I am reading another book on Jack Kerouac, this one called Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee.
The question I have for myself is why? It isn’t that I dislike the book. In fact, I think the book is very compelling and well written. I wish there were more pictures of the people featured in the book, but that’s something altogether different and probably not that important now that I and the world have Google.
You see, I am not that enamoured of Jack Kerouac’s work. I am not that enamoured of the people he travelled with. I am not into jazz music and I don’t need to discover America.
This came up a few weeks ago when I was talking books with some of the new teachers at work. We were dropping author’s names like so many playing cards at a poker game. At times like these, I do not drop the existentialists or the Beats, and I mostly criticize books that we had read in school that I do not like (I am looking at you Gatsby).
When someone brought up On the Road, my comment went something like
There were moments when I loved the book and moments when I didn’t. Some of it is brilliance, but not all of it. However, what I do admire is the way it moved people. It was a book that got people talking. It was a book that challenged narrative. It was a book that meant something, even if we can’t agree on what that is. What a great blessing and a great curse to have written such a novel.
The people listening probably didn’t understand what I was going for (and now that I read it over, perhaps I am not being eloquent enough, or not taking a hard enough risk with my words…)
So, I am reading this book, getting sucked up into a world that became fiction that became the world again through analysis and social commentary. I am reading this book that shows the hero and anti heroes in a less than flattering light. I am reading a book about a doomed group of people whose moment in the light burns quite brightly, if only too quickly.
I think it is because Kerouac wrote. Kerouac’s words became immortal on the printed page. I admire and envy this with every fibre of my being. Every time I am lazy and not writing; every time I don’t write down the idea I have for a story; every time I don’t heed the lessons on the printed page….I feel so much less.