Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Gerard. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
“See? the little face, the little head, look, I could break his head by squeezing my hand-it’s only a little thing with no strength-God put these little things on earth to see if we want to hurt them-those who dont do it who are for his Heaven-those who see they can hurt, and do hurt, they’re not for his Heaven-see?” (104)
So speaks the bed-ridden nine-year-old Gerard Dulouz on his death bed to the four-year-old Jack Dulouz. Visions of Gerard is unique in the Kerouac pantheon. Although he touches on his childhood in Lowell in the eclectic, early post-modernist Dr. Sax and visits high school loves in Maggie Cassady, Visions of Gerard explores the incident which may have led Kerouac to the seemingly oedipal relationship he developed with his mother which haunted him and his relationships through his adult life.
Visions of Gerard is a memoir of Jack’s older brother’s death when Kerouac was four-year-old. The compassion and reverence in the text of Visions is some of Kerouac’s most poignant and sweetest writing. Readers will not see this introspective, self-analyzing Kerouac again in the Dulouz Legend until Big Sur. In Visions, Kerouac deifies his older brother, even attributing heavenly visions that inspire the Sisters of the Dulouz’s to worship the older Dulouz.
It is with the Sisters’ attentions and his mother’s insistence to realize the beatific, angelic nature of Gerard that forms the want-to-please nature of Kerouac. In Visions, readers will soon see the standard the four-year-old Kerouac envisions that he must live up to in life. Raised strictly Catholic under the dead shadow of the saintly Gerard, a young Kerouac developed a vision of his older brother’s memory and importance that Jack could never live up to.
Visions of Gerard is written in a toned down version of the Spontaneous Prose Method which characterizes and illustrates Kerouac’s genius. The story is heart-rending and the opening chapter of Kerouac’s Dulouz Legend, a life’s work he envisioned as a rival to Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Visions of Gerard is an easy read and short. But, it is essential reading for scholars and fans who want to understand Kerouac and discover where he is writing from and the ghosts from which he runs and hides. The writing style, although written in the SPM, is still accessible for new readers to Kerouac. In fact, it is one of Kerouac’s most accessible and sweetest novels and is sure to win new fans to his work.