Missing the point on Jack Kerouac

By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic

In the New Criterion this week, Bruce Bawer recycles the classic conservative screed against the Beats by way of lamenting the publication of Jack Kerouac’s collected poetry by the Library of America. It’s an odd piece, not least because “Collected Poems” came out a year ago, but also because of how completely Bawer misses the point.

“[P]erhaps the best way to try to get through Kerouac’s poems,” he complains, “is to approach them not as literary texts but as private ramblings of the sort you might find in the files of a psych ward.” A line or two later, he reminds us that “a voyeuristic frisson is not the same as an aesthetic experience.”

Well, yes, of course … but to dismiss Kerouac’s poetry through the lens of voyeurism (or worse, psychosis) is to misread him in a fundamental way.

Kerouac, after all, was more prudish than prurient, and his work, though self-revealing, is not about exposure in the manner Bawer suggests. Rather, he was a self-mythologizer, a writer who sought to make meaning out of his experiences as a way of fixing them, in a very real sense, as a barricade against time.

He wrote in the vernacular, bringing in the rhythms, the textures, of spoken language. His principle of spontaneous composition — “No pause to think of proper word,” he warns in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” “but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing” — was an aesthetic of liberation, all the more so because it gave him permission to work without looking over his shoulder, without regard for whether what he was doing was bad or good.

More at L.A. Times

Missing the point on Jack Kerouac

By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic

In the New Criterion this week, Bruce Bawer recycles the classic conservative screed against the Beats by way of lamenting the publication of Jack Kerouac’s collected poetry by the Library of America. It’s an odd piece, not least because “Collected Poems” came out a year ago, but also because of how completely Bawer misses the point.

“[P]erhaps the best way to try to get through Kerouac’s poems,” he complains, “is to approach them not as literary texts but as private ramblings of the sort you might find in the files of a psych ward.” A line or two later, he reminds us that “a voyeuristic frisson is not the same as an aesthetic experience.”

Well, yes, of course … but to dismiss Kerouac’s poetry through the lens of voyeurism (or worse, psychosis) is to misread him in a fundamental way.

Kerouac, after all, was more prudish than prurient, and his work, though self-revealing, is not about exposure in the manner Bawer suggests. Rather, he was a self-mythologizer, a writer who sought to make meaning out of his experiences as a way of fixing them, in a very real sense, as a barricade against time.

He wrote in the vernacular, bringing in the rhythms, the textures, of spoken language. His principle of spontaneous composition — “No pause to think of proper word,” he warns in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” “but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing” — was an aesthetic of liberation, all the more so because it gave him permission to work without looking over his shoulder, without regard for whether what he was doing was bad or good.

More at L.A. Times

derrierelasalledebains
Colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middle class nonidentity which usually finds it’s perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization.

Jack Keroac

“Dharma Bums”

(via amyislittlegirlblue)

i12bent
i12bent:

New memoir about Jack Kerouac and life in Greenwich Village in the late 50s and early 60s…
“Weaver—immortalized in Kerouac’s Desolation Angels as Ruth Heaper—writes this book ‘as an act of atonement’ to Kerouac: ‘I rejected him for the same reason America rejected him: he woke us up in the middle of the night in the long dream of the fifties. He interfered with our sleep.’” (Source, City Lights)
Excerpt (PDF)
Front cover photograph: Jack Kerouac and Helen Weaver in Greenwich Village, ca. 1963. Photographer unknown.

i12bent:

New memoir about Jack Kerouac and life in Greenwich Village in the late 50s and early 60s…

“Weaver—immortalized in Kerouac’s Desolation Angels as Ruth Heaper—writes this book ‘as an act of atonement’ to Kerouac: ‘I rejected him for the same reason America rejected him: he woke us up in the middle of the night in the long dream of the fifties. He interfered with our sleep.’” (Source, City Lights)

Excerpt (PDF)

Front cover photograph: Jack Kerouac and Helen Weaver in Greenwich Village, ca. 1963. Photographer unknown.