Kerouac On Gaillard

Before we leave our Slim Gaillard phase (at least for now), it seems appropriate to recall that he is a transcendental presence in Jack Kerouac’s definitive Beat Generation novel On The Road, published in 1957. One hallucinatory scene involves Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s roman à clef narrator, his traveling companion Dean Moriarty and Gaillard—or his apparition.

Moriarty and Kerouac

Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Dean once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as he lay on the grass of a California hospital. Under a tree, with a group of colored men, sat Slim Gaillard. Dean turned despairing eyes of a mother to him. Slim said “There you go-orooni.” Now Dean approached him, he approached his God; he thought Slim was God; he shuffled and bowed in front of him and asked him to join us ; “Right-orooni,” says Slim; he’ll join anybody but he won’t guarantee to be there with you in spirit. Dean got a table, bought drinks, and sat stiffly in front of Slim. Slim dreamed over his head. Every time Slim said “Orooni,” Dean said, “Yes!” I sat there with these two madmen. Nothing happened. To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big orooni.

The website Schmoop, a word Slim might have invented had he thought of it, offers literary analysis of that On The Road passage.

Slim, in his simplicity of language, seems to provide something for Dean that few other characters can. Just as Dean speaks of “IT” to Sal without telling him what “it” really is, so Slim speaks in cryptic language (“orooni”) without any explanation. It may be that Slim fulfills the hero role for Dean that Dean does for Sal.

And it may be that this offers more enlightenment.

Gaillard with Bam Brown on bass and Scatman Crothers on drums.


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  1. TJ johnson says

    Just before I read this and laughed, I had read the open culture post which had documentation of the first time the f word appeared in 1528 and portraits made of one’s own bacteria. All this, and I’m watching women’s Olympic curling. This is turning into a deviate-from-the-norm kinda’ day.

  2. Bruce Greeley says

    Right-a-rooni! thanks Doug, a classic passage! (Carried it in my back pocket when attending some beat short movies featuring Slim at former speakeasy bar in seattle decades back —
    my fave is “Avocado seed soup symphony….part one’ (one old KRAB dj called this surrealist scat!)