The Jack Kerouac Collection

Jack Kerouac

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The Jack Kerouac Collection Review

by Lindsay Planer

This triple-disc box set is centered on the reissue and restoration of Jack Kerouac's three long-players: Poetry for the Beat Generation (1959), Blues and Haikus (1959), as well as Readings by Jack Kerouac on the Beat Generation(1960). The Jack Kerouac Collection (1990) also adds over a half-hour of previously unissued material. These include outtakes from the Blues and Haikus sessions, recitations from On the Road and Visions of Cody from the Steve Allen Plymouth Show, as well as a candid recording from a symposium titled "Is There a Beat Generation," which was held at the Hunter College Playhouse and sponsored by Brandeis University. As a poet, Kerouac's readings were rarely as entertaining as those of his contemporaries William S. Burroughs or Allen Ginsberg. However, the liberation in his writing style is absolutely replete with a youthful joy tethered by somber optimism. His blend of achingly poetic verbiage and stream of consciousness were intersected by his rapier wit and perpetual vision. Much like the instrumental jazz musicians of his time, his poetry and prose were wide open to interpretation and the delivery often bears a crude and uncomfortable nature -- much like the uncertainty that faces many of the characters he animates. Accompanying Kerouac on his spoken-word jazz odysseys are Steve Allen (piano) on Poetry for the Beat Generation as well as Zoot Sims (tenor sax) and Al Cohn (tenor sax) on Blues and Haikus. The Jack Kerouac Collection also includes a 32-page liner-notes booklet with essays and commentary from Ginsberg, Burroughs, Jerry Garcia, Ray Manzarek, David Perry, and Steve Allen, among others. There is also copious discographical, biographical, and bibliographical information as well. This set is an essential piece of Americana and is highly recommended for literary buffs and beatniks alike.

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