my attempt at blending the arts I cherish

Kerouac and Me

I encountered Jack Kerouac for the first time in my US History II class. our instructor flashed a dashing picture of the writer and a few of his quotes up on the screen.

in 1957, Kerouac finally published his quasi-autobiographical novel On The Road, and it met with instant success. The story, ten-years in the making, was wild and written in such a manner that raced the reader through Kerouac’s fictionalized tale in a fresh and novel way. Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s character, narrates an unfolding and ever-rushing account of a cross-country gang of beatniks headed by the infamous Dean Moriarty. at that time, a “beat” or beatnik was the term used to identify a “young and artistic person who rejects the mores of conventional society” (Webster’s Dictionary). at the core of the story, that’s what the main characters set out to do–fight the societal current they found themselves trapped in by living to the absolute fullest with the aid of drugs, alcohol, limited cash, and countless journeys crisscrossing their nation.

“The stars bent over the little roof; smoke poked from the stovepipe chimney. I smelled mashed beans and chili. The old man growled… A California home; I hid in the grapevines, digging it all. I felt like a million dollars; I was adventuring in the crazy American night.”

so, when I, a pseudo-sheltered, post-home schooler (I know I’m labeling myself), took up Kerouac’s raucous tale this summer, I grinned and held on for dear life. because to my incredible shock, I was instantly bound up in the story right along Sal, Dean, Mary Lou, and the whole lot of them raging from town to town “getting kicks” and living fat. Kerouac led me into a world I’d never seen, pushing me from one great thrill to another till we would collapse penniless in some nowhere blip on the map waiting for fate to carry us on. but the beauty of it all, was that in the midst of me reading this novel, I took a trip out West only to find that Kerouac was all tied up in it. at some points i’d scream out in the car, “We’re on the exact same road as him!” or once, in the middle of 300 mile stretch of desert, “He literally just mentioned the town we’re passing through!”

to travel with Kerouac alongside, always urging me to drink a little deeper, cry a little longer, read a little farther, love a little longer, and burn a little brighter, was an experience like none I’ve ever known. I came away enlightened by this out of control tale that will forever beat beneath the skin of this nation, beckoning at all of our insatiable desire to go and live deeply.


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This entry was posted on September 7, 2012 by in Musings and tagged , , , , , , .

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