I grew up in the 1950’a and was inspired to write by two novels: On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. On the Road, in particular, captured my attention. I tried to re-create the feeling by hanging around Greenwich Village in New York and by hitchhiking through most of the East Coast and the Mid-West during the 1960’s. Yes, I took the required trip to California. It was in a VW Bug in 1964.
Last week I had the good fortune to meet Kurt Landerfeld, also a fan of Kerouac. He had planned to teach a course on Kerouac at the Lifelong Learning Center, here in Sarasota. There wasn’t enough enrollment. The course was cancelled. We met for lunch and he gave me a copy of his book, Jack’s Memoirs: Off the Road. It is a novel. The central conceit is that JK didn’t die in 1970 from drink. Instead, he recovered and went on one more cross country trip.
During his journey the newly invented JK finds love, meaning, inspiration and a new will to go on. In the process he meets the remaining greats of the beat generation and the people that knew them.
Landefeld captures Kerouac’s voice perfectly. You could take a paragraph from his book and one from Dharma Bums and match the cadence and use of words. His ability to capture a mood, a landscape, a feeling is amazing. The research that much have gone into the book is admirable.
Much of a novel moves along at a pace. Often the suspense is whether or not Jack’s cover as a travel writer will be blown. Sometimes, the character’s pretense is hard to believe. Don’t worry about that. Just go along for one land ride on the road.
The book is available on Amazon in both paper and Kindle editions. Search for the book title, not the author’s name.