So, I'm sitting on the number 7 bus going north and a lady gets on behind me at 50th St. By 55th St., she sitting next to me on one of those seats facing the aisle, when another lady climbs on board and hooks onto the metal bar hanging over our seats. She knows the lady sitting next to me, they have literary connections. She seems to have done something with PEN, but is now selling real estate, and she asks the lady, a gal about sixty, what she's doing. She is writing a book.
"What's the book?" the second lady asks.
"Kerouac," replies the first lady.
"But there are an awful lot of books about him," says the second lady.
"I have full access to the Berg collection [The New York Library's Berg collection acquired the vast majority of Kerouac's writings and photographs in 2001]" says the lady sitting next to me. She said the previous books had relied mostly on oral histories, and not surprisingly, their versions of the story did not match the material in the archives. Most of the people who talked about Kerouac previously were now dead.
"Is there anybody still alive you want to talk to?" asked the lady who was standing above us. Seated lady mentioned a couple of names I didn't catch, and standing lady asks, "What about Ferlinghetti?" The seated lady says he's still alive, but he's out in San Francisco and he doesn't come east much more.
"Will you talk to him?" asks standing lady.
"Yes, but not right now," from the seated lady.
"Do you have a publisher?" is the next question.
"Viking," one word from the seated lady.
Standing lady: "Do you have much more to do?"
Seated lady: "I'm about halfway, Viking plans to bring it out in about two years."
A young woman seated on my left departs the bus, I move over, the standing lady thanks me and takes my seat. I hear no more.
So what do I learn in 15 minutes on the number 7 bus between 50th St. and 66th St.? Well, and I report this exclusively, sometime in 2012 all of us, and especially Kerouac fans, will, thanks to Viking and the lady sitting next to me, be able to read the best Kerouac biography ever.
I can't wait for my next bus ride.