Monday, August 27, 2007

On the Road: The Original Scroll

"Here I made and attempt to settle down those I love in a more or less permanent homestead from which all human operations could be conducted to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. I believe in a good home, in sane and sound living, in good food, good times, work, faith and hope. I have always believed in these things. It was with some amazement that I realized I was one of the few people in the world who really believed in these things without going around making a middleclass philosophy out of it."

I've flipped through the 1957 publication of Kerouac's On the Road and haven't come across this passage. Maybe I've overlooked it. However, in reading that passage from the original scroll, published this last week by Viking Press, it hit me like a blunt object. Perhaps, it seems super-relevant because of where I'm at in my life – sick, tired, lonely, Mayor of Mt. Holly. Or perhaps its relevancy stems from the context.

The original scroll is a documentary of loneliness (where Kerouac exists even more detached from his saints and churns with a deeper longing for an inclusive answer to life). The relationships between husbands and wives are cold and selfish on a Bukowskian par. Intimacy is always fleeting, sometimes brutal. Life is suffering and selfish. Thieving is justified. The road is less glamorous, more a last ditch attempt at uncovering how far Kerouac, and each of us is from a life where our ideals make sense, nonetheless work. Lonely.

For those who've read On the Road before, put aside any academic or novelty preconceptions of this book. It is a whole new shitstorm of life, harder to take, forcing the realization that life is purest at it's worst. (FYI: For those looking to roll around and romanticize a beat lifestyle with the earnestness (and pocketbook) of mothers shopping at Target once a week, go ahead, it's your life, fuck it up. Forget about the meth-heads, neglected children, abused wives, and ever-lonely adulterous husbands who have for more to do with the essence of this book than your or my full-wallet-on-barstool-and-study-full-of-books ever will.)

For those who have not read On the Road before and are looking to pick it up in light of all of the 50th anniversary fanfare, read this version, but don't read it lightly. Don't look to this book as a beat novel. It was written before John Clellon Holmes' Go (considered the first beat novel) was published. It is raw and very human. The lyric of this book comes from a very pure and human experiment, unconcerned with fitting into a genre or to wax poetic. It is as urgent a novel as one will ever get the chance to read – and you should.

1 comment:

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