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More from last Sunday morning…

Some of the most surprising revelations I've had about Hemingway, Wolfe, Salinger, and Kerouac, are the numerous little threads that connect their lives:

On or about August 25, 1944, J. D. Salinger met Ernest Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Salinger was a CIC agent with the 12th Infantry Regiment of the Forth Division when it landed on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. Before the war Salinger had had some short stories published in Story magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. Hemingway was an embedded war correspondent with the Forth Division holding Liberation Day court at the Ritz. According to Ian Hamilton's biography "In Search of J. D. Salanger"

"The two authors seem to have spent most of their time praising each other. Hemingway certainly turned on the charm, telling Salinger that he had seen his picture in Esquire and asked to see some of his new work. Salinger showed him 'The Last Day of the Last Furlough' and Hemingway read it and said he liked it.

"Nothing, it seems, could have been cozier, although there is in print a story that on one occasion Hemingway visited Salinger’s unit and got to arguing about the merits of a German Luger he was carrying as opposed to the U.S. .45 and blasted the head off a chicken to prove the point. Salinger is said to have been greatly shocked by this and to have later incorporated the incident into 'For Esme` - with Love and Squalor.' There is no firsthand evidence to authenticate this tale, but we do learn from Salinger’s letters that he had little patience for Hemingway’s macho posturing. Salinger’s war hero’s rarely have a taste for war.



Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe met a couple of times. They shared Charles Scribner's Sons as their publisher and Maxwell Perkins as their editor. Once, to bolster Wolfe's self-confidence, Perkins set up a lunch between the three of them trusting Hemingway to share some useful advice with Wolfe (which, by the way, he did). According to “Look Homeward,” Davis Herbert Donald’s excellent biography of Thomas Wolfe:

"He (Hemingway) told Perkins that Wolfe obviously had great talent, a delicate, fine spirit - and limited intelligence." "Many years late Hemingway called Wolfe “a glandular giant with the brains and the guts of three mice” (and) “the over-bloated Lil Abner of literature."


Jack Kerouac, like most writers of his generation, was heavily influenced by Hemingway and Wolfe. Kerouac’s first novel, "The Town and the City" has been forever compared to "Look Homeward Angel."


Just this weekend I’ve started yet another biography – Jeffery Meyer’s 1994 “Scott Fitzgerald” My plan is to spend the next year or so looking into the lives of not only Fitzgerald, but Ring Lardner, William Faulkner and Allen Ginsberg…I’ve got a little head start on the Ginsberg stuff having finished Ed Sander’s 2000 “The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg – a narrative poem.”



On the Road: the 50th anniversary.

(What follows is something I posted in this forum in February 2007. I wanted to jump on the 50th anniversary bandwagon – it’s short, sweet and sincere. I really do love this book)


I read it again - “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac: the book I believe to be the twentieth century’s literary equivalent of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Yes, there are some scenes of sex and drugs in "On the Road." There are also some scenes of love and compassion and friendship and daydreaming and sunsets and passion and wearing beat clothes and being stranded somewhere without a ride in the rain.

“On the Road” was published fifty years ago this year. The book sold well at the time, but the mainstream press hated it and crucified every book Kerouac wrote. It didn’t help that he was a chronic alcoholic. Jack became a notorious celebrate who was crowned “the king of the beats.”

“On the Road” takes you on a trip across the continent several times - with many stops along the way. Then it takes you down to Mexico and leaves you there because Dean Moriarty just got his divorce papers and he wants to split to New York City as soon as possible.

Did I mention Jack drank? He once told a neighbor that because he was a Catholic, he couldn’t commit suicide – so Kerouac decided to drink himself to death instead. He succeeded in 1969.

In the summer of 1973, Ann Charters, Kerouac’s bibliographer, published her sympathetic biography, “Kerouac.” What makes Ann Charters’ book so interesting is the fact that she tells the same story Jack Kerouac tells in his novels - only her story is true. Movie star handsome, Kerouac was married three times but lived most if his life with his mother. He created a myth about writing “On the Road” in a three week binge in 1951; he actually worked on the book for years.

Ann Charters’ biography of Jack Kerouac was a bestseller and resurrected Kerouac’s reputation. Time has turned Jack Kerouac into a cultural icon and “On the Road into an acclaimed American masterpiece.





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