Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kerouac's Knickknacks Go on the Road

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kerouac's Knickknacks Go on the Road

Article excerpt

LOWELL, Mass. - The eclectic bric-a-brac that comforted and inspired writer Jack Kerouac is going on the road. "Kerouac Retrieved," an exhibition of the clutter that surrounded Kerouac at the simple wooden desk in Florida where he wrote many of his works, opens Thursday in the author's hometown of Lowell.

It's a hodgepodge of personal items: family photos, Christian and Buddhist figurines, a Frank Sinatra album, cat carriers he fashioned by hand. Kerouac experts at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, which is hosting the show, say the items help humanize the Beat Generation icon who wrote "On the Road, "The Dharma Bums and other celebrated works.

"Actually touching something he touched - it's really an uncanny experience, said Michael Millner, a UMass-Lowell professor who runs the school's Jack and Stella Kerouac Center for Public Humanities.

Millner and fellow Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen arranged to have the items brought to Lowell from the novelist's bungalow in St. Petersburg, Florida - the last place he lived before essentially drinking himself to death at age 47 in 1969.

Kerouac was born in gritty, industrial Lowell in 1922. Though most of his works were written elsewhere, they're peppered with references to his hometown. At the time of his death, Kerouac even kept a Lowell telephone directory on his desk.

It's the other trinkets, though, that capture the imagination.

There's the little plastic bride and groom that topped his wedding cake. The tiny model of a Triumph motorcycle - a curious knickknack for someone who never got a driver's license. The whimsical fisherman and sea captain salt and pepper shakers. …

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