In the introduction to Kerouac's Ghost, I talk about radically revising the novel through several publishers and incarnations. But I never wade into my vast ocean of regret over having given the Montreal publisher, Balzac le Griot, the wrong edition for translation. Why, why, why? What was I thinking? Why, why?
Anyway, in today's Globe and Mail, in his Of Montreal column, Everett-Green is right on the mark. For the rest, here's a bit from Kerouac's Ghost, one among a possible many, that hints at why I remain furious with myself. Why, why, why?
That's when I realized whose rhythms I was borrowing. I hadn't known because I had taken the French in my mind for granted. Why not? All my life I had dreamed and heard prophecies in that language. "Tu ne laches pas, toi!" I said. "You don't let go! You invited me."
Frankie laughed but persisted in French: "What do you take me for? An idiot? I never invited you."
"Mais oui, tu l'as fais!" I rattled on in joual for the joy of it: "Sure you did! Remember last January, the day you climbed Tunnel Mountain? Discovered the cabin on top, all boarded up for the winter? You were peeking in the windows when you realized it was a fire lookout. The kind of place Old Kerouac had written about in Desolation Angels."
Now I had his attention."Back in town you ran into a fellow dish-washer from the Banff Springs Hotel. He told you some government types were coming to town next day, that they'd be inter-viewing for summer jobs in the park . . . and fire lookout was one of them. Later, at home in your two-room cabin, you waved your hands in the air and did a little dance: 'Kerouac! Kerouac! Be with me now!' C'etait bien un invitation, non?"
POSTSCRIPT: Just to clarify: After Pottersfield Press published version #1, I radically revised the novel. Robert Davies Publishing brought out that version (#2). Balzac le Griot translated and published version #2. All this is early '90s. A decade later, I did another revision (#3), which restored some of version #1, especially the French Ti-Jean subtext. And now we have the best-ever, final, final, final version (#4), published by Bev Editions as an ebook. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I take the position that someone should translate and publish version #4.