Monday, 27 August 2012
The Only People For Me Are The Mad Ones
I first read On The Road in the summer of 1989, aged 19. I loved it. It didn't get me hitch-hiking across North America but I went on to read loads of other Kerouac novels, biographies, and then onwards into Burroughs, Ginsberg and the rest. Kerouac's work is full of contradictions- some of it is almost unreadable (Dr Sax say), some of it just has to be read for the writing rather than any sense of narrative. He famously typed On The Road in a three week Benzadrine fuelled binge on a non-stop roll of paper. It had to be widely edited to make any narrative sense. For all the wanderlust and adventures and search for kicks, he spent his life with the apron strings to his mother firmly uncut. He tried to balance the booze, partying and excitement with a spiritual quest, settling for Buddhism and his own version of Zen. When fame hit him, ten years after writing the book, he soon found he couldn't cope. Held up by the hippies as the King of the Beats he criticised, even loathed, the 60s counter culture and died an alcoholic in front of the TV in Florida. But the sense of freedom in his best writing, the lyrical nature of the verse, the attempt to 'write jazz', the trip to Mexico in On The Road, The Dharma Bums, parts of Desolation Angels, are all beautiful and romantic and inspiring.
Long considered unfilmable, Walter Salles, has had a go at it (starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen). The trailer below looks right but you just can't tell from a trailer how good a film is going to be. It got mixed reviews at Cannes in the summer. I'm kind of looking forward to it when it gets released this December.
Kerouac recorded several albums, sometimes reading his work alone, sometimes reading it accompanied by jazz musicians.
Jack Kerouac Reading On The Road