Click on title to link to "Dharma Beat" a site dedicated to Jack Kerouac's legacy.
Atop The Underwood: Early Stories And Other Writings, Jack Kerouac, edited by Paul Marion, Viking Press, New York, 1999
For starters, for the benefit of the younger set, I should explain the word Underwood used in the title of this compilation refers to a typewriter, an ancient tool used by writers and others in pre-historical times (before the digital age) in order to more quickly tell what they had to say to the world. How primitive, right? Except, typewriter or word processor, a writer is still obliged to have a plan (or plans) to tell his woes to the world. Now I have spent considerable time in this space reviewing many of the major works of the “beat writer Jack Kerouac, including masterpieces of his generation (and my later one) like “On The Road”, “Dharma Bums”, and “Desolation Angels”. And rightly so. Now we come to a compilation of his early writings, thoughts, half –thoughts, sketches for thoughts and a few poems thrown in. In short, we are now in the stage of interest to the aficionado.
The editor of the compilation, Paul Marion, a younger fellow Lowell compatriot and writer of Kerouac’s has what can only be described as a labor of love in organizing this work. Jack Kerouac may not have always written material that was unalloyed gold but he wrote a ton of stories and ideas for stories starting from his youth in junior high school in Lowell. Marion has separated out the best or otherwise most representative of the work from about 1936 to 1943 (just before the decisive meetings with the New York crowd, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr, etc., with whom he would make literary history as the core of the “beat” generation writers). For those who want to trace Kerouac’s evolution as a writer, what animated him at any given time, how he created that spontaneous writing form that he became famous for, or those who just want to be entertained by stories form the old days of the 1930s and 1940s this is good stuff to run through. For the rest us you NEED to read those three novels listed in the first paragraph, and you had better get to it.