The edited-out versions of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, direct from the scroll, are coming out soon. Awesome. Though I expect it to be largely gibberish—it wasn’t just edited out because it was controversial, but because it was likely unintelligible from the editor’s point of view—it’s exciting to think of reading the book in its full form. Just before leaving for Florida in June, I read Desolation Angels, and earlier in the spring I read Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954.
Now, On the Road is one of my favorite books, like every other book, far behind Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and slightly behind Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (or slightly ahead, depending on my mood). I have read it about five times, and the last impression I have of it is that you first get swept up in the fast-moving free-wheeling roaming-about feeling of the book, partly because of the prose style, partly because of the content—one mimics the other. But in approximately the second half of the book, I get a different feeling—irresponsibility, lack of character, uselessness. I still get the talk about “knowing time” and the freedom of moving about, exploring the idea of God and people in different quarters of the US, but Desolation Angels brought a new view to that. In the second half of that book, you can feel Jack’s tiredness with the Beat “movement” and the flitting about, acting intellectual, acting as if there’s more than there is, just acting different instead of being—a sort of critique on the movement that he helped to start.
Anyway, more on this later, perhaps. Why is this in a blog called “Road Trip to Space?” First, because I prefer this type of literature to astronaut biographies, and it is my blog, dammit. Second, because I’m writing a piece where I simply take out the word “Beat” and replace it with “Space,” i.e., thinking about the Space Generation as an insider-outsider, much as Jack did with Ginsberg and Co., the drivers of the Beat Generation.