Musings on Kerouac

kerouac jacksbook

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.


About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
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9 Responses to Musings on Kerouac

  1. Heide says:

    Oh, but you DO need to discover America, Anthony! 😉 Though it’s heresy for a writer to admit this, I have to agree with you that Kerouac’s prose is uneven. That said, I am a *huge* fan of his originality as a thinker and as a writer. He cut through the literary conventions that so many other authors had worn like straight jackets and made it okay to write in a freer, stream-of-consciousness style.

    I do join you in hating Gatsby, though (no offense to my homeboy F. Scott). It’s tough to stick with a story when you find most of the characters so thoroughly unlikable.

    • Anthony says:

      I think I am a fan of Kerouac as an idea, an expression, an innovation, or as the embodiment of a bigger voice.
      Maybe I do need to discover America…. because what I see on TV is….. difficult.

      • Heide says:

        What I see on TV about America is difficult too, Anthony. It saddens me and scares me. But then I go to the grocery store, or the airport, or the office, and realize that 99.9999% of the people I interact with every day bear no resemblance to the images and sound bites on the TV.

        By the way, i LOVE what you say about Kerouac. Fantastic.

  2. Hunida says:

    I am so glad I’m not the only one who didn’t enjoy The Great Gatsby. Whew!

  3. Erika says:

    I can’t get into Jack Kerouac at all. I absolutely hate his writing style. I was so looking forward to reading On the Road, but getting through it was just painful. Such a good story, but hard to actually enjoy the telling of it.

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