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#2141 - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz



This issue features two original pieces: a book review of Fading Toward Enlightenment, and a column by Vicki Woodyard. Sandwiched between those two writings is an article originally published in the Los Angeles Times about a Jack Kerouac letter to Marlon Brando which is being sold at auction; the article speaks of Kerouac's attempts to move beyond novels, his feelings for family and friends, and his snubbing by Brando.






Book Review

by Jerry Katz


by Wayne Wirs

Fading Toward Enlightenment is both a quality art book with 79 fine art photographs, and a spiritual autobiography. I like the way insight is brought to the author's journey. He tells his story alternately in first and third person. It is as though the author's life was filmed with two cameras. A third camera, it could be said, was used to take the fine art photographs of people, urban/town/country elements, and natural settings. The pages are enhanced with perfectly selected one-line quotations from a spectrum of great minds throughout time.

On each left-hand page is a black and white fine art photograph taken by the author. On each right-hand page is a brief biographical confessional told in first or third person, and a one-line quotation. The book is divided into five major parts reflecting the stages in the author's spiritual journey or experience: Stone Cracking, Mud Settling, Lake Stilling, Mist Lifting, Sun Rising. In another section, using a question and answer format, the author elaborates on various points raised in his written confession.

The photographs are haiku-like, particularly conveying esthetic loneliness, solitude, or sabi. The writing could be called prose poetry. Here are two examples, one told in third person, one in first person:

"No longer feeling in synch with the Solid world of his peers -- he simply gave it up and walked away. He hoped to find some way to stabilize those mystical glimpses."

"Alone I spent my days and nights. Alone I was most often. Of all the deeper level of Hell, Loneliness must be the darkest."

In the question and answer part of the book, the author's voice becomes conversational. Responding to the question, "Do you have to escape from the world, as you did, to find inner peace?" he says in part, "I doubt it. I'm a pretty introverted kind of man, so escape was the most comfortable and natural method for me to get really serious about my quest."

In a relaxed, non-dogmatic way, the author speaks of people as falling into three categories of spiritual development: solids, liquids, and ethereals. It is implied that most of us are solids. Some of us can become liquids. And very few are ethereals, or enlightened. He himself is a "liquid" who is sometimes a solid and sometimes in the ethereal realm. "This is the true story of my journey, from a very Solid, normal person, to a very Liquid, fluid one. I am not enlightened, but I am no longer normal either."

The different voices, the photographs, the one-line quotations, come together to bring the reader a story that is solid in its wholeness. The haiku-like photographs and the poetic quality of the prose confer a liquidity or fluidity to this autobiography. As for the ethereal, Wirs hints that it can be known anywhere at any moment: "Emptiness here is the same as Emptiness there." It is certainly manifest in many of the photographs as sabi.

This is a concise, artistic spiritual autobiography. It is also a book of photographs. He speaks of the journey from solid to liquid. This book is sound, esthetic, pointed, and honest (the author doesn't claim to be enlightened or to have all the answers). It will be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates fine art photography, who is a spiritual seeker, or who enjoys reading spiritual autobiographies. Whether you are a solid, liquid, ethereal, or nothing in particular, you will connect with this true story, this quest; it will flow toward you, and you toward it.

If you order the book from the author's website he will donate $5 to the charity of your choice. That's extremely generous since the book cost only $24.95 U.S. The pages are thick and glossy and the quality is high.

Jerry Katz








Article published May 9, 2005 Los Angeles

Kerouac's appeal to Brando on the block


Los Angeles Times


"Everything I write I do in the spirit where I imagine myself an Angel returned to earth seeing it with sad eyes as it is."


"I'm bored nowadays and I'm looking around for something to do in the void, anyway - writing novels is getting too easy."

By late 1957, Jack Kerouac was streaking from frustrated anonymity to literary stardom. On the Roadhad just been published, Subterraneans was due out in a few months and journalists were clamoring for interviews with the novelist who suddenly had become a spokesman for the Beat Generation.

Kerouac could taste the riches he thought would surely come. And getting Hollywood's hottest actor, Marlon Brando, to star opposite him in a movie version of his novel would have sealed it. Or so he wrote in a one-page letter to Brando to be auctioned off next month in which Kerouac suggested he play narrator-alter ego Sal Paradise opposite Brando's Dean Moriarty, based on Kerouac's real-life pal Neal Cassady.

"I'm praying that you'll buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it," Kerouac wrote, admitting he hoped to rake in enough money to "establish myself and my mother a trust fund for life, so I can really go roaming round the world" and "be free to write what comes out of my head & free to feed my buddies when they're hungry & not worry about my mother."

While the previously unreleased letter doesn't contain any major revelations - there was talk at the time of a possible Kerouac-Brando pairing, which never materialized -the typed and signed dispatch is likely to draw significant attention from Kerouac collectors while confirming the beat of its author's cash-starved heart.

"He lived in great poverty until On the Road came out and he started making money," said Gerald Nicosia, author of the 1983 Kerouac biography, Memory Babe. "He had clearly been struggling for years and had been dodging his wife for child support. He had great hopes."

The letter is among Brando's personal belongings - he died in July at 80 - going up for auction June 30 at Christie's in New York, preceded by a showing from June 7 to June 10 at Christie's Los Angeles gallery. Christie's estimated the letter will go for $5,000 to $7,000.

Other mementos to be auctioned include an annotated script from The Godfather, with Brando's notes on playing Don Vito Corleone; a letter from author Mario Puzo urging Brando to take the part; various acting awards, including Brando's Oscar nomination certificate for 1954's On the Waterfront (his first Oscar win); and idiosyncratic items including his personal foosball table, childhood yearbooks, American Indian artifacts and a variety of bongos and harmonicas.

But the Kerouac letter is perhaps the most intriguing, as Nicosia noted, "one cultural icon writing to another cultural icon," at a time when both men were celebrated and derided as representatives of youth rebellion.

Kerouac might have been money-hungry, Nicosia said, but he believed in his art and his book and in Cassady's frenetic taste-all-you-can approach to life.

"He thought it had a lot to say to America and didn't want to see it trivialized as just sex, drugs (and jazz)," Nicosia said. "He wanted Neal to be seen as a thinking person who wanted to create a new lifestyle for America."

Ann Charters, who edited two volumes of Kerouac's correspondence, said the letter reflects Kerouac's concern for the well-being of friends and family, particularly his mother, with whom Kerouac lived in the late 1950s and 1960s until he died of alcoholism in 1969 at age 47.

"The celebrity status of both Brando and Kerouac means that it is a major letter," said Charters, a University of Connecticut English professor who has written extensively on the Beats, including a Kerouac biography. "Plus the fact that it is long and meaty, and shows Kerouac at his most typical - enthusiastic and knowledgeable and much smarter than people gave him credit for and trying to help the people in his life."

Kerouac wrote to Brando about adapting "On the Road" for the screen by truncating the novel's crisscross travels into what he called "one vast round-trip." He envisioned it filmed "with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak."

The second half of the letter encapsulates Kerouac's soaring hopes and ambitions for literature, theater and cinema through adaptations of "The Subterraneans" and "On the Road."

"What I wanta do is re-do the theater and the cinema in America, give it a spontaneous dash, remove pre-conceptions of 'situation' and let people rave on as they do in real life," Kerouac wrote. "That's what the play is: no plot in particular, no 'meaning' in particular, just the way people are. Everything I write I do in the spirit where I imagine myself an Angel returned to earth seeing it with sad eyes as it is."

Brando never responded to the letter, and the two icons apparently met only once at New York's Actors Studio, where Kerouac enrolled in late 1960 in hopes of starting an acting career. Like his visions of riches, it was a short-lived dream. Fifteen minutes into a rehearsal, Nicosia wrote in his biography, Kerouac asked, "Don't they give you any drinks in this place?" Encountering Brando, a regular at the Actors Studio, Kerouac invited the actor out for a drink, which Brando declined.

Nicosia said Kerouac had felt snubbed when Brando didn't respond to his letter. Warner Bros. had offered $110,000 for the rights to "On the Road," but Kerouac's agent, Sterling Lord, turned it down, hoping for $150,000 from Paramount, which planned to use Brando for the film. The deal didn't happen.

"Kerouac was mad at his agent because he thought he had queered the deal by asking too much," Nicosia said.

Kerouac finished the letter by urging Brando to visit him in Orlando, Fla., where he was living in a small one-bedroom apartment with his mother (she had the sleeper-sofa), or during one of his trips to New York.

"What we should do is talk about this because I prophesy that it's going to be the beginning of something real great," Kerouac wrote. "I'm bored nowadays and I'm looking around for something to do in the void, anyway - writing novels is getting too easy."

------ End of article


Los Angeles Times



Vicki Woodyard

So Angry I Could Spit

I am so angry I could spit.  On a gut level I know that I am a writer
and a darned good one.  But I cannot get organized.  I opened a file on
the computer years ago with some of my best essays but I cannot get them
organized.  They represent my life...or does my life represent them?  I
keep forgetting.  What is essential cannot be lost but it sure escapes
categorization.  My writing runs the gamut from serious to silly and I
can't be bothered with living life in order.  Chaos doesn't seem to work
any better.  No matter how hard I try, I keep tumbling off the cliff
into the rapids far down below.  The water is always too cold and the
rocks too hard.  I am so angry I could spit.

Who said that the character by the name of Vicki Woodyard had to suffer
so damned much?  Did I write my own script?  Main character marries a
guy she had known since grade school.  Unwittingly they had both already
started on the spiritual path.  Had two children, one of which died
young.  Then the guy has the nerve to write a script saying that he,
too, would die just like his daughter, of a rare and fatal cancer.  This
will give his wife plenty of time to practice the craft of writing while
taking care of him as he dies.  I am so angry I could spit.

Her writing never quite takes itself seriously and usually ends up
mocking her at some strategic point.  Meanwhile, her words have fallen
on fertile ground in some readers' minds and they tell her that she is
on the money when it comes to describing heartache.  Well, duh!  See,
there it comes....the point where the writing turns on her.  Of course,
this exposes her vulnerability, which endears her to some readers and
alienates her from others.  What does she care?  The writing is not hers
to begin with, anymore than her husband's cancer.

I have been tossing and turning all night for some reason.  I got up
before dawn and ate oatmeal cookies with hot chocolate.  No sleep leads
to good writing.  I need to catch it before it turns stupid on me. Words
tend to do that...they degenerate into just more of the same old same
old.  Life lived mechanically is life lived dully and writing is no
different.  How shall I repair the damage of a wasted word.  I can't.
Words are what books are made of and life is what people are made of.  I
am so fragile I could break. Don't believe that last sentence; I was
just throwing you a curve ball lest I become predictable.

Vicki Woodyard
Written too early, before the mind got up.


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