Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kerouac Still "On the Road" After 50 Years. . . .

. . . and luckily no one here has to be, at least today. The latest computer models show Hurricane Dean heading for Mexico, he has already beaten up Jamaica or is as we speak. Bless them. He might hit the southernmost tip of Texas, near Brownsville, a town known for over the top poverty and people living in shacks that would make a FEMA trailer look like the Ritz. They'll be needing some help. We better get our checkbooks out, since, well ya know how well the powers that be handled New Orleans.

As I was checking around for Dean info this morning, I came across several articles about Kerouac's "On the Road" turning 50. Always a Kerouac fan, even though he really was an avowed conservative and never understood the hippie kids like me who got something else out of his work, I was delighted that a 50th Anniversary edition was coming out and might have to procure one. The original long scroll upon which the first draft was typed in a blaze of amphetamine stream of consciousness will be on display in New York. I wish I could see it.

But in my 'net meanderings, I found this at the New York Times. A great slide show of international "On the Road" bookcovers over the years. Some are hilarious like this one from Czechoslovakia:

He probably would have giggled about that. Some of the others are interesting, one from China is just plain bizarre.

There are tons of editorials and critiques out there about whether or not "On the Road" was or is relevant, whether it was or is good writing, whether it was or is influential. For me, reading "On the Road" every couple of years reminds me that rhythm in everything is important. Some people find Kerouac "wordy," I find his extra words to be like eighth notes in a piece of music. I think he'd be surprised that people are even still talking about this, this work he never really got the significance of, this work that nearly paralyzed him from doing any further work. Oh yes, he wrote several more books--some better than "On the Road", but the pressure to write another "On the Road" along with the cultural issues that book evoked and with which he was at odds, in the end, pretty much killed him.

At any rate, raise a glass to Jack today. Be content that, at least for today, some of our citizens aren't on the road running from Dean. No, not Dean Moriarty, Dean the Hurricane, (although in some minds, they could be the same thing!)


Leigh C. said...

I read Kerouac's letters and journals leading up to the beginnings of "On The Road" a little while ago, and I was surprised that he'd lived in Ozone Park, just down Woodhaven Blvd from where Dan and I lived in Rego Park. Any man who had to live with his mama for that long...well, a personality such as Jack's had to hit his stride SOMETIME by hitting the road. He'd already chained himself to a typewriter and handwritten journals for quite a while, and he'd also tried to make a go of a marriage for a bit. Then came "On The Road"...

If he hadn't hit a chord with "On The Road", he'd most likely have been shunted to the side as a Thomas Wolfe wannabe. I think Kerouac was one of those writers that straddled the whole early-to-late twentieth century shift in how novels were written. That in itself might have been enough to nearly destroy somebody.

Sorry, I'm rambling. I just always thought it funny that one of the prime icons of hip and of the Beats came out of Queens.

Then again, so did The Ramones...


Sophmom said...

I feel kind of guilty about the huge sense of relief. Damn hurricanes. I cringe, and think Dean has to go somewhere, silently praying, "Please, God, not there!" I'll keep checking, just to make sure they haven't gotten it wrong again. *sigh*

ashley said...

I hate to tell you, but that ain't Czech. Or Slovak.

I looked it's Ukrainian.

Slate said...

No kidding?? I had a friend in the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. He actually loved it there, didn't really want to come home.

The NYT said Czech, so hey, what do I know! Thanks for straightening that out.

BTW, my friend also said the amount of drinking done in the Ukraine is astonishing and that if you're at someone's house, it's considered ill-mannered to just "drink your drink." Instead, you wait for the host to say "To the ladies!" with great gusto and then drink. He said, "Of course, the host will say 'to the ladies' every couple minutes so it's not a problem." He said he was soused more times there than anywhere else and he grew up in NOLA!

Leigh C. said...

I went to a Russian restaurant on the boardwalk in Coney Island, and they gave us vodka like it was water. Best borscht I've ever had...sure beat the hell outta the kosher crud in jars that's sold by Gold's.

Funny thing - when we talked with a couple of the regulars, they said they were so happy to see Americans in the restaurant, because it was such a shit place. Didn't look that way to me, but hey, who am I to judge? 8-)