Huncke Blog

3 Letters from Joan Burroughs to Jack Kerouac

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,

Joan

 

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.

Yours,

Joan

 

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.

Yours,

Joan

Orizaba 210, #8

Mexico, D.F.

 

(via: New York Public Library—Archives & Manuscripts—The Jack Kerouac Papers 1920-1977—Transcribed by Jerome Poynton)

 

 

Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs to Edie Parker—Letter

Previously unpublished letter from Joan Adams Burroughs to Frankie Edith Kerouac-Parker © Timothy Moran.  

     

                                                                                                           December 29, 1947

Dear Edie - 

                Since it's the end of the year and all, I thought I'd better get with it and write to you at last.  Every now and then for God knows how long I've started a letter, but you know that routine.  I'd appreciate, though, if you'd write sometime and tell me how things are shaping up in Detroit.  I don't even know whether you're married, or working, or even if you're in Detroit at all..

                I've really had a mad year, although now perhaps I've come to a resting point - maybe. Was it after you left (I think so) that Bill (Burroughs, of course) finally got nailed for a couple of forged prescriptions?  It was all very desperate, as he had quite a habit by that time and it was a couple of months before his case finally came up. The only way I could get him out on bail, unfortunately, was to call his psychiatrist and he promptly informed Bill's family, which led to a good deal of unpleasantness.  Finally though, in June, the damn thing came to trial, and he was lucky enough that he got a suspended sentence on condition that he go home to St. Louis for three months.  That was pretty good, of course, but it left me in rather a spot - emotionally as well as financially.

              Huncke stayed around and raised some money making parked cars for the luggage, and after a while we began taking in a few desperate characters as boarders until before long I was running quite a pad.  Everything in the damn place was hot, as were, of course, a couple of cars out front.  Inevitably, people kept going to jail until finally, due to that and also the ever present back rent, we got tossed out.  There simply wasn't an empty apartment in the city, so we bounced around from one hotel to another until Whitey, a sweet but stupid character with whom I was having a light affair at the time, blew his top and tried to lift a Howard Johnson's safe.  He was picked up immediately - so there I was looking for a job, an apartment, a lawyer for Whitey, and money for the lawyer.  I was completely broke, so I left Julie with my aunts on Long Island and stayed with a nice kid named McCarthy.  I finally got the lawyer, who was obviously no good, but Whitey insisted on having him.  In the mean time, however, I'd been taking so much benzedrine that I got way off the beam, with the result that I finally landed in Bellevue Psycho Ward.  (Just before Whitey's trial - I later learned he got 5-10 years in Sing Sing!)  Dad came down and got Julie.  Anyway, I was all clear again a couple of days, but it took me a week and a half to convince those stupid doctors that I wasn't completely mad.  Everything was timed nicely, though, because just before I got out at last, Bill got back in town. His family agreed to set him up in a small way provided he lived away from New York, so we had planned to go to Texas where he'd spend part of the Summer.  As soon as I got out of the nut-house, we drove down to the Rio Grande Valley, stayed awhile with some friends of Bill's and finally bought a nice broken-down 99 acre farm a little north of Houston.  We stayed down there for awhile, starting repairs on the house, and then headed north ten days before Christmas.  We drove to N.Y. where we stayed a few days, and then Bill went to St. Louis and I came up here to get Julie.  She and I are going back to Texas by train on January 2nd and Bill will be back down here by then.

                    This is all very vague and sketchy, but do write me back and let me have your news. Although we are not married (Bill got a divorce, but I haven't yet), make it Mrs. W.S. Burroughs, New Waverly, Texas.

 

                                                                                                Love,

                                                                                                Joan

 

 

Below is a short reading of an excerpt from Herbert Huncke's 'Guilty of Everything'. Herbert describes Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs & his great respect & love for her. Joan, of course, died at age 28 & has become just a footnote in somebody else's story. Huncke told me she was the smartest one of them all. I don't doubt it for a minute.  —LW