Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

In Honor of Ann Charters

Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

In Honor of Ann Charters

Article excerpt

In any assessment of Ann Charters's momentous and monumental contributions to Beat Studies, her biography of Jack Kerouac and her shaping of the Beat canon through her anthologies necessarily take pride of place. We all have well-thumbed, fully annotated, and oft-studied copies on our shelves. These projects have enabled our research and informed our teaching. But I'd like to call attention to a less often noticed achievement, a slim volume that the Phoenix Bookshop issued in 1967: Jack Kerouac: A Bibliography.

Imagine a time when there was no internet, no smartphones, no Wikipedia- an era when information wasn't a matter of fingertip-tapping a device but had to be sought out on actual bookshelves, in actual bookstores and actual libraries. This was once, I swear, the order of things (I'm old enough to remember). And in 1967 if one happened to read On the Road or The Dharma Bums and then wanted to read more, there was no way to know what else might be out there. Kerouac's novels were mostly out of print, and titles such as Tristessa, initially published as cheap paperbacks with lurid covers, weren't to be found in libraries since Kerouac wasn't seen, then, as a writer of literature. Jack Kerouac: A Bibliography was the only map to be had. In 1971 when I began reading Kerouac, it was the only way to know that Maggie Cassidy and Desolation Angels had once existed.

But Charters's Bibliography was more than a crucial piece of scholarship at a time when Kerouac was largely trivialized and much of his canon in danger of being forgotten and therefore lost. …

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