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Super Anarchist
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, was published 205 years ago.

The book, by 21-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, is frequently called the world's first science fiction novel. In Shelley's tale, a scientist animates a creature constructed from dismembered corpses.

The gentle, intellectually gifted creature is enormous and physically hideous. Cruelly rejected by its creator, it wanders, seeking companionship and becoming increasingly brutal as it fails to find a mate.

Mary Shelley created the story on a rainy afternoon in 1816 in Geneva, where she was staying with her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their friend, Lord Byron.

Byron proposed they each write a gothic ghost story, but only Mary Shelley completed hers. Although serving as the basis for the Western horror story and the inspiration for numerous movies in the 20th century, the book Frankenstein is much more than pop fiction. The story explores philosophical themes and challenges Romantic ideals about the beauty and goodness of nature.

Mary Shelley led a life nearly as tumultuous as the monster she created. The daughter of free-thinking philosopher, William Godwin, and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, she lost her mother only days after her birth.

She clashed with her stepmother and was sent to Scotland to live with foster parents during her early teens, then eloped with the married poet Shelley when she was 17. After Shelley's wife committed suicide in 1817, the couple married. They spent much of their time abroad, fleeing Shelley's creditors.

Mary Shelley gave birth to five children, but only one lived to adulthood. She was only 24 years old when Shelley drowned in a sailing accident. She went on to edit two volumes of his works.

She lived on a small stipend from her father-in-law, Lord Shelley, until her surviving son inherited his fortune and title in 1844.

She died at the age of 53. Although Mary Shelley was a respected writer for many years, only Frankenstein and her journals are still widely read.



Super Anarchist
Jack Kerouac was born 101 years ago today.

A novelist and poet, Kerouac is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.

Recognized for his spontaneous method of writing and covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty and travel, Kerouac became an underground celebrity.

With other beats, he was a progenitor of the counter culture movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.

In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long-standing abuse of alcohol. Since his death Kerouac's literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published.

All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Sea is My Brother and Big Sur.

Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to French-Canadian parents. There were few black people in Lowell, so the young Kerouac did not encounter much of the racism that was common in other parts of the United States.

Kerouac's athletic skills as a running back in American football for Lowell High School earned him scholarship offers from Boston College, Notre Dame and Columbia University. When his football career at Columbia soured, Kerouac dropped out of the university. He continued to live for a period on New York City's Upper West Side with his girlfriend, Edie Parker.

It was during this time that he met the people — now famous — with whom he would always be associated. The subjects injected into many of his novels — the Beat Generation — included Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke and William S. Burroughs.

He wrote his first published novel, The Town and the City, and began On the Road around 1949. For the next six years, Kerouac continued to write regularly.

Building upon previous drafts tentatively titled "The Beat Generation" and "Gone on the Road," Kerouac completed what is now known as On the Road in April, 1951, while living at 454 West 20th Street in Manhattan with his second wife, Joan Haverty.

The book was largely autobiographical and describes Kerouac's road-trip adventures across the United States and Mexico with Neal Cassady in the late-40s, as well as his relationships with other Beat writers and friends. He completed the first version of the novel during a three-week extended session of spontaneous confessional prose.

Kerouac wrote the final draft in 20 days, with Joan, his wife, supplying him bowls of pea soup and mugs of coffee to keep him going. Before beginning, Kerouac cut sheets of tracing paper into long strips, wide enough for a type-writer, and taped them together into a 120-foot long roll he then fed into the machine.

This allowed him to type continuously without the interruption of reloading pages. The resulting manuscript contained no chapter or paragraph breaks and was much more explicit than what would eventually be printed.

Though "spontaneous," Kerouac had prepared long in advance before beginning to write. In fact, according to his Columbia professor and mentor, Mark Van Doren, he had outlined much of the work in his journals over the several preceding years.

Though the work was completed quickly, Kerouac had a long and difficult time finding a publisher.

Before On the Road was accepted by Viking Press, Kerouac got a job as a "railroad brakesman and fire lookout" traveling between the East and West coasts of America to collect money, so he could live with his mother.

While employed in this way, he met and befriended, Abe Green, a young freight train jumper who later introduced Kerouac to his friend, Herbert Huncke, a street hustler and favorite of many Beat Generation writers. During this period of travel, Kerouac wrote what he considered to be "his life's work," The Legend of Duluoz.

Publishers rejected On the Road because of its experimental writing style and its sympathetic tone towards minorities and marginalized social groups of post-War America.

Many editors were also uncomfortable with the idea of publishing a book that contained what were, for the era, graphic descriptions of drug use and homosexual behavior — a move that could result in obscenity charges being filed, a fate that later befell Burroughs' Naked Lunch and Ginsberg's Howl.

According to Kerouac, On the Road "was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. I found him in the sky, in Market Street San Francisco (those 2 visions), and Dean (Neal) had God sweating out of his forehead all the way. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OUT FOR THE HOLY MAN: HE MUST SWEAT FOR GOD. And once he has found Him, the Godhood of God is forever Established and really must not be spoken about."

According to his authorized biographer, historian Douglas Brinkley, On the Road has been misinterpreted as a tale of companions out looking for kicks. The most important thing to comprehend, Brinkley said, is that Kerouac was an American Catholic author. Virtually every page of his diary bore a sketch of a crucifix, a prayer or an appeal to Christ to be forgiven.

In late 1951, Joan Haverty divorced Kerouac while pregnant. In February, 1952, she gave birth to Kerouac's only child, Jan Kerouac, though he refused to acknowledge her as his own until a blood test confirmed it nine years later.

For the next several years, Kerouac continued writing and traveling. He took extensive trips throughout the U.S. and Mexico and often fell into bouts of depression and heavy drug and alcohol use.

During this period, he finished drafts for what would become ten more novels, including The Subterraneans, Doctor Sax, Tristessa and Desolation Angels, which chronicle many of the events of these years.

In 1957, after being rejected by several other firms, On the Road was finally purchased by Viking Press, which demanded major revisions prior to publication. Many of the more sexually explicit passages were removed and, fearing libel suits, pseudonyms were used for the book's "characters." These revisions have often led to criticisms of the alleged spontaneity of Kerouac's style.

The success of On the Road brought Kerouac instant fame. His celebrity status brought publishers desiring unwanted manuscripts which were previously rejected before its publication. In response, Kerouac chronicled parts of his own experience with Buddhism, as well as some of his adventures with Gary Snyder and other San Francisco-area poets, in The Dharma Bums, set in California and Washington and published in 1958.

It was written in Orlando between November 26 and December 7, 1957. To begin writing Dharma Bums, Kerouac typed onto a ten-foot length of teleprinter paper, to avoid interrupting his flow for paper changes, as he had done six years previously for On the Road.

Kerouac’s death, at the age of 47, was determined to be due to an internal hemorrhage (bleeding esophageal varices) caused by cirrhosis, the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking, along with complications from an untreated hernia and a bar fight he had been involved in several weeks prior to his death.


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