What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation
John Clellon Holmes, author of the seminal Beat Generation novel Go, wrote in 1952 that for the free-spirited rising stars of American literature known as the Beats, “how to live seems to them much more crucial than why.” In those years, young people in the U.S. were in the process of inheriting both economic prosperity and stifling societal mores from their parents. So for many, the Beat Generation of writers—with their stupendous refusal of social and cultural norms and their way of life governed by the pursuit of pleasure, belief, and truth—was a godsend.
Today’s young people experience problems of a bit of a different ilk. Feeling free and adventurous won’t avail you of your student loan debt, poems penned in the days between drug-fueled nights probably won’t make it into your favorite lit mag—and, if they did, you’d probably be asked to write for free anyway, you know, “for the exposure.” But this hasn’t stopped a veritable resurgence over the last few years of Beat obsession, beginning with the film Howl (2010), and continuing with On the Road (2012) and two new films, Kill Your Darlings, in theaters today, and Big Sur, opening November 1. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—the authors of On the Road and Howl, respectively—have been the focus of two films each.
Read more. [Image: Sony Pictures]

What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation

John Clellon Holmes, author of the seminal Beat Generation novel Go, wrote in 1952 that for the free-spirited rising stars of American literature known as the Beats, “how to live seems to them much more crucial than why.” In those years, young people in the U.S. were in the process of inheriting both economic prosperity and stifling societal mores from their parents. So for many, the Beat Generation of writers—with their stupendous refusal of social and cultural norms and their way of life governed by the pursuit of pleasure, belief, and truth—was a godsend.

Today’s young people experience problems of a bit of a different ilk. Feeling free and adventurous won’t avail you of your student loan debt, poems penned in the days between drug-fueled nights probably won’t make it into your favorite lit mag—and, if they did, you’d probably be asked to write for free anyway, you know, “for the exposure.” But this hasn’t stopped a veritable resurgence over the last few years of Beat obsession, beginning with the film Howl (2010), and continuing with On the Road (2012) and two new films, Kill Your Darlings, in theaters today, and Big Sur, opening November 1. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—the authors of On the Road and Howl, respectively—have been the focus of two films each.

Read more. [Image: Sony Pictures]

JACK KEROUAC (March 12, 1922 - October 21, 1969)
“Atop An Underwood”
A poet is a fellow who spends his time thinking about what it is that’s wrong, and although he knows he can never quite find out what this wrongis, he goes right on thinking it out and writing it down. A poet is a blind optimist. The world is against him for many reasons. But the poet persists. He believes that he is on the right track, no matter what any of his fellow men say. In his eternal search for truth, the poet is alone. He tries to be timeless in a society built on time.

JACK KEROUAC (March 12, 1922 - October 21, 1969)

“Atop An Underwood”

A poet is a fellow who
spends his time thinking
about what it is that’s
wrong, and although
he knows he can never quite
find out what this wrong
is, he goes right on
thinking it out and writing
it down.
A poet is a blind optimist.
The world is against him for
many reasons. But the
poet persists. He believes
that he is on the right track,
no matter what any of his
fellow men say. In his
eternal search for truth, the
poet is alone.
He tries to be timeless in a
society built on time.

"My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad."
Jack Kerouac, On the Road


1. Mark Twain - “He had his leather bound notebooks custom made according to his own design idea. Each page had a tab; once a page had been used, he would tear off its tab, allowing him to easily find the next blank page for his jottings”

2. Charles Darwin - “The notebooks were filled with memorandum to himself on things to look further into, questions he wanted to answer, scientific speculations, notes on the many books he was currently reading, natural observations, sketches, and lists of the books he had read and wanted to read. But the progression is far from orderly: the entries are chaotically arranged and wide-ranging; they jump from one scientific subject to the next and are interspersed with notes on correspondences and conversations. He would rest the notebook on his desk and write horizontally down the page with a pen, and, like Isaac Newton, he would sometimes start in from both ends of the notebook at once and work towards the middle.

3. Jack Kerouac - The notebook entry reads: 

“Ginsberg — intelligent enuf, interested in the outward appearance & pose of great things, intelligent enuf to know where to find them, but once there he acts like Jerry Newman, the photographer anxious to be photographed photographing —— Ginsberg wants to run his hand up the backs of people, for this he gives and seldom takes — He is also a mental screwball

*(Tape recorder anxious to be tape recorded tape recording) (like Seymour Barab anxious to have his name in larger letters than Robert Louis Stevenson, like Steinberg & Verlaine Rimbaud Baudelaire”

4. Ernest Hemingway - The notebook entry reads:

“My name is Ernest Miller Hemingway

I was born on July 21, 1899

My favorite authors are Kipling, O. Henry and Steuart Edward White.

My favorite flower is lady slipper and tiger lily.

My favorite sports are trout fishing, hiking, shooting, football and boxing.

My favorite studies are English, zoology and chemistry.

I intend to travel and write.”

"Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain."
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

My book is still a work in progress. I think I may need to take another trip first… 

"I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling & laughing."
Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac, The Art of Fiction No. 41

The Kerouacs have no telephone. Ted Berrigan had contacted Kerouac some months earlier and had persuaded him to do the interview. When he felt the time had come for their meeting to take place, he simply showed up at the Kerouacs’s house. Two friends, poets Aram Saroyan and Duncan McNaughton, accompanied him. Kerouac answered his ring; Berrigan quickly told him his name and the visit’s purpose. Kerouac welcomed the poets, but before he could show them in, his wife, a very determined woman, seized him from behind and told the group to leave at once.

   “Jack and I began talking simultaneously, saying ‘Paris Review!’ ‘Interview!’ etc.,” Berrigan recalls, “while Duncan and Aram began to slink back toward the car. All seemed lost, but I kept talking in what I hoped was a civilized, reasonable, calming, and friendly tone of voice, and soon Mrs. Kerouac agreed to let us in for twenty minutes, on the condition that there be no drinking.

   “Once inside, as it became evident that we actually were in pursuit of a serious purpose, Mrs. Kerouac became more friendly, and we were able to commence the interview. It seems that people still show up constantly at the Kerouacs’s looking for the author of On the Road, and stay for days, drinking all the liquor and diverting Jack from his serious occupations.

    “As the evening progressed the atmosphere changed considerably, and Mrs. Kerouac, Stella, proved a gracious and charming hostess. The most amazing thing about Jack Kerouac is his magic voice, which sounds exactly like his works. It is capable of the most astounding and disconcerting changes in no time flat. It dictates everything, including this interview.

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"Japhy and I were kind of outlandish-looking on the campus in our old clothes in fact Japhy was considered an eccentric around the campus, which is the usual thing for campuses and college people to think whenever a real man appears on the scene — college being nothing but grooming schools for the middle-class non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization. ‘All these people,’ said Japhy, ‘they all got white-tiled toilets and take big dirty craps like bears in the mountains, but it’s all washed away to convenient supervised sewers and nobody thinks of crap any more or realizes their origin is shit and civet and scum of the sea. They spend all day washing their hands with creamy soaps they secretly wanta eat in the bathroom…"
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
revoirlamer:

Described by Kerouac as being about “man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies”, the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

revoirlamer:

Described by Kerouac as being about “man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies”, the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

Kerouac’s Rules for Writing Spontaneous Prose

Kerouac’s Rules for Writing Spontaneous Prose