Monday, May 30, 2005

"Hartford After Work" by Jack Kerouac

Perhaps we're stretching things a bit to call this picturesque travelogue of urban life a "short story," but it does have all the acuity of time and place Kerouac's always semi-factual fiction has, so who's to quibble? We see grubby, gritty mid-20th century Hartford through the eyes of a visionary writer and someone who felt as one with and yet separate from those teeming mobs on the city's streets. Read by Neil Miller.

On The Road is of course where everyone starts in a discussion about Jack Kerouac, but in fact he'd been writing and publishing for some time before that novel eventually made him famous enough to drive him crazy. His first couple of novels, unpublished and published, were much more conventional than the speeding, careening joyride of his most popular works, and yet they carried a full load of "promise." In his fairly short life the Lowell, Massachusetts native of French-Canadian extraction produced such a volume and variety of work one can soon see why "beatnik" is the most limiting apellation one could give him, rest his soul.

We last heard journalist and teacher Neil Miller giving voice to Hemingway's clean, well-lit cafe; even as you listen to this, Neil is deep within a southwestern cavern, doing research on his latest book. If he comes out alive, you may find that book on shelves near you some time in the next year or two. In the meantime, his upcoming revision of his history survey, Out of the Past, should tide us all over.

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