On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Spoiler Free)

Happy Monday!

 

On the Road and Jack Kerouac were for me, growing up, one of the quintessential travel stories written by the archetype of the traveler. Or so I believed, because I hadn’t read it for the first time until this year.  I’ve spent a lot of the last eight or so years traveling, and in doing so I would read through peoples’ libraries, hoping someone would have copies of books I wanted to read.  However I never did find On the Road until I got a library card again(1) here at Lancaster.  Taking advantage of my library privileges I’ve gotten my hands on three books I’ve been wanting to read for ages but never gotten around to until now: Slaughterhouse Five, The Fault in Our Stars, and On the Road.  The other two books lived up to my expectations.  Did On the Road? Let’s find out.  

Image result for on the road movie

Apparently it’s a movie now, but it only got 6.1 stars on IMDB. I plan to view it at some time.  Review pending.

On the Road is a semi-autobiographical work about a character named Sal Paradise and loose cast of characters all of whom were influential beat authors, including the St Louis native William S. Burrows as Old Bull Lee(2)  The book is split up into five distinct parts which tell a story of Sal Paradise working, loving, running with friends, getting his heart broken, but in the end Kerouac gives Sal an optimistic ending and Dean gets a semi-romanticised ending.

On the Road, like a long-term trip, has some unforgettably beautiful passages that will stick with you long after moving on. But, also like a long-term trip, it gets tough to slog through in parts (and I have faith enough in Kerouac’s style to believe it was structured that way for pacing purposes).  Overall, I’d say the book is worth the read, but it’s likely to be a slow read, because also like a long term holiday, no matter how you try, some things can’t be rushed. And those things tell you when it ends and begins.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Most of the places I’ve lived require “proof of address” to get a library card and because I moved around so much, I’ve had a hard time getting one.    
  2. Allen Ginsberg as Carlo Marx and Neal Cassidy as Dean Moriarty are the other notables. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Road)

 

SPOILERS BELOW

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Stream of Consciousness Theatre presents: First Try

Happy Monday!

life

I’m often plagued with the phrase “If you can’t find the time to do it right the first time, when will you find the time to do it a second time?” reinforced by Jack Kerouac’s philosophy of “first thought, best thought”

“By not revising what you’ve already written you simply give the reader the actual workings of your mind during the writing itself: you confess your thoughts about events in your own unchangeable way. Well, look, did you ever hear a guy telling a long wild tale to a bunch of men in a bar and all are listening and smiling, did you ever hear that guy stop to revise himself, go back to a previous sentence to improve it, to defray its rhythmic thought impact? If he pauses to blow his nose, isn’t he planning his next sentence? And when he lets that next sentence loose, isn’t it once and for all the way he wanted to say it? Doesn’t he depart from the thought of that sentence and, as Shakespeare says, ‘forever holds his tongue’ on the subject, since he’s passed over it like a part of a river that flows over a rock once and for all and never returns and can never flow any other way in time? Incidentally, as for my bug against periods, that was for the prose in October in the Railroad Earth – very experimental, intended to clack along all the way like a steam engine pulling a one-hundred-car freight with a talky caboose at the end. That was my way at the time and it still can be done if the thinking during the swift writing is confessional and pure and all excited with the life of it. And be sure of this, I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless rehashing speculation and deleting and it got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no feeling. Goddamn it, feeling is what I like in art; not craftiness and the hiding of feelings.”

-Kerouac on “first though, best though” Source: I Fear Brooklyn

and legendary achievements such as the SF short story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” which was not only written in one sitting/one draft but also went on to win a Hugo Award.  My experience as a cook hasn’t taught me any different, “You have to be perfect the first time, every time because we don’t have time for a second chance” as many of my chefs have told me over the years which became something I came to resent about the industry but made an imprint on how I shape my self as a creator.

I frequently feel like a man running out of time, being out of step with people of my generation and off the beaten path for what constitutes a reasonable existence, approaching thirty with next to nothing to show for myself other than a collection of scar tissue and a creative interpretation on the conventions of grammar and syntax.

I think frequently though about Kerouac’s process, regardless of his claim to write On the Road in one draft, more specifically one 120 foot long scroll he constructed to feed into his typewriter so he could write continuously, but his process was longer than that.  Longer than 120 feet and longer than the three weeks it took him to cover that roll in ink.

His idea was to capture the improvisation of the jazz musician, to create something so raw but right that the first time it comes into being it’s presentable. As Wachowaik criticizes in her dissertation Speed Limits: The Formation, Dissemination, and Dissolution of the Counterculture in American Literature 1951-1972.”

Though Kerouac projected the belief that both great writing and great jazz improvisations should be “simply realized without the thought process of the creator intervening,” he conveniently glossed over the process of the jazz musician, which involves years of study, rehearsal, and revision to produce effective “improvisation” (Elteren 87). In reality, Kerouac spent years perfecting his “spontaneous” tone, often jotting down personality sketches and stock phrases in his notebook that would find their way into his books (87).

Source

She highlights how Kerouac, like the skilled jazz improvisation artist, practiced and conceptualized his art long before ingesting eye ball vibrating amounts of coffee and speed in April 1951.  In this way, it can be said he drafted for seven years while rambling the country the same way a musician can said to be practicing even when they’re just tip-tapping.  A healthy regimen of regular writing and reading keeps the mind sharp so that when the time comes to write, it can be done with clear efficiency.

There is also an ethic to this approach, the school of minimal editing, in that the less drafts a piece takes, just like perfect plating the first time, the more warmth there is left in the final product.  My personal goal, someday, is to write a novel in the first try (in a 5×5 quad composition notebook, black ink, hand written) however I imagine it’ll go something like this:

 

Getting Acquainted with the Neighbloggerhood(1)

Happy Friday folks,

First order of business: I realize about four people might have expected a post yesterday based on my announcement last Thursday(2) however after giving it some thought and a change in my work schedule, it seems like a Monday/Friday posting schedule would be more practical.  Now back to the regularly scheduled program.

I’ve been on here for a bit now, found some really cool blogs to add to my reader, and garnered a (very) small following and something I’ve considered is that I don’t really know much about my fellow floggers(3) and I’m really interested in making a personal connection for fun and profit(4).

What’s your favourite book?

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski I’ll never forget the first time I met this book (yes you can meet books, books are people too #booklivesmatter).  It was the fall of my senior year (high school) and I was in the second most disappointing class of my scholastic career(5), advanced creative writing (it was disappointing because of the teacher I had was…not fit to be teaching sub 18yo individuals).  One of the projects we had was a book-report presentation on our favourite book and this girl I sorta had a thing for but was way too “alternatively cool”(6) for me man.  I was a freak too, still am #freakforlife, but way too fucking shy to be worth more than the last square on a roll of toilet paper.  Anyway she began presenting this book, House of Leaves (HoL) and she was having trouble describing the general story other than “This is a really freaky story, man. Like ‘I couldn’t read it before bed’ scary”.  After class I went to some book store and found the black beauty just sitting there. Last copy.  It took me 3 months to get through the first read. With all the annotations, the extremely dense prose, and the extremely experimental frame-story with in a frame-story with in a frame-story story telling style it was my first real hard read.  Also, looking back, my first post-modernist book.  MZD’s monolith-esque tome was the first book to show me “you can break the rules in writing, it’s a brave new world”.  That was about 10 years ago.  I’ve re-read the book more than 15 times since.

Honourable mentions:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

All the Pretty Horses by Cormic McCarthy 

What’s your favourite body part?

I really like hands. Being a stick figure I’m envious of the banana looking appendages at the ends of human arms.  I don’t know why I like hands however I can remember precisely when I began noticing them.  I was seeing this girl, years ago, who had a knack for knitting and one time I was just watching her knit and I noticed there was something different about how she held her needles.  It’s really hard to explain but I think she was double jointed in every joint of her fingers because her fingers were bending in ways I’ve never seen before and I found that observation to be extremely profound and was deeply attracted to the length of her long artistic fingers and how they gracefully locked string into string onto needle.  Ever since I’ve found my self looking at hands and marveling at their complex beauty.  Nice hands are nice.

Honourable mentions:

Hair (on the head)

Back/torso (like the back of the torso, the front doesn’t do much for me unless you have like really nice obliques…then me might have to be friends)

Legs (specifically calves)

If you were reincarnated into an animal/drink/ice cream flavour, what would you be?*

  • I have to give credit for the ice cream flavour bit. Source

Animal: Dog.  I’ve never fathered a dog(7) but I’ve lived with several dogs and I love them all even the poopy little ones who peed everywhere all the time.  Also, as strange as this may sound, I always kind of identified as a dog but not in the furry way. When I was a kid and I got excited, I would wag my tail and as an adult I enjoy going for walks in the park and rides in the car(8).  I’m also colourblind, smell sensitive, and enjoy getting my head scratched

Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?

This has been like the running joke of my life.  It changes depending on my hair and I change my hair a lot. Also I’m pretty sure I have one of those “generically good looking” faces that is easily forgettable but also easy for people to see who/what they want However, they’ve always been obnoxiously flattering (and not even most of them have been come-ons either) so here’s a list:

Johnny Depp

Orlando Bloom (when LOTR came out and I had long blonde hair)

Matt Damon

Daniel Radcliffe

Jack Kerouac

And more but I really can’t remember.  It’s almost like every single time I meet a new person or group of people, someone says “Hey, did you know you kinda look like (insert celeb)?” or “Hey, come check out this kids face.  Doesn’t he look exactly like (insert friend I’ve never met)?”

At what age did you become an adult?

Never. Fifth grader for life.  Seriously though, I’ve struggled with the question “what does it mean to be an adult to me?” quite a bit in the last few years especially with 30 right around the corner.  I matured early, but entered some form of social arrested development when I started drinking and drugging and have decided in sobriety that it’s time to begin catching up on the parts of my life that I let fall by the wayside for the last 10 year because I was too fixated on being a work-holic/drink-aholic.  So I guess, I began the process of becoming something resembling an adult this year in the eve of my 27th year.

Where’s Waldo?

Some say he’s still out there somewhere…

So here’s the rules of the game:

  1. I’m tagging all 4 of my wordpress followers (you are my favourite people on wordpress).
  2. Answer the questions, post on your blog.
  3. Tag some friends(9)

Brittany and Arpil @herestwenty

Don Maciver @donmacieverpoetry

The folks at Royal James Publishing @royaljamespublishing

annette @outsideofacat

Footnotes:

  1. Surprisingly, this word actually works with the prefix “neigh-” meaning “near” and the suffix “-hood” meaning “state or condition being” ergo the new word could be defined as “nearby bloggers” aka “the regulars I see and follow and want to know more about”.  Though the word doesn’t have quite the mouth feel of a viral-prone word like “meh”.
  2. SQUEE! My first self-referential citation!
  3. I tried to combine “blogger” and “follower” into a new word however I think I missed the mark.
  4. Still working on the “profit” part.
  5. The first being Anthropology of Native American Spirituality.  Subject matter and reading material: spot on; the teacher: not so spot on.
  6. She was a hardcore punk with a devil may care attitude and on the verge of burn out because she wasn’t being challenged enough.  She was also really hot.
  7. I’m really against the slavery language we use towards our furry children/friends.  I believe animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. Example: Prairie Dogs have such a complex language, they can communicate to their fellow dogs what sort of animal is passing by and if it’s a human whether it’s a human they know or a different human based on the colour of their clothing.  I talk to animals, plants, insects, anything living as if it were an adult human being worthy of my respect.  The only people I talk to like a child are adult humans who demonstrate a necessity for simplistic language.  Show respect to your fellow non-human companions, and see what happens. You’ll be surprised.
  8. Also, like a dog, I don’t drive. So rides in the car are like something I really enjoy, even if it’s just accompanying a friend on an errands run.
  9. Not sure if I’m doing these tags right.