Since I did my master’s thesis on Buddhism in Kerouac’s writing, I read a lot of criticism on his work, far more than I’d ever care to again. But Coolidge’s informal essays actually make for some of the best analysis I’ve ever read. As a poet and musician — an explorer of sound on both counts — Coolidge has a sympathetic ear for Kerouac that most academics are missing. May I say, without summoning up yet another dreadful pun about ‘the beat goes on,’ that as a drummer, Coolidge is able to speak insightfully about rhythms and beats in Kerouac’s sentences.
Kerouac’s writing gets coverage in the first half of the book while the second covers jazz with occasional references to Kerouac and others writers. I would have preferred to see Coolidge’s lengthy cento/collage based on Visions of Cody that has thus far only appeared in an obscure little magazine, but I would not be surprised if the estate of JK blocked that. Regardless, the jazz section is what the author wanted to share and it makes a fine companion to the first. Neither section is really for neophytes; familiarity with the subject matter is necessary since these are really personal essays, not generalized introductions. But for readers who know Kerouac, following Coolidge along his pathway of discovering his own intellectual and emotional responses to sounds found in the word will be a revelation to the reader as well.