Before Jack Kerouac expressed the spirit of a generation in his 1957 classic, On the Road, he spent years figuring out how he wanted to live and, above all, learning how to write. Atop an Underwood brings together more than sixty previously unpublished works that Kerouac wrote before he was twenty-two, ranging from stories and poems to plays and parts of novels, including an excerpt from his 1943 merchant marine novel, The Sea Is My Brother. These writings reveal what Kerouac was thinking, doing, and dreaming during his formative years, and reflect his primary literary influences. Readers will also find in these works the source of Kerouac's spontaneous prose style.
Uncovering a fascinating missing link in Kerouac's development as a writer, Atop an Underwood is essential reading for Kerouac fans, scholars, and critics.
A powerful insight into the making of a free spirit and literary pioneer
Before Jack Kerouac defined a generation with his 1957 classic On the Road and became one of the most prolific voices of Beat culture, he was learning how to live, and above all, how to write. Atop an Underwood brings together more than sixty previously unpublished early works which Kerouac wrote between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one, ranging from stories and poems to plays and parts of early novels, including an excerpt from his 1943 merchant marine novel, The Sea is My Brother. Readers, scholars, and critics will find in this book a fascinating missing link in Kerouac's development as a writer.
His lifelong themes of America, adventurous travel, spiritual questing, work, family, and sports show their first sign of life in Atop an Underwood. The writings reveal what Kerouac was thinking, doing, and dreaming during his formative years and reflect his early literary influences; readers will also find here the source of his spontaneous prose. In the first words that he ever wrote, Kerouac proves that he was born with a passion for words and for living.
Atop an Underwood is indispensable for the reader who wants to chart the development of one of our talented writers.
Kerouac wrote this "Background" for prospective employers in late 1943, while living in New York City. He was seeking work as a script synopsizer in the motion picture industry, believing that the experience would help him write his own scripts and establish contacts in the movie business. Parts Two and Three of this book open with subsequent passages from Kerouac's short autobiography.
I was born in Lowell, Mass., in March of 1922. Shortly before my birth my father had begun a small theatrical publication known as the "Spotlight Print," a unique weekly filled with news, comments, anecdotes, editorials, and advertisements dealing with the theatre and cinema of that time around Lowell and Boston. At the age of eleven, I spent most of my time after school in my father's printing and editorial offices, dashing off publications of my own on the antique typewriter, using the hand press for headlines and cuts. This early association with the printing and publishing business soon enough stained not only my blood but my hands and face with ink. My father's incessant stories about playing poker with George Arliss, with the Marx Brothers, with John Barrymore, and many other "troopers" during his days as an advertising man for the RKO Keith circuit in New England filled me with an early dream of the theatre.
At twelve, I printed a novel laboriously into a nickle notebook dealing with the adventures of a runaway orphan down the Merrimack River. At thirteen, I was busy turning out cartoon strips, handprinted racingform sheets, and a club newspaper. It was also at this time that the Lowell Sun published a "column" of mine written in father's office predicting the outcome of the Louis-Braddock fight to the round.
A year later, I was in High School trying out for the football team. A senior at sixteen, I had by that time so distinguished myself in athletics and studies to draw the attention of several colleges and football coaches for a scholarship, chief among them being Lou Little of Columbia and Frank Leahy, then Head Coach at Boston College. I chose Columbia, but since I needed more math before I could enroll there, Little arranged to send me to Horace Mann School here in New York, where, during the course of the year, Frank Leahy paid me a visit and tried to persuade me to go back to Boston College. He told me then, in 1940, that he might eventually leave B.C. for Notre Dame, but that he would take me to South Bend with him. "Now," he said, "let's go out and dine and see a good show. What would you like to see?" "William Saroyan!" I cried.
We went to see "Love's Old Sweet Song," and Frank seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. But, for my part, the performance was marred by the presence of a certain gentleman behind Leahy and me, and to this day I cannot tell whether or not it was a coincidence, or that the gentleman in the back row, the Freshman football coach at Columbia University, was surreptitiously tailing us.
At any rate, I stuck to Columbia: New York was too exciting to leave, and was too closely identified with boyhood dreams.
At Horace Mann, I was an out-and-out killer: star on the football, baseball, and chess teams, I earned money writing sports news for the New York World-Telegram (a job I got through Lou Miller, scholastic sports editor), turning out English papers for lazy but wealthy fellow students, and tutoring French. I wrote feature articles for the school weekly (mostly interviews, one with Glenn Miller), took an active part in the Dramatic Club, wrote several articles on jazz, which earned me the title of "jazz critic," appeared each quarter in the Horace Mann Quarterly with a short story, and, although I played baseball and football on the teams, wrote up the games, and often my own successes, the following day. In general, I earned good enough marks and made a sufficient impression to rate the status of "good citizen" from the prim, severe Dean. (However, at graduation exercises, finding myself the only member of the class sans culottes blanches—the irony of economic determinism—I spent the afternoon reclining under a tree behind the school thinking about Whitman and Saroyan, whom I had just begun to admire.)
At home in Lowell that summer, two old pals and I made elaborate preparations to stage a three-act play in a small town in the outlying suburbs. I wrote the script, the other was to take the leading role, and the third undertook a producer's duties. In the end, our mutual money shortage made short shrift of our attempts, but we did manage to put on a 15-minute play over the local radio station. These pitiful efforts may sound ludicrous to an outsider, but I cannot forget the enthusiasm with which we pitched our projects; nor can I forget the morning we three went to the old swimming hole in the pine woods to see the sunrise, after a long night of discussion, planning, writing, and drinking of coffee. For, later on, the "producer" was at Bataan, the "actor" is at present in Italy with the Fifth Army, and the "writer" spent many long, cold months in the North Atlantic.
The following Fall, at Columbia, I returned a kickoff against Princeton Frosh 85 yards to the Princeton 5-yard line and was carried off the field with a broken leg. I was actually glad; now I would have all of my time to myself and for studies. I wrote movie reviews for the Columbia Spectator, covered the varsity track team in the winter; ran a one-man typing agency, did some more ghost-writing, was elected Vice-President of the class, tutored French, and worked as private secretary for Prof. Eugene Sheffer of the French department. I helped Prof. Sheffer edit and translate his French textbook, typed out the whole manuscript, and even ventured definitions for his daily Journal-American crossword puzzle. We became fast friends; I wrote voluminously and took all my plays and stories to him. At this time, I had begun to read Thomas Wolfe and would spend entire nights roaming New York until dawn. I wrote and wrote, sending stories to all the better magazines (New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, etc.), but without success [....]
Repulsion May Race Here in
Exhibition Feature!! Mighty Kerouac
Gelding Would Attract Many Fans;
Don Pablo, Mighty 1935 Champion,
The following is a back-page feature from the Daily Owl of February 6, 1936, a twenty-cent horse racing newspaper from Pawtucket Racetrack created by thirteen-year-old Jack Kerouac. The front of the two-sided, hand-printed sheet is headlined "3 Day Meet Launched at Pawtucket." The long subhead reads: "Vermont Oval has the Finest Crop of Jockeys, but no High-Class Horses; Col. E. R. Bradley Brings out Six of his 3-yr. old Maidens; Lewis, Morriss, Myet at Track; Kerouac, Tortar Barns Present!" Between 1936 and 1938 Kerouac produced an amazing array of sports news publications filled with reports on real-world and make-believe sporting events and characters. Among these "newspapers" were Romper's Sheet, Sports: Down Pat, Racing News, the Sportsman, Turf Authority, Jack Lewis's 1937 Chatterturf, the Daily Ball, Sports of Today, Jack Lewis's Baseball Chatter, and the Daily Owl. The publications were either carefully printed in pencil or typed as single-spaced sheets (without errors). In them we see the teenaged Kerouac as sports reporter, columnist, and statistician, consumed with the texture of the different contests and colorful personalities. His peppy writing style and intricate records lift these early efforts beyond the hobby-time doodling of a typical boy. Interestingly, some of the publications are long, densely typed sheets filled top to bottom like later manuscripts Kerouac produced.
Pawtucket Park, Montpelier, Vt.:—Repulsion, mighty son of Khorasan, 1936 Champion candidate, is expected to stop here on his way to Sarah Springs for the distinguished Spring meet and Preakness. Don Pablo, great gigantic 1935 King, may also stop here and Jock Dennis hopes it will be in time for Repulsion's race. This match would attract at least 16,000 race goers, figures the little owner of Pawtucket.
Down at Sarah Springs, the colorful scene of fair ladies and rich gentlemen, flying banners and of course the historical Derby, Spotlight and yearly Preakness.
These three stakes may compare with the Vermont Derby. Although the class is lacking for that race, it is going to be a historical feature.
Even last year, men were chatting about this time (in February) about the Massachusetts Derby. Well may they talk about the Vermont. Repulsion, widely known as the fastest runner ever put out since racing history began, will attract many. Ranking as the world's champion, Repulsion should win the small race in which he will race in here but Don Pablo may be on hand, but yet the latter has had a serious leg injury.
Today, E. R. Bradley's highly touted Lena Cardoza will start in the Pawtucket Hi-Stakes with Onrush, Brevity, Sisowen and other stars. Rustic Joe, Mac Tortar's entry for that race and Boake Dobbin's Blue John are the old boys that will start. Blue John, a clever veteran campaigner can easily beat the field of ten. Rhodius, Mac Tortar's sensational three yr. old that improves with every start, is making his first start since racing in the Hopeful in December. Boake Dobbin's Brevity, another highly touted colt, also will have something to say.
from Football Novella
The following excerpt carries familiar Kerouac motifs: American road voyager, wayward collegian, and football hero. Kerouac sent the manuscript of this novella (written when he was sixteen years old) to a reader with a note addressed "Dear Margaret," most likely Margaret Wiley, one of the professors of his friend Sebastian Sampas at Emerson College in Boston. Kerouac explained to Margaret that he stopped writing just before the undefeated State U. team was about to face State College in the climactic Thanksgiving Day game. He then attached to the novella sixteen pages from another story, with the character name changes scratched in, and outlined the climax on another sheet. At this point in the story the coach had moved the main character, Bill Clancy, to a running back position:
With a great bull-like, madly determined, tormented run Bill Clancy charges down the field with tears of fury in his eyes. He just doesn't want to be stopped. They hit him several times; he shakes them off. One Trojan tackler gets him by the neck and becomes momentarily his streamer and banner, and drops off. Big State linemen, particularly Bill's friend George Baker, throw great body-blocks that clear Bill's path, and he makes it down to the goal-line by crashing over with four men (two from each team), on him and in front of him: they all fall over the goal-line. Touchdown ... State 12, Trojans 7. The run characterizes Bill's general determination throughout the story.
Harrison McCoy himself is so moved that he makes up with Bill in the lockers, so that after the game, amid wild celebration of a great hard victory (as distinguished from all the easy victories heretofore), McCoy himself suggests Bill & Barbara join him and his new girl to the ball. The human solution is everyone forgetting grievances, and rival lovers finding themselves appropriate mates. Which is also the way Clancy wanted it ... because earlier he "doesn't like to fight with anybody."
In a notebook entry from February 15, 1950, Kerouac described the emerging central figure for his novel On the Road as "closer to Bill Clancy, the football-hero-hobo I wrote at sixteen; also closer to Wesley Martin of `The Sea is My Brother' [....]"
Old Chet Hingham was the first to see Bill Clancy. At least, he was the first member of the Brierville township to see him.
It was a sultry August afternoon, and Old Chet was sitting at his usual post at the railroad crossing, reading the Brierville News. As he remembered it, he also had a copy of the State University Crier with him, which Scotty Cobb had just brought him that morning.
Way up the tracks, Old Chet could see a tiny speck come crawling along. After a few minutes, he could make out the figure of a young man with a pack on his back, walking the rail like an expert. A few more minutes elapsed, and Old Chet could hear the tune of "My Wild Irish Rose" come drifting over the rails.
At first, Old Chet had told the story later on, he didn't pay much attention to this bum. But when he had approached the crossing to such an extent that Old Chet could make out the sun-burnt, clean cut features shaded by an old felt hat.... Old Chet took an interest and put down his paper to study him as he passed by.
But he didn't have a chance to do it quietly. The young fellow stopped and addressed Old Chet: "How do you do. Could I possibly get a drink of water inside that box of yours?"
"What box?" asked Old Chet, disturbed.
"Why that thing you live in, I suppose. It's right in back of you. Can't you see it?" And he had the audacity to point out Old Chet's cherished railroad shack with his finger.
Now, Old Chet Hingham was pretty particular about his railroad crossing shack. It wasn't big, nor was it fancy.... but Old Chet had been working in front of that shack for twenty-eight years. And inside, it graced the finest gate-tending equipment in the county. Naturally, Old Chet fumed immediately.
"Look here, you scoundrel, what makes you think you have the right to call this shack of mine a `Box.' I ought to be several years younger; I'd teach you a lesson or two!"
The young man had a charming smile, and when he turned it on, Old Chet Hingham couldn't help but like him a little bit despite his disparaging remarks.
"If you want a drink of water, just wait outside here," Old Chet finally said. "I'll get you some."
"Thank you very much," the young man had said, the smile still creasing his bronzed face. "I'll need it."
From inside, while he filled a quart bottle full of water, Old Chet called out: "Where you from?"
"Nowheres," had been the calm answer. "I'm just drifting along."
Old Chet came out with the bottle of water.
"You mean to say that you haven't even got a home!"
"Well, not exactly," said the younger, draining the bottle in record time.
"Well, where is your home?" queried Old Chet suspiciously.
"I was born in Arkansas," answered the bedraggled youth. "I left home a couple of years ago to go on my own hook."
"What did your Paw say to that?" asked Old Chet, sitting down on his stool in front of the shack.
"He died before I was born, and my Maw died when I was five years old. Instead of sticking around with my aunt and my sisters, I figgered it would be better for them if I jest drifted off. Nobody even noticed it much."
Old Chet got to like the boy from then on. He was interested, and wanted to know more: "What you been doin'?"
"Well," smiled the youngster, seating himself on the ground and leaning back on the shack, his eyes pointed to the sky. "I've been drifting for four years now. Up in Vermont, I was cuttin' trees. When I passed through Virginia, I worked on a tobacco farm. I can remember the job I had on a wheat ranch in Kansas. I don't reckon it would be very interesting listening, all those four years. Except maybe one year."
"What was that?" asked Old Chet, carefully studying the youngster.
The latter took out an old corn-cob pipe and began to fill it.
"Believe it or not," he went on, "I went to College."
"You don't say!" ejaculated Old Chet. "Why, we have a college right here in Brierville. State University."
"Have you? Well, this college I went to was out in the Middle West. One day I was throwin' rocks over the river, I forget which one. A whole day I had been standin' near the highway, tryin' to get a ride. Well, I took a little rest and got throwin' rocks for the exercise. A man in a nice coupe stopped and watched me for a while. When I turned around, he offered me a ride. The next day, I was all set for College. He was the baseball coach out there, and he said I had the best throwing arm he had ever seen. I played centerfield in the Spring on the team, and got sick of college in June. I stuck it out till the Freshman year was over, and I took to the road again. I wonder what Coach Billings must of thought of me!"
"And you didn't like college?" asked Old Chet.
"No, not much. I stuck it out for a whole year, and then I hit the road. I travel by hitchhiking and hopping freights."
"Must be sort of exciting."
"Well," said Bill Clancy, puffing his corn-cob pipe. "I figger I'll stick to drifting until I feel like settling down on a permanent job."
"How on earth," asked Old Chet, "do you manage to eat three meals a day?"
"Sometimes I stop in on a town and wash dishes in a restaurant for a couple of days or so. I get myself up enough money to eat for a few weeks, and leave. I don't like to stay in the same place long."
Up the tracks, the 2:57 was coming, heralded by a long mournful wail which traveled over the rails toward the two men at the crossing. Old Chet got up leisurely and went to work on the controls. The two long poles, striped black and white, dropped down parallel to the rails. For the first time, young Bill Clancy glanced about him and inspected Brierville. The train roared louder and louder until it thundered across the crossing, throwing a wind which knocked Bill's felt hat from his head.
When it had disappeared around the bend, Bill got up with his pack in his hands.
"Thanks a lot for the drink, Mister," he had said. "Now, if you could tell me where the restaurant is around here, I think I could stand a few days of this little burgh...."
"Just down the street," said Old Chet, smiling for the first time. "Good luck to ye!"
"The same to you," shot back Bill. According to Old Chet, Bill Clancy had crossed the tracks and headed into the center of Brierville lustily whistling "My Wild Irish Rose."
"I swear," Old Chet had said. "That kid is going to do something big right here in Brierville. I have a feeling he will...."
Old Chet swore he'd said that, that very same sultry afternoon. [...]
The day of the Blaine game had arrived. Thousands of cars, down for the game from the big industrial towns up north, were milling about the streets of little Brierville.
Blaine College, a set-up for the big State juggernaut, had arrived the night before after a trip of 400 miles. The team had stayed at the inn.
Nesmith Stadium was the scene of excitement. Just before game time, with the gridiron all spick and span, white lines and goal posts intact, the bands began to blare and the crowd began to arrive.
When State's brilliant blue and white colors came out on the field, worn by two dozen husky football players, the roar went up from the stands. The cavernous maw which had enveloped the players in practice now seemed to be turbulent with life.
The starting lineup began to run through their paces, a short signal drill. Then the backs began to punt and pass, and the linemen running about. Bill Clancy, who was to start at right guard, was thoroughly awed by the vastness of the big football scene. His roommate, Manny Martin, ran beside him at right tackle.
"Wassamatter, Bill? Excited, nervous?" said the rangy tackle.
"I dunno," muttered Bill, running his stubby hand through his brown hair. "It sure is a big crowd."
"Wait till the rest of it arrives. As a matter of fact, wait till the big game of the year on Thanksgiving Day!" replied Martin.
"Who's the team then?"
Martin said with a very suggestive expression: "State College!"
Coach Bob Alexander and Assistant Coach Joe Neal stood nearby, watching their charges dash about. The other team, Blaine, had now come out on the field. The stands continued to fill up, until Bill thought they would burst with corpulence.
Bill Clancy, however, had little to worry about. Barbara Barnard and he had been seeing plenty of each other in the past week, after that first official meeting at the Town Hall dance. Bill could still remember the dances with her, and the walk home, and the joking about their first meeting.
And when Bill had met Barbara on the campus, she had greeted him warily. Harrison McCoy, originally known as her beau, had now stepped into the background in favor. And this was known all over the University.
As a result, the enmity between Bill Clancy and Harrison McCoy—both of them strong candidates for All-America—had become a real feud. Both of them were angling for the same girl—and both of them had disliked each other at the first meeting. The natural result was a seething hatred on the part of McCoy, an uncomfortable dislike on the part of Bill.
Now, the game was almost ready to begin. George Baker, who had been elected captain of the varsity eleven just a few days previous, was towering over the officials and the Blaine captain out in the middle of the field. A team which has a hugely proportioned captain like George Baker always has a psychological edge over the other team. The coin was tossed, and State was to receive.
Coach Alexander got the team lined up and sent them through a final short signal drill.
The moment Bob Alexander's State eleven began to run through their plays, newspapermen in the stands immediately sensed the odor of champs. The pressbox was afire with excitement. The radio hookup man was excitedly jabbering away.
"What may prove to be the year's finest football eleven in college ranks can be seen down on the field this fine afternoon, running through its paces like a perfectly geared machine."
The backfield, composed of Felix Henderson at the quarter, who had now forgotten the first day of Bill Clancy's football career and had become one of Bill's finest friends; Harrison McCoy, the highly heralded halfback; Ben Barnouw, the passing ace; and Lou Ginelli, the big Italian fullback line-plunger, was called in by Coach Alexander for a final word. The linemen then received their instructions, after which the entire eleven joined hands before going out on the field to receive the kickoff from Blaine.
Barbara Barnard was seated up in the stands with her father, Professor Barnard, and with Scotty Cobb. She and Scotty had become inseparable, although hardly in an amorous way. Among other in the vast crowd were Big Gertie, Old Chet Hingham, and the faculty of the University. Almost everybody in Brierville was in the stands.
And then the kickoff. The ball, gyrating end-over-end, came down on State ten yard line, where Big Lou Ginelli picked it up. He returned it to the forty-seven yard line, plunging straight ahead, with the State team blocking beautifully. And so the State football season had begun.
On the play, Bill Clancy had had a huge lump in his throat just before the kickoff. As soon as he had seen the ball go sailing over his head and beyond him to the State backs, he had sorted out a Blaine man to take out. And this he did. He hit him head on, flattening the unsuspecting Blaine player out on the green, and falling on top of him to hold him intact.
The game was on. The highly vaunted State University team was ready to show whether or not it was the mighty team it has been predicted to be, even against the weak Blaine eleven.
On the first play, Harrison McCoy was in the tailback. But the ball was snapped to a short back, Ginelli, and the latter plowed into the Blaine line like an elephant through the jungle grass. He made six yards before crumpling underneath the weight of four men.
Second down and four to go.
The team came out of its huddle and snapped into its formation with a fancy dancelike step. The glistening white helmets flashed in the September sun. The blue jerseys, with large white numbers and white stripes on the sleeves, lined up in a perfectly geometrically formation. The Bob Alexander shift had a beauty and grace about it that made the team look like a million bucks.
The brown ball, brand new and just beginning to pick up a little dirt, went spinning back to Harrison McCoy. The guard, Bill Clancy, pulled out. The right side of the line cross-blocked as Bill pulled out, accompanied by Ginelli and Barnouw. The three of them darted toward the Blaine left end, bowled him over, and went on to the close back. Behind this steam-roller blocking pranced Harrison McCoy, his long powerful legs cutting up the gridiron. He swept around the fallen end, past the bewildered close back, and down the sidelines. Right ahead of him ran Bill Clancy. Now, McCoy was on his own, and had already gained 12 yards. He went down the sidelines until almost pushed out of bounds by two pursuing Blaine backs, whence he cut back suddenly and flanked toward the left. One of the Blaine linemen dove frantically and hung on to McCoy's foot. McCoy stumbled forward, and finally crashed to the ground. Otherwise, he would have scored a touchdown; the field ahead of him had been clear.
The ball was now on the Blaine 30, First down, and ten yards to go. State again came out of its huddle, and went into their graceful shift. The ball went back to Ben Barnouw, who began to sweep the end. It was the identical play which the varsity had tried out that first day in practice, and which had resulted in a sixty-four yard jaunt on the part of McCoy. Barnouw suddenly faded from his end run, flipped a neat pass to quarterback Henderson, who in turn lateraled to McCoy. The latter had a clear field down the sidelines, and as he dashed down in a straight line, the lane began to narrow with potential tacklers, but the time McCoy had reached the 18 yard line, he was confronted by four Blaine men. With a lightning cut, McCoy veered to the left and flanked the men, heading for the goal-line in a long diagonal sprint. He reached it with plenty to spare, going over standing up.
State 6, Blaine 0 ... and the game was hardly two minutes old.
Felix Henderson converted the point, making the score 7-0 in favor of State U.
The crowd went berserk, and the newspapermen began to typewrite wildly. The radio announcer began to take on an "I told you so" air. Truly, the vaunted greatness of State University had been no exaggeration.
The afternoon went on, and the gridiron was dug and marred and mauled by the scuffling elevens.
When the sun was going down in the West, and the football fans all had that tired, happy look in their faces; when the stands were painted by the russet glow of sunset—the score was immense!
State—54 Blaine—0. And through the keen air of the evening sunset, there was the blast of a gun, ending the game. Seven touchdowns! Seven successful conversions by the drop-kicking Felix Henderson. And out of the seven touchdowns, five were chalked up by the Galloping Ghost of the new season, Harrison McCoy.
In the chilly locker rooms, Bill Clancy shivered as he hauled off his sticky uniform. His body gave out steam, his feet were cold. His ribs ached with exhaustion, and his head felt hot and stuffy. Under the hot shower, Bill let out a long sigh of relief; the prickly sensation of the water sent waves of comfortable blood through his wiry frame.
Milling fans filled the locker rooms, talking, gesticulating, watching the State heroes. Bill Clancy paid little attention to them, and turned on the cold water. The invigorating effect made him yelp, and he darted from the showers to his locker where he dried himself vigorously.
All dressed and with the hair slicked, Bill Clancy began to feel like a human being again. As he was fixing his tie, he nodded and smiled at the people who were surrounding him and talking all at once. He could make nothing out of it, and let them talk on.
"What tackles you made today, Clancy!" an old grad was saying. "You almost killed the entire Blaine backfield!"
"Thanks," Bill mumbled, picking up his canvas bag and hanging it in the locker.
"You were terrific!" piped someone else.
"Thank you," smiled Bill.
Outside, the sun had gone down and the stadium was literally empty, except for the scattered remains of enthusiastic fans. Bill shuddered as a cold Autumnal blast came down the mussed up gridiron and hit him in the face. There were cuts and bumps here and there on his face, and his shoulders ached. All in all, as Bill walked along toward his dormitory room, he felt somewhat weary, but happy.
There was to be a victory dance in the evening, and Bill could think of nothing but meeting Barbara there. Wearing a topcoat and felt hat, Bill strode along through the falling leaves and reached the dorm. A big yellow Fall moon was beginning to peep over the little houses of Brierville.
As Bill was about to enter into the hallway of his dorm, he noticed a figure approaching him from the sidewalk. Bill waited, until he could make out the tall graceful form of Harrison McCoy. [...]
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Title: Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
Author: Jack Kerouac
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Date Published: November 2000
Table of Contents:
|Part 1||Pine Forests and Pure Thought 1936-1940|
|Repulsion May Race Here in Exhibition Feature!!||6|
|from Football Novella||8|
|Jack Lewis's Baseball Chatter||17|
|[One Long Strange Dream]||19|
|Count Basie's Band Best in Land; Group Famous for "Solid" Swing||21|
|A Play I Want to Write||28|
|[A Day in September]||35|
|[I Know I Am August]||41|
|Radio Script: The Spirit of '14||44|
|[I Remember the Days of My Youth]||50|
|from Raw Rookie Nerves||52|
|Where the Road Begins||57|
|New York Nite Club--||61|
|Part 2||An Original Kicker 1941|
|There's Something About a Cigar||66|
|If I Were Wealthy||79|
|[One Sunday Afternoon in July]||82|
|The Birth of a Socialist||85|
|No Connection: A Novel That I Don't Intend to Finish||93|
|On the Porch, Remembering||97|
|The Sandbank Sage||99|
|Farewell Song, Sweet from My Trees||104|
|[I Have to Pull Up My Stakes and Roll, Man]||113|
|[At 18, I Suddenly Discovered the Delight of Rebellion]||118|
|Definition of a Poet||121|
|America in the Night||123|
|Woman Going to Hartford||126|
|I Tell You It Is October!||129|
|[Here I Am at Last with a Typewriter]||130|
|[Atop an Underwood: Introduction]||132|
|The Good Jobs||135|
|From Radio City to the Crown||138|
|... The Little Cottage by the Sea....||140|
|The Juke-Box Is Saving America||142|
|... Hartford After Work....||143|
|... Legends and Legends....||145|
|... A Kerouac That Turned Out Sublime....||148|
|The Father of My Father||150|
|... Hungry Young Writer's Notebook....||155|
|A Young Writer's Notebook||157|
|[I Am Going to Stress a New Set of Values]||160|
|[I Am My Mother's Son]||162|
|This I Do Know--||169|
|Search by Night||170|
|Part 3||To Portray Life Accurately 1942-1943|
|Sadness at Six||181|
|The Joy of Duluoz||184|
|Famine for the Heart||188|
|[The Very Thing I Live For]||198|
|Thinking of Thomas Wolfe on a Winter's Night||204|
|from The Sea Is My Brother (Merchant Mariner)||205|
|Beauty as a Lasting Truth||225|
|My Generation, My World||228|
|The Wound of Living||230|
|Wounded in Action||232|
|The Boy from Philadelphia||237|
|The Two Americans||242|
Chicago TribuneAtop an Underwood is indispensable for the reader who wants to chart the development of one of our talented writers.
- "I am part of the American temper, the American temperament, the American tempo," writes a teenage Kerouac in a prophetic 1941 prose fragment, one of the 60 such pieces in this collection of Kerouac's juvenilia. These fugitive pieces, previously unpublished, provide a tantalizing glimpse of the future Beat generation originator, spanning Kerouac's adolescence and his first years in New York. The themes here would later find expression in On the Road and the Duluoz series: his French-American heritage, with its idiosyncratic English; his mystical identification with America; and, taking cues from Whitman, his vision of art as a means to unfold the authenticity of the self. The best pieces are the short sketches written in Hartford in 1941. Kerouac crafts, diary-style, a catalogue of daily activities (working in a cookie factory, living in a cheap apartment) while experimenting with the rhythms and forms he derived from his reading of Thomas Wolfe and William Saroyan. In the early '40s, Kerouac lived in several diverse social spheres. He worked in Hartford, attended Columbia University on a football scholarship, was kicked out of Columbia, enlisted in the Merchant Marines and simply bummed around. It is evident that radio had an overlooked influence on Kerouac's style. A piece like "Howdy," which begins, "Howdy. This is Jack Kerouac, speaking to you," obviously takes its formal cues from radio broadcasts. The last section of the book is less interesting, excerpting a section of a novel Kerouac wrote about the Merchant Marines. Although this book shouldn't be a starting place for new Kerouac readers, there is enough real Kerouac bebop here to interest even his more casual fans. (Nov.) FYI: The publication of this collection will coincide with the publication of the second volume of Kerouac's selected letters. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library JournalUnpublished Kerouac: 60 pieces he wrote between the ages of 14 and 21. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsKerouac's early writings—from ages 13 to 21—elucidate the formative years and provide insight into the later literature of the author's career. It must be noted that even the greatest writers aren't always recognizable by their high school and college scribblings. Poet Marion assembles a motley medley of Kerouac's initial attempts, including his adolescent horse worship in "Repulsion May Race Here in Exhibition Feature!!," excerpts from a football novella, and descriptive essays about his youth. Such pieces may be significant to the scholar tracking Kerouac's artistic development and to his rabid fans (Kerouac's following is often a zealous one), but they hold little value or interest to the general reader. The anthology bogs down with the author's high school jazz criticism, sketches of a play he thought of writing, descriptions of his dreams, and poems in which he attempts to channel Walt Whitman's ghost into his own pen. Though such writings provide a general background to Kerouac's life and demonstrate his early interest in such themes as American life, travel, identity, and spiritual quests, they rarely stand as compelling works on their own. Also, many of the pieces are mere fragments, snippets of subject matter that caught his attention and that, for some reason or another, he never completed. The poetry of the collection fares slightly better, yet it suffers often from a jejune combination of Whitman-like rhetoric with slushy sentimentalism. A curmudgeon might say that, with rare exceptions, teenagers aren't old or experienced enough to create much of real artistic value; Kerouac's early efforts would fit such a maxim.
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