Dorsey: Jack Kerouac to be celebrated at Oct. 21 eventWritten by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To many devotees of American literature, Jack Kerouac is the embodiment of poetry in motion. My own journey into his literary landscape began like so many others before me, as a pimple-faced teenager, hormones raging for an open road where I could pack my suitcase and wander the highways of my heart, without ever leaving town. I didn’t know it then, but there were young people right here in Toledo who shared that same burning passion and they lined up in droves to catch their own taste of Kerouac, via our much-beloved readers theatre, “Back to Jack.”
Come Oct. 21, the anniversary of Kerouac’s death, Jack will indeed be back in the Glass City, in spirit anyway, when the readers’ theater graces our own Original Sub Shop & Deli, to perform what is expected to be a small but devoted local audience. Which raises a few questions: Just how is Kerouac viewed by today’s young people? Is he still vital? Do students and readers still care what he has to say, particularly here in the Midwest, and just what exactly was he getting at anyway? All of these things and more were floating around in my brain after a recent conversation with current “Jack” organizer Michael Kocinski.
Before literary historians get all up in arms, let me just say that Mike and I both agreed that Kerouac is important, he is loved, which is clear from the countless number of tribute events held around the world every year. What we talked about mostly is a certain magic, and the burning question, is what he had to say really important to our culture right now?
A few weeks ago I think I would have said no. I would have called Kerouac an important part of literary history, but I would have questioned his place in the hearts and minds of the Kindle generation. I would have said that young people have larger things to worry about like the unemployment rate, foreclosures and just who may or may not be hiding weapons of mass destruction under their beds like large, scary dirty magazines.
What I had failed to realize before this moment is that things have never been innocent, they’ve never been easy, you just couldn’t Tweet about them. So what makes Kerouac vital today? In these turbulent times he offers a sense of stability, the knowledge that what you are feeling is normal, that we all have fears, no matter how different they may be. You are the Kerouac of future generations, so is the guy sitting next to you in the food court; you just have to be willing to travel, even if it’s only in your mind, and be willing to unpack your sense of adventure.
You may be thinking, if we’re all so broke, how can
you really justify spending your hard-earned dollars on a novel, on poetry? Well, thanks to resources like your local library and events like “Back to Jack,” you just ran out of excuses. On the off chance you’re saying to yourself, “who is this Kerouac?” — he is the author of a number of literary classics including “Heaven and Other Poems” and “On the Road,” which is being adapted into a major motion picture.
“Back to Jack” begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The Original Sub Shop & Deli is located at 402 Broadway St. For more information, call (419) 243-4857.
Until next time … keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey resides in Toledo’s Old West End. His work is widely published and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize.