Still Outside: Kerouac @ 100
THURSDAY, MARCH 10 - 6PM PST - VIRTUAL
Price: Free (Registration Required)
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City Lights presents a critical appreciation of the writing of Jack Kerouac on the occasion of his 100th Birthday. With appearances by David Amram, Ann Charters, Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Ann Douglas, Tim Hunt, Joyce Johnson, Hassan Melehy, and Regina Weinreich
Join City Lights at the birthplace of the San Francisco Renaissance and the Beat movement to celebrate Jack Kerouac’s centenary, where we will give Jack the birthday present he would have wanted—an illuminating discussion of what was far more important to him than fame—HIS WRITING. Learn about books you haven’t yet read, his innovations in prose, the influence of his Franco-American background and how he discovered his unique voice. Our seven speakers have all been dedicated toward seeing that Jack Kerouac is recognized as a classic American writer.
The program is presented in eight distinct sessions.
Hassan Melehy – Jack Kerouac, Child of Immigrants – Melehy will discuss how reading Kerouac, a kindred spirit also from a New England immigrant family, led him to travel far from home, and later on to research the immense French-Canadian migration of 1840–1930 that had brought the Kerouacs to Massachusetts.
Jean-Christophe Cloutier – “Translated from the French”: Jack Kerouac’s Poetics of Translation – Kerouac as a secret writer of French manuscripts. Jean-Christophe Cloutier will focus on Kerouac’s translation practices, both as translator and self-translator.
Joyce Johnson – Everything New Is Ugly – An exploration of how the hostile reception of On the Road in 1957 still warps the appreciation of what Kerouac achieved as a writer.
Tim Hunt – It’s not how fast you type; it’s how you type: Kerouac’s Post-Print Textuality – While discussions of Kerouac typically focus on the experiences presented in On the Road, to fully appreciate Jack Kerouac’s significance as a writer, we need to turn to his experimental masterwork, Visions of Cody.
Regina Weinreich – I Am Not a Flower – What Kerouac brought to haiku, and what he learned from writing them.
Ann Douglas – Home at Christmas: Kerouac’s Poetics of Intimacy – In his Lowell writings, Kerouac pulled the first person “I” closer to himself than any American writer before him had dared to do, putting a radically innovative prose style into the service of all-defenses-dropped autobiographical exploration and intimately entangling his readers not only in his life and his art but his very bloodstream — to read Kerouac is to become Kerouac, and, miraculously, yourself.
Ann Charters – At Kerouac‘s Centenary – A commentary on Desolation Angels.
David Amram – A Happy Birthday Wish
Tony Torn will be reading excerpts from the works of Jack Kerouac chosen by the speakers throughout the program.
About the participants:
David Amram is a composer, arranger, and conductor of orchestral, chamber, and choral works, many with jazz flavorings. In 1957, David Amram accompanied Kerouac on the French horn at New York’s first jazz poetry reading. That was the start of their warm friendship. The following year, when Kerouac collaborated with Robert Frank on the iconic film “Pull My Daisy,” it was David Amram who composed the music for the title song. He went on to write memorable scores for the films “Splendor in the Grass” and “The Manchurian Candidate” and was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to be the New York Philharmonic’s first composer in residence. At 92, he is still writing music and still on the road, performing and speaking all over America. He has just completed his fourth memoir.
Ann Charters is professor of American Literature at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. She is a Jack Kerouac and Beat Generation scholar. Professor Charters worked with Jack Kerouac to compile his bibliography and was the only biographer who had access to Kerouac and interviewed him about the circumstances in which he wrote his books. She edited Jack Kerouac’s posthumous poetry collection Scattered Poems. She is also the editor of numerous volumes on Beat and 1960s American literature, including The Portable Beat Reader, The Portable Sixties Reader, Beat Down To Your Soul, The Portable Jack Kerouac, and in 2010 Brother-Souls: John Clellon Holmes, Jack Kerouac, and the Beat Generation, which she co-authored with her husband.
Jean-Christophe Cloutier is associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches 20th and 21st Century American and African American literature, comics and graphic novels, and archival research methods. He is the author of Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature (2019), which won the Modern Language Association’s Matei Calinescu Prize for a distinguished work of scholarship in twentieth or twenty-first century literature and thought, the Modernist Studies Association’s First Book Prize, and the Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists. He is coeditor of Claude McKay’s Amiable with Big Teeth (2017), for Penguin Classics, and editor of La vie est d’hommage (2016), which gathers the original French writings of Jack Kerouac. He also translated into English two of Kerouac’s French novels for the Library of America’s The Unknown Kerouac, and is currently completing an extensive study of Kerouac’s oeuvre that explores the writer’s practices as a novelist, translator, and archivist.
Ann Douglas received her BA and PhD from Harvard University. In 1975, after teaching at Harvard and Princeton, she came to Columbia, where she has been teaching courses on the Beats since the 1990s. The author of two books on American culture, she has written extensively on Kerouac for the NYT, the Nation and several academic periodicals, as well as writing introductions for Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, and Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters. She is currently Parr Professor of Comparative Literature emerita at Columbia and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Tim Hunt is the author of Kerouac’s Crooked Road: Development of a Fiction (Southern Illinois University Press) and The Textuality of Soulwork: Kerouac’s Quest for Spontaneous Prose (University of Michigan Press). He is also the editor of The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (Stanford University Press) and has published four collections of Poetry. Originally from the hill country of northern California, he was educated at Cornell University. His final teaching post was Illinois State University where he was University Professor. He and his wife Susan live in Normal, Illinois, which is not hill country.
Joyce Johnson, who met Kerouac in early 1957, nine months before On the Road came out, and remained involved with him for two tumultuous years, first wrote about him in her prize-winning 1983 memoir Minor Characters. Twenty years later she looked at him again in Door Wide Open, her collection of the letters they wrote each other. Finally, in her 2012 Biography, The Voice Is All, written from a less personal angle of vision, she closely followed Kerouac’s development as a writer and broke ground by examining the profound influence of his Franco American background. In 1972, when she was working as an editor at McGraw-Hill, she published Kerouac’s Visions of Cody, which soon led to a revival of interest in his work.
Hassan Melehy teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Kerouac: Language, Poetics, and Territory (2016), the first book-length study of Kerouac’s French-language heritage and its large role in his writing. Melehy has written several other books about French and English literature and philosophy. He is also a poet: his first collection, A Modest Apocalypse, was published in 2017.
Tony Torn is an actor and director based in New York. His more than 100 stage and screen credits include “Ubu” in Ubu Sings Ubu (also adapted and co-directed), “Paul Swan’ in Paul Swan is Dead and Gone at Torn Page, “Cyclops/Mother” in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Venus at The Signature Theater, “Rusty Trawler” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway, “Falstaff”, “Panderus” and “Caliban” in Oregon Shakespeare Company’s Play On! series of translated Shakespeare plays at Classic Stage Company. He has performed in multiple shows with legendary experimental theater artists Richard Foreman and Reza Abdoh. He recently appeared as “The Toymaster” on NBC’s hit series The Blacklist, “Sister Jim” in the Netflix comedy series Teenage Bounty Hunters, and Larry Hughes in Law and Order SVU. He was a founding director of Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping.
A co-producer/director on the award-winning documentary PAUL BOWLES: THE COMPLETE OUTSIDER and a writer on THE BEAT GENERATION: AN AMERICAN DREAM, Regina Weinreich is the author of Kerouac’s Spontaneous Poetics (1987), one of the earliest full-scale critical studies of Jack Kerouac’s literary work. She edited and compiled Kerouac’s Book of Haikus and wrote the introduction to Kerouac’s You’re a Genius All the Time.
This event was made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation.