Fifty years on: The Secret Can Now Be Told

book/daddy never cared much for On the Road.

Sorry. That excludes me from decades of free-ranging, self-indulgent, ecstatic-speed-freak, watered-down Zen hipness, I know.

But believe me, book/daddy is grateful. Left me whole areas of fiction I didn't have to bother with. Thanks, Jack.

August 19, 2007 9:56 AM | | Comments (8)



The scroll story is true, but not the WHOLE story. Kerouac worked on the book for several years, shaping and reshaping bits and pieces of it in his journals, in early versions, and even in letters to friends. Moreover he reshaped extensively after the scroll, at least once. He was a obsessive craftsman. Writers don't get that feeling of rush and spontaneity into their prose without hard work.

Wow, Jack Kerouac is still a valuable brand after all these years!

I've been surprised to see so many of the commemorations repeat the story that he wrote On the Road on one continuous roll of paper. Seems to me I saw that one debunked a few years ago. Perhaps the debunker has since been deubunked.

In any case, I, too, went through my Kerouac phase from about 17 to 20 (Has any working-class writer ever attracted a greater following among middle-class kids?). The phase passed, I suppose, but I'd defend Kerouac against the charge that he lacked humor. I can remember some delightful verbal silliness in one of his books.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

"I read it during my wild early 20s, and was STILL bored to tears by it."
That's because you thought it was a book about wildness. It wasn't then, and it isn't now.

Oh, praise be. I can't stand that book, either. And I read it during my wild early 20s, and was STILL bored to tears by it.

I read it when it first came out -- in Denver, of all places -- and I just finished re-reading it. On second read it's an entirely different book. And a much more interesting one.

I think Kerouac is for a time in your life. Call it youth. I loved him when I was in my twenties, after that I found him increasingly annoying. I still think he's a great writer. I gave my first edition Maggie Cassidy to a kid at starbucks because I knew he'd read it.

Like Hunter S Thompson, Kerouac is hard to separate from what he spawned. I mean Yucko-rama.

I still intend to re-read The Subterraneans and Lonesome Traveler, but possibly not in this decade.

Oh, book/daddy read it. I just didn't find much to enjoy or appreciate.

You know what we've never seen in all of the 50th anniversary commemorations of Kerouac? Any celebration of his sense of humor. In all that burning and burning and mad for the mad people, his humor is rather limited. There's the whole wise, 'cosmic joke' idea and the "ruefully enjoying-the-absurdities-of-life" stuff. But the humor is hipster-exclusionary: Either you're on the bus or off the bus, in on the joke or a clueless square.

And yeah, I came to the conclusion that Ken Kesey wasn't much of a writer, either.

Figured you for a non-On-the-Road reader. It shows.


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