A few months ago, I launched a new website called WritingtheNorthwest.com. Focused on what writers have written about the Pacific Northwest, it has no direct connection to Robert Lax, but I just posted a piece on the site about Lax’s friend Jack Kerouac that might interest some Lax fans.
Called “Feeling Wild and Lyrical: Jack Kerouac Spends a Night in Seattle,” the post is focused on Kerouac’s description of Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains from the trip he made there in the summer of 1956, during the time he and Lax knew each other best. Kerouac was on his way to work as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the N. Cascades.
Kerouac’s description of Seattle still feels fresh–and it reflects the city the way it still was in the 1960s and 1970s when I was growing up there. You can check it out here.
Last year, at an auction in Wilton, CT, hosted by a company called University Archives, a letter from Jack Kerouac to Robert Lax dated October 26, 1954, sold to a buyer for $11,000. You can read the text of the letter and more about it (and the auction) here.
The letter’s contents were included in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, Vol. 1, 1940-1956, edited by Kerouac biographer Ann Charters and published in 1996, and I quoted from it in Pure Act, but the actual letter’s location was a mystery until the auction notice appeared. Of course, it’s location is still a mystery because the buyer chose to remain anonymous.
This post was originally part of the November issue of the Robert Lax Newsletter. To have the bimonthly newsletter sent to you, sign up on the menu page.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State is hosting an exhibit dedicated to the creative works of Thomas Merton and Robert Lax. According to The Public, an alternative publication covering Western New York, “The exhibit materials include framed literary items—mostly poems—and photos, and vitrines containing some of their books and other published works.” You can read more of The Public‘s write-up about the show here.
The exhibit, titled “Merton & Lax: Image and Word,” is an expanded remounting of the Lax exhibit displayed at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University last year. Among its highlights are rarely-seen issues of Pax, the limited-circulation broadsheet Lax produced in the 1950s and 1960s with poems by friends such as Merton, Jack Kerouac, Mark Van Doren, and E.E. Cummings, and illustrations by painter Ad Reinhardt and graphic artist and publisher Emil Antonucci.
The exhibit, which runs through August 26, is curated by Anthony Bannon, two-time director of the Burchfield Penny Art Center, and Paul Spaeth, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian at St. Bonaventure University, who is also the curator of the Thomas Merton and Robert Lax Archives at St. Bonaventure. For more information, see the exhibit posting on the Burchfield Penney website.
I thought I’d end my summer hiatus (lasting into fall) with this short piece of writing by Jack Kerouac, in which he tries his hand at Lax’s vertical style. This is a letter to his girlfriend at the time, Joyce Johnson (who, coincidentally, was one of my professors in graduate school at Columbia University 40 years later). The “Robert” Kerouac refers to is no doubt Lax himself. The letter was sent in January 1958, four months after the publication of On the Road, when the friendship between Kerouac and Lax was strongest.