Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Book That Turned Me Onto Jack Kerouac (No, Not That One!)

I submitted this review for Greenwich Library's Staff Picks feature:

Published shortly after the success of the author’s groundbreaking classic On the Road, but written years earlier in Mexico (when Kerouac hung out –and got high- with William S. Burroughs), Doctor Sax is a touching account of one young boy’s flight into fantasy and his subsequent path to adulthood. Young Jacky Duluoz (Kerouac’s literary alter ego), a French Canadian boy growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts in the early 1930s, escapes from the pressures of family & school into a world where vampires, werewolves & other creatures of the night converge and only the mysterious “Doctor Sax”, a combination of the Shadow & the Wizard of Oz, can stop them. But the boy’s growing perception of his actual surroundings may be young Jacky’s real solution. Written in an even more audacious style than his other books (one section is detailed as stage directions for a play), Kerouac uses a variety of influences from his childhood (Walter B. Gibson’s aforementioned pulp magazine character, “The Shadow”; L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books, the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft; radio thrillers & others) to craft a touching tale of a boy’s leaving behind the things in his past to embrace approaching adulthood & maturity.

I'll have more to say about why this particular book got to me, as well as how it reintroduced Kerouac and his fellow Beats to me, in a future post. Meanwhile, I wanted to note this mention of the 2CD set that came out in 2003 which I picked up first before reading the book. (Sadly, the set is currently out-of-print.) And here's a link to recent reprintings of one of the central influences on both the book and Kerouac himself. -Ed

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