Monday, March 16, 2009

all the people dreaming in the immensity of it all

"...I'd like to recall a moment on fifties-era American television when Steve Allen asked Jack Kerouac, something of a spokesman for the Bea Generation, for a definition of the term "Beat." Almost before he'd finished the question, Kerouac responded, "Sympathetic." The posture of the Beat Movement is one of mutual beatness before the world, and to feel worn down, tempted toward melancholy but not despairing, is to be heartbroken in the direction of increased sympathy for all creation groaning and awaiting redemption. And if the alternative to this brand of beat is unsympathetic posture, uncompassionate and not prone to solidarity, then the venom with which a Kerouac says a word like "Square" seems pretty well justified. Right up there with "hypocrites," "blind guides," "racist," fascist," and "brood of vipers."
David Dark, The Gospel According to America, p. 58

I think I started reading Jack Kerouac at a point when my balance was already tipping towards a commitment to Christ. He entered the mix somehow. (I remember that he described the subterraneans as being like Jesus, which was very appealing.) There was a purity to his writing that made Buddhism appealing. That has stayed with me to some extent (on and off) and so has his compassionate enthusiastic writing style. I recorded the documentary this video is excerpted from on to the end of my copy of Bladerunner and watched them both a lot over a couple of years before going to University (often with my friend Richard). My feelings about Kerouac have become a lot more conflicted over the years and I have gone for long periods without thinking about him but he is like an old friend and I find myself wanting to get back in touch with him now and again. Reading David Dark on the train this morning reminded me of what I like, and miss, most about him.

1 comment:

Richard said...

"I used to like you, Alan"

It's funny, Kerouac is compassionate about everything; poets, food, booze, mountains, coast, forest, flowers; everything except for himself and women.