I couldn’t sleep one night a while ago and went to my study and looked for something to read. I took down Jack Kerouac‘s Vanity of Duluoz, which I inherited from my father, Ted Oster. Inside I found a piece of note paper from a kind of pad Ted bought in bulk and carried in his pockets all the time, everywhere. Ted had written: “Jerry: read,” and page numbers from the book.
Duluoz, published in 1967 and subtitled “An Adventurous Education, 1935-46,” is a slightly fictional account of Kerouac’s life as a football player at Horace Mann prep school and at Columbia. It also, according to the flap copy, “examines…his discharge from the navy because of schizophrenia, his search for excitement in New York, imprisonment among killers, his father’s slow death…”
And it’s an account of Kerouac’s friendship with Lou Carr. On p. 200, Kerouac wrote: “There was this kid from New Orleans called Claude de Maubris…blond, eighteen, of fantastic male beauty like a blond Tyrone Power with slanted green eyes and the same look, voice, words and built, I mean by words he expressed his words with the same forcefulness, a little more like Alan Ladd actually, actually like Oscar Wilde’s male model heroes I s’pose….”
Ted amended the first sentence (he wrote only in mechanical pencils, whose leads—and erasers—he also bought in bulk), writing “St. Louis” above New Orleans and “Lucien Carr” above Claude de Maubris.
Kerouac’s conclusion about the stabbing death was this:
…Claude was a 19-year-old boy who had been subject to an attempt at degrading by an older man who was a pederast, and…had dispatched him off to an older lover called the river…
That was why he was really a “child of the rainbow,” even at fourteen he could see through that guff, and the particular was it was laid down in this case, which was amounting to pursuit almost to the point of strong-arm threat, or extortion.
A man has a right to his own sexual life.
Demeaned by exhibitionism, ragged, hagged, witched-at, not left in peace of his own soul, right in the face of mankind’s pleasaunces he just dumped the malicious child-mongerer in the bloody drink and brook me that. Brool me that. (And duel me not that.)
Ted also noted that the novel’s “Hubbard” was based on William Burroughs and “Garden” on Alan Ginsberg.
He also wrote: “Please return (I paid the full price)” Ted was fabulously frugal. I won’t say stingy because I never experienced him as ungenerous. Duluoz in 1967 cost $4.95. The copy in the photograph here was used. Some writing on the inside front cover is worn away or was erased, so there’s no way to know what “the full price” was. But if Ted paid it, as his request indicates, it was unusual.