Sunday, August 26, 2007

Today's Inquirer reviews (Part I) ...

... It's not really a review, but Alfred Lubrano looks at On the Road after half a century: Odometer turning 50 for Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’.

I sent an email alerting the powers that be that the link to the slide show of Eric Mencher's wonderful photos is not working. With any luck that will soon be fixed.


  1. Hi Frank,

    It's fixed now. Very enjoyable slideshow, just plain high poetry most of the time.

    Alfred Lubrano's article is excellent. He got to interview John Sampas, who knew Kerouac very well: and who has read him thoroughly to boot:

    "He also was a very tender, sweet, warm, gentle intellectual giant," Sampas said from his Lowell home. "Only after reading all his journals and diaries did I come to realize he was a genius."

    This jives with Carolyn Cassady's remarks in Sean O'Hagan's article of a few weeks ago, America's first king of the road. Here is an excerpt:

    'He was just so sensitive,' says Neal Cassady's widow Carolyn, who had a long affair with Kerouac. 'Everything hurt him deeply. He had the thin skin of the artist as well as the guilt that his Catholic upbringing had instilled in him. In the end, he was just so depressed about how he was being misrepresented, how his great and beautiful book was being blamed for all the excesses of the Sixties. He just couldn't take it.'

    She adds later in the article:

    'It's all about money and surface now, the clothes you wear, the things you buy, and no one is the slightest bit ashamed of being superficial. I often thank God that Jack and Neal did not live long enough to see what has become of their vision'.

    We have two people who knew Kerouac differently characterizing him as sensitive, artisitic, sweet, warm, a genius, and with vision (which is very different from being haphazard).

    What a great way Alfred Lubrano begins his article:

    From its start, America was a westward-leaning country.

    The notion that a person could always head west to pursue his dreams, find himself, or start over is a basic tenet of American myth and tradition.

    A geeky jock "from a working-class French-Canadian family in Lowell," who was geeky enough and jock enough to make it into Columbia University heads west, (writes the Great American Novel by the way) and changes the world forever. But will they buy world-changing part, or just the book.


  2. Anonymous9:48 AM

    It is an excellent article -- Al did a great job. Especially considering Al told me at first that he wasn't sure how to approach Kerouac and he had mixed feelings about the novel. I do, too. I've read "On the Road," but it strikes me as really being a guy's book. I never liked the way women were depicted in the book -- they were just pickups for the male protagonists. I'm really glad Al pointed that out, too.

  3. I think one of the sad things about Kerouac is that the only book of his that people read is On the Road. He not only wrote other books. He also wrote better books. Visions of Gerard may well be his best. But take a look at The Dharma Bums. Right away you can tell that Kerouac is in better command of the style he pioneered in Road.

  4. Here's some poetic Kerouacomancy from Mexico City Blues"


    149th Chorus

    I keep falling in love
           with my mother,
    I dont want to hurt her
    --Of all people to hurt.

    Every time I see her
           she's grown older
    But her uniform always
           amazes me
    For its Dutch simplicity
    And the Doll she is,
    The doll-like way
           she stands
    Bowlegged in my dreams,
    Waiting to serve me.

           And I am only an Apache
           Smoking Hashi
           In old Cabashy
           by the Lamp


  5. I should also add that while Kerouac's portrayal of women in Road may be out of synch with our more enlightened times, the fact is he was honest in that portrayal. And that day wasn't this day and today's attitudes didn't prevail then.

  6. Hi Susan,

    A friend of Jack Kerouac's, Joyce Johnson, in her September article for the Smithsonian, Remembering Jack Kerouac, says the following about exploitation of women in On the Road:

    When Sal earnestly asks a rather pathetic girl in the Midwest what she wants out of life, he feels sad that she cannot envision anything beyond the mundane life she already has. Although feminists would later condemn the way Kerouac's male characters exploited women without taking the least responsibility for them, when I first read On the Road in the summer of 1957, I felt that its liberating message was addressed to me as well as to men—a view that many other young women would come to share.

    I'm just reading it and thought of you.

    Here's another excerpt:

    Fifty years after On the Road was first published, Kerouac's voice still calls out: Look around you, stay open, question the roles society has thrust upon you, don't give up the search for connection and meaning. In this bleak new doom-haunted century, those imperatives again sound urgent and subversive—and necessary.


  7. Here's a quote from Carolyn Cassady, not having to do with Kerouac's characters Sal and Dean, but the real Kerouac and Cassady:

    No one seems to realize how conventional we all were--we all came from such Victorian houses. Jack was the kid of immigrants. He and Neal were perfect gentlemen. They respected women. Old-fashioned values were part of their consciousness. [--Carolyn Cassady]

    from Meghan O'Rourke: Slate: On the Road Again