These audio clips are taken from a large of collection of Kerouac-related audio recordings owned by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. They are housed at the Center for Lowell History, and their complete catalog information is available through the Center. The public presentation of these clips is made possible by a an exhibit planning grant from Mass Humanities. The audio was painstakingly processed by UMass Lowell undergraduate Raymond Soto. The catalog numbers from the Center for Lowell History are included parenthetically. All recordings are used with permission.
1. Jack’s French
The novelist William S. Burroughs discusses the New England French dialect spoken by Jack and his French-Candian parents, extended relatives, and friends in Lowell. Burroughs provocatively suggests that this unique dialect led Kerouac to often feel a sense of inbetweenness, a sense of being both inside and outside of groups or cultures, even nationalities. Is this sense apparent in his poetry and fiction? (Center for Lowell History catalog: KT-011 A1)
2. Outcast Migrations
William S. Burroughs again speaks of Jack as moving between places and cultures. Burroughs notes that like many other 20th-century American authors and artists (T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway), Jack moved from the traditional social structures of a small town or city to an urban community that offered opportunity for artistic expermintation — places like New York City, London, and Paris. Perhaps Jack was always a migrant of sorts, always on the road. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-011 A2)
3. Death in Jack’s Writing
The poet Allen Ginsberg discusses the death of Jack’s father and the subject of death in Kerouac’s novels. Ginsberg believes that Kerouac’s experience watching his father suffer and die permanently impacted his writing. (Center for Lowell History: KT-012 A2)
4. Jack and the Question of Sexuality
Allen Ginsberg discusses Jack’s sexuality but also refuses to see Jack as accurately described by what has typically been called homosexuality. Rather, Ginsberg believes that Kerouac’s entire way of being in the world rejects such labels. Jack’s relations to the sphere of the erotic might be better described as “robust,” “open,” if a bit “rue[ful]” or guilty feeling, in Ginsberg’s view. Ginsberg seems to suggest that Jack’s sexuality belongs more to the kind of emotional and (sometimes) physical “comradeship” Walt Whitman described in the nineteenth century or to the new models of emotionally preceptive masculinity experimented with by Marlon Brando and others in the 1950s, more than it belongs to the avant garde of the gay liberation movement. (Lowell Center for History: KT-012 A2)
5. American Vision Quests and Neal Cassidy
Allen Ginsberg responds to a critique by William S. Burroughs on Neal Cassady’s flights from coast to coast. Ginsberg frames Cassady’s travels as a kind of vision quest, in which participants are in search of something in particular. (Center for Lowell History: KT-013 A1)
6. Jack and Depression-Era Lowell
Gregory McDonald (1937-2008), a writer for the Boston Globe who interviewed Kerouac and many other artist and writers in the 1960s, comments on Depression-Era Lowell and the way it shaped Jack, his family, and his writing. In McDonald’s view, Jack could never shake the voices of his parents, teachers, and friends in Lowell who haunted him with guilt because he was able to make it out of the depressed mill town. (Center for Lowell History: KT-051 A2)
7. “Religion is your own broken heart”: Religion, the Depression, and Jack
Gregory McDonald (see above for relation to Kerouac) describes Jack’s complex relationship to the realm of religion. McDonald suggests that Jack’s work grows in part from a Catholicism that was itself deeply marked by the economic disaster of the Depression. (Center for Lowell History: KT-051 A2)
8. Homecoming: Returning to Lowell from War
Gregory McDonald (see above for relation to Kerouac) observes the importance of “homecoming” for young men and their communities during the World War Two and Korea eras, and how this common occurrence in mid-century America might have colored Jack’s experience. How was the author of On the Road shaped by friends, family, and others coming home from war-torn roads of Europe and the seas of the South Pacific? After all, Jack was part of what has sometimes been called the “Greatest Generation” of men and women who came of age during the Second World War. He represents, however, a different perspective on that generation and its experience. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-051B)
9. Jack’s Patriotism and Relation to “The People”
McDonald (see above) discussing what he calls Jack’s “rightwing patriotism” and his corresponding “love the people.” (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-051B)
10. Mexico City Blues and “Memorial Cello Time”
Allen Ginsberg dissects the meaning of “Memorial Cello Time” in Kerouac’s collection of poetic “choruses,” Mexico City Blues. The term denotes Kerouac’s elevated consciousness of individual moments in the work. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-058A)
11. The Town and the City and Consciousness
Allen Ginsberg interprets Kerouac’s passage about the football stadium in his novel, The Town and the City. Ginsberg contextualizes the scene through the use of “Memorial Cello Time.” The scene is ultimately a study of individual existence, death, and the passage of time. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-058A)
12. Visions 1
Allen Ginsberg explains the meaning behind Kerouac’s term, “Visions.” The term is used to denote Kerouac’s epiphanies about the symbolism inherent in the experiences that he wrote about. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-058A)
13. Visions 2
Allen Ginsberg expands upon Kerouac’s term, “Visions.” The term was a device that Kerouac created that enabled him to focus solely on the individual moments that he wished to describe and allowed him to purposefully exclude any events in between. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-058)
14. Rex Lounge & Ballroom
Steve Tsotakos (a childhood friend of Jack’s) recollects upon the Rex Lounge & Ballroom on Merrimack Street in downtown Lowell. The restaurant and ballroom were favorite late-night destination for Kerouac during his youth and descriptions appear in his work. The building later burned to the ground and was not rebuilt. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-060B)
15. Jack’s Prose
Allen Ginsberg discusses Jack’s prose style (and suggests its relationship to the technologies of film). (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-070A)
16. Mary Carney and Late-night Dancing
Red St. Louis (a childhood friend of Jack’s) tells about his and Kerouac’s late-night activities. St. Louis explains that Kerouac needed to be coerced into courting women, including one of his great loves, Mary Carney. (Lowell Center for History Catalog: KT-121B)
17. Billy Dabilis and Late-night Drives
Billy Dabilis ( a childhood friend of Jack) describes taking long nighttime drives with Kerouac.
18. Jack Kerouac and Fonzie
Billy Dabilis compares Jack Kerouac to Fonzie from the television show, “Happy Days.” He explains that Jack loved meeting people from all walks of life, especially at carnivals.
19. Jack’s Humility
Billy Dabilis describes Jack. He says that even for a football star, Jack was a very humble person.
20. Jack and the Beatniks
Jack explains the life of the Beatniks. He explains that the press created the term to describe jaded young adults that travel to New York to write poetry.