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A Tremendous Family Saga

Dreamed mid-September 1952 by Jack Kerouac

photo of writer Jack Kerouac

A TREMENDOUS FAMILY SAGA, it takes place in a huge high apartment by the sea, the same sea of Tidal Waves and Sea Battles---there are intelligent child girls, earlier in the opening of the Saga, in a big room, after something to do with the Girl of the Huge Room, Halvar Hayes holds a kitten by the neck choking it and me and someone else (Joe Gavota was around) try to break his grip---"You're choking that cat to death!', I cry---and try clawing Hal's face, pushing his nose in, pulling his hair, everything, kicking him in the balls so he'll leave that kitty go and he won't---both of us are pummelling and pulling and torturing at him and he wont let that little dying kitty go---my heart is breaking all over---and Hal has such pitiful guts---

I dont understand what, how it ends, there are dispersings and gray scene shiftings in the Shakespearean stage of my dreambrain---and the next day the kitty is still alive and playing! I am astounded, hosannahd, resurrected---and poor Hal was tortured for nothing?---that Judas choking Jesus! or that Jesus being tortured by Judas for a chimerical cat!

Then the Saga swings to the high apartment, there are bargain basements below, a veritable Radio City or Paramount Theater, a Jewish winter resort, crowds,---great company visits us, we have rich furnishings (like Kereskys)---smart little Margaret O'Brien girls---I protect them---we have inheritances---crises come and go---suddenly in the midst of a big cocktail party the depth charges start exploding on the beach ten stories below (this is the front of the Newspaper Building in New Britain I dangled off of)---"the depth charges" we all yell---"Or is it just a joke, just fireworks!" Bedlam---Great clouds of black smoke spurt with each blast 10 stories high---Me and the two girl prodigies or one grownup girl and prodigy and the male other-hero are rushing down the hall to flee, but I warn them "Have we got our precious belongings?"

No---we didnt---we all teeter in thought---then start rushing back to get our precious things (into our rooms like the rooms where I'd lost my pants, as if I had had a Tolstoyan childhood in castles with great sun pouring in thru Versailles Palace windows with noble trees outside)---(near Andover St. of Ernie Malo)---but now we're hungup trying to decide what to save and meanwhile the tourist movie crowds are rushing to the elevators and we join them empty handed and as we "pummel" down floor by floor with floor indicators on buttons I worry about a depth charge suddenly breaking the cables and killing us all---

ln the general family lostness, here, it's like night Gerard died and the yelling relatives in the upstairs bedrooms and the fireworks crashing outside (ours, sneaked and set off by my cousins)---yes, Nin [Jack's sister], young Nin of olden childhoods is one of the girl prodigies, she and I must have thought what to salvage in the general wreckage to bring to the Baileys with us---I must have thought it was the end of the world when Gerard died---Yes, the milling tourists are clearly stomping thru our apartments in a wake, one of my heroes of the Saga has apparently died (Hal? cat?), and we the little ones are working out tiny salvations in the huge detonations of world adult disasters, ah me sad life of little souls come back---

--Jack Kerouac


I posted this dream because it challenges the Kerouac stereotype as macho, sure of his own genius but blind and callous to women. Here he's protective and tender toward the kitten, the little girls, and his sister. In his heart it's Beats, beasts and children all together against the adults of the world. At least in his sleep.
By the way, the references to other dreams (no pants, Tolstoy, death of Gerard) are all in Book of Dreams too--they're not garbled scenes of this dream, or half-lost dreams the same night. While Kerouac rejected Freud, believing dreams were primarily experiences not symbols, he often interrupts a dream to note echoes and parallels... where dreamworkers like me tend to stick such associations at the end, as morning-after notes. But for Jack, all is now.

--Chris Wayan

Source: page 24 of Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac, expanded (2001) edition, City Lights Books.
Date: estimated from sequence.
Title: Kerouac always capitalized a dream's first phrase as a working title, even if it didn't fit the dream as a whole.
I have occasionally added paragraph breaks when a screen became hard to read. The web is not the printed page. I apologize to purists.

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