By Jordyn Haime
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road just turned 60 and this week the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival explores why the bible of the Beat Generation is more relevant than ever.
From Thursday, Oct. 5 to Monday, Oct. 9 Kerouac’s home town—the iconic writer’s works are laced with musings and reflections of Lowell—will draw fans from all over the world for tours, readings, live music, discussions, art shows, and more in honor of its most famous literary alumnus.
“Part of when we say Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, we really mean that. We are going to celebrate and hold up the Lowell piece in Jack Kerouac’s life. And we have people come from all over the United States and various parts of the world because they’ve read Kerouac, they’ve been touched by his writing, and they want to see the place that first inspired him to be a writer,” says Steve Edington, the current treasurer of LCK who has been volunteering for the non-profit for nearly 25 years.
To shine a spotlight on the special 60th anniversary of On the Road, LCK has tapped John Leland, New York Times journalist and author of Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think), to lead this year’s Parker lecture.
“The tale of passionate friendship and the search for revelation are timeless,” Leland wrote. “Rather than being a novel celebrating hedonistic abandonment, On the Road is a book about how to live your life.”
Kerouac’s famous tale of cross-country adventures with pal Neal Cassady, published Sept. 5, 1957, was a middle finger to the mainstream and largely credited for jumpstarting a counter-culture movement with its sights set on following a different path than the previous generation—a road that also looked inward to find inspiration and meaning to life.
The novel, written, according to legend, in three drug-fuelled weeks in one, 120-foot-long scroll of spontaneous prose, thrust Kerouac into immediate and uncomfortable stardom and still continues to inspire new generations.
Kerouac died in October 1969 in St. Petersburg, Fla. from internal bleeding brought on by years of alcohol abuse. In Lowell this week, you’ll find the iconic writer—just like the mad ones he refers to in his most famous work—“still burns like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…and everybody goes Awww!”
In addition to the Parker lecture at 2 p.m. Saturday inside the Lowell National Park Visitor’s Center (246 Market St.), you can put these other must-see events on your weekend-to-do list:
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5: From the Old Worthen, 141 Worthen St., to the sire of Nicky Sampas’ bar, to Thirsty First and Cappy’s Copper Kettle, the traditional Kerouac pubs tour ends with a kick-off of music and readings at 8 p.m. at Cappy’s with special guest David Amram—a musician, composer, original member of The Beat’s, and close friend of Kerouac.
- 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6: Devoted Kerouac fans and beatniks won’t want to miss a screening of Pull My Daisy on Friday at the Zorba Music Hall, 438 Market St.— a 30-minute film in which Kerouac never appears, but narrates with his distinguishable spontaneous prose. Following the screening, David Amram, who appears in the film with a young Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, will discuss the making of the movie and what it was like to work with Kerouac along with Beat scholar Nancy Fox, a professor hailing all the way from Texas.
- 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Library Haunts and Hooky Tour, 401 Market St., includes a visit to the Pollard Library “Kerouac’s Corner” named to honor the time Kerouac spent here during his high school days—sometimes playing hooky to expand his own literary horizons.
- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: 60th Anniversary Celebration at Olympia Zorba Music Hall with Jamie Cassady: Celebrate the spirit of On the Road with indie rockers Kevin Devine and Will Dailey, and a discussion with Jamie Cassady, daughter of Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in On the Road). Cassady will talk about the portrayal of her father in On the Road as well as her memories of “Uncle Jack,” who visited their family often.
- 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Annual Amram jam at the Old Worthen, where David Amram will perform along with special guest readers, poets, and musicians. It’s the perfect way to wrap up the weekend.
For the complete schedule of events click here.