A Carolina Chronology

Kerouac in North Carolina

Kerouac in North Carolina

I felt like crying out over the woods and rooftops of North Carolina announcing the glorious and simple truth.
–Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

I never go to town, there is no town, Rocky Mt is railroad mainline town.
Talk sometimes to eccentric characters with wild red faces and wild gray hair,
from woods, drinkin corn on
warpt steps of Saturday afternoon.
–Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg

I’m with you in Rocky Mount. . . 
Allen Ginsberg, Howl

For Jack Kerouac, North Carolina was an occasional and accidental home  He came there solely because his sister, Nin, married a man she’d met in the Air Force, Paul Blake, and they came back to his North Carolina home to work with the phone company, Carolina Telegraph & Telephone. For Kerouac, home was almost always where his mother lived, and once she re-located to the Blakes’, their homes became his: two in Rocky Mount and another in Kinston, before they moved to Florida. Rocky Mount became part of Beat Generation lore for its use as a fictional setting for the first of Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady that would be chronicled in On the Road

Kerouac was with family in North Carolina at least a dozen times from 1947-56. The stays were usually intended to be extended; he also used Rocky Mount as a base from which to travel and as a setting in five of his novels. He wrote all or part of ten books while staying at the Blakes’ two Rocky Mount homes and at the one in Kinston. He wrote about Kinston only in letters and journals; his “home” there in the summer of 1951 is sometimes conflated with the Blakes’ second Rocky Mount residence by biographers. I like others had assumed his June 1947 visit was to Rocky Mount–by the end of that year they had settled in at their Tarboro Street home. 

June: JK travels to North Carolina with his mother, Gabrielle, for sister Nin’s marriage to Paul Blake. The Blakes apparently were living in an apartment in Kinston near a Black section of town, prior to moving to Tarboro Street in Rocky Mount,

July: JK includes a 1,000 word nonfiction piece titled “Down South” in his journals. It’s a controlled musing on religious beliefs–“I detect a strong dualism,” he writes in it.

The excerpt below includes the beginning and end (which I’ve titled Parable of the Dog) from “Down South” as well as a short piece from its middle, Parable of the Fish (also my title), as published in Windblown World

Down South
After ten days in a different part of the world, among different people, in the world itself, and not to the night’s landscape of one’s own soul (and an “artist’s soul,” at that), after only ten days pursuing different aims and so on, how easily feelings can change on the surface and make one realize the mutability of opinions. When I said, ten days ago, “My kingdom is not of this world”–this was only an opinion perhaps and not a feeling because now, again, the world opens up as a place of powerful things for me to feed upon, the excluding moralities vanish in an October rush of excitement, hunger, joy and zeal, the self-disgust of lonely introspection becomes the social gregarious keenness so necessary as a fuel to get one around in things.  .  . .
My grave and specific thoughts–
[Parable of the Chained Dog]
A little mangy dog is tied by a chain to a fence by a Southern poor white family, it whines in the night, it is ill fed, and cruelly treated. Shall I free this dog?–sneak down at night and release him? Will he bark at me, bite me and despise me in the dead of night for meddling in the affairs of this unmoral organic earth. I am not God: What shall I do in this suffering world? Suffer. . .  If the little mangy dog suffers, and I try to help him, has he not the right to despise me for assuming that he cannot bear his own lot.
[Parable of the Fish]
We catch a fish, a bass, we call it George, hand it over to a Medieval hook, hang it over the side to live and “keep fresh” with a hook torn through its dumb mouth. We finally go home, lock George up in a dark compartment to suffocate and die, alone, while we drive along in the fresh Carolina air. O Jesus!–your fishermen held millions in their nets! Dumb writhing fish, dying and working parched gills in this world. Oh God!–this is all of us, it happens to all of us. What shall we do, where shall we go, and when do we die like this? What is there to say here, that wasn’t said–we are doomed to suffering and darkest death. We are fish wriggling in the net fighting one another for the watery parts where we can yet breathe. (Therefore the tenant farmer on his gray rickety porch in the noonday sun, poor humbled, cheated, dying–and therefore the big tobacco man from Wilson [a nearby tobacco-auction town] with his big 42-foot yacht in the waters, his case of Scotch, his radio, his clean white trousers) Jesus–your only answer to all things alive! and you have made it hard, hard, even as Our Father made it hard.–
   So the poor man of poverty and silence, and the big city of talkative cocktail hours. What shall we do about that?
   Bless it all–it’s God’s whole works.
–Kinston, NC 
July 1947

July 14: JK writes from Ozone Park, NY, to William Burroughs, in Mexico City: “I just spent an interesting two weeks in the deep south and I wish you could have seen some of the things I saw.” He recounts a couple of incidents involving local Blacks–cleavers, guns, screams–and then adds, “I don’t know why I mention all these things, but I get a kick out of it.”

December: Again with his mother, JK travels to Rocky Mount for Christmas with the Blakes, then to New York for New Year’s, and back to Rocky Mount for a few days in January.

December 28: JK, back in NY, writes in his journal:

Back again, to the great snow of ’47, whichjI had to go and miss. No snow at all in eastern N. Carolina. It was a dull trip too, but I got a sort of rest anyway although I took sick. That makes  12,000 miles of traveling for 947 for me anyway, which isn’t exactly a dull or lazy year–along with the 250,000 words of writing. Tonight, recuperating from an intestinal illness, I gazed at my novel and its imminent conclusion–within 2 months. And what snow outside, what wonderful tons of snow everywhere! I love to see New Yorkers without their infernal cars, for once. They seem to love this respite from the machine.

March 12: J
K writes in his journal, in NY:

Guess what?!–on my birthday today wrote 4,500-words–scribbling away till six-thirty in the morning next day. . . My mother and sister and Paul gave me presents (trousers, shirts, tie). I don’t scoff at ties, because at the money I make writing I can’t positively afford  standard salaried jokes about them. But those 4500 words are a new recoreds ad it looks like I’ll finish the book after all.

March 16:  JK writes from NY to the Blakes in NC to thank them for their gifts and he also inquires about their new home in Rocky Mount.

May. JK and his mother rush to Rocky Mount for the premature birth of Paul Blake, Jr.

June 5: JK writes in his journal:

News came that my sister is gravely ill in North Carolina from childbirth, so my mother and I took off immediately. From Rocky Mount, also on June 5, he wrote to Allen Ginsberg: “Please tell Ed Stringham to hold up awhile on the Kazan interview until I get back from N. Carolina where my sister Carolyn is very ill, a complicated Caesarian, etc. I’ll let you know what happened.

June 6 – June 13: JK writes in his journal:

It developed allright, after much worry. She gave birth to a three-pound 7-month infant, by Caesarian. The best of attention at Durham Medical Center saved her life. As well as the baby boys, life. I came back to do my work, my mother stayed down to care for Nin. Now I really must sell my book, make money. While down there Paul and I worked o his garaged and around the place, and I got a foretaste of my ambition for a ranch with Paulk Nin, my mother, Mike, his family, myself and my own future family all together, a real homestead and stockade, I suddenly realized that northern California, around Mendocino Forest, is the place for my big homestead–with San Francisco nearby a hundred miles or so. More on that later. But now I’ve work and responsibility and human plans ahead of me.

June 14: In his journal in NY, JK muses on his imagined homestead, mentions his “dormant feeling in the grave though almost sullen South.” He free-associates on gravity / grave before concluding ,”there is much gravity in the South, and no glee whatsoever, even, almost, among the little children, who also seem ‘sullen.’

June 21: JK writes in his journal, “Received a beautiful batch of letters from everybody, from Ma, Paul, Neal Cassady, Bill Burroughs in New Orleans and the address of a beautiful nurse in Durham, N.C., my sister Carolyn’s nurse.”

August 23: JK writes in his journal, in NY:  ‘Told my mother she ought to go live down South with the family instead of spending al her tine slaving in the shoe factories in order to earn just money to spend o the system of expenses that is our society.” He also critiques himself:

The only trouble with my writing is too many words. . . but you see, “true thoughts” about in the town & City, which nullifies the sligh harm of wordiness. Now I’ll sharpen thigns, I have another novel in mind–“On the Road”–which I keep thinking about: about two guys hitchhiking to California in search of something they don’t really find, and losing themselves on the road, and come all the way back hopeful of something else. Also I’m finding a new principle of writing.

September 9: JK writes from Ozone Park, New York, to Allen Ginsberg: “I’m very busy staving off the horror of form-letter rejections from publishers and plotting new attempts. . . . I’m  going to North Carolina to run brother in law’s parking lot and woo a nurse and have a rest from this awful shallow literary world I have to do business with. . . .” This plan does not work out.

December 15: JK writes from Ozone Park, New York, to Allen Ginsberg. This is one of the meanest letters he writes to him but after the vitriol, he then apologizes profusely before outlining Neal Cassady’s plan for a cross-country drive that will get him and his crew to Rocky Mount and then New York for New Year’s.  After a long recounting the phone call from Cassady that announces his plans–with dialog that’s almost straight from what will become On the Road–he adds, “I expect to see him in North Carolina around the 29th of December, and we will be back in New York for New Year’s eve.”

Kerouac (L) & Cassady, 1952, photographed by Carolyn Cassady.

December 25: At the Blakes’ Tarboro Street home, JK and his family are surprised by the sudden arrival of Neal Cassady in a new Hudson, fresh from a cross-country jaunt, with Neal’s ex-wife, Luanne Henderson, and Al Hinkle. They take Memere’s furniture to Long Island, return to Rocky Mount for Memere, and take her back to New York in time for New Year’s eve. This saga is chronicled in On the Road but the terminus is shifted to “Testament, Virginia” because JK’s agent didn’t think readers would believe a journey from NY to NC could happen so quickly–2,000 miles in less than 3 days. Thus Rocky Mount becomes Testament, Virginia, the only fictional town in JK’s works.

June: After finishing his 86,000 word On the Road scroll in April; JK goes in June to the Blakes’ new home in Kinston, with his mother. He stays for several weeks, working on Pic and other projects while also dealing with recurrent thrombophlebitis, for which he would be hospitalized in New York in August.

July 15: JK writes from Kinston to Allen Ginsberg in New York: “I’ve been reading and thinking for TEN days with my leg up, and have come to many important conclusions. One of them is extensive cutting of ROAD, with insertions which I’m writing now.” He refers to a long letter to John Clellon Holmes in which he has written all his plans out in detail. 

Kinston is where his mother is first called Memere, a gift from Paul, Jr.’s attempt to say “grandma.” Because the houses on Spence Drive, where they lived, have been re-numbered, I couldn’t be sure which had been theirs–there is no longer a “286,” which was their number. The 1951 summer chronology isn’t clear, either–JK may have gone to Rocky Mount, then Kinston, and back to Rocky Mount before returning to New York, but it seems more likely that his summer was all in Kinston.

April 7: JK writes from San Francisco to Carl Solomon in New York about his plans for publishing a 160-page excerpt from his “On the Road” scroll with Ace:

This is no dope idea, this is real money idea, the stretch of my ms. that begins “I first met Neal Pomeray in 1947 but I didn’t travel o the road with him till 1948, just the tail end of that year, at Xmas time, North Carolina to New York City 450 miles, and back to NC, and back to New York City again, in 36 hours, with washing dishes in Philadelphia, a teahead ball in Ozone Park, and a southern drawl evening drive in Rocky Mount in between. And i all that tie Neal just talked and talked and talked.”

Solomon, whose uncle, Aaron Wyn, owned Ace Books; and Solomon, who was also Ginsberg’s lover (“Howl” is dedicated to him), worked for Ace, which would soon publish William Burroughs’ Junkie (by “William Lee”). 

July: After receiving a $250 advance for the On the Road excerpt from Ace books in April, JK travels to Mexico with Neal and Carolyn Cassady; after they return to Colorado, he goes on to Mexico City, where he mails a draft of Visions of Cody to Carl Solomon. In May and June he writes Dr. Sax.

On July 3, he left Mexico City for Rocky Mount, where he spends about six weeks, “as always,” Tom Clark writes, “the uneasy, penurious guest among skeptical relatives.”

July 28: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Allen Ginsberg in Patterson, New Jersey, a short, jazzy letter that begins “The word in the beginning was dark. . . ” He rushes its ending because “I have to go to work in five minutes and make $120 to cushion me against the shock of receiving that $250 downpayment as soon as I can muster up enough courage to read the contract with an interested and intelligent eye instead of just spoofing and goofing in romantic paranoias over its stately and solemn ledgerly edifices of prose, fact, and circumstance.”

August 21: Neal Cassady writes a letter of recommendation (impeccably typed) for JK, who has applied for work with the railroad in Rocky Mount. Cassady writes that JK “has been my closest friend for many years,” and that they met while “we were both attending Columbia University.” After elaborating on JK’s character and honesty, he adds: “Naturally, no man has all the superlative virtues I seem to be attributing to Mr. Kerouac; nonetheless, he is the only man I know into whose hands I could entrust the use of my saxophone, fountain pen or wife and would rest assured that they were honorably and properly taken care of.” He also asks for JK’s current home address.

: JK stays for about 10 days with the Blakes at Big Easonburg.

December: In Rocky Mount for the holidays with family, JK dresses as “Father Time” to nephew Paul Blake’s diapered “New Year.”

December 19: JK writes in Some of the Dharma:

As it’s now Dec. 19, 1954, the end of this pivotal year is near–and I am at the lowest beatest ebb of my life, trapped by the police, “retained in dismal places,” scorned and “cheated” by my friends (pamphleteers) misunderstood by my family, meanwhile mutilating myself (burning hands, benzedrine, smoking, goofballs), also full of alcoholic sorrow and dragged down by the obligations of others, considered a criminal and insane and a sinner and an imbecile, myelf self-disappointed & endlessly sad because I’m not doing what I knew should be done a whole year ago when the Buddha’s printed words showed me the path.

He then outlines his austere pan for salvation and addresses himself ominously: “Being famous, he will be hounded to his death.”

JK arrives in Rocky Mount in February to help the Blakes build a new home, which doesn’t get done. His stay, into July, initiates another productive period. While there, he writes The Buddha Tells Us and Wake Up, lots of letters, and the first part of The Dharma Bums.

February 5: JK sends a prayer from Rocky Mount on a postcard to Allen Ginsberg. Each of the 4-line stanzas begins with a variant of emptiness: 

I, Allen Ginsberg am emptiness . . . 
You, Jack Kerouac, are emptiness . . .
Living beings re emptiness . . . 
The Universal Redeemer is emptiness . . . indeed, emptiness is the Universal Redeemer.

February 20: JK’s letter from Rocky Mount to Malcolm Cowley begins:

It’s already spring down here in the piney woods. “Walkin in Jerusalem, Just like John,’ they sing on the radio. At night I see a meteor explode and light up the ground. The blood of the bear is soaking in the woods. You’d really love it if you could sit with me in the Golden Room of the Forest in the afternoons, when you know it will always be a dream, memory will always be a dream, future too, and more amazing, the complete & mysteriously palpable present, a dream —
     Enough Buddhism. This is a “business letter. . . .”

He writes that “On the Road” is now “The Beat Generation “and that he wants to call himself “Jean-Louis” instead of “John Kerouac”: “I want to separate my private life from possible publishing life, for reasons of peace & quiet, as here in Carolina now.”

May 11: JK writes from Rocky Mount a kind and encouraging letter to Allen Ginsberg. It begins, “Just an additional letter to go with the enclosed clipping and to let you know what I was just thinking in the yard. I dont think you should be discouraged by the neglect you are receiving. . . ”  He says that Allen is a “great Jewish Bard,” though “unknown, neglected, obscure, poor . . . and classically learned, gentle, cultured, and classically pure as writer of poems. . . . I can jus see it, the Jewish National Hero will be you, a hundred years from now or earlier, Ginsberg will be the name, like Einstein in Science, that the Jews will bring up when they claim pride in Poetry.”

May 25: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Allen Ginsberg in San Francisco: “Well, today I wrapped up a 10,000 word short story called ‘city CityCITY’ and sent it to Cowley asking him to figure someplace to send it.” He also writes:

I also know that do and don’t are the same thing, I know I can stay right here in this lonely cottonfield and do nothing the rest of my life, or run around and do a million things, it be the same thing. . . As far as I’m concerned the Truth isn’t worth a shit. . . i feel real awful, these guys in NY are killing me at last . . . please do something . . . pray for me, something. . . i want to kill myself . . . my family doesnt even want me to get drunk any more. . . i’m really a wretched paper pauper paoeori like i said. I will write to carl [Solomon]. Please let me know once and for all if you forwarded my letter to Bill [Burroughs] last February. I sent him cityCityCCITY, no answer.

May. A typed letter from JK in Rocky Mount to William Burroughs in Tangiers, Morocco, is cataloged by Columbia University Libraries as “ca May 1955”; it has no envelope. It begins:

Wonderin what you could be doin this dull hot afternoon in the south. Myself of course in desperation I am drinkin moonshine cocktails or punch made with orange juice, ice, ginger ale, & white lightnin. Very good, every time exhilirating yet never heavy like wine or even hangover making.

After describing how dull Ginsberg’s letters from San Francisco are and how much he misses New York–“the big excitement of ball games in bars, beer, village, seeing Stanley Gould, or long walks on the moonlight May waterfront with pint of wine, alone – or french movie.”–he laments his current state:

Here I am in the heart of the cotton fields and tobaccy fields, bored. Of course in the middle of the night, when the orange moon sheds dips from big glory clouds and you don’t hear even a dog bark, and I sit in dark yard in white chair with drink. . . But I’d rather be in the native quarter of Tangiers I tell you.

He encloses a a copy of “city City CITY” and expresses the hope that they can collaborate on it and develop it into a novel. He laments his lack of funds, “dammit, if these people would only pay me for my genius. — hark harock hork.” And he catches Burroughs up on some New York gossip, recounting one evening when everyone had run out on him: “I stood laughing alone in the night, no longer a hero.”

The letter concludes:
ah well, willie, make me happy and drop me note. surer than hell we will be high together again in the fellaheen room night with daves of other cultures and with new visions of our american story. . . you old hero of mine.
[handwritten signature] Jackoff

May 23: JK sends his story “cityCityCITY,” from Rocky Mount (again using the Raleigh Road return address), to Malcolm Cowley at Viking Press, and notes, “Ive just finished a full-length Buddhist handbook. Think Viking would be interested in seeing it? (I’ll deliver it personally).”

June 1: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Cowley, whom he’s heard was “bugged” that JK had changed his name to “Jean-Louis” for a publication in New World Writing “after you’d gone to the trouble of plugging it and myself too in the Saturday Review article.” JK explains: 

I changed my name for no  eccentric beret-and-cravat reason but because I have an ex-wife who is continually trying to get me in the workhouse for non-support and was recently (after the name-change) stymied by a judge’s verdict that, because of my chronic thrombo-phlebitis which I have all the time (all over my body at different times, the brain not yet or I wouldn’t be writing this letter), I am not liable to prosecution but ‘disabled.

He also asks if Cowley received the copy of “cityCity”CITY ” he’d sent “c/o Viking’s a week ago and what you thing of it.”

June 1: A 2-page typed letter to Allen Ginsberg in San Francisco is mostly Buddhist musings, among them: “I’ve sure got it now–continual conscious compassion–Quiet and Alone, interested, polite, dispassionate.”

And as a poem within the letter:

In the solitude of the Love life of Reality –
truly you have nothing to do but rest and be kind and
telepathize Samantabhadra’s Unceasing Compassion.

He notes parenthetically, beside the dateline, that he’s “drinking moonkind shocktells” and reveals he’s plagued by phlebitis “but I think it will be gone in time for me to hitchhike to Denver.” The second time he asks for $25, he adds, “and more if you can, if I had the bus fare I’d roll right on out now – As for my trip to New York, that’s on my mother’s poor $10 and I’ll have to hitchhike both ways and stay on Stanley Gould’s floor.”

On the back of this envelope, he types a poem:

The worm believes,
The saint grieves.
Deranged mankind
Seeks to find.
The enlightened head
Has long been dead.
Is ghostly.

14 July: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Allen Ginsberg a newsy and upbeat four page, typed, single-spaced letter. He’s got money now and plans to get to New Orleans, from where he’ll hop freight trains to San Francisco: “Will leave within 2 weeks as I have to help my borhter in law’s business moving TV sets while his helper is sick, I get 75 cents an hour and it making more loot for me to hit road with.” He reports on family troubles:

My sister got mad at me and said I thought I was god, I said What, ar ya jealous? O what a dreadful household this is, I’m in, leavin again, everybody resenting my cool Sihibhuto sittings in the morning, cool trances, they work hard to show how busy they are, they putter around, restless, proud, indignant, call me this and that, O if I were not greased cool by the wisdom of the Indes (which is French for Nothingness) I would be madder yet and have more reason to be madder than even in 1952 when I was mad at everybody even you.

December: After another hitchhiking-in-Mexico excursion that’s the basis for Tristessa falls apart, he wires Memere for bus fare to Big Easonburg, where he spends the last week of the year working on Visions of Gerard.

December 22: In a letter from Rocky Mount (using Paul Blake’s television repair shop , 1311 Raleigh Road, for his return address) to Malcolm Cowley, JK says he has “just hitchhiked 2500 miles with empty truck from sultry whores of Mexicali to Christmas farmlands of Ohio, then because of cold wave bussed back home here in Rock Mount for Christmas.” He describes his newest work:

I now begin work on the first four hears of the Duluoz legend having to do with my brother Gerard who died 1926 at the age of 9, a saint, with nuns at his bedside taking [down[ his dying words in notebooks because of the prophetic visions of heaven he had announced in catechism classroom in the parochial school in Lowell. It will be a novel that will have to reach down into the gray misty trees of my earliest eyeball visions. . .

January: JK extends his late 1955 stay at Big Easonburg, though he makes a few New York excursions. On January 16, he completes Visions of Gerard.

January 5: JK writes a 2-page single-spaced letter from Rocky Mount to Phillip Whalen that’s mostly re-typing of the Visions of Gerard manuscript, which he introduces:

I’m roaring along on a new novel, or rather, it’s a new section of the endless Duluoz Legend (Duluoz is the curious Breton name I use for Kerouac)–the first four years of my life, and I feel good and am writing well, no tea and no wine and so my mind is sharper. Also I have these woods to meditate in. Piney Woods.

January 16: JK sends a post card from Rocky Mount to Philip Whalen in Berkeley, California:

[in large handscripted capital letters]



O Wise and Serene
Spirit of Awakenedhood
Everything’s Allright
Forever and Forever and Forever
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

January 17: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Gary Snyder, in Japan, anticipating their meeting in San Francisco after  JK’s “long sweet Spring writing and meditating here in Rocky Mount where the mockingbirds are soon to arrive.” After some Blake & Buddhist musings, he returns to that idyllic notion: “Long days this Spring meditating in my piney woods and writing and continuing my long “Some of the Dharma” which is reports on dhyanas and samadhis and all kinds of Buddhist poems and notes and outcries and is now also over 300 pages long. So I’ll be busy right up till mountain-lookout time.”

February 7: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Philip Whalen a 3-page single-spaced letter, reporting that he was offered a job as a “Lookout on Desolation Peak in Mt. Baker National Forest and of course I accepted and sent back an immediate yes-reply, and I can’t help thinking that your recommendation must have had a lot to do with it so thank thank you a million times.” He hopes to do it “every single year from now on.”

February 10: JK writes from Rocky Mount to Malcolm Cowley, mostly about his projects. He writes: “I’ve used up my American Academy $300 (mostly on wine last year) and am spending quiet Spring typing, trying-to-catch-up-typing my new work. A word from you wil change my atmosphere of gloom, publishing-wise. Myself, I feel good, tho. Anyway, I can hardly wait till you see “Visions of Gerard,” a really holy work.” He includes re-typed portions of Mexico City Blues and Visions of Gerard. 

March 13: JK types a postcard from Rocky Mount to Philip Whalen, in Berkeley, California, outlining his plans for meeting soon at “the Place”‘ after he meets with Malcolm Cowley. He adds three unremarkable haiku.

March 16: JK types a letter from Rocky Mount to Malcolm Cowley in Palo Alto, California, at Stanford University, discussing their upcoming editing session on the On the Road manuscript. He explains how a potential libel issue is now resolved and says he has made “completely outlandish dhanges that may add to the humor of the book. He concludes:

     The Rock n Roll craze is on, On the Road is the HIPSTER NOVEL, the time is ripe. . . The GoGoGo situation is really ripe right now in USA.
     Good God I hope you’re not gone when I get there!
     Also I just got a firespotting job in the High Sierras for this summer!

He continues work on Book of Dreams, types up Tristessa, and spends a meditative spring before leaving in March for San Francisco and what will become most of The Dharma Bums.

Just before leaving Rocky Mount for the last time, he writes to Carolyn Cassady:

There are piney woods across the cottonfield where I went every day this spring and sometimes in the middle of the night, without lamp, to meditate on bed of grass under tree, and where it all came back to me. Now there are swarms of mosquitos by night and ticks by day–‘s why I wanta go to mile-and-a-half-high plateau this summer.

Later that year, the Blakes moved to Florida.

1958 edition of On the Road, which was finally published in 1957. Dave Moore, who founded the European Beat Studies Network, has collected an impressive gallery of Kerouac book covers.


December 9: In a letter to Malcolm Cowley, JK outlines his current project, a typewritten scroll which will become The Dharma Bums. After describing in it his adventures with the San Francisco renaissance, “all a true story again,” he adds: 

Then I bum my way back via freights and road to North Carolina, and a holy winter meditating in the woods, then back to the Coast, to a shack to live with Gary [Snyder]. . . It’s a real American book and has an optimistic American ring of the words in it. I’m proud of it. I’m sure you’ll like it.

The Blakes’ Big Easonburg home.


Cassady, Neal. to J.C. Clements. San Jose, California: TLS 21 Aug. 1952. Harry Ransome Research Center, U of Texas, Austin, TX.

Clark, Tom. 

Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums.

Kerouac, Jack. from Some of the Dharma, in “The Week in Literature: Robert Lowry’s Book U.S.A”. # 1, Robert Lowry ed. Fall 1958: New York, NY. TMs. Allen Ginsberg Papers. Columbia University Libraries, NY, NY. [This item includes a copy of a letter JK sent to Lowry on October 6, 1958 in which he quotes his own text from Some of the Dharma, and which subsequently becomes the primary text of Lowry’s “Book U.S.A. #1” titled “Jack Kerouac Tells the Truth.”]

Kerouac, Jack. Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954. Brinkley, Douglas, ed. New York: Penguin, 2004,

Kerouac, Jack, to Allen Ginsberg. Rocky Mount, NC: APCS 5 June 1947; TLS 15 Dec. 1948; “Here’s a Prayer towards Satori,” TLS 28 July 1952; TMs 6 Feb. 1955; TLS: 11 May 1955; TLS June 1955; TLS 14 July 1955; TLS 19 July 1955; TL 20 May 1955. Allen Ginsberg Papers. Columbia University Libraries, NY, NY.

Kerouac, Jack. to Carl Solomon. San Francisco, CA. TLS 7 Apr. 1952. Allen Ginsberg Papers. Columbia University Libraries, NY, NY.

Kerouac, Jack, to Gary Snyder. Rocky Mount, NC: TLS 17 January 1956.

Kerouac, Jack, to Malcolm Cowley. Rocky Mount, NC:  Ms. 20 Feb. 1955; TLS 1 June 1955; TLS 22 Dec. 1955;  TLS 10 Feb. 1956; TLS 16 Mar. 1956. 9 Dec. 1957. Malcolm Cowley Papers, Newberry Library, Chicago, IL.

Kerouac, Jack. TPcS to Philip Whalen. Rocky Mount, NC: 5 Jan. 1956; 19 Jan. 1956, 7 Feb. 1956; 13 Mar. 1956. Philip Whalen Papers. Bancroft Library. U of California, Berkeley.

Kerouac, Jack. TLS to William Burroughs. Rocky Mount, NC: 14 July 1947, ca. May 1955. Allen Ginsberg Papers. Columbia University Libraries, NY, NY.

–June 12, 2024