cover image Old Angel Midnight

Old Angel Midnight

Jack Kerouac. Grey Fox Press, $10 (89pp) ISBN 978-0-912516-97-4

``Never before has inconsequentiality been raised to such a peak that it becomes a breakthrough,'' poet McClure writes in one of this volume's two prefaces. Culled from five notebooks, the writing presented here--one continuous prose poem--spans 1956-59, a period when Kerouac (1922-1969) had immersed himself in Buddhist theory. Offbeat, sometimes preposterous references to religion are to be found throughout: ``This holy and all universe is a wonderful white wild power, why, hell, should, heaven, interfere, words, waiting, flesh, sure, I know . . .'' While it seems redundant to call anything by Kerouac ``spontaneous,'' Beat critic and biographer Charters points out that Kerouac ( On the Road ) conceived of this work as a map of his subconscious, ``without the end or narrative direction'' that his novels often groped for. Thus even more unconstrained, he plays with words, puns, delights in juxtaposed sounds, invents new words and throws in foreign ones almost at random: ``Shoot, pot, proms were flowery purple lilac Richmond eve roadsters redlegs sweetdolls . . .'' Like Kerouac's other manuscripts, this material was kept from publication until after his widow's death. At the time of its writing, this volume might have been considered an experimental ``breakthrough,'' but it feels tired and trite now. (Sept.)