1. Kerouac’s On the Road showed me, at age 19, possibilities in ways of living and in types of writing that felt exciting, that inspired me. I am not as enamored with the book now as I was then, but it unlocked the world for me at the time. In an A.V. Club review of the movie, Noel Murray writes:
But since there’s no plot, just a series of anecdotes, much of the meaning in the movie version of On The Road is meta-textual, relying on the viewers’ knowledge of who Kerouac was, and how the novel’s vision of America differed from how most of the rest of popular culture documented the ’50s.
As I read this, I thought that maybe this meta-textual aspect is also true of the book — I came to the book with the knowledge that it was famous for being this authentic, underground (but not really) work, and since so much of the book is autobiographical, I read biographies and other nonfiction works about Kerouac and the Beats. Perhaps all famous books have this mythic story built up around the text — the con-text, the with-text, as it were.
2. A Dish referral to questions about archiving the Internet.
3. The Dish’s Whitman poem for Sunday.
4. A thought about Rilke.
Your comments on Kerouac touch on some hot topics deserving fuller attention. Somehow, there’s a range of work that touches individuals profoundly without being facilely commercial, on one side, or critically solid, on the other, yet remains essentially literary — based in the written word. I suspect that much of this thin thread is the fact that it arises from some kind of direct experience.
Like you, Kerouac touched me in this way,although “On the Road” is his one novel I’ve never been able to complete. Brautigan is another who inspires me in spite of his many flaws. What gives?
Is the mythic story you observe somehow another facet of the direct-experience origins of the work itself?