The twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road—“the book that turned on a generation"—was celebrated in late July and early August with an “On the Road Conference” sponsored by the Naropa Institute of Boulder, Colorado. The conference was billed as a cultural event, at once a festival in honor of Kerouac’s art and an opportunity to study at the feet of the many poets of the Beat generation (mostly Kerouac’s friends) who were in attendance. According to the brochure, for instance, the purpose of the conference was to “estimate [Kerouac’s] literary accomplishment and its influence on its cultural successors” and “to celebrate his exuberance, his suffering, his sacramental curiosity and meditation on the spectacular humdrum details of our lives.” Certainly this was the appeal for many of the participants. Emulating...


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