Happy Birthday, Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac scared the shit out of me.
The reasons are obvious. I was a good girl, a cautious girl, an only child who had all the traits of an oldest child. I was a control freak, I played by the rules and didn’t take too many chances.
As a kid, I wasn’t one for lots of ego and letting my freak flag fly. Oh, sure, I knew how to crack a joke, but I did that in family circles and off at the edge of the pulsing crowd.  I was fearful of the mad ones, possibly because I knew that there was madness within me. The vulnerable, imperfect, silently howling, introspective, one of these kids is not like the other, who does she think she is with these words and these thoughts? kind of madness.
In my twenties, I was given a collection of Jack Kerouac’s writings by an older colleague at Conde Nast. Whether he saw the madness within me or was just cleaning out bookshelves, I can’t say. But the books hummed in my hands. I was frightened and angered and mesmerized at his language, his run-on sentences, his sensuous description of nearly every blessed thing. And I was forever changed by reading his words.
Jack Kerouac had issues, as we say in the twenty-first century. He was unbalanced. He was an alcoholic, since he died at 47 from cirrhosis of the liver. But he lived. Oh, Lord how he lived.

I don’t feel like drinking myself to death these days, but the older I get, the more I see how much of this gorgeous life needs to be drunk in. How much beauty, how much joy, how many ordinary days that are jewels in every person’s crown, if only they would stop and see. How we are all so beautiful, how we are all so blessed, how we are all so possible.

Happy 90th birthday, Jack. Your words still hum.
From Jack Kerouac’s ”Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials,” written in a letter to Don Allen, 1958
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
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Comments

  1. I always felt like everything he wrote was of great significance, but maybe that's just because I couldn't understand it. It was certainly powerful.

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