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Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
by Jack Kerouac
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140296395, Paperback)Jack Kerouac's buddy William Burroughs once told an interviewer that Jack had written about a million words by the time he turned 22, and poet and editor Paul Marion publishes 80,000 of them for the first time in Atop an Underwood: jazz reviews written in high school, several rushing headlong poems, short stories (Kerouac dashed off some 200 during his 1941 stint working in a Hartford gas station), essays, radio plays, self-exhortations, an excerpt from the novel The Sea Is My Brother. Marion takes what he calls a "documentary approach," grouping together pieces by period, subject, circumstance of composition. And what emerges from the whole is a terrifically fresh, vivid, and engaging portrait of the Beat artist as a young man.
Kerouac, even in his teens, was riffing on his big themes--the restless quest for meaning along "the marathon alleys of life"; the lonely majesty of "the real, true, America, America in the night"; the fleeting pleasures of love, sex, comradeship, food, and drink; the compulsion to set down his experiences in swift, fluid prose. There are no buried masterpieces or stunning revelations here, but every piece hums with the spontaneity and immediacy of Kerouac's voice. Reading these youthful jottings is like hanging out at one of those all-night bull sessions when Kerouac and his pals "talked about eternity and infinity and the government and Reds and women and things..."
"I will write a play about life as life is and I will wait till it hits me in the face before I write it," he proclaimed when he was 18. "Then I will rush to my typewriter and write it. So hold on to your seats. It will soon come and I feel terrifically exuberated right just now." Atop an Underwood is a record of the many forms that exuberation took during the years when life first started to hit Kerouac in the face. --David Laskin
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:35 -0400)
An anthology of early stories by the poet of the Beat generation. Topics range from his time in Columbia University, from which he was expelled, to an excerpt from a novel which is based on his service in the merchant marine.
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