Y’ all know I think very highly of Mr Kerouac, in fact I like to think of him as a long-lost relative of mine (See: The Kerouac Cowgirl Adventure List). I look up to him, I respect him…he floats my boat, k?
His stories chronicle adventures, spiritualism, desire and friendships all moulded together in a whirl of delicious, jazz-inspired, spontaneous prose.
His book ‘On The Road’ has been massively influential on people of all ages, because it confronts our united desire to understand what it’s like to feel utterly and completely free. For us, to feel freedom in it’s greatest form – on the road – with no rules, no leadership constraints and no alterior motives, is most people’s idea of heaven. Just perfect travel simplicity. You just follow those straight lines.
“Our battered suitcases were were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 3, Ch. 5
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 2, Ch. 8.
“What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.”
– Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Part 4, Ch. 1
His writing completely swoons me because he describes the world how it should be; full of amazing characters, adventures and lessons about life.
His ideas were influential and interesting. He was unique and challenging in every way, from his stories to his writing style. It was Kerouac’s rule that you never needed to re-write or edit your work because to him “First thought = best thought”. He completed On The Road in a non-stop 20 day writing frenzy, which resulted in a 120 foot long scroll of his musings. He taped the sheets of typewriter paper together, literally making it into the religious scroll of American culture it became so highly regarded as. After all it was nicknamed ‘the bible of the Beats’.
It has only been recently, that an exact word-for-word account of his writing, has come out, which details his exact un-edited words. Just as he wanted it to be read by the world. Amazon.
If you haven’t seen it I really recommend watching the BBC4 documentary; Russell Brand On The Road. Brand examines the scroll at an exhibition, that toured the states and discusses the influence of the book on western culture. The whole documentary can be viewed on YouTube but this is part 2, which was my fave (as it covered more interesting bits about Kerouac/Brand as a whole):
As Brand discovers, Kerouac fully romanticised the road and as a result society fell completely in love with Kerouac’s vision (as we can see in the plethora of road-trip movies which have come out since the 1950s). But we know it’s not all plain sailing (or cruising for that matter) on a journey, yet the road has become a symbol for everything we want it to be. It takes us away from the mundane and allows us to face spectacular sights of natural beauty, test our coping mechanisms and discover what is most important to us.
Kerouac became a strong believer in spiritualism, and especially Buddhism, which he documented in The Dharma Bums. The book charts the spiritual quest of a group of friends in search of Dharma or ‘Truth’. They hit the road again to the High Sierras, to seek the lesson of solitude and experience the Zen way of life. It is very clear that Jack looked to travel for enlightenment; it is how he established his beliefs and views, through the simplicity of being out there and experiencing.
“See the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume.
“I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ’em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.” [sic] – The Dharma Bums Chapter 13.
Kerouac was the father of the beats and an inspiration to Gohemians everywhere. We love you and salute you Jack.
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