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Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958 Paperback – June 1, 2001
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Frequently Bought Together
They met in early 1957, eight months before the publication of On the Road made Jack Kerouac the most famous young writer in America. Some of the bitterest, saddest letters Kerouac wrote to his 21-year-old lover, Joyce Glassman, reveal the personal cost of the hysterical media attention that followed. Yet their early correspondence shows a side of Kerouac not always evident in his fiction: tender, spiritual, and supportive of Glassman's efforts to write her first novel. Now known as Joyce Johnson, she supplements the text of their epistles with commentary whose sensitive, rueful tone will be familiar to readers of her memoir, Minor Characters. The loving but independent air she assumed in her letters, Johnson notes, came from painful rewriting to eliminate all hints of hurt or need; as he wandered in and out of her life, Kerouac kept reminding her he didn't want to be tied down, even as he urged her to come visit whatever city he'd alighted in. Spiced with marvelously evocative period slang like dig and swing, and references to friends such as Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, this poignant epistolary record of a 22-month love affair also brings to life an exciting moment in American cultural history, when the Beat writers gave "powerful, irresistible voices to subversive longings." --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a hip, literate correspondence marked by high diction and '50s slang, 21-year-old Johnson (born Glassman) and 35-year-old Kerouac chart the flowering of the Beats and their complicated love affair. An initial matchmaking move by Allen Ginsberg led to Johnson's and Kerouac's first meeting in Greenwich Village, followed by 22 months of romance, withdrawal and, eventually, friendship. Through her understated commentary and narrative links, NBCC-Award winner Johnson (Minor Characters) provides tender insight into Kerouac's troubles, particularly his unease at becoming the Beat spokesman with the 1957 publication of On the Road and his "convoluted attachment" to his mother, Memere, which made it impossible for him to sustain relationships with other women. Johnson's presence throughout makes the story hers--that of a sheltered Barnard grad who considered writing "an illicit and transgressive act" and who must have found in Kerouac a kindred soul. Yet it was her desire for a more lasting union than Kerouac would give that led to their breakup: "'You're nothing but a big bag of wind," she told a dallying Kerouac, and left. Although the Kerouac romance dominates the text, the author's brief description of her happy marriage to James Johnson, which ended with his death in a motorcycle accident, puts the affair in perspective and shows readers a greater reason for the sadness that suffuses the book. First serial to Vanity Fair; 3-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The Selected Letters of Jack Kerouac as edited by Ann Charters now take up two volumes. I have not compared those two books with the proof I read of Doors Wide Open, and I do not know whether there is any overlap, but I enjoyed Joyce Johnson's collection. There are not enough female voices among what we call the Beat Generation, but hers is a complement to Kerouac. I think their relationship inspired him to open up in ways he could not to others. This is a great addition to Johnson's earlier memoir, Minor Characters, which was published more than ten years ago. It is good to have the Kerouac letters, but it is a fine thing to see this woman come out of the shadows and find her own voice after all these years.
When can we expect Joyce Johnson's first novel?
Along the way, there are images aplenty of the stage the affair played out on: beatnik parties, Village pubs and restaurants, jazz concerts, and New York suburbs back when they were distinguishable from the city itself. Other important figures, notably Allen Ginsberg, appear throughout the text in candid shots we would never find in their own work. Johnson discusses them all in the style of one who knew them personally. For this reason among others, this book is not a very good starting point for learning about the Beat Generation, but it is an excellent complimentary piece for anyone who already has some familiarity with and interest in that era.
Through this book we get to know more about Kerouac the man, the son, the struggling writer and the fascination of a young woman living alone in New York in love with the persona and gloomy side of the writer. It is highly recommendable
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Anyone who loves this author's memoir, Minor Characters, should read this, because it will dispel any doubts the reader might have had about her extraordinarily perceptive, brave,... Read morePublished 21 months ago by A Customer
It really gets interesting (for anyone who has already read Minor Characters) at the point when the letters are most present: starting more or less in Part III (about a quarter way... Read morePublished on January 10, 2010 by Michael J. Boyce
Joyce Johnson's "Door Wide Open" is a magnificent memoir of the Beat Generation. It focuses on her romance with Jack Kerouac and is a companion piece to her "Minor Characters". Read morePublished on January 2, 2010 by Lawrence D. Zeilinger
That's something Jack told Joyce once and I think it sums about a great deal about his personal outlook on life. Read morePublished on August 6, 2004 by Meredith Burke
I'm not sure why everyone else has rated this book so highly--I've found it to be quite banal, and sometimes down-right painful to read. Read morePublished on January 22, 2004 by K Scheffler
Jack Kerouac warned Joyce Johnson, nee Glassman, on the first night they spent together, back in 1957, "I don't like blondes. Read morePublished on November 2, 2003 by Jana L.Perskie
Beautiful and elegant. Any woman who's ever been in love with a difficult man will appreciate Joyce Johnson's bittersweet romance.Published on August 1, 2002
early AM, just finished Jerce's book...lovely, thoughtful and sensitive, this is a must for all lovers of Jack! Carpe Diem!!Published on July 25, 2001 by Ame
Door Wide Open is a gathering of love letters between two major figures of the Beat Generation presents works written between 1957-58, exchanged in the course of an on-off... Read morePublished on September 4, 2000 by Midwest Book Review