thirty.

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (1962)
“And in the flush of the first few days of joy I confidently tell myself (not expecting what I’ll do in three weeks only) ‘no more dissipation, it’s time for me to quietly watch the world and even enjoy it, first in woods like these, then just calmly walk and talk among people of the world, no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies and everybody, no more I ask myself the question O why is God torturing me, that’s it, be a loner, travel, talk to waiters, walk around, no more self-imposed agony…it’s time to think and watch and keep concentrated on the fact that after all this whole surface of the world as we know it now will be covered with the silt of a billion years in time…Yay, for this, more aloneness” 
 Jack Duluoz, Kerouac’s alter-ego has passed 40, is tired of fans who break into his house, and he seriously needs to take a break from alcohol and drugs. So he borrows his friend Monsanto’s cabin in Big Sur to spend some weeks in solitude. But the death of his beloved cat sends him on a binge. So Jack soon finds himself out and about in San Francisco and Los Gatos, but although the nights are awesome with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the days are spent in nervous agony and Jack’s nerves are failing him.
This is the saddest Jack Kerouac I have read. The way Jack is struggling with depression and reality is getting more and more evident by the pages. He also steals his friend Cody’s mistress, Billie, and they spend some mad weeks together, and Billie wants them to get married and Jack to be the father of her son, but Jack is sure that the son is the offspring of the devil. It’s more the language rather than the events that makes this book so sad, I’m in love with Kerouac’s style.
“But I remember seeing a mess of leaves suddenly go skittering in the wind and into the creek, then floating rapidly down the creek towards the sea, making me feel a nameless horror even then of ‘Oh my God, we’re all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do”

My reason for picking this book up now, is that in a little more than a month’s time, I’ll find myself in Big Sur. I’m hoping it will be as beautiful as Kerouac describes it, and I’m sure there will be some nights with too much wine as well. There’s a film adaptation coming out later this year, along with an adaptation of On the Road. I will also throw in a recommendation of the album One Fast Move or I’m Gone by Jay Ferrar and Benjamin Gibbard. It will be on heavy rotation on the road from San Francisco to Big Sur!

eighty-five.

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac (1945)


In 1944 both Burroughs and Kerouac were charged as accessories to murder, after one of their friends murdered a much older homosexual suitor. After the event, the two, then unpublished author, co-wrote a book based on the days before the murder. They couldn’t get the book published in the beginning, and later on they also promised the murderer that the book wouldn’t be published. It was finally published in 2008, long after all the people involved were dead.

The story is narrated by Will Dennison (the chapters are written by Burroughs) and Mike Ryko (the chapters are written by Kerouac), and follows them around New York in the days before the murder. Will Dennison is occasionally working as a detective, but also deals on the other side of the law. Mike Ryko is trying to find a ship to work on, but drinks too much. The pretty boy, Phillipp, is fed up with his much older suitor, Al, and wants to ship out with Mike, but the trouble is that they never find a suitable boat for their plan to run off to France.

It was great to read a not confusing story by William S. Burroughs. I read Naked Lunch a few years ago, and it was so confusing that I have been dreading to pick up Junky, although it has been on my shelf for too long now. Jack Kerouac is, as always, brilliant.

The afterword by James Grauerholz explains the real circumstances concerning the murder and gives a great insight in the life of the Beat generation.

eight.

the Town and the City by Jack Kerouac (1946)

Jack Kerouac was the beat generation apparently. Writing about all those people travelling from one place to another never knowing what they’re looking for. And for someone who has lived in four different countries in four years, he is certainly appealing. I read On the Road in Montréal, while being on the road not knowing where I ended up, and I loved it so much that I regret giving it away.

The Town and the City was Kerouac’s first novel and it is about a family with seven kids and it expands from the children being born in a small town in Massachusetts, follows some of them around the world, moves to New York and ends at the dad’s funeral. I love the way it’s written, so many beautiful sentences and paragraphs. I wish it would focus more on the girls in the family, but that’s just me wishing for too much.

When bookless in Rome, I stumbled into a small used book store with an English section limited to books read for classes, but nevertheless, I ended up buying Pamela by Samuel Richardson. A book some 18th century lit professor once recommended and I hope it is as scandalous as the cover says.

And I just have to show off the beautiful Korean bookmark that arrived in my mail box yesterday. It is my first proper bookmark, no more using postcards I guess.