“Swedish actor Warner Oland poses as Charlie Chan in 1937” (web photo courtesy of time.com)
No week goes by without a mention of Lowell’s Jack Kerouac in the major media outlets. Yesterday, the new Time magazine arrived in the mail. On page 65, there’s a review of scholar Yunte Huang’s book about Charlie Chan, the Chinese detective invented by author Earl D. Biggers whose adventures in Hawaii played out in books, films, and comics. The reviewer raves about the book, titled “Charlie Chan,” hailing it as “irrepressively spirited and entertaining” and calling the author “a virtuoso of curiosity.” Here’s the Lowell link. In the middle of the full-page review is a large quote in bold black type pulled out of the body of the review. It reads,
For Huang, Charlie Chan is ‘as American as Jack Kerouac’ precisely because of his theatrical implausibility and his mixed-up origins.
I think Kerouac would have enjoyed the comparison. He was a big fan of pop culture and mass media, from radio serials and comic strips to the sports pages of newspapers and Hollywood movies. It’s telling that Yunte Huang, an immigrant from China who teaches college English in Santa Barbara, Calif., chose Kerouac to provide American cultural context for the Charlie Chan character—Kerouac, whose parents were born in Quebec, but who has become a quintessential national icon because of his vast, exuberant literary explorations of the American land and spiritual interior and deep mining of his own mixed identity.
Jack Kerouac (web photo courtesty of St. Petersburg Times, sp.com)