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Volume 90, Issue 82
Thursday, February 20, 1997
A natural adventure on the road
Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster
By Steve Turner
Hardcover, $35.99, 224 pgs.
Freedom. It is the ultimate discovery youth find upon leaving home for the first time. For some, the search for freedom means traversing across North America upon the stepping stones of the bop prose legend Jack Kerouac.
The search means listening to poetry and the vibrant sounds of American jazz in coffee bars resembling the life of Kerouac's Dean Moriarty from On The Road. However, if time is a dispute in the madness of the university workload, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster by Steve Turner provides a quick overview on Kerouac and this fascinating literary era.
Turner, a poet and writer, is influenced considerably by music and has written for Rolling Stone and New Musical Express and has authored popular rock biographies on U2, Eric Clapton and several others.
Angelheaded Hipster is a reflection on the erratic lifestyle Kerouac pursued. Turner guides the reader through an emotional ride of ups and downs experienced by Kerouac. And if your emotions are not easily moved, Turner's ability to enlighten with Hollywood insight will have an affect. Johnny Depp paid $10,000 for an old Kerouac raincoat and The Beatles changed the spelling of their name. For the intense Kerouac fan, Turner displays a "Where Are They Now" index at the end of the book, detailing the real life characters Kerouac was inspired by and wrote about.
Turner's accurate account of the life of Kerouac stands as the first illustrated biography on the celebrated beatnik. Angelheaded Hipster reads like a rock 'n' roll biography of one's favourite group, chronicling Kerouac from his early days in Lowell, Massachusetts to the San Francisco poetry scene to his final and familiar sight of Nicky's Bar. Throughout the book, Turner examines Kerouac's lifelong struggle with his spirituality where earlier biographers have briefly touched.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this book is Turner's concentration on Kerouac's influence on America's changing music scene and '60s pop culture. He chronicles Kerouac's impact on such groundbreaking musicians as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Jim Morrison and The Beatles.
Angelheaded Hipster is a realistic account of the beat generation and its leader. Turner uses his experience as a rock journalist to provide musical insight and an excellent visual dimension. He doesn't attempt to give an exhaustive account but stresses the influence and inspiration Kerouac continues to have on successive generations.
Landscape and Memory
By Simon Schama
Paperback, $29.95, 652 pgs.
"It is vain to dream of a wilderness distant from ourselves."
Simon Schama echoes Thoreau in this belief as he explores the myths and mysteries which have shaped the landscape of the world around us.
Landscape and Memory is an expedition through centuries of familiar country walks and wilderness views which have shaped our most basic social instincts and institutions. Art historian Schama leaves no stone unturned in his quest for knowledge of such issues as the wild and the domestic, mortality and immortality and territorial identity.
In a successful attempt to clarify the enormous scope of the book, Landscape and Memory is divided into three major sections: wood, water and rock. Each section features a beautiful collection of pictures and paintings by such artists as Casper David Friedrich, J.M.W. Turner and Nicolas Poussin. These pictures not only contribute unique views of nature to Schama's narrative but heighten the quality of the work as a whole.
Rather than focusing on how humanity has exploited nature and treated it as machinery, Schama celebrates those "guardians of memory" who have passed on the traditions of the western vision of nature from generation to generation. The stories of such personalities as Gutzon Borglum, creator of Mount Rushmore and Gianlorenzo Bernini, symbolic sculptor of the sacred myths of the river, flood the contents of the book.
Simon Schama mixes his own anecdotes and wit through an intelligent blending of genres to create a work which brings the environmental concerns facing our world to the forefront. By focusing on the sublime in the past of our landscape, Schama reminds us we need a better understanding of our past relationship with nature if we are to save it today.
Landscape and Memory tells the stories of foresters, mountain-sculptors, obelisk-haulers and boatmen-poets who have affected western culture, history, art and landscape. Like the world it describes, Schama's book is a beautiful and illuminating document of western culture reminding us of our connection with nature. It is that "primitive vigour of Nature in us" that inspires and renders Landscape and Memory a valuable work.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997