"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kerouac House

"Why not come to Orlando and dig the crazy Florida scene of spotlessly clean highways and fantastic supermarkets?" Kerouac wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat poet, in 1961. But in Orlando, as everywhere else he roamed, Kerouac never did find escape. Florida became for him, after he stopped writing, a place to drink, and ultimately a place to die. The little house at 1418 Clouser Avenue where Kerouac wrote his novel now serves as a kind of literary time-share, where writers spend three months at a stint, hoping to channel Kerouac's manic genius. Article from National Geographic about Orlando, FL.

Very few people, as they talk about the immense changes reshaping Orlando and their lives, mention another American genius who left his mark here even before Disney arrived. Jack Kerouac—guru, bad boy, the literary superstar who wrote the Beat Generation's manifesto, On The Road—came to Orlando, by bus, in December 1956. The following year, in an 11-day creative frenzy, he wrote The Dharma Bums in an apartment with a tangerine tree out back, shoveling the words through his typewriter in the heart of hot, flat Florida.

I'm a big fan of Kerouac, have driven down Cross Bay Boulevard and thought of him in the apartment over the drug store, and I've also been to Hemingway's house, Tennessee Williams' house, Walt Whitman's house. I'm still not sure why, although Whitman's house in Huntington, Long Island, was historically interesting. The Youtube video, see link above, shows it's just a house, and unlike Hemingway's palatial place, mainly goes to show you can write anywhere. If anything, Kerouac's choices indicate he needed quiet and isolation, at least for those writing marathons. Being off the beaten track (perhaps on the Beat track) is probably also a good way to save money.

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