Saturday, December 22, 2012

Guess you had to be there …

… Missing The Beat: The Story Of Adapting Kerouac’s On The Road - The (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Many of On The Road’s themes could hardly be more relevant in today’s turbulent political environment, and the social fabric of the United States in the early 1950s bears a closer resemblance to modern-day America than many people will admit. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tireless Communist witch hunts during the second “Red Scare” were beginning to gain momentum toward the end of the timeframe of Kerouac’s novel, just as the relentless hunt for al-Qaida operatives has become a commonly-used device for political control spanning two government administrations. The sadness and emptiness of the American people that Sal Paradise observes during his travels mirror the frustration and hopelessness felt by many people today.
If I may quote myself (though it mostly Kerouac) this is from something I wrote when the Library of America issued Kerouac's road novels in a single volume:
Yeah, Jack knew something was wrong with America in the ’50s — it’s still wrong  — and he knew, as he said much later in probably his saddest book, Satori in Paris (sad because by then he was a broken-down drunk and knew it) that what was needed was “a tale that’s told for companionship and to teach something religious, of religious reverence, about real life, in this real world,” not the “silence in the yards,”  but  — and we’re back to The Dharma Bums now — “the roar of silence itself, which is a great Shhhh reminding you of something you’ve seemed to have forgotten in the stress of your days since birth.” 
Kerouac's is a religious, not a socio-political vision.

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