable body of poetic work. We are still waiting for the complete works of Borges to be translated into English, but meanwhile, translator and editor, Stephen Kessler, has collected all of Borges’ sonnets into a single volume. Most of these were written when Borges was on his way to total blindness. The sonnet as a form called out to him in its succinctness and melody. Like oral poets of old, he found formal devices aided his memory, and so he composed sonnets in his head. The content of the poems is eminently recognizable to readers of his prose: the evocativeness of run-down suburbs, dusk, the gaucho, the warrior, the labyrinths of reason, the mysteries of time, identity, and mirrors.
November 14th, 2011 / 12:00 pm
I reviewed Light Boxes back in February, 2009. In honor of the official US release day of the Penguin presentation, here are those words, slightly altered and here again:
I feel it’s hard today to find a work of art that is earnest, that is compassionate. (Michael Kimball’s Dear Everybody comes to mind). I was startled by Shane Jones’s novel because it is so painfully both; it bleeds itself, and bleeds for others.
Light Boxes is a story about a community, about a man’s quest to rid his community of February, a bitter and long spell of cold that haunts the the town and its people. I don’t want to speak explicitly of the ‘narrative’ here, only because I think there is magic in discovery; it’s a sensual work. Many of the images affected me viscerally, and will stay with me for a long time. Dead bees pour from the sky, a broken father sits in the middle of a snow-covered street, a body surfaces in a river covered in text… I could list all the beautiful and often tragic images contained within for awhile.
To go deeper: The people in Light Boxes breathe true. I felt them living and felt them dying. They seem warm, hot & cold all at once, much like the seasons that surround them. The story also functions on a level outside its own prison, outside the printed page, but, again: I’d like to keep quiet. I’d like you to discover the layers and try to keep warm yourself.
Shane has crafted a fine myth, one I hope lasts for a very long time.
May 25th, 2010 / 10:06 pm