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Literary Tourism: Jack Kerouac’s New York


From defunct dive bars to reincarnated cafes, follow the footsteps of the Beat writer through the Big Apple.

I settled down to long sweet sleeps, day-long meditations in the house, writing, and long walks around beloved old Manhattan a half hour subway ride away. I roamed the streets, the bridges, Times Square, cafeterias, the waterfront, I looked up all my poet beatnik friends and roamed with them, I had love affairs with girls in the Village, I did everything with that great mad joy you get when you return to New York City.

– Jack Kerouac, Lonesome Traveler

McSorley’s Old Ale House

When I ask the barkeep about Kerouac, he quietly searches his memory but can’t tell me anything for sure. But I have only two choices, he says: light ale or dark ale. Later he comes to find me sitting at a table in back, a book of poetry in hand that appears to document a bartenders’ log going back to the beginning which, in McSorley’s case, was before anyone was currently living was born, as the menu points out. The bartender brings my attention to an excerpt in the book, a log from 1958: “guy who wrote On the Road here with Sorrentino Blackburn and the writer bunch say its a good read.” I tell him that’s fantastic and he says, “I think so, but I’m biased. I wrote it.” Sure enough, his photo is on the back. He’s worked at and lived above the pub since the early ‘70s, when he started the writing program at City College. Needless to say, if you want some history with your light or dark ale, ask for Geoffrey Bartholomew.


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Lez Liberty Lit #57: Defining A Golden Age


Lez Liberty Lit #57: Defining A Golden Age


At Dissent, Roxane Gay discusses what makes a novel a feminist novel:

“Feminism concerns the equality of women. When I say equality, I mean that women should be able to move through the world with the same ease as men. Women should be able to live in a society where their bodies are not legislated. They should be able to live their lives free from the threat of sexual violence. And when we…

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The Biggest Little-Known Influence on H. P. Lovecraft

M. R. James was an English author, scholar and inspiration to Lovecraft, though the world may have forgotten it.

Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was the type of gentleman one doesn’t meet anymore: the very definition of the reserved, erudite scholar who was out of step and out of time. A medievalist by trade, his professional life was closely wedded to the academic world. Specifically, he served as the provost for King’s College, Cambridge (1905-1918) and, more famously, Eton College (1918-1936).

But besides serving budding minds, James’s other great passion was the ghost story. The originator of the “antiquarian ghost story,” he took ghosts out of chains and abandoned castles, and injected them into a more real world. The term “antiquarian” in the “antiquarian ghost story” came from James himself, who used his deep love for the medieval world to the fullest extent in stories that invariably pit quiet academics against the manifest legion of the undead.

A natural conservative with a predilection for outmoded settings brimming with historical consequence, James was an obvious influence on the Anglophilic H. P. Lovecraft, who, in a 1935 letter to science fiction author Emil Petaja, summarized James as a unique talent who flourished under the conventions of weird fiction:

M.R. James joins the brisk, the light, & the commonplace to the weird about as well as anyone could do it—but if another tried the same method, the chances would be ten to one against him. The most valuable element in him—as a model—is his way of weaving a horror into the every-day fabric of life & history—having it grow naturally out of the myriad conditions of an ordinary environment.


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Driving Umberto Eco and the Line Between Writer and Writing

Picking up the famed Italian writer from the airport and running into an anonymous porn reviewer both reveal the dynamic relationship between the author and the work.

As a younger man, I was once deputized to pick up Umberto Eco from JFK airport. By then I had read everything the man had ever written, including the dull stuff on semiotics and some novels more than once. I could open Foucault’s Pendulum at any point and just start reading, and there was its creator, waddling over to me all rumpled and smiles after a long flight from Rome. He charmed me utterly by brazenly smoking in an American airport, ashing his cigarette into an antique pocket-ashtray, silver and worn, which had a spring-loaded lip to pop out and cradle your Lucky Strike. Then he reminded me of his mere humanity by loudly and violently passing gas inside my Plymouth. Since that moment 20 years ago I have continued to read everything he writes, but in terms of impression, his masterful craft is equaled, in my humble memory, by that tremendous fart. Writers and their books are not the same, and there is a further distinction between the authorial persona and the author’s actual personality.


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#TBT: A Graveyard Tour of Literature

Though dead, these authors still draw a crowd.

Over the years, many writers’ graves have become sites for adoring fans to offer their favorite scribes posthumous props. These tombs reveal as much about the writers, their lives and their works as they do about their legacies. If they had a choice at all, where did they choose their final resting place to be? Do the epitaphs suggest they died with their wits in tact? Do their remains have their own ghoulish, though worthwhile stories to tell?

These are 10 of the most fascinating literary resting places that we were able to dig up:

Dorothy Parker

Upon her death from a heart attack in 1967, American wit, critic, poet, activist and all-around prolific human being Dorothy Parker left everything she had to Martin Luther King, Jr. When King was assassinated in 1968, her estate was passed on to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and since 1988, her ashes have rested at NAACP headquarters in Baltimore, with an epitaph that reads, as she suggested, “Excuse my dust.” Her remains originally sat in her lawyer’s filing cabinet after going unclaimed.

Douglas Adams

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author and literary mad scientist Douglas Adams passed away in 2001 from a heart attack. Since, fans have celebrated the English author— whose headstone inscription simply reads “Writer” — by sticking a pen in the ground in front of his grave at Highgate Cemetery in London in reference to a passage in Hitchhiker’s Guide dedicated to “ballpoint life forms” that slip through wormholes when left unattended. Fans have also been known to pay tribute to Adams by leaving other items referenced in his writing, including towels.

Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s ashes are buried beneath an elm tree at Monk’s House in Sussex, England, where she lived with her husband. The house is now run by England’s National Trust and serves as a major destination for Woolf fans. The late modernist is well served by her epitaph, which reads “Death is the enemy. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding o Death! The waves broke on the shore.” She’s perhaps worse served by that fairly creepy stone sculpture of her likeness.


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