OFFBEAT HONOR FOR LOWELL'S KEROUAC

08/03/2007
By Used with permission from the Boston Globe Online.

By Erica Noonan

Globe Staff

 

Get your popcorn, your peanuts, and your Jack Kerouac?

The Lowell Spinners have proposed a postmodern, plastic way to honor the Beat poet, author, and favorite native son: the bobblehead doll.

The team has declared Aug. 21 as Jack Kerouac Night at LeLacheur Ballpark and the first 1,000 ticket holders to arrive for the Spinners-Williamsport Crosscutters matchup will receive a springy-headed Kerouac wearing a flannel shirt and toting an 'On the Road'-style rucksack.

The offbeat promotion was the brainchild of Lowell Spinner public relations director Jon Goode, who pitched the idea several months ago to Hilary Holladay, a English professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and aKerouac scholar.

Holladay was thrilled the Spinners wanted to help promote Kerouac, and plug the university's upcoming Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature, scheduled for Oct. 2-3.

But she was a bit dubious about turning a literary icon into a tacky plastic toy. 'I wasn't really familiar with the bobblehead concept, to be honest,' Holladay said.

Then she considered how Kerouac loved playing sandlot baseball in his Pawtucketville neighborhood as a boy, and even created an elaborate fantasy baseball game with more than 100 handwritten cards, now held in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library.

'We thought he would be tickled. He loved Lowell, and always wanted a little more attention from his hometown, and how can you beat a bobblehead for attention?' Holladay said.

John Sampas, the executor of Kerouac's estate, approved the concept and the university sent the bobblehead makers a series of book jacket photos for inspiration.

A few tweaks were necessary, said Paul Marion, another UMass-Lowell Kerouac scholar, to ensure the doll had the author's distinctive black hair and blue eyes.

'There are maybe two American authors who could endure being bobbleheaded, Kerouac and Hemingway. Both are associated with athletic life and the outdoors and are very American figures.' said Marion, editor of 'Atop an Underwood,' a 1999 collection of Kerouac's earliest writings.

'Kerouac probably would have gotten a real kick out of it.'