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Name-check: A Literary Map of Denver -- And Celebration of Jack Kerouac

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This weekend Naropa is throwing a giant Kerouac Festival, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Beat poet’s seminal novel, On the Road. There will be a marathon reading of the book, panel discussions, films, music and more. For the complete schedule, click here.

This is the second blowout for On the Road and the time Jack Kerouac spent in Denver in the summer of 1947. Earlier this year the Denver Public Library hosted the On the Road scroll, sort of the Holy Grail of Beats. In honor of that, I assembled a Literary Map of Denver, featuring sightings from Kerouac's classic as well as other novels that name-check our city, which has long drawn authors on their own Kerouacian quest. We had a few rules for inclusion -- fiction only, not memoirs (except for Cassady); Denver proper, not Boulder, not the mountains -- and even within these city limitations, found a larger trove of titles than we would have imagined. From Whitman to Twain, Michener to Cussler, Proulx to Didion.

Here’s an excerpt of the introduction to that map, focusing on Kerouac’s time in Denver. To read the whole piece, click here. To view the map, click here. – Amy Haimerl

He slipped into Denver unannounced, just another traveler on his way to wherever. No fanfare, no welcome party. A man alone, on his way to identity and destiny.

It was a brief stay, just ten days in the summer of 1947, a side note in a journal. But this man wasn't just anyone, and his journal wasn't just anyone's journal. It was Jack Kerouac, crawling through Skid Row, up and down Welton and Larimer and Curtis. Jazzing in the Rossonian, tête-à-têting with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg in the Colburn. All around him, the poetry of the streets, the experience, running through his mind, wouldn't stop, couldn't stop.

It was just ten days, 240 hours, 14,400 minutes, but it forever intertwined the destinies of Kerouac and the Queen City of the Plains. No longer just a cowtown, now an epicenter of the Beat Movement. Something, someplace. Producer of an American original that only a post-war America could embrace. A place to search for identity and meaning. The magnetic pull of 5,280 feet above sea level sucking back the Massachusetts boy in body and mind, covering him with the sense of possibility.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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