We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel

Been reading Door Wide Open and loving it hard. It’s a collection of letters between a restless Jack Kerouac at 35, with On The Road written years earlier but not yet published, and his 21 year old girlfriend Joyce Glassman, working on her first novel and exploring the beat scene in New York. Joyce (now Johnston) edited this book recently, and in her frequent interjections gives context to everything, explains the untruths and unsayable things the letters are skimming around. While it’s amazing to see Kerouac’s charisma shine through his letters, it’s definitely not all about him – I can’t get over how smart and brave and clear-v0iced Glassman was at 21, choosing to walk away from respectable society in the 1950s, pre-feminism , pre-free love. Here’s one of my favourite excerpts, from a letter Joyce wrote to Jack:

July 26 1957

… But then I remember walking with you at night through the Brooklyn docks and seeing the white steam rising from the ships against the black sky and how beautiful it was and I’d never seen it before – imagine! – but if I’d walked through it with anyone else, I wouldn’t have seen it either, because I wouldn’t have felt safe in what my mother would categorically call “a bad neighborhood,”  I would have been thinking “Where’s the subway?” and missed everything. But with you – I felt as though nothing could touch me, and if anything happened, the Hell with it. You don’t know what narrow lives girls have, how few real adventures there are for them; misadventures, yes, like abortions and little men following them in subways, but seldom anything like seeing ships at night. So that’s why we’ve all taken off like this, and that’s also part of why I love you.”


September 10, 2010. Tags: , , , . books, history.

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