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On the Road Again

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Earl Fowler



Interesting confluence.


Jack Kerouac will turn 100 on Saturday, March 12. Ulysses, from which Kerouac borrowed his hit-the-road Jack, stream-of-consciousness technique, was published in its entirety for the first time on Feb. 2, 1922, James Joyce’s 40th birthday.

“I can tell you now as I look back on the flood of language,” Kerouac wrote immodestly in a letter to Allen Ginsberg, describing his seminal novel On the Road, “it is like Ulysses and should be treated with the same gravity.”


That was setting the bar impossibly high, but there are moments that aspire to the sublime in the dizzying roman à clef that launched a million acolytic trips (of the road and drug variety):


“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was — I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”


Ulysses is a far greater work of art than the combined outpourings of all the Beats together, but Truman Capote was snarkily deluded when he famously dismissed Kerouac's spontaneous prose as typing rather than writing.


Breakfast at Tiffany's didn't help mold Dylan, the Beatles, the Doors and the people the Baby Boomers became. The Beat Generation authors did.


John Leland has it about right, I think, in his book Why Kerouac Matters: the Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): "We're no longer shocked by the sex and drugs. The slang is passé and at times corny. Some of the racial sentimentality is appalling," but ... "the tale of passionate friendship and the search for revelation are timeless. These are as elusive and precious in our time as in [Kerouac's], and will be when our grandchildren celebrate the book's hundredth anniversary."


That'll be in 2057. We lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.


Bonne fête, Ti-Jean. You egomaniacal, self-loathing, melancholy, angel-headed prose hipster, terrible husband, lousy father, devoted mama’s boy, good Catholic, lapsed Buddhist, bisexual misogynist, loathsomely anti-Semitic, fervently anticommunist, Joseph McCarthy loving, Vietnam War supporting, reactionary, hippie-hating, dope-smoking, Margarita-swilling, jazz-intoxicated co-founder of a Countercultural Revolution you detested.

"Think you're escaping and run into yourself," Joyce had warned. "Longest way round is the shortest way home."

May the fabulous yellow roman candles on your centenary cake burn, burn, burn and explode like spiders across the stars.



Bonus track: Here's a fascinating Rad-Can interview conducted two years before the by then sodden-witted author finished drinking himself to death at 47 in 1969:





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EarlM Fowler
EarlM Fowler
08 мар. 2022 г.

I said it before and I'll say it again. In a wildly swinging fistfight between Jack and Nick, my money's on the floor.

Лайк

Like the other guys said about the writing, Msgr Earl...way surpasses Kerouac, although you did make him more interesting. One day, I'll relive my jaunt as an alleged Beatnik-for-hire-to-enliven-your-square-parties -- a fun hoax (till it cost me my year at U of Toronto) that got me on Dave Garroway's Today show in NY twice, among others. On Garroway I pooh-poohed Kerouac and read from A.A. Milne instead...I still hold to that.

Лайк
Ответ пользователю

well, I'm with you on the poo part.

Лайк

You egomaniacal, self-loathing, melancholy, angel-headed prose hipster, terrible husband, lousy father, devoted mama’s boy, good Catholic, lapsed Buddhist, bisexual misogynist, loathsomely anti-Semitic, fervently anticommunist, Joseph McCarthy loving, Vietnam War supporting, reactionary, hippie-hating, dope-smoking, Margarita-swilling, jazz-intoxicated co-founder of a Countercultural Revolution you detested. Probably the best one-paragraph description of a person ever written. Wonderful.

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EarlM Fowler
EarlM Fowler
08 мар. 2022 г.
Ответ пользователю

Thank you, but I kind of like "I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen." — A.A. Milne.

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Jim Withers
Jim Withers
07 мар. 2022 г.

The late Nick Auf der Maur, a former Montréal city councillor/bon vivant/Montréal Gazette columnist, wrote about getting into a drunken brawl with Kerouac when he was invited by a Radio-Canada TV producer to have dinner with the visiting writer and several other Rad-Can types. At first, Nick wrote, they got along beautifully because he was enthralled by the Beats. The booze flowed and all went well until the conversation turned to politics. Kerouac made an anti-Semitic remark and launched into a harangue about Kremlin-Zionist-communist conspiracies. No one reacted, so Nick asked Kerouac if he was joking. When Kerouac proceeded with his diatribe, tossing in several racist slurs, Nick started screaming abuse at the celebrated author. Kerouac took a couple of…

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