Monday, December 27, 2004

On The Road Again

Somehow I never had that Kerouac period that so many (guys in particular) seem to fall into during their late high school or early college years. I had my Huxley and Pirsig phase in early college, Vonnegut phase late in college, my WS Burroughs phase right after college, but not Kerouac. My stepbrother passed Dharma Bums and On the Road on to me my freshman year of undergrad. I remember liking them, but not being wowed by them like so many other people. To be fair, at that time I pretty much only liked books with dragons or spaceships on the cover. Desolation Angels entered my life a few years ago, which I really liked, but mostly for the guest appearances of Paul Bowles and WS Burroughs. Although I enjoy Kerouac's language, I've always had a hard time getting into his characters.

Now I'm reading/reviewing Windblown World, selections from his journals that were collected and edited by historian Douglas Brinkley. It starts with the writing of his first novel, The Town and the City, and later moves into his journey across the U.S. that became the book On The Road.

The journals are raw. The thoughts are scattered, and he vacillates back and forth between knowing his full brilliance and feeling like a hack. But I think I really like it. It seems, out of what little I've read, the most honest of his writing. Maybe it's because they are kind of like my journals: logs of life, writing progress, references to what he's reading. It's kind of fun seeing someone from the literary canon go through some of the same feelings and problems I go through with writing. He does complain constantly about not writing enough, except not enough for him is anything less than 2000 words a day. He'd probably laugh at my meager output.

I haven't gotten to the On the Road part yet, but I'm guessing those will be more detailed and less introspective. There are lots of references to an idealized classless lifestyle he wants to pursue (he holds dreams of running a ranch or farm), but not too surprising for the time period. I am a little surprised by the consistent religious quality to the writing. There are constant references to God and Christ, and getting strength from them to continue his writing and maintain a moral life. I've always associated the beats with an interest in Buddhist philosophy, but not so much Christianity. I'm curious to see if that changes, or if he holds onto those thoughts.

I'm sure I'll have more later as I get further into the book.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

I never really got into the beat stuff. I do, however, have the DVD Naked Lunch from Netflix, waiting to be played. I dunno, I saw it long ago and don't remember much about it, so I thought I'd give it a shot again.

Hebdomeros said...

That's one freaky movie. It doesn't follow along with the "plot" of the novel, but really does get the spirit of a bad drug trip.

I'm not a huge beat person either. I often find I like reading about them (ie biographies) more than I like reading their own work.