4,500 Miles: Taking Jack Back on the Road
A Gonzo Prose Book
by Ciara Shuttleworth
ISBN: 978-0991203796 (Hardcover)
Humanitas Media Publishing
Jack Kerouac is almost as much an idea as he was a writer. No one prior so perfectly embodied the concept of the writer-wanderer, and his book On the Road has since inspired countless others to experience their own concrete/asphalt strip of America. Staying in the Kerouac House in Orlando, where she spent a three-month residency in 2015, brought poet and TLR contributor Ciara Shuttleworth to the same epiphany when it was time to leave. In fact, she recalls in 4,500 Miles, it was Jack himself who told her to “Road trip it” instead of flying.
So she did, renting a car and driving from Florida to eastern Washington with Flat Jack, a blown-up and paper-backed black and white of the writer, which becomes a spiritual and literary companion, as well as a 2-D icon for inclusion in her landscapes and snapshots taken along the way.
The two have a non-stop conversation during the trip—in the car, in the restaurants, bars and shops along the fifteen-day route—and it doesn’t take long before you’re believing it really happened that way, the two them reveling in the scenery and the people they meet, trading stories about writing, even that Flat Jack nearly talked Shuttleworth into turning the car around and heading back to liberate the baby alligators they encountered at a roadside stand.
It’s friends and philosophy from coast to coast, as Shuttleworth visits childhood haunts and writing pals she’s made in her literary career. “Like Jack, I am restless to move on, despite love and good times,” she writes. She gets the real Jack into the story as well, infusing the prose with Kerouac’s search for God that took him from Catholicism to Buddhism in his abbreviated life, and his long disappointment with criticism in the press and from other writers. Her book helps dispel the myth of the writer as a semi-literate drunken seeker of good times, whose work as one of the Beats helped pushed open the door to the crumbling of literary and moral standards. Kerouac was really quite different from that, as Shuttleworth’s book makes clear—and Flat Jack becomes human long before they cross the Idaho border into Washington.
The Face of Our Town: A Novelish in Stories
by Elizeya Quate
I don’t want to be told a story, I want to experience a story. I’ve said this many times to writers both emerging and established in my quest for tales that blur the divide between author and reader, the ones that take me out of myself and transport me to another place and another mind. I’ve found no better example of this recently than Quate’s The Face of Our Town, an intellectual journey into the jaded, corporate-deflated, hyper-connected yet lonely lives of the good people of Velton and its Detroitish nearby environs. So engrossing are most of these stories that one may not at first notice their incredible density, possibilities and tangents layered upon events layered upon personalities, keeping the read always fresh and engrossing.
Quate inhabits a feature film-length cast of dreamers and slackers and malcontents, including that of the “author,” Elizeya Quate, whose book Ideas for Words invents a language for the words we need but don’t yet have, such as delestration, the feeling one gets after deleting the wrong file from one’s computer, or effwidget, to fidget one’s cursor in order to burn off the energy created by the delestration.
Quate is actually a pseudonym for the writer Edmund Zagorin, whose “Toilet Fish” was one of the most popular fictions in our fourth issue, and whom I’ve known for several years, ever since he slinked into a writing class I taught for a Michigan arts organization. He needed only speak once before I knew I would have to step up my game to keep pace with his literary knowledge; as for his writing ability, a good teacher knows when it’s best to just get out of the way. I don’t mind revealing our personal connection in this review, since Zagorin’s talent makes any thought of cronyism moot. He deserves the press and the praise. He’s a writer I expect to see achieve prominence in the coming years.
The featured image photo is the back cover of 4,500 Miles and is by Ciara Shuttleworth; Photo Editing by Pamela Theodotou.
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