3 Letters from Mexico—Joan Burroughs to Jack Kerouac

from by Leslie Winer

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Reading of 3 recently found letters written by Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs to Jack Kerouac c. 1950-1951


February 28, 1950

Dear Jack,

It's been almost a month since Kells brought us your book—first one I've read in about four years (since Benzedrine). Sincerest congratulations, especially on Huncke and Cliff and Poultney-cum-Brandenberg.

I deeply resent your making me Bill's sister, but we'll skip that. Anyway I hope the book sells and sells.

Are you really planning to come to Mexico next month? I think you'd like it here—at least it would be in remarkable contrast to N.Y.

My love to Allen and everybody,


July 9, 1951

Dear Jack,

Forgive me for reading your letter before forwarding it, but I was so instructed by Bill, who left a week ago on an exploratory trip to Panama and maybe Ecuador—exploratory and also mildly amatory—with an amiable kid from school here. Mexico was becoming impossible, due to the intolerance and greed of Gobernacion, among other things, so Bill is going to case the situation further south and send for us when he settles somewhere.

As usual no one's plans mesh with any one's else. I may be here in August, and if so have plenty of room for you—but I'm by no means sure. Buill said he'd send for us in two or three weeks, which I doubt, but I can't tell you for sure that we'll be here through August. I'll inform you of any developments, but that's how it stands right now.

Sorry about the troubles with your wife, publishers, etc. I know a guy who's an astrologer, who says it's a beat year for everyone, if that's any comfort.

Received letters from Allen and I'm forwarding them. Bill's manuscript is all loused up, unless he took a complete copy with him, but I'll do what I can to straighten it out and send it up.

Maybe we could all try Panama, Ecuador, or even Peru. Write me when you change your address, so I can keep in touch with you. Bill is now just c/o American Express, Panama City, Panama but maybe you should write to me and let me forward it, in case he goes elsewhere.



July 26, 1951

Dear Jack,

The latest on South America is that it's no good. Quote from Quito—"Panama was godawful, and I have never been brought down by anyplace like Quito brings me down." So they're coming back here, but first they're making a trip up-river, into the head shrinking country, to score for some strange Indian drugs. Bill says this will take a month, so that probably means two or three.

Why don't you come down here anyway, if you have carfare? We have a 3 room apartment, of which at present we use only one room, and there is one awful extra bed, Mexican size. You should be able to eat and drink a little here for ten dollars a week.

It's pretty hard to get any kind of job here, for an American—against the law—but you might find some tutoring or something. Also you might be able to get something with the News here. Maybe Lucien could suggest some phony reference from his organization for you to show here. Or there might be some work around the school—I don't know about that.

You didn't say whether Lucien was still planning to come down or not. I forwarded your letter and his to Bill in Panama, but I don't believe he got them. Don't know whether Bill plans to stay in Mexico, D.F. when and if he gets back from Ecuador with an unshrunk head, but I guess he wants to stay in this country, from the disenchanted reports he sends from South America.

There are still some fairly nice people around, although quite a few have finished their G.I. bills and gone back to the states, or been drafted. I don't know any eligible girls at all—what most of the anthropology department did on arrival was to find some hardworking Mexican girl and set up housekeeping with her—some of the old timers have a couple of kids by now—and they seem pretty well satisfied.

Have you heard anything from Edie and her golf pro?

Hope to see both you and Lucien in a couple of weeks then.



Orizaba 210, #8

Mexico, D.F.


from Huncke Readings, released December 22, 2017
Outtake from François Bernadi's 'Original Beats'.

This video snippet is Beat scholar Roger Richards talking about Huncke's influence on Kerouac, Ginsberg & Burroughs.

'Roger Richards was an unsung hero among New York's underground literati. He was quick to share his keen intelligence and was particularly accessible and responsive to younger folks who were interested in literature, Beat or otherwise. Along with his gracious wife Irvyne, Roger owned the Rare Book Room on Greenwich Avenue, where Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, Ted Joans, Jack Micheline, Carl Solomon, Marty Matz and other writers congregated and caroused. In Roger and Irvyne's shop, you could find a painted self-portrait by Henry Miller, drawings by William Burroughs, Patti Smith and Andy Warhol, and first editions by any number of transgressive authors.'




Leslie Winer France

Leslie Winer (aka ©) is a North American born musician, writer & artist who lives in France.

❝After reading System’s incredible interview with 92-year old Polly Mellen, I realised how boring fashion is today. Those were the days, when Leslie Winer and Jean Michel Basquiat made out at Irving Penn’s studio. As she describes, a ‘visual privilege’.❞
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