Jan Herman: Kerouac has had a huge influence on readers worldwide. I’m sure that more people have read On the Road than ever read “Howl.” But Ginsberg may be more significant as a writer than Kerouac in terms of literary impact because of what I believe is the long-lasting influence of “Howl” on poets and poetry itself. I don’t think On the Road has had an equivalent influence on novelists, notwithstanding its popularity.
Both were major countercultural forces, but it seems to me that “first thought, best thought” works better for poetry than it does for prose. Yes, Ginsberg took that idea from Kerouac. And I suppose there’s been a lot of fiction writers who’ve used Kerouac’s spontaneous prose as a model for letting it all hang out. But the way he rambles on (so “sweet and oddball,” to steal a phrase of Norman Mailer’s) gets too damn boring. Or as a friend of mine puts it: “What was freeing about his sensibility in the 1950s no longer masks what is tiresome about his prose.”
Go to IT: International Times, The Newspaper of Resistance for the complete interview. Hilary Hollady is the author of Herbert Huncke: The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.