Poet Norbert Blei has reminded me, via the excellent "Poetry Dispatch", that today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Kerouac's daughter Jan, who passed away in New Mexico in 1996 (three weeks before my own mother, oddly).
Jan wasn't acknowledged by Kerouac in his lifetime,despite a paternity test proving fatherhood–though I've always felt there was a tacit admission of parenthood in his granting of permission, during their second and only meeting, for Jan to use the Kerouac name in her books– and she continued to be denied the keys to the kingdom by the Estate after his death, even in the face of a legal challenge supported by Jack's only serious biographer Gerald Nicosia. One glimpse of father and daughter, when separate photographs are set side by side, makes obvious the absurdity of Jack's claim that there was no familial connection. Why the courts didn't stop there, will or no will (I believe I'm right in saying a contested will was the principle means of Jan's exclusion), and give her the recognition--and financial support--she deserved is a madness even Jonathan Swift couldn't have done justice.
But there it is. Unsavoury things happen in families, and downright vile things happen when money's involved. Let us remember Jan as a writer and poet of talent, and finally allow her into the hallowed halls of Beat study and scholarship, where she should have been all along--beginning on this day when she passed from the world ten years ago, aged only 44. There is a gross injustice here that needs to be put right, and we are the ones who can do it.
(published in The Beat in a slightly different form).