Saturday, August 18, 2007

50 Years of Wandering

In the New York Times Book Review, it is Jack Kerouac week, thanks to the 50th Anniversary of the publication of On the Road.

The first article is a review of the published version of the "original scroll" that Kerouac typed back in 1951. It's interesting because the version we're used to is a fictional work, while Kerouac wrote it is as a memoir. The reviewer compares the two works as separate works and finds the scrolls, in some ways, are better.

The second article is another review, this time of John Leland's book The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think.) This sounds like an interesting book, since it seems that in the past 50 years reading On the Road is like a rite of passage of American adolescents with brains.

The final article is a rumination of On the Road's place in our culture, as a touchstone. This is where our co mingling of Kerouac as writer and Kerouac as character and icon becomes apparent, in the ways we elevate and idealize the character, while forgetting about the writer. Surely, Kerouac himself encouraged this "branding" (in modern marketing parlance), but it also caused him much difficulty (and infamy) in his later life.

I am one of those brainy adolescents who discovered On the Road when I was 19, and decided that for me, too,

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"

It wasn't until I got older that I realized for myself how scary, seductive, dangerous, and important it was to surround yourself with mad ones. But sometimes, it's like you need to shrink away from their light.


Holly said...

I've never read any Kerouac, although many people I know would be throwing stones right now because of that statement. However, I do agree with the quote. I love the mad people, love surrounding myself with the mad people. They're the best for inspiration as well...of all mediums.

Jessica said...

Hi Holly,

Thanks for stopping by. Y'know, it's never too late to try Kerouac, but if I were being honest, I wouldn't venture beyond "On The Road." If you like women writers of a similar vein, Diane DiPrima's Memoirs of a Beatnik and/or Recollections of My Life as a Woman are pretty awesome. She's a contemporary of Kerouac's and a kick-ass writer in her own right.

I just checked out your site and it looks pretty great! Love the title and thanks for stopping by. :)

kate said...

so true, so true... scary, dangerous, important, yes, but damn do i know how it can be to need to get away from the madness...