Jack Kerouac’s Avatar Angel: His Last Novel
Author: Chuck Rosenthal
Publisher: Hollyridge Press, 2001
Hardcover, 150 pages. $23.95
It's the find of a lifetime! Buried in the basement of the house where Jack Kerouac was born, author Chuck Rosenthal discovers a lost, unpublished manuscript from the King of the Beats. In the tradition of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Rosenthal brings us Jack Kerouac's Avatar Angel: His Last Novel. Twelve years have passed since Kerouac's death when he returns from the grave as Jack Duluoz. He sets off one last time to chart the experience and conscience of a generation grappling with a changed culture, disjunctive and fragmented. On the road—again—he encounters old friends and lovers: Raphael Urso (Corso), Irwin Garden (Ginsberg), Bull Hubbard (Burroughs), Johnnie Palmer (Parker), Japhy Ryder (Snyder) and others. In the Reagan 1980s, Kerouac/Duluoz swings to the beat of a lost America: to the music of a holy bum around a camp fire, the belching diesel of a long distance bus ride, the silence of a chill dawn. At once visionary and elegant, restless and incantatory, Rosenthal's writing achieves a rare beauty, his sensitivity to language as great as Kerouac's, beating out time as the novel leaps forward in sentences of poetic sweep and whirl. His characters struggle to make sense of a world without sense, a world that speaks in the stilted conversations of commerce, a world that no longer loves the word. In an exuberant novel of great wit and great loss, the emptiness Kerouac/Duluoz encounters is palpable and tragic, unforeseen but inevitable, both familiar and foreign to America's most famous mystic traveler.
“There's hopped-up frenzy and plenty of wit.”
CHUCK ROSENTHAL is the author of more than seven novels, and a memoir. His fiction has appeared in many journals including The Santa Monica Review and The Denver Quarterly. He is a full professor of English and Creative Writing at Loyola Marymount University. He lives with poet Gail Wronsky in Topanga, California
Topics to Consider
- Why does Jack Kerouac come back from the dead? Are the reasons he tells the reader the same as the reasons shown by the story?
- What changes does Kerouac find in the America of 1982? Which ones does he claim to have predicted as a Beat? Which ones surprise him?
- If Kerouac came back again now, would he find his reception and the reception of his work the same or different? How would you describe that reception?
- Why do Kerouac and Corso go to Disneyland? In what way is that visit a metaphor for what has happened to the Beats in America?
- Throughout Kerouac's own work he portrays himself as a man who admires, pursues, and is yet continually abandoned by his idol, the elusive, mythical Neal Cassady. How are these themes reiterated in Kerouac's return from death?
- What does the novel say about ghosts? What do ghosts know that we don't? Of what things do ghosts remain ignorant?
- The book has sections that are comments by the Beat writers that Kerouac's ghost visits. What are these Beat writers saying about Kerouac? About America? About their own place in the world?
- The novel begins with an introduction by author Chuck Rosenthal who claims the manuscript of Avatar Angel was given to him by a little girl now living in the house where Kerouac was born. How does does the end of the novel seem to support Rosenthal's claim?
- Can you name one more other books which has its author finding a manuscript or a diary or a scroll which becomes the main story?
- Some of the Beat commentators believe the ghost of Jack Kerouac visited them, others do not. Why are some believers and others skeptics? Which of them are most believable?
- What is the role of the little Mexican bum in the story? Is he a guiding angel? A ghost? A real person? Or something else?