Tag Archives: Kerouac

Links: The Jack Kerouac Tour of San Francisco and how to impress a girl with books

29 Russell Street

This was the house of Neal Cassady, inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road, in the 1950s. Via the link.

The other day I came across this link to The Jack Kerouac Tour of SF, compiled by Paul Iorio. It starts out with the obvious spots like City Lights, Jack Kerouac Alley, the Beat Museum and Vesuvio’s, but then moves into some places I didn’t know about, like Neal and Carolyn Cassady’s home (left), where Kerouac stayed in the attic for several months while writing Visions of Cody. It also includes some other places Kerouac lived, as well as neighborhoods, cafes, and performance spaces he frequented. Pretty cool, and definitely something I’ll be doing when I get back to the city.

I also thought this was pretty funny: Dear Paris Review, What Books Impress A Girl? The list at the end hits pretty close to the mark, I think. When I was 17 I used to write impassioned diary entries about my dream man, who I would encounter on a bus reading Nabokov. He would compliment my pink hair and then we’d go to a coffee shop to talk about Pale Fire. I still love Nabokov, but these days I would probably find a guy who wanted to talk about him on a bus tedious; some potential winners might be Michael Chabon’s The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Steinbeck, Whitman, really good non-fiction, or, yes, Haruki Murakami. (I cracked up at the “worst book of great author” formula suggested in the article, but in all seriousness, A Wild Sheep Chase is totally underrated and when I find someone who agrees with me I will bond instantly with that person. I feel the same way about Anne Bronte, but she’s significantly less sexy.)

Obviously you shouldn’t read just because you think it’ll help you get laid, but just for fun, what books would you like to see members of your preferred gender reading? 

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17 San Francisco Reads

Since I’ll regularly be posting about (I hesitate to say “reviewing”) books about San Francisco, I thought I’d kick my blog off with a post about some of the San Francisco books I’ve already read. It’s a surprisingly slim list; I could only come up with 17 books (though I’ve probably forgotten a few) that are partially or completely set in San Francisco or tell a story about it in some way. One of my shortcomings as a blogger is an annoying tendency to thoroughness (i.e. if I’ve read 17 books about San Francisco, I MUST blog about all of them, whether they were good, bad, or anywhere in between), so to combat this (and the fact that it’s been many years since I read some of them), I’ve only written a few summaries, and listed the rest without descriptions. They range from literary game-changers to Oprah’s Book Club picks to YA novels to total guilty pleasures; some deal with San Francisco very briefly, others are an open love letter to it, but they all have something valuable to say about the city.

 Slouching Towards BethlehemSlouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (Farrar, Straus and Giroux,1968)

Most of the essays in this collection of writing on California in the sixties deal with other parts of the state (southern California, the Central Valley, or the Monterey Bay area), but the title essay, about drug use in the Haight-Ashbury counterculture, is an unflinching, de-romanticized look at a part of San Francisco history that has by now passed into legend. Unlike ecstatic writings by people inside the Beat or hippie movements or nostalgia-laden contemporary accounts, Didion writes from the outside looking in, and as such is able to capture the weakness and decay of the counterculture.

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