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A Map of Mexico City Blues

Jack Kerouac as Poet

James T. Jones

Publication Year: 2010

In this pioneering critical study of Jack Kerouac’s book-length poem, Mexico City Blues—a poetic parallel to the writer’s fictional saga, the Duluoz Legend—James T. Jones uses a rich and flexible neoformalist approach to argue his case for the importance of Kerouac’s rarely studied

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xii

Every scholarly book is a complex collaboration, but a scholarly book on Jack Kerouac may be even more complex than most. Kerouac's status as a cult hero for three generations of Americans has created a network of aficionados, devotees, and collectors that constitutes an oral resource infinitely greater in volume and detail than the relatively refined collection of documents in even the most elaborate research library. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

"Between extremities / Man runs his course," Yeats wrote in ''Vacillation'' in an attempt to characterize the dialectic of his life and his art. Unlike the great Irish poet, the American writer Jack Kerouac never spoke so abstractly of the nature of his own personal or artistic conflicts. Nevertheless, like Yeats-like any true artist-Kerouac forged his art from paradox: he transformed the unalterable conditions of his existence into opposing sets of availing symbols, much like Blake's contraries. In doing so ...

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2. The Novelist as Poet

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pp. 7-21

Among a series of bohemian literary debates in his novel The Subterraneans (written in 1953), Kerouac recounts an argument with the poet Gregory Corso, who is disguised as the story's antagonist, Yuri Gligoric. Kerouac himself plays the character of Leo Percepied, a name which combines his father's given name with the French equivalent of Oedipus: ...

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3. Auto/Biography

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pp. 22-50

The experienced reader of Kerouac's novels comes to expect the kind of scenes that fill Vanity of Duluoz, the last complete novel Kerouac wrote. In the most sincere and forthright tone, for instance, the first-person narrator recounts a significant incident of his early college days: ...

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4. Keroac in Mexico, Mexico in Kerouac

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pp. 51-77

In the "Passing Through" sections of Desolation Angels, the narrator, Duluoz, discusses the conflict he feels between solitude and "the world's action" and describes the geographical polarities that both symbolize and contain the conflict: "It's only in Mexico, in. the sweetness and innocence, birth and death seem at all worthwhile" (222). Duluoz's recollection of his impression ...

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5. From Signing the Blues to Singing the Blues

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pp. 78-101

On his first night out with Mardou, Leo Percepied, the Kerouac character in The Subterraneans, goes to a jazz bar called The Red Spot to hear Charlie Parker play. He notices, at some point, that Bird is "digging" Mardou and also looking into his own eyes ...

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6. Kerouac's Religion(s)

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pp. 102-135

Near the end of Desolation Angels, Kerouac, describing his attempt to make a home for himself and his mother in the Berkeley Hills, attributes the following remark to her: "You and your Buddhists! Why don't you stick to your own religion?" (351). If it was an appropriate question for the mother to ask her son in the 1950s, it is an even more appropriate question for the ...

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7. The Tradition of Spontaneity

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pp. 136-161

In the "Passing Through New York" section of Desolation Angels, Kerouac invents a fictional version of an actual meeting he had with the New Critic and poet Randall Jarrell in the presence of Gregory Corso. Varnum Random, the Jarrell character, asks Duluoz, the Kerouac character, "How can you get any refined or well gestated thoughts into a spontaneous flow as you call it? It can all end up gibberish" (280). ...

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8. Finding the Form

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pp. 162-183

... From the very beginning of literature, poets have divided their attention between the effort to write long, comprehensive poems that reflect the intuitions of a unified sensibility and short, analytic poems that express a unique response to a single moment in time. After the Romantic period, however, the desire to condense the epic or to expand the lyric has caused the two basic ...

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9. Conclusion

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pp. 184-186

Included in Book One of Dr. Sax, the novel Kerouac intended to be an extension of the Faust legend, is a small map of the Lowell neighborhood called Pawtucketville, where Kerouac lived the years of his early adolescence. The map shows Phebe Street, where the character Jackie Duluoz lived in a house facing that of his friend G.J.; Phebe Street came to a dead ...

Works Cited and Consulted

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pp. 189-191

General Index

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pp. 193-197

Index of Choruses

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pp. 199-202

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Author Bio

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pp. 203

James T. Jones was born and raised in Decatur, illinois, where he attended Catholic schools. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. He earned his Ph.D. in modern American literature in 1980 ...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809385980
E-ISBN-10: 0809385988
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809330065
Print-ISBN-10: 0809330067

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010