A Beat hero

It’s Monday and Fiction Daily pays tribute today to the work of John J Dorfner, a friend of the Beat writers and scholars.

In the sea of books about Jack Kerouac and the Beat writers … by known researchers like Ann Charters, Gerald Nicosia and other scholars, you’ll find two modest contributions under these titles: Visions of Rocky Mount, and Visions of Lowell.

Yet these are critically important volumes, as Mr. Dorfner did the footwork others overlooked. He pinned down elements of Jack Kerouac’s life that would have otherwise been lost.

He searched for the house in Rocky Mount where Kerouac lived with his sister, Caroline, and husband, Blake, and found it. No previous biographer bothered to track down such a detail, yet for readers of Kerouac, this detail contains a world of meaning.

It was in Rocky Mount, in Big Easonburg Woods, that Kerouac spent days and weeks in quiet reflection, still at last after his time in New York city and on the road.

For Kerouac was deeply complex, and just as he enjoyed the road’s upheaval and movement, stirring ideas along the way, he also fed on solitude, nature and reflection. He was, like so many writers, profoundly introverted.

It was this pursuit of quiet meditation that also led Kerouac to the top of Desolation Peak in Washington State, as well as to friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cottage at Big Sur, where he fell apart after the success of “On the Road.”

If you’ve not yet read Big Sur, it is a moving look at the private life of a writer struggling with his own success, which nevertheless destroyed something precious and innocent.

In Rocky Mount, Kerouac was highly creative, penning Some of the Dharma and many letters. He worked at his brother-in-law’s television shop at 1311 Raleigh Road, in Rocky Mount.

Mr. Dorfner spent considerable time finding the house and talking with people who knew Kerouac in those days. Remember, this was 1956, a year before “On the Road” was published and the Beat phenomena began. He was to them just “Nin’s brother.”

The future of the Kerouac-Blake house on West Mount Drive in Rocky Mount is up in the air these days, as it’s simply been used as a rental cottage for many years. It should be protected and marked as historically significant.

Not only is Mr. Dorfner an unselfish literary sleuth, but he’s also quite a nice person to speak with. He corresponded with Allen Ginsberg and even hosted Neal Cassady’s son John Allen at his home in Raleigh, N.C.

His books about Kerouac’s time in Lowell and Rocky Mount are self-published, but they do quite well in sales, though it’s a labor of love, he says.

I highly recommend visiting his sites to read more about Kerouac’s time in Rocky Mount:

http://members.aol.com/KerouacNC/

and

Visions of Rocky Mount: WRAL

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