Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

Ann Charters: The Mother of Us All

Academic journal article Journal of Beat Studies

Ann Charters: The Mother of Us All

Article excerpt

In the beginning, there was only Ann Charters's biography of Jack Kerouac, plus Tim Hunt's Kerouac's Crooked Road, and two essays in John Tytell's Naked Angels. Everyone but Kerouac was still alive; his books were out of print, and expensive first editions had to be found from dealers such as Bob Wilson at the Phoenix Bookshop, just to do the work of mining his rich cadences. So, Charters was the Bible. She had met the man himself, and memere (his mother), key to unlocking his life and work. You could say my doctoral research was easy with only this handful of sources. A dissertation writer today would have a mountain of books to climb. As Seymour Krim used to say, it is a tribute to Kerouac that so many biographies about him would come out, none duplicating the other. There were only about eight then. The first, Charters's, broke ground, supplying the ur-narrative.

When asked, What's a nice Jewish girl like you doing in a place like this?, I could always say there was one before me. I first met her in Boulder in 1982, at the 25th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. We were both on panels, together and apart. I had my doctoral manuscript with me. I had achieved my Ph.D., but the book would come later, and here she was, my anxiety of influence. She flipped through my pages and told me I had a lot of nerve. I had boldly questioned her assertions about his writing, but that did not stop us from forging a Beat friendship, based mainly on our coming together at festivals such as this historic event. …

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