At the End of the Road

At the End of the Road: Jack Kerouac in Mexico

JORGE GARCÍA-ROBLES
TRANSLATED BY DANIEL C. SCHECHTER
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 120
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt9qh330
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  • Book Info
    At the End of the Road
    Book Description:

    "We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic." Mexico, an escape route, inspiration, and ecstatic terminus of the celebrated novelOn the Road, was crucial to Jack Kerouac's creative development. In this dramatic and highly compelling account, Jorge García-Robles, leading authority on the Beats in Mexico, re-creates both the actual events and the literary imaginings of Kerouac in what became the writer's revelatory terrain.

    Providing Kerouac an immediate spiritual freshness that contrasted with the staid society of the United States, Mexico was perhaps the single most important country in his life. Sourcing material from the Beat author's vast output and revealing correspondence, García-Robles vividly describes the milieu and people that influenced him while sojourning there and the circumstances between his myriad arrivals and departures. From the writer's initial euphoria upon encountering Mexico and its fascinating tableau of humanity to his tortured relationship with a Mexican prostitute who inspired his novellaTristessa, this volume chronicles Kerouac's often illusory view of the country while realistically detailing the incidents and individuals that found their way into his poetry and prose.

    In juxtaposing Kerouac's idyllic image of Mexico with his actual experiences of being extorted, assaulted, and harassed, García-Robles offers the essential Mexican perspective. Finding there the spiritual nourishment he was starved for in the United States, Kerouac held fast to his idealized notion of the country, even as the stories he recounts were as much literary as real.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4217-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE U.S. EDITION
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    J. G. - R.
  4. 1
    (pp. 1-19)

    Lowell, Massachusetts, March 12, 1922. Under the sign of Pisces (sign of the idealistic, conflicted, selfish, and hypersensitive), with Leo rising, Jean-Louis Kerouac was born, the third son of Leo Alcide Kerouac and Gabrielle Levesque, both Quebeckers recently emigrated to New England. Papa Leo worked at a printing press, Memère Gabrielle in a shoe factory. The Québécois French spoken by the lower-middle-class family had a heavy Catholic accent. The Kerouacs never missed a Sunday mass. Jack had two siblings: Gerard, five years older than he, and Carolyn, three years older. Gerard died at age nine from a lung disease, and...

  5. 2
    (pp. 20-45)

    In September 1949, Jack Kerouac got a letter from Mexico written by William S. Burroughs, who, fleeing from American justice following accusations of drug trafficking, went to Mexico City with Joan Vollmer. During the early months of his stay, Burroughs was fascinated by Mexico (later he’d be disappointed), and he was anxious for his cohorts to visit him. Shortly after his arrival, he wrote Jack:

    Mexico is very cheap. A single man could live good for $2 per day in Mexico City, liquor included. $1 per day anywhere else in Mexico. Fabulous whorehouses and restaurants. A large foreign colony. Cockfights,...

  6. 3
    (pp. 46-70)

    Returning from Mexico, the first thing Jack Kerouac did was cuddle up to his mom. His Oedipally troubled relationship with Memère remained laden with emotional ambivalence. Alternately loving and hating, mutually supportive and hostile, it bred unhealthy bonds of codependence and murky invisible ties, which the weak but not obtuse Jack never wanted but couldn’t quite sever.

    Around that time Jack met Joan Haverty, a girl from Albany who would become his second wife. Twenty years old, fine-featured, taller than he was, prim and elegant, she lived next door to Lucien Carr. In November 1950, a few weeks after meeting,...

  7. 4
    (pp. 71-88)

    Jack returned to New York in the same deplorable spirits. It was early 1953. As much as editors said they were interested in his book, among them the high-profile critic Malcolm Cowley, no one would actually publish anything. And when John Clellon Holmes received the not unimpressive sum of twenty thousand dollars for the publication ofGo—of which Holmes awarded his unknown peer a grand total of fifty dollars—Kerouac writhed in envy and bitterness, thinking that the quality of Holmes’s work was clearly inferior to his own (history proved him right) and feeling that the editors were committing...

  8. 5
    (pp. 89-106)

    Jack traveled by bus to El Paso, then hitchhiked and took the train to San Francisco, epicenter of American culture and life in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. A countercultural big bang that reverberated all across the planet. Ground zero of the Beat blast, the prodigal, gleeful flower bed of the hippie movement, sanctuary of a magical, divinely feverish brand of rock ’n’ roll. But also the place where the Reverend Jim Jones founded his Peoples Temple shortly before downing poison with his almost two thousand followers in Guyana; where the crazed, self-designated Beat Charles Manson (“I’m not a hippie,...

  9. 6
    (pp. 107-114)

    Back in New York, five minutes from fame, Jack got the news that Viking had acceptedOn the Roadfor publication—five years after he wrote it. There is never a shortage of astigmatic editors in this world. The mercenary Phoenicians of letters promised him an advance of a thousand dollars, which he gave Memère a few months later. Aware of emerging musical trends, Jack considered titling his novelRock ’n’ Roll Roadbut decided against it. In New York, he met Helen Elliot, a refined woman with whom he had a not-so-fleeting love affair that failed to develop, Jack...

  10. 7
    (pp. 115-128)

    After Jack returned from Mexico in August 1957, his life suddenly came off the hinges. Jack had foreseen it—as one traveling down a river hears the rumbling of the next set of cascades—but he’d never imagined that fame would hit him so hard or that it would be so difficult to navigate the straits of celebrity. Jack wasn’t ready to confront the situation that the span of his work would inevitably entail: his conversion into a writer-prophet who symbolized irreverence, rebellion, and the consequences of it. Jack was as lucid as he was weak. His unbalanced state resulted...

  11. NOTE ON SOURCES
    (pp. 129-130)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 131-134)