Gerald Nicosia


Kerouac Biographer

In 1983 Gerald Nicosia published Memory Babe a massive and detailed "critical" biography of Jack Kerouac. While not the first (see Ann Charters) Kerouac biography, it remains the most comprehensively researched. Even before the book was published, Nicosia had won the Distinguished Young Writer Award for the work done on Memory Babe.

Of late, Nicosia has been involved in the controversey swirling around the Kerouac estate. He and the late Jan Kerouac, Jack's daughter with Joan Haverty, have accused John Sampas (Stella Sampas' brother), who controls Kerouac's literary estate, of tampering with the estate and of controlling access to it in an unscholarly-like manner.

In any case, Nicosia's biography is required reading, all 767 pages of it, for anyone interested in developing a deep understanding of Kerouac's work and his life.

Gerald Nicosia

Nicosia is a Dharma Beat Coach Batting Record YEAR TEAM POS BA AB H HR RBI 1985 Beats c .167 12 2 0 1 1987 Beats ss .225 440 99 10 48 2 Seasons .223 452 101 10 49

Nicosia's Essay on the Kerouac Literary Estate Controversey

from "Buddha-gate at New York University"

Only a few days before the Kerouac Conference began, I called Allen Ginsberg to plead with him to intervene in Jan [Kerouac's] behalf. According to Ginsberg, who had been party to the initial planning of the conference nine months earlier, New York University did not invite Jan because it could not afford to take sides in her lawsuit against the Sampases. But by making the conference into a platform for John Sampas and his family to market their product, they did just that, and worse. They silenced Jack Kerouac's own daughter and the spirit of truth which he passed to her in his very genes. Far from having apologized to her, New York University--in the person of Program Director Ron Janoff--wrote that they were justified in "escorting" her from the auditorium because she had "attempt[ed] to interrupt the panel discussion that was underway"--one more blatant lie. The first panel had not yet begun when Ms. Kerouac came forward with Jacques Kirouac, the 68-year-old founding president of the Kirouac Family Association from Quebec, to ask for five minutes to speak about the two major American libraries that have offered to negotiate for Kerouac's papers. Jan Kerouac and myself were not the only ones who accused New York University of forgetting truth when they chose to "commodify" Jan's father. The Unbearables, "a group of downtown poets whose work has been rejected by The New Yorker" (as the New York Times described them), were also excluded from participation in the Jack Kerouac Conference, and so they set up a host of "counter Beat" events, including a Kerouac-impersonator contest and street readings of their poetry outside the official conference locations. Ron Kolm and Sparrow, two of the leaders of the Unbearables, welcomed Jan Kerouac into their midst, and she gladly joined them in handing out xeroxed hundred-dollar bills with her father's picture in place of Ben Franklin's, and in chanting in the face of official conference participants: "Don't Go Buy the Beat!" It was perched on an East Village stoop, amid a scruffy clot of Unbearables, and not from the stage at Town Hall, that Jan read her by-now famous haiku:

Nazis masquerading as Buddhists
Like the emperor's new clothes--
Who will win the Nobel Prize for buggery?

The haiku was a jab at Ginsberg in more than one way, since it has been reported that he desperately wants to win the Nobel Prize before he dies. It has also been suggested that he may see Ann Charters, a respected critic who lived for years in Sweden, as one of his best advocates for that prize. Charters, after all, went to bat defending Ginsberg when he was involved in another messy cover-up, "the Great Naropa Poetry Wars," as Tom Clark dubbed the scandal that followed the brutal sexual humiliation of poet W.S. Merwin and his girl-friend Dana Naone by Ginsberg's Tibetan guru, the late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Ginsberg, for his part, told me he could forgive Jan's insult to himself but not to the Buddhists. Anne Waldman seemed to have a similar perception of Jan and myself, scolding both of us at the close of the conference for failing to adhere to Buddhist principles of "right action." Earlier, Waldman had told Chicago writer Mary Emmerick that Jan should have been content to stay in Boulder, where she had been honored as "the beatnik princess." Evidently when Jan had left Boulder in 1984, exchanging her zazen cushion for the right to speak on her own, she had burned more bridges than she realized at the time.

--Gerald Nicosia

1997 Dharma Beats Roster

1997 Gerald Nicosia Cosmic Coach Plate
Published: December 24, 1996

© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association