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Jack Kerouac’s 100th birthday celebration begins today

Bill DeYoung

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Jack Kerouac. Photo: PBS, a publicity image for the documentary "King of the Beats."

There’s an old St. Pete legend that Jack Kerouac, in the final years of his life, regularly visited Haslam’s Books on Central Avenue and re-arranged his own titles on the alphabetized shelves to ensure they were at eye level.

Because those books included On the Road and The Dharma Bums, cornerstones of mid 20th century literature, Kerouac was doing St. Petersburg’s reading population a favor. On the Road in particular is a classic novel, written in the loose, jangly vernacular of the 1950s Beat Generation as it struggled to be heard. And afterwards, nothing was ever the same.

By the time he arrived in St. Pete in 1967, Kerouac was in an alcoholic haze. He died two years later, of complications from cirrhosis of the liver, at 47.

March 12 would have been the great writer’s 100th birthday, and his short time in the city is being acknowledged and feted by a pair of events.

Age of Kerouac: A Beat Generation Celebration, opening with a 6 p.m. reception today at thestudio@620, features the works of 47 visual artists and poets who were encouraged to create something that in some way celebrates Kerouac, his influence or his literary, poetic or stylistic contemporaries.

(That’s 47, as in one piece for each year of Kerouac’s life.)

Mr. Cloud provides live music for the free event, which includes a Beat Generation Costume Contest. Poetry readings happen from 7 to 8.

The art/poetry exhibit, curated by James Hartzell, president of the Friends of Jack Kerouac, will be at the venue through March 31.

More information is available here.

The Jack Kerouac House. Photo provided.

The house where Kerouac lived with his third wife, Stella (and his mother) has been preserved and restored to its period appearance. On the 12th, the nonprofit Jack Kerouac House of St. Petersburg invites tours of the residence, with an Open House from noon until 6 p.m.

“While it is well known that Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida, what’s more consequential really is life he lived, the friends he found, the home he adored,” said Jim Sampas, Literary Executor of the Jack Kerouac Estate, in a prepared statement.

“It seems to me that the folks of The Jack Kerouac House of St. Petersburg’s main aspiration is to ensure that Kerouac’s time here is not eclipsed by the darkness but remembered for the light, and we fully support them, and will be working with them in this beautiful endeavor.”

To be featured at the Open House: Tours of the house, music, readings, refreshments. At 7 p.m., things move to the Flamingo Bar (1230 MLK), the last of Kerouac’s drinking spots still standing (and reportedly his favorite).

Admission to the Open House is free, but reservations are required. Click here.

The 2012 film adaptation of On the Road (not exactly critically acclaimed, but interesting nevertheless) will screen March 12 and 13 at Green Light Cinema.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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