On The Road

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
Jack Kerouac

Once again, an old drawing for new mock-up. Kerouac’s an interesting character, and clearly an important presence in late 20th century art, but I bet that (and this goes for a lot of the other ‘Beats’) he was a pain in the arse to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Fame didn’t do him many favours either, contributing to the debilitating alcoholism and his early death. I’ve found that On The Road is a book you really have to read when you’re young, when you’re perhaps more forgiving and will let the author get away with passages like this:

the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

It’s easy to satirise this (as Alan Moore did to great effect in his Black Dossier, pastiching the Kerouac style as ‘Sal Paradise’) but elsewhere in the book there are other moments where he dials it down a touch and achieves the same effect:

I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

It’s important to note that just as vital to the writing of the book was Kerouac’s co-pilot on the road trip he documented – the unique creature that was Neal Cassady. To some a womanising con man, petty thief and drug addict, to others the living embodiment of what On The Road was all about, and the source from which would blow the whole ‘Beat’ movement, which flowed into the Hippies, and the rest is history.

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