The Guardian quotes Jack Kerouac as having said of his first novel – unpublished until now – that it was “a crock as literature”. But it’s a crock from Jack. I probably won’t read it, although there was a time…
You have to understand that back in the day, Jack spoke to me. I was a fifteen year old kid when the 60’s dawned on me. I discovered Kerouac in that year and began to read everything I could get my hands on of his: On The Road I read about three years after its publication. This was quickly followed by The Subteranneans, then The Dharma Bums. Desolation Angels and Big Sur came along sometime after that. I went back and read others along the way. It was the energy and wonder of youth that got to me. Live life as if you mean it – society be damned. That philosophy can have it’s consequences – as Jack himself found out later – if lived unchecked. But unchecked living was what Jack committed himself to . I think you had to respect him for that, while saddened about where it led him.
His life for me was a signpost as well as a cautionary tale. Ultimately I took too much of the caution and not enough of the direction from the signposts. I still take myself up to Lowell each year in September for the Jack Kerouac 5k. It’s the least I can do to pay tribute.
Not sure why, but a combination of the image that I see in my mind’s eye and these words from Desolation Angels have stuck with me since I read them back in the mid-sixties. Nature can strike you hard. Nature can tell you do not ever forget this image and what it tells you. I am immutable. You are transitory:
Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody’s even heard of it, and it’s only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from, deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black – the Void, every time I think of the Void I’d see Hozomeen and understand…[Jack Kerouac from the beginning of Desolation Angels]