Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the Road

On the Road lives on (the road never ends?), 50 years old this year. The book's author, Jack Kerouac, only made it to age 47 when he died in 1969 from a lifetime of hard living, mainly hard drinking. Like many people I read it when I was young and impressionable. I spent a few months pretending I liked jazz. Used "I dig it" in conversation. Never wore a beret.
Today the book is a glimpse at a simpler time, pre-Internet, 9/11, drinking and driving laws....

I think the NY Times feels a bit proprietary about On the Road, as perhaps they should as their review of the book on September 5, 1957 brought it to public attention (read it here). There are a couple of articles today (article here and discussion here). The Times' book blog Paper Cuts notes, "We’ve officially entered what might as well be called Jack Kerouac Awareness Month", and points to several anniversary pieces:
The big retrospective Kerouac essays have already begun appearing – here is Sean O’Hagan’s take in The Guardian, and here’s David Gates in the new issue of Newsweek. (If you haven’t yet read Gates’s classic essay “Breaking Up With the Beats,” which ran in Salon in 1999*, now is the time.)

[*Gates' essay, "Breaking Up with the Beats" is in The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors here at the Library]
***Update August 23: I just noticed that On the Road is available in e-audio at the Library, via our digital audiobook service, NetLibrary. And even better, it is read by Frank Muller, one of the very best audiobook performers (readers?).

That other Beat Generation artifact, the poem Howl, by Allen Ginsberg had its golden moment last year. I ran across an interesting version here at the Library today: The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later, edited by Jason Shinder. The essays are fine but the cool part is the CD included, with the first known recording of Allen Ginsberg reciting "Howl" - March 18, 1956 in Berkeley, as well as a facsimile of a 1956 mimeograph of the poem.

You know how it starts....
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An outsider's view of the legacy of the Beats and "On the Road" is being blogged at

10:08 p.m.  

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