This week in Literature and Arts

March 12, 1922: Jack Kerouac is born in the second floor bedroom at 9 Lupine Road in Lowell, MA. His folks were French-Canadian imports who spoke French at home (Jack, baptized Jean-Louis, didn’t learn to speak English until attending grammar school).

Jack’ now been dead longer than he was alive. The short unhappy life…, but how many little boys grow up to write books that launch a literary movement?

A decade ago, I covered the opening of a sterling Kerouac exhibit at the New York Public Library that included the “On the Road” manuscript on a roll of teletype paper. Amazing to see it.

Happy 95th birthday, Jack.


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Audiobook Review—The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told (Stephen Dando-Collins)

The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told

By Stephen Dando-Collins; Read by Paul Woodson

Recorded Books, 2017; 8.25 hours


World War II prisoner-of-war escapes immediately conjure Hollywood images of captured but undefeated allied soldiers outsmarting their evil Hun overlords. Close, but now picture the prisoners half starved; unbathed with scruffy beards, long matted hair; and dirty, ragged clothes. Quite a different impression.

Paul Brickhill chronicled that war’s most famous POW break in his 1950 volume, The Great Escape, later morphed into the all-star 1963 film. Here, military historian Stephen Dando-Collins chronicles the even greater escape of American officers from German prison camp Oflag 64 in Schubin, Poland, a year before, which proved a development and testing ground for many of the methods for the clandestine digging and hiding of dirt, and shoring and ventilating tunnels employed by the multinational servicemen staging The Great Escape.

Dando-Collins follows a linear course beginning with an intricate escape plan via tunnel leading from one of the camp’s latrines—there’s no more powerful testament to the POW’s desperation than crawling through their own waste inch by putrid inch to construct a tunnel to freedom. It was impossible to clean clothes daily in a camp where bathing was luxury enough, leaving the tunnelers reeking of human excrement day and night. Continue reading Audiobook Review—The Big Break: The Greatest American WWII POW Escape Story Never Told (Stephen Dando-Collins)