Jack Kerouc: role-playing gamer

The NYT has an account of how Jack Kerouac, idealised by undergraduate creative writing students the world over for his hard-drinkin’, hard-livin ways, invented his own weird baseball card game, which he apparently played all through his life.

Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow-Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).

He collected their stats, analyzed their performance and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.

Though the revelations dent Kerouac’s hipster image, they do make him seem a lot more likable. Had he been a young man in the eighties, our free-wheeling hipster would have been playing Dungeons and Dragons, and if he were alive today, he’d be an obsessive World of Warcraft player.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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