Saturday, 8 September 2007


50 years after On the Road, another round of Jack Kerouac buzz. I plan to keep quiet about it myself, but he was my first literary hero. As a young man, I felt a kinship not so much with his writing, which I collected, but with that sadness--that void, to use a favourite Beat word--between him and his world. As for the counter-culture that first valorized then abandoned him, Kerouac was already out of it by the end of the 50s. He'd always been essentially an observor, letting Neal Cassady and others operate out there on that mad edge (mad another Beat staple). The world so easily passed him by.

As brilliantly documented in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (a must-read for anyone interested in the 60s), when Kesey and the Dead and company drove their bus on a pilgrimage to Kerouac in '68 or so, I forget when it was, they found in Kerouac a drunk, a loony right-winger dependent on his mother. I remember, too, the pics in Rolling Stone of his funeral--Ginsberg and Corso and one or two others in the rain at Lowell, Mass.

I see him now as an innocent, a Quebec/Lowell boy (McGarrigle territory) looking for the right brand of holiness, which he never found.

For the goods on Kerouac, read anything by Ann Charters, especially her biography of J.K.


Les Dickson said...

Hi Gerry. I enjoyed going through your blog. I always enjoy personal perspectives on influential figures, especially someone like Kerouac - who was never part of my world as a young adult, even though he was prominent at that time.

Gerald Hill said...

How about Phil Lesh, bass player all those years for the Grateful Dead. Part of that cross-country bus tour to Kerouac in the Wolfe book. Lesh really made a home for himself, roaming over those bass parts for the Dead.

Good to see over on the blog side, Les. By the way, got my three sisters going on drok at the cabin this year. Lots of laughs. But they haven't mastered the heavy thumping of the table so essential to the game.


emmaline said...

I don't think I knew about you and Jack. Allen says that he has the Charters biography - I'll have to check it out.

This seems like an excellent medium for you. Moments indeed.

Gerald Hill said...

Hi Em,

My Kerouac is that distant guy, the one already disconnected from the buzz he just helped create.


Brenda Schmidt said...
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Kimmy said...

Howdy! Jack and I go waaaaay back as well. He's in my blood like almost no other writer. Ever. I'm getting me someathat reprinted On the Road with original names and no paragraph breaks.

Nice to see you here.