Thursday, April 10, 2014

Heaven's Unchangeable Heart- Alene Lee

Mardou cut out with me, glee eyed, between sets, for quick beers, but at her insistence at the Mask instead where they were fifteen cents, but she had a few pennies herself and we went there and began earnestly talking and getting hightingled on the beer and now it was the beginning--returning to the Red Drum for sets, to hear Bird, whom I saw distinctly digging Mardou several times also myself directly into my eye looking to search if I was really the great writer I thought myself to be as if he knew my thoughts and ambitions or remembered me from other night clubs and other coasts, other Chicagos--not a challenging look but the king and founder of the bop generation at least the sound of it in digging his audience digging his eyes, the secret eyes him-watching, as he just pursed his lips and let great lungs and immortal fingers work, his eyes separate and interested and humane, the kindest jazz musician there could be while being and therefore naturally the greatest--watching Mardou and me in the infancy of our love and probably wondering why, or knowing it wouldn't last, or seeing who it was would be hurt, as now, obviously, but not quite yet, it was Mardou whose eyes were shining in my direction, though I could not have known and now do not definitely know...

From The Subterraneans-Jack Kerouac

Alene Lee was the real name of the female character, Mardou Fox, in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans. Unhappy with the way she was portrayed in Kerouac's book she never spoke on record about her relationship with Jack or any of the other Beats- Burroughs (whose manuscripts she helped type), Ginsberg, Corso, or Lucien Carr, with whom she had a long lasting relationship. Her daughter has written an article about her mother for Beatdom and also plans on publishing some of Alene's writing in the future. Mardou Fox has always been a fascinating and mysterious character to me, and so it's exciting that more substantial information about the real life person on which the character was based has finally come to light.

The Subterraneans remains one of my favorite books of Kerouac's- the published version was written for real in a three day speed jag, unlike On The Road, and is one of the most compelling and intimate examples of JK's spontaneous prose-particularly in how it captures the influence of jazz improvisation, the breath and phrasing, on Kerouac's sentences. As a teenager first encountering the book Mardou Fox immediately captured my imagination- she seemed so hip, troubled but fascinatingly so, and by all accounts beautiful. Coincidentally around the same time that I first read the book I had an intense and ultimately doomed relationship with a girl, someone that I still care for today, who I now realize looked strikingly similar to Alene.

My favorite paperback edition of the Subterraneans-Avon 1959
Alene Lee
WSB & Alene Lee

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