Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hey, it was Jack Kerouac's birthday yesterday. That doesn't mean anything to you because you're not a hipster but at one time I was a huge fan of his. I'd first read about Kerouac in Pete Hamill's now much-maligned liner notes to Bob Dylan's mighty Blood on the Tracks:
And it made me think of Ginsberg and Corso and Ferlinghetti, and most of all, Kerouac, racing Dean Moriarty across the country in the Fifties, embracing wind and night, passing Huck Finn on the riverbanks, bouncing against the Coast, and heading back again, with Kerouac dreaming his songs of the railroad earth.

I was in high school then and came across an essay of Kerouac's in our literature book about his job as a fire watchman in the mountains of California. His vivid prose hooked me and I was off, gulping down On The Road, of course, and then anything else I could get my hands on - Dr. Sax and Maggie Cassady stayed with me but his other published works gradually faded - even The Town and The City, his first, more conventional novel.

My infatuation continued in college - I attended a talk that Allen Ginsberg gave in the English department and the instructors were swooning - but it gradually passed marriage and maturity. I later tried to pick up and re-read something of his and remember thinking, man, these guys just need to settle down and get a job. The magic had vanished. Ah, youth.

So maybe Kerouac is really a young person's writer but I remember how his vision moved me and those he still moves are lucky. Enjoy him while you can, I say. And I'm glad to see in the link above that it's the conservative movie site, Big Hollywood, that remembers his birthday and points out, despite his flaws, that Kerouac was a conservative Catholic and celebrated freedom. If any of the liberal sites out there marked the occasion, I've yet to see it.

Update: Roger Ebert posted something. Odd how two movie-related sites are the ones to take note.

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