"All 'classes' for experience and learning – but I do prefer 'non-literary' people like waiters, truckdrivers, girls, carpenters, clam diggers, railroad men, sea men, old millionaires, all the 'characters'”; Scarce Jack Kerouac Autographed Signed Letter
Jack Kerouac Autographed Manuscript.
Item Number: 79098
Jack Kerouac’s candid handwritten reply to a young man’s questions about being a “Beatnik,” his life philosophy, his thoughts on Montana, and more. Students in Robert Dodd’s ninth-grade class were given an assignment to contact their favorite writer with their own unique series of questions relating specifically to that writer. The young Dodd chose Jack Kerouac, and the author replied at length to his questionnaire, which includes queries about his classification as a “Beatnik” (his answer: “I never was a Beatnik – it was the newspapers and critics who tagged that label on me….”), life philosophy (“My philosophy is ‘No Philosophy,’ just ‘Things-As-They-Are’”), career goals (“Be a great writer making everybody believe in Heaven”), the ideal way of life (“Hermit in the woods…”), his thoughts on fame (“My name is like Crackerjacks, famous, but very few people buy my books…”), and segregation (“[t]he Irish and Italians of Massachusetts never paraded in protest, just worked hard and made it”). Interestingly, Kerouac is most expansive in response to the final question: whether he has visited Montana. His answer fills three-quarters of the page, beginning: “Great day, my favorite state! – I wrote about Montana in ‘On the Road’ but the publishers took it out behind my back… I stayed one night, but up all night, in a saloon in Butte, to keep out of the 40-below February cold, among sheep ranchers playing poker.” Two pages with Dodd’s questions type-written and Kerouac’s responses handwritten in full. The letter reads in full, “To Robert Dodd from Jack Kerouac Feb. 28th 1964.” 1. In Town and the Country (Kerouac crosses out Country for City) your style of writing is much different from The Lonesome Traveler. Do you change your style with the type of story? Kerouac responds: “‘The Town and the City’ was my first, youngman novel when I was just starting out, trying to write like Thomas Wolfe – ‘Lonesome Traveler’ is a product of my own style which I developed in later years, ‘spontaneous writing’ with no looking back, in my own laws of story telling – OUTERSPACE PROSE! My own original invention.” 2. Many people have referred to you as a “beatnik” or a “way out” writer. Do you feel this way about yourself? “‘Way-out’ yes, but I never was a beatnik – it was the newspapers and critics who tagged that label on me – I never had a beard, never wore sandals, avoided the company of Bohemians and their politics and always had a job on the road like in ‘Lonesome T.’ on railroad, ships etc.” 3. Some people refer to your thinking as existentialism where man makes his own destiny. Just what is your philosophy of life? “My philosophy now is “no-philosophy,” just “Things – As – They – Are”. 4. What goal are you trying to reach in your career? “Be a great writer making everybody believe in Heaven.” 5. What do you think is the ideal way of life? “Hermit in the woods, one-room cabin, wood stove, oil lamp, books, food, outhouse, no electricity, just creek or brook water, sleep, hiking, nothing-to-do-(Chinese Wu Wei).” 6. Do you like fame or would you rather write and have only your works become famous? “My name is like Crackerjacks, famous, but very few people buy my books because they’ve been told by newspapers and critics that I’m crazy, so I’m almost broke now 1964 – I hate fame without fortune, which is really INFAMY AND RIDICULE, in my case.” 7. From your many books I see that you must travel a lot. Do you try to mix in with different classes or do you stick to one? “All ‘classes’ for experience and learning – but I do prefer ‘non-literary’ people like waiters, truckdrivers, girls, carpenters, clam diggers, railroad men, sea men, old millionaires, all the ‘characters’.” 8. Does the West coast influence an author’s style differently than the East coast? “No – I and the “Beats” came from the East Coast and just rode out there, no special difference in style except a little on subject matter, i.e. open-spaces country.” 9. What is your favorite subject matter? “That everybody goes to Heaven – read “Visions of Gerard” (about Lowell in 1926).” 10. Here in Boston there is much controversy over segregation of the negroes. What is your stand on the issue? “They need jobs, naturally, and education for better jobs – But the Irish and Italians of Massachusetts never paraded in protest, just worked harder, and made it.” 11. Do you plan to visit the East coast, especially the Boston area soon? “Yeh – “lecture” dinner at Harvard soon – I live in Long Island since 1958 so I can’t exactly “visit” the Ease Coast, hey,” – 12. Have you ever been to Montana and, if you have, what were your views on it? “Great day, my favorite state! – I wrote about Montana in “On the Road” but the publishers took it out behind my back – I stayed one night, up all night, in a saloon in Butte, to keep out of the 40- below February cold, among sheep ranchers playing poker (with sheep dogs at their feet), red-eyed drunken Indians drinking out of bottles in the john, Chinese gamblers, women, cowboys, miners – And outside of Butte, at Three Forks Montana, I saw the source of the Missouri River in the snowy valley – I also heard wolves howl in the Bitterroot Mountains – But I didn’t like Missoula much (skiers etc.) – I would like to have a summer cabin in Montana some day, the last truly “Western” state. Sincerely, Jack Kerouac.” In near fine condition. Matted and framed. The entire piece measures 31 inches by 18 inches. A rare and intimate glimpse into the thought an literary progression of one of the formative writers of the 20th century.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, literary iconoclast Jack Kerouac is generally considered the father of the Beat movement, although he actively disliked such labels. Kerouac’s method was heavily influenced by the prolific explosion of jazz in 1960s America and later by his studies in Buddhism that originated with fellow beat and academic Gary Snyder. The raucous, exuberant, often wildly funny account of a journey through America and Mexico, Jack Kerouac's On the Road instantly defined a generation on its publication in 1957: it was, in the words of a New York Times reviewer, "the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat.'" Written in the mode of ecstatic improvisation that Allen Ginsberg described as "spontaneous bop prosody," the novel remains electrifying in its thirst for experience and its defiant rebuke of American conformity. In his portrayal of the fervent relationship between the writer Sal Paradise and his outrageous, exasperating, and inimitable friend Dean Moriarty, Kerouac created one of the great friendships in American literature; and his rendering of the cities and highways and wildernesses that his characters restlessly explore are a hallucinatory travelogue of a nation he both mourns and celebrates.