One for the Team

Fifty years ago this September, Viking published On the Road. Although Jack Kerouac had finished the book six years earlier as a work of fiction, millions associated Kerouac with the mad Dean Moriarty, whom the author based on Neal Cassady, and held him up as a counterculture trophy. The release finally gave Kerouac fame, if not much of a paycheck, but he was never comfortable with his sudden Beat persona — "I'm not a beatnik, I'm a Catholic," he once said. His death at 47 solved that dispute (internal hemorrhage due to cirrhosis due to a lifetime of intake — yikes!), and readers who prefer to categorize their literary heroes installed him on the third prong of the holy Beat trinity alongside Burroughs and Ginsburg. Today, a full slate of Kerouac heavyweights sit still for a discussion on the book and the man. Panelists include John Leland, whose new book Why Kerouac Matters attempts to present the "real themes" of On the Road (it's about family values!); poet Michael McClure; Bay Area author Barry Gifford; and Kerouac companion Joyce Johnson, author of Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir. Also being celebrated is the publication of On the Road: The Original Scroll, which finally reinserts the copy Viking shied away from in the timid 1950s.
Sat., Sept. 22, 7 p.m., 2007

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