A Map of "Mexico City Blues": Jack Kerouac as Poet.
We rarely review poetry books in these pages, much less critical studies of poetry, but this one deserves special notice. Although Kerouac has been the subject of a good deal of amateur criticism ("amateur" in its best, etymological sense), first-rate scholarly studies of his work can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Jones is among that minority of working critics that take Kerouac seriously as a writer, and his Map shows how rewarding a close reading of a Kerouac book can be once you look past its bohemian exterior. Even though Jones concentrates on the little-known Mexico City Blues, it's a bracing display of how to read Kerouac as a writer in general, and consequently offers innumerable insights for those more interested in his novels. Author of a book on R. P. Blackmur, Jones writes intelligent, intelligible prose free of the alien jargon that disfigures so much recent criticism; he has a great ear for the sound of words (a crucial element of Kerouac's aesthetics) and applies his wide erudition judiciously. The mixture of close readings and appropriate biographical information, especially on Kerouac's religion(s), strikes the perfect balance. This book deserves to find a readership beyond Kerouac's admirers - amateur and professional - for it reveals Mexico City Blues to be just what Allen Ginsberg has claimed it to be: "a seminal poetic work of the latter half of the American Century."