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Authors: Jack Kerouac

Atop an Underwood

BOOK: Atop an Underwood
Table of Contents
Praise for
Atop an Underwood:
Early Stories and Other Writings
by Jack Kerouac
“Kerouac's fans will be delighted with
Atop an Underwood ...
this is as broad a feast as any aficionado could hope for... what startles is how good Kid Kerouac was and how early he defined his themes . . . the beauty of Marion's editorial contribution is that
Atop an Underwood
works as well for new readers of Kerouac as for knowledgeable devotees.”
—St. Petersburg Times
“Offers a wonderful glimpse into the author's formative years. Editor Marion includes notes that illuminate certain sections without intrusion.”
—Boston Herald
“Fascinating to Kerouac scholars and surprisingly accessible to the novice reader . . . provides a poignant picture of a life brimming with promise.”
—The Boston Globe
“This is a Jack Kerouac developing his skills, awaiting his muse . . . there are flashes of brilliance, hints of things to come, passages to be underlined and read aloud to friends. Marion's introductions are brief and to the point, intelligent and unpretentious.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“It's good to dip into the early writings and see the confident, hopeful Jack Kerouac who was the source of his own dreams.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Marion has assembled a collection of Kerouac's early work that is fascinating in what it reveals about his early interests and his early methods ... Keroauc's intense desire to be a writer hit him early and stayed with him his entire life. This passion colors all of this early stuff . . . And his themes are all here: America, travel, jazz, the delicate presence of death ... the passion Kerouac brought to all of his writing is here.
—The American Book Review
“It should come as no surprise that Kerouac's salient literary features—his Whitmanesque appetite for both experience and electrifying description, his love of motion and music, and his persistent autobiographical streak—are already present in his youthful work.”
—ALA Booklist
Paul Marion was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1954. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and has published several collections of poetry. His most recent book is
French Class: French Canadian-American Writings on Identity, Culture and Place,
of which he is the editor and a contributor. He lives in Lowell with his wife and son.
The Town and the City
On the Road
The Subterraneans
The Dharma Bums
Doctor Sax: Faust Part Three
Maggie Cassidy
Mexico City Blues
The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
Lonesome Traveler
Book of Dreams
Pull My Daisy
Big Sur
Visions of Gerard
Desolation Angels
Satori in Paris
Vanity of Duluoz: An
Adventurous Education, 1935—46
Scattered Poems
Visions of Cody
Heaven & Other Poems
Pomes All Sizes
Good Blonde & Others
Old Angel Midnight
The Portable Jack Kerouac
Selected Letters: 1940—1956
Book of Blues
Some of the Dharma
Selected Letters: 1957—1969
Orpheus Emerged
Book of Haikus
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,
Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads,
Albany, Auckland, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 1999
Published in Penguin Books 2000
Copyright © the Estate of Stella Kerouac,
John Sampas, Literary Representative, 1999
Introduction and commentary copyright © Paul Marion, 1999
All rights reserved
“Count Basie's Band Best in Land; Group Famous for ‘Solid' Swing”
first appeared in
The Horace Mann Record,
February 16, 1940.
Grateful aknowledgment is made for permission to reprint excerpts
from “Blues in the Night” by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen.
© 1941 (renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. All rights reserved. Used by
permission. Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc., Miami, Florida.
ISBN : 978-1-101-55062-5
1. Beat generation—Literary collections. I. Marion, Paul.
1954—II. Title.

To young writers everywhere
As I am, so I see.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Are you he who would assume a place to teach or be a poet here in
the States? The place is august, the terms obdurate.
—Walt Whitman
Always considered writing my duty on earth.
—Jack Kerouac
When Jack Kerouac burst on to the American scene in 1957 with his Roman candle book
On the Road,
he had been a writer for more than twenty years. He later defined what it means to be a born writer: “When the question is therefore asked, ‘Are writers made or born?' one should first ask, ‘Do you mean writers with talent or writers with originality?' Because anybody can write, but not everybody invents new forms of writing.” The clarification was rooted in his understanding of the word
as meaning “to beget.” Along with creating more than twenty books, Kerouac knew he had invented a new way of writing, fusing local talk, blown jazz, a scribe's eye, relentless self-examination, the grammar of dreams, memory glee, and gloominess about our short lives.
For someone who felt he was born to write, Kerouac spent his youth “busy being born.” And so this is Jack Kerouac's book about becoming a writer and an artist. Unlike
Some of the Dharma, Book of Blues,
and other books of his published since he died in 1969, Kerouac had not prepared the manuscript of
Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings.
He did, however, leave an enormous cache of writings in carefully organized files, the source of this book and others to come. His papers are an extraordinary record of an artist's development.
Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
takes its title from a book of stories Kerouac imagined publishing in 1941. Readers of Kerouac's novel
Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education,
1935—46, will recognize the title because he brings it into his story about Jack Duluoz growing up in America. After working all day in a gas station in Hartford, Connecticut, Duluoz would head back to his digs: “I was happy in my room at night writing ‘Atop an Underwood,' stories in the Saroyan-Hemingway-Wolfe style as best as I could figure it at age nineteen.” Kerouac's readers have long wondered about the real stories written in Hartford in the fall of 1941. Do they exist?
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