Jack Kerouac (1958)

In honor of Jack Kerouac’s birthday, born on this day in 1922, I present to you a segment from The Subterraneans, a fictional account of a short romance. Please enjoy.

Jack Kerouac Reads From The Subterraneans

The Subterraneans is a 1958 novella by Jack Kerouac, beat poet and author. It is a semi-fictional account of his short romance with Alene Lee in Greenwich Village, New York. Kerouac met Alene in the late summer of 1953 when she was typing up the manuscripts of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, in Allen’s Lower East Side apartment. In the novella, Kerouac moved the story to San Francisco and renamed Alene Lee “Mardou Fox”. She is described as a carefree spirit who frequents the jazz clubs and bars of the budding Beat scene of San Francisco. Other well-known personalities and friends from the author’s life also appear thinly disguised in the novel. The character Frank Carmody is based on William S. Burroughs, and Adam Moorad on Allen Ginsberg. Even Gore Vidal appears as successful novelist Arial Lavalina. Kerouac’s alter ego is named Leo Percepied, and his long-time friend Neal Cassady is mentioned only in passing as Leroy.

“Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work.”

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

The position of jazz and jazz culture is central to the novel, tying together the themes of Kerouac’s writing here as elsewhere, and expressed in the “spontaneous prose” style in which he composed most of his works.

“Making a new start, starting from fresh in the rain, ‘Why should anyone want to hurt my little heart, my feet, my little hands, my skin that I’m wrapt in because God wants me warm and Inside, my toes—why did God make all this so decayable and dieable and harmable and wants to make me realize and scream—why the wild ground and bodies bare and breaks—I quaked when the giver creamed, when my father screamed, my mother dreamed—I started small and ballooned up and now I’m big and a naked child again and only to cry and fear.—Ah—Protect yourself, angel of no harm, you who’ve never and could never harm and crack another innocent in its shell and thin veiled pain—wrap a robe around you, honeylamb—protect yourself from harm and wait, till Daddy comes again, and Mama throws you warm inside her valley of the moon, loom at the loom of patient time, be happy in the mornings.'”

Mardou Fox
Jack Kerouac

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac, known as Jack Kerouac, was an American novelist and poet of French Canadian ancestry, who, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, was a pioneer of the Beat Generation.