Prelude to Big Sur

kerouac_10It is sunny, no humidity in the late spring of 1960. A brisk breeze blows in Northport, Long Island where Jack Kerouac has made his home with his mother for two years now.

He sits in his yard reading his copy of  Suranguma Sutra:

What suffers rebirth is not the individual, but the pain of individuality…

He is sober, for now, having taken upon himself a concerted effort to abstain once again, to hold together his unraveling sanity and to maintain the endurance necessary to write. The mail has stopped coming since he hasn’t published a new book since the previous summer. For now there is Book of Dreams to which he was recently busy pencilling edits  (changing names) in his “blackboard onionskin private Dreambook” he has to return to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights in San Francisco. He also deletes dreams selected for publication by Ferlinghetti dealing with “ex-wives” so as to avoid libel lawsuits.

The momentum of On the Road slowed to a crawl, and the past three years had gone by in a blur, exacerbated by alcohol abuse and a hesitant dalliance with fame. Most of his important books written between 1952 and 1954 had already been published by publishers eager to snatch up a slice of the Kerouac pie, all released to little fan fare. There still is little regard for the merits of his unique writing and for the most part each book is panned by critics and shunned by readers.  They bring royalty checks to cover the bills, but little else. Little by little, in America, they drop out of print, and since they had become forgotten, so was he.

He craves attention as much as he despises it.

So for now he sits in a lounge chair in his suburban backyard, bitterly remarking in his diary on the Soviet’s nuclear fallout from test bombing nuclear weaponry, that such men  could ever “contaminate the freedom of eternity.”  The previous night he had observed the rising moon. It reminded him of watching numerous rising moons in the northwest when he served as a fire lookout in the Washington Cascades. It makes him yearn for such an escape once more.

This night it rises again, bright and yellow as Kerouac watches from his yard with its stockade fencing, four trees and fresh-mown grass. He liked to think of himself as hiding incognito from the sufferings of fame and the nightmarish hellhounds of drinking. Or those who throw rocks at his door to get his attention. Here is serenity among his mother’s roses and daisies. To carry out his wish fulfillment of being like Henry Thoreau, he planted bean and corn plants. But somehow none of that is enough.

His mind is his means of making a living, yet he is barely driven to write. When he can’t write, he retrieves older work. This time he is under pressure to write another column for Escapade and another for True magazine. He considers using an abstract from an early draft of On the Road, his “Ray Smith ROAD” which he titles “The Loneliness of Doren Coit.” Finishing it means he could earn $1500.00  to buy a piano and take him to Mexico. But he doesn’t want to write it. To write his new column, Kerouac recited some of it into his reel-to-reel tape recorder. He knew what he wanted to say in it, but still felt like he didn’t want to. In the late 40s and early 50s, he was motivated by the truth of what he wanted to say, to describe, to confess, but all of that has faded into a memory as intangible as the dreams in Ferlinghetti’s fair copy of manuscript he has sent him.

By June 9, he is more hopeful. When he wakes, the sky reminds him of Canada and he learns that he has finally sold Doctor Sax overseas to French publisher, Gallimard. Doctor Sax, he regards as his masterpiece and its failure of America to accept that means he has another chance in the homeland of his ancestors.

By night he wonders, watching a full moon rising “cold & strange” over the sterile suburban Long Island landscape.

The next day Kerouac “knocked out” his jazz column for Escapade (which won’t be published until its December 1960 issue): “Ten years ago my good friend Seymour Wyse of London ran his finger across his throat and said: “Jass killed itself.”

It isn’t the piece abstracted from his “Ray Smith” working draft, but another utilized from his tape recording recital. But he still has the article to write for True. Another idea occurs to him where he imagines explaining “beat” to his old Lowell buddy, Mike Fournier. On several occasions, taking this creative tact helped him jumpstart his writing when he was starved for a method to move him through time. In April 1951, it was his second wife to which he explained the story of the road and Neal Cassady. In a few years it will be his third wife to which he will write of his long-gone football youth, when everything was fresh and exciting and the road was still ahead of him (in Vanity of Duluoz). But who to speak to now? He reaches into his past, to a person he hadn’t spoken to in almost two decades and is confounded because it baffles him into futility.

He is proud of the fact that he hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in days now. But that spell of sobriety is broken by evening when he has acquaintances over, Tom Payne, his “millionaire girlfriend” Mickey  and Kerouac’s girlfriend Lois Sorrels. He gets drunk on gin. The ghost horrors of his heart resumes tenancy.

By the following morning, Kerouac is sick, not only because he is hungover, but with pangs of remorse. There is, he realizes, a pattern to his illness, and though he can identify this pattern, he does little to stop it. He continues drinking into the next day with Lois, his woman for the moment. Though she fulfills his sexual needs (under Gabe’s roof no less, crudely telling Ginsberg that she “comes to fuck and suck”), she is helpless to aid him in other ways.

By June 13, a Monday, he sinks to a gloomy funk. By Tuesday, he feels that his brain has gone “soft” and the labor of writing is the furthest thing from his mind. He has fallen into the same old trappings and no amount of reading the Surangama Sutra was going to save him. He only had to turn to his own Dharma notebooks for guidance:

The reason not to drink any alcohol at all is to attain permanently to the shivering bliss of pure blood. To keep the mind from confusion.” [see also Some of the Dharma, 94].

“Drink,” he writes in his “Dharma” notebook on January 30, 1955, “is the curse of the Holy Life.” 5.5 years later he is battling the very same demons, this time in his house with the “reverend mother,” Gabrielle (as he referred to her in a Lowell interview a couple of years later). But that can’t shield him from his personal demons. There is little to do to wile away the long hours of a springtime slowly growing hotter into summer. Most times he makes  “tape records” from jazz playing off the radio. In his heart he craves to write another novel by candlelight, like he did with Visions of Gerard when he penciled it in the candlelit darkness high on benezedrine in the wintry nights of January 1956 on his sister’s table top in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (addressing it to Lucien Carr).

He craves the impressionistic rush of holy words that came to him effortlessly, unhampered by brain fog and boredom, bowing to the great Buddhawork of his holy mission, salved by St. Paul’s Corinthians: “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

He is in need of a “secret trip” he tells Allen Ginsberg in a letter written to him in Peru on June 20. Mexico is his first choice: “if only I could have a month alone, and smile and talk to myself quietly in French in a flowery sad Mexican midnight study, with a big garden wall of lizards maybe …” He feels that he nothing more than a “hairy loss old man with not-thought and no-talk almost.” [letter to Ginsberg, June 20, 1960]

By mid-June not much has changed. Writing is the furthest thing from his mind. He feels sick and brain soft. He obsesses on the idea of going away by himself for a month. North port, its humdrum normalcy is driving him mad. When he wakes in the morning, he is “horrified” at that prospect of facing his mother … or anybody. Sitting in his midnight yard he self-analyzes what his problem is and what he should do about it. He is disturbed by the darkest depths of his depression to the degree that it tears him away from those life choices that brought him solace and joy. He doesn’t want to write or read. He doesn’t want to pray or meditate. He doesn’t want to “believe in anything any more.” He craves a “holiday to rediscover my heart.”

By mid-month agent Sterling Lord writes that Italian publishers have purchased the rights to Doctor Sax and Maggie Cassidy. More earnings he can count on when the years grow lean.

He yearns respect. It was Dan Talbot’s  June 1958 New York Times review of Tristessa that last lauded Kerouac as a writer worthy of seriousness:

“The true importance of Kerouac is that he rekindled the Super-Romantic tradition at a time when it needed rekindling. He is a born writer, as against an Academy-trained smithy. He loves language, and he obviously has a profound feeling for the human race. Never having been trained, since he didn’t care, to use prose as a sociological weapon or a Czerny exercise, he became a vaudeville bard. At times he sounds embarrassing, even sloppy. In the end he is more truthful, entertaining and honest than most writers on the American scene.”

But that seems like an eternity ago.  He needs to reverse his thinking, to grasp an elusive mindset  to write for himself and not for magazines and novels. He needs to find his own “private groove” like he did sketching in doorways and beat diner counter-tops in ’52, when he could describe the artificial affects of a Manhattan society girl with the same winsome ease as he writes of a junkie Mexican prostitute.

He gets drunk again on his latest favorite pairing: Schweppes and Gin. He pours the delicious clear tonic over his mother’s ice cubes popped from her ice tray and hits it with a splash of gin and soon he is blissfully high, turning the radio knob higher the drunker he gets.

On TV he watches the 1934 film starring Will Rogers, David Harum. In the mail he receives letters at last from Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso and Henri Cru then traveling in Genoa, Italy and scheduled to come to Northport in a few weeks. Desperate to finish his article for True, he starts to write again and stops. Beneath the stars he watches the universe reel a silent dance and for once, feels good. He remembers James Weschler’s essay that states that Kerouac was irresponsibly apolitical. Kerouac concedes because he is  more attached to the freedom of eternity. Doesn’t one’s personality belie sufferance with life and death without ever being truly involved with either?

People, he realizes, only tended to get bored with “final things”; they sought a means to an end, striving to get there without being present in the moment. He rejoined the Prajna understanding of life and death and emptiness. Inspired he composed several sonnets:

“The world’s more / complicated than / an essay.”

There it all was, and he could have died that day knowing that he’d at least brought into manifestation his life’s sole mission, his life’s work. The Legend of Duluoz. Wrestling with mind and body for most of his life was yet to defeat by his sense of artistic responsibility. When he returned to New York City on June 22 (with Lois) he fell into a drinking binge. On the train back to Northport (Tom Payne was supposed to pick them up but didn’t) he experienced strange “benevolent” visions of the passengers.

At home, he sobered. He poured boiling water on poison ivy in the yard and read Norman Mailer’s advent of New Journalism, Advertisements for Myself, picking up on the writer’s humility and sense of humanity. Yet, Kerouac also picked up on the fact that Mailer misidentified “hipster” as a word from 1952. The term reached further back, Kerouac wrote in his diary, as far back as 1932. The word “beat” went possibly further to 1910 (“I’m sure”) to the black South and up to the more-recent exchange between Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong (“I sure is beat”). Mailer, Kerouac realized, had only chosen to take one side “righteously.” Mailer called Kerouac “dishonest.”This so disturbed him that his hand began to shake with dismay: “I just can’t take all this sea of sinister human hate engulfing my head.” Having received his “original manuscript” of On the Road that day, Kerouac realizes that he could have published something far greater than Mailer essays like “The White Negro.” It didn’t happen because On the Road was “horribly” marked-up and “castrated” by Malcolm Cowley. In Kerouac’s opinion, it would have been a far greater book had it been left intact in its original April 1951 incarnation; a long single confessional paragraph of breathless American wonderment (stowing it away in his carefully-maintained archive, Kerouac made plans to republish it in its original form in 1970).

Kerouac had endured being maligned by the American press both over- and under-handedly. The day he struggled with Mailer’s denouncement of his character, Newsday published a cartoon of a bearded, coffee cup/bongo holding beatnik smiling at a headline:”IKE VISIT CANCELLED.” Also pictures was a “Jack Kerouac” book. A drunken Gabrielle wrote Newsday declaring that the Kerouacs were Republicans: “We like Ike.” She called the staff liars and bums. Jack, for his part, did nothing. He never expected to be hated for writing honest-to-life books. He just wanted to be loved for his work. He allowed criticism to wound him because, like a child, he craved encouragement. Children, Kerouac noted, cannot thrive on hatred, nor could any human. Did this sinister encroachment arrive from Eastern Europe? Was it from the nuclear fallout? What of the recent riots storming Tokyo over U.S. occupation, to such a violent extent that Eisenhower was forced to cancel his trip? Do people really want peace at all?

He recalled his Desolation Peak satori: “I don’t know, I don’t care, and it doesn’t make any difference.” It didn’t even make a difference to go to Heaven, or the work it took to get there. There is no connection to what we are doing now and what we’ll be doing in Heaven. On earth, there is no “honest justice” so one is forced to hang in the balance in the great Void existing between Heaven and Earth.

Death haunted, Kerouac pictured his gravestone and its epitaph:

I DON’T KNOW

I DON’T CARE

AND IT DOESN’T MAKE

ANY DIFFERENCE

Kerouac daydreamed of his death, of dying alone in the whirling Void, of the futility of a vainglorious funeral. He feels wiser because he sees the humor of it all. It wasn’t the death of Self that brings you closer to Heaven, but the “not-Self.”

From June 23 to the 29th, there comes another long drinking binge. This time he graduates from gin to whiskey, leering, laughing, shouting with a house full of people. He calls his mother “ugly” in front of an encyclopedia salesman tries to get him to buy a $300.oo book set. Kerouac signs on the dotted line, “Go Fuck Yourself.” He drunk-dials newly jail-sprung Neal Cassady because he is afraid to do it sober (though Carolyn Cassady has written Kerouac  in 1959: “You must banish any thought of any guilt as must Neal. There is none anywhere. Certainly your book would have had nothing whatever to do with his present circumstances!”

He continues drinking until he has difficulty breathing.

He wants to get a cabin and read more; to become a Thoreau of the Mind and  a Buddha of the spirit. In the mirror he sees himself growing flabby and fat. The muggy weather makes him feel even more miserable. There is no more solace in Jesus or jazz.

“I’m dying.”

What lies truly around him? Long Island is a jungle waiting to devour him alive. He begins to despise even the  springtime leaves and is scared of the birds on his mother’s feeder. He is suffering, he feels, from being hexed by “everybody.”

He is going mad.

Kerouac reads Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf to which one presumes Kerouac might find some solace in authorial kinship. Hesse writes, “He belongs to those whose fate it is to live the whole riddle of human destiny heightened to the pitch of a personal torture, a personal hell.” Instead, Kerouac finds Hesse’s pronouncement “absurd” and that the German writer is no more than a “shameless old relic of the 19th century.” Furthermore, he feels that Hesse is an imitator of Dostoevsky. Bitterly, Kerouac is especially vexed because of Hesse’s winning of the 1946 Nobel Prize.

And where was he? What had he earned for all of his troubles? Toward what aim did he sacrifice? He had forsaken two wives and one daughter, and of late, had even reacted badly toward his mother who in turn enabled him with her own drinking. He leans into his pencil, aghast at his naked diary confessions yearning for the Mexican night, of the lean tanned legs of “Tristessa” Esperanza and the swarming shadows of the Market Thieves. Not for him is the soft breeze of Parisian evenings, but that of the hot muggy Catholic guilt he witnessed all over Mexico City as potently as Lowell, Massachusetts. It was all sickening. In his books, critics and readers failed to see the scope and purity of his intent.

He is a martyr. He is Christ ascending Cavalry. He is Buddha beneath a tangerine tree.

He wants a hideout of his own, maybe somewhere in New England, to leave his mother to grow old in Northport. He wondered, in his state, why nobody bothers to help him, to take him away and allow him be left alone. For now he has an attic where the air conditioner pumps in dry air and keeps him away from the stifling summer heat that drops upon the Long Island shore by the end of June.

John Clellon Holmes comes to visit. They sit in the attic and have a long talk. Kerouac shares details of his horrible state of mind. At 2 AM he tries to write but the dense silence of the suburbs affects him to such a degree that he has to turn on his fans to cover the sounds of his scribbling.

“I HATE IT SO MUCH IT’S UNBELIEVABLE THIS HOUSE.”

Kerouac always feels eyes upon him, peering through half-closed drapes, from the street, through the doorway and into his mind. Time shows its emptiness throughout the “shit American Suburban horror” he sought to avoid.

On the morning of July 1, Kerouac wakes with stomach cramps so bad that he writhes on the floor. He shits black blood.

He feels better once it passes until more people come to his door, this time Charlie Byers and his cousin. Kerouac tells him that he’s sick, that his nerves are shot. Byers tries to talk him into a boat ride with his family. He says he’ll even hide the booze so Kerouac isn’t tempted. Kerouac is ashamed that such an offer even has to be made.

Then his sister and nephew comes to visit. Lois wants to come over, and Henri Cru. Ginsberg is expected in a few weeks too.

The film The Subterraneans is about to have its premiere. MGM had taken liberties with his book subtitling it “Love Among the Bohemians.”  It’ll start all over again, his peace and quiet, what little he has of it, to be shattered and his will to live disrupted.

He needs to be alone. Craves it with all of his heart’s desire.

In the first week of July, Ferlinghetti, all too aware of Kerouac’s problems, offers him the use of his cabin at Big Sur California. Kerouac writes back on July 8:

“What I need now is a rest, is sleeping in my bag under the stars again, is quiet meditative cookings of supper, reading by oil lamp, singing, sitting by beach with note book and occasional wine.”

Fearing a railroad strike, he leaves earlier than planned.

He’s ready to start anew, brooding new promises to himself.

To find Buddha in sea waves and Christly temples in the Redwoods.

The Church is blowing

a sad windblown

“Kathleen” on the

bells in the skid

row slums.

But there is nowhere to go, he is caught between Heaven and Earth, whirling in the Void waiting to be set free at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Canadian Life of Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac On The Radio

American Beat writer Jack Kerouac (1922 – 1969) leans closer to a radio to hear himself on a broadcast, 1959. (John Cohen/Getty Images)

In 1957, the publication of On The Road created a sensation. It was hailed as a great prose poem of the United States; it was also reviled as an undisciplined mess. It immediately became an enormous bestseller. Since its release, it has been treated as one of the foundational texts of American letters. It has never been out of print.

Its author, Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac—Jack Kerouac—became an overnight celebrity. The handsome, shy, charming devout Catholic was lionized as the voice of a new generation, the Beats. For his part, he thought of the Beats as “a generation of beatitude and tenderness.” But much to his distress, he and the Beats became symbols of reckless freedom, sexual licence and self-indulgence.

In 2006, the Kerouac archive was opened at the New York Public Library. Its contents were a revelation. Diaries, letters, essays and whole novels were found written in French. Kerouac, the avatar of the new America, was, in fact, Canadian. He was born in 1922 to parents who had fled Quebec in the great exode, seeking work in the U.S. Kerouac spoke only French until he was six and did not lose his accent fully until he was 20.

Read the rest here.

 

Jack Kerouac: “I Am the Revolutionary.” (New York City – November 1944)

Jack Kerouac - 1944

(Excerpted from the forthcoming book, I, Duluoz!: A Journey Through Jack Kerouac)

Allen Ginsberg told 22-year old Kerouac that a person “needs no bidding to lose oneself – But try to shake the shadow!” Kerouac replied, as transcribed in a journal written in Ginsberg’s dorm room at Warren Hall, that he was correct, with the exception that one only needs that “bidding” in order to lose society. This was the only way one could find that “self.” If during the course of trying to find their self, and avoided any spiritually-focused decisions, then that was a weakness consituting intellectual dishonesty. It betrayed one’s cosmology since it was wrought in pain.

Ginsberg concluded, “Nothing is true, everything is permited!” (borrowed from Burroughs who copped it from Vladimir Bartol’s novel Alamut and later jacked as the credo for the Assassin’s Creed X-Box video game)

Kerouac dared Ginsberg to lose society, just as he dared himself as an ultimatum to abide by in the course of his art. He regarded this “revolutionary hedonism.”

Kerouac, in the fall of 1944, in the months following the Carr/Kammerer affair and a marriage that had irretrievably beached itself against rocky shores, he was hell bent on proving himself by writing a novel. There was little time to compromise, not with society, nor with himself. “I am the revolutionary,” he reminded himself. In the revolution, it was every man for himself. One must employ his/her own labors, to tend the fire pit of their respective hedonistic flames. He had yet any occasion to rise above his “relative intellectual immaturity.” It was the season of the New Vision to which he believed that “Self Ultimacy” was the guiding light toward self-actualization. In his diary he wrote (November 16, 1944):

“I cravenly turned it to a use in a novel designed to gain me, the man of the world, respect, idolatry, sexual success, and every other thing that goes with it.”

What aspect of society was he referring to?

Kerouac identified “society” as that body politic bogged down by the strictures of customs and traditions. It was a body of people adhering to social mores throttling them from the past. They were non-creative bourgeois “neo-Puritans” that didn’t tolerate innovations in intellectualism, ethics, spirituality or sexuality. They were repressed.

Kerouac had been passing his writings around to his friends, trying to get a feel for his audience. Commentary, though favorable, did little to give him any assurance. His Columbia teachers called his work “sincere but immature, with flashes of brilliance.” To date, he had little to fall back on that marked any improvements in what he was crafting.

Self Ultimacy: Kerouac wondered what it would take to drive someone to this, to tip the balance of “profound frustration”? In the interest of his early writings for his current writing, Kerouac based these ideas only within the “sphere” of his own experience.

What if he were homosexual and was discovered by his family, or by his beloved who became “repulsed,” or he was scorned and avoided by friends? Would this extreme alienation drive him at last to “self-ultimacy”?

How about if he fell in love and “desecrated” a 13-year old girl? He of course would face “social expulsion” and approximated (in what was and wasn’t socially acceptable in early-to-mid-20th century America) that as the same as being “queer.” If this then was the case, was the basis of self-ultimacy social?

Kerouac’s own philosophical basis for self-ultimacy rested within Part 1, Chapter 22 of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical text, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and he quoted the most relevant part of it in his journal: “Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when ye have all denied me, will I return onto you.” The basis of this would germinate his Galloway novel, to which its proto-version, writ as a 63-page novella was titled “I Bid You Lose Me” (complete with its blood spatters from Kerouac’s ode to Nietzsche) [further note, the New York Public Library’s Berg collection incorrectly archived this work as “I Bid You Love Me”] written between November 4 to November 15, 1944. Galloway’s later incarnation, The Town and the City, is only five years away.

Kerouac had taken the German philosopher’s words (“Of all that is written, I love only what a man has written with his own blood”) quite literally when he cut his finger and wrote in blood on his “I Bid You Love Me” handwritten manuscript. Now he sought to take further action following the Nietzchian dictum. He recognized that he no longer identified the society he was unavoidably part and parcel. Informally, he participated by consuming material goods purchased with “informal resources.” He regarded himself as a tax-paying citizen, even though his income was considered too low to pay any taxes at all that year. He had indeed shed society, and in fact, that month, after leaving his wife and hiding from his mother, all that was required of him was to sleep, eat, earn enough money to survive … and to write.

In the rooming house he lived in, he noted a large desk sitting in the hallway. He watched a “Negro” who had just finished applying a second coat of paint and was in the process of putting away his paint brushes. Kerouac asked him if he needed an assistant. The painter pointed to the desk, suggesting that it needed to be moved, but it was too heavy to do himself. Kerouac helped him carry it back into a room. The painter thanked Kerouac for his help, and he detected an air of incredulity in the painter’s tone. It made him wonder, as a “respectable citizen,” who would ever imagine doing what he had just done? To help a black man, to ease the burden of his petty labors? The “Negro is cursed with menial tasks” and, by virtue of that, any ordinary citizen couldn’t be bothered to help him. Kerouac, having lost society, is no longer burdened by these considerations. He is freed and therefore unburdened from the matrix and therefore was in a position to attain self-ultimacy.

“I know of the hatred and envy of your hearts. You are not great enough not to know hatred and envy. Then be great enough not to be ashamed of them!”

Kerouac glowed in his self-perception; that he was going against the grain of society’s norms. He, the assistant of a Negro laborer! His joy overflowed toward the painter, a joy of not only the loss of society as he saw it, but of attaining truest freedom. He had successfully broken the chains of society’s bondage to its social norms. It was something he perceived in himself that he wanted to fully develop. It was the “virtue of virtues” to develop what he ascertained as “unselfconsciousness” in society, yet it was a “consciousnessness” in himself. He could return to this, and, in a sense, it became the opening sentences of The Subterraneans: “this is the story of an unselfconfident man […]” The anecdote of the black painter would flower out to Mardou Fox, his black love interest in The Subterraneans, the seeds of that novel born almost ten years previous!

Kerouac had even set himself apart from his friends when they senselessly argued over art, religion and politics. He referred to Nietzsche’s maxim once again: “The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.”

It was an excellent “transvaluation” and he remembered once weeping over a conversational brawl between some companions. They were, in his estimate, “idiots” and he even moreso for taking the time to study them abstractedly. He hated his friends for hating his enemies. This, he realized, was why he related so closely to Nietzsche, remembering the first time he read him, and felt that he, more than others, was “timely” in wartime America.

He wanted to later write when he was middle-aged an epic retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. Building from Eve’s and the “serpent’s” mired guilt, Kerouac wanted to catalog a full spectrum of life’s contradictory nature. Without the temptation of the serpent, life could not have continued beyond Adam and Eve. The “punishment” of Eve was “Mammalian birth-giving.” Adam’s curse was his “conscience.” Without temptation, the existence of the pair was one that lacked “true feeling.” The human mind is unable to endure the lethargy of “ceaseless calm.” It was the serpent’s sin that saves mankind. Kerouac, for the moment, was not interested in the edict of God.

“Art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of this life.”

Kerouac envisioned that this aphorism, writ on a piece of paper and hanging on a Greenwich Village room wall belonging to his current-character Michael Breton (“the genius of imagination and art” in Orpheus Emerged). Breton was Kerouac transmuted through his artistic sensibilities and he, like Breton, was still budding and outfolding before his eventual infolding (like Melville) in the fall of 1951 when he was in the white-heat sketching mode of Visions of Cody. Kerouac, before all that would happen, was  torn between life and art, but before long he would begin ripping it apart to abide by his own artistic principles and impulses, doign so against all adversity.

Nietzsche helped forge the way for Jack Kerouac’s  eventual artistic breakthrough. Kerouac would do the rest of the heavy lifting by finding the lynch pin to a grand vision he saw existing in Wolfean America. It would be seen on the tar and dirt roadways standign as a metaphor for the Goethean urge to propel through his creative consciousness. “Suffering,” Kerouac wrote, is the “creative substance.” He would know this all too well, imposing self-inflicted misery as a man of poverty (“Everything belongs to me because I am poor.”) before alcohol became the main wrecking ball hastening hinm to an early grave. That “the road is life” would be realized by the  spirit of momentum personified by Neal Cassady. In November 1944, Kerouac was at a precipice, undistracted by the law, his mother, his wife Edie, society, the sea, the war and college. Inspired, Kerouac would eventually look to the West as the answer to his calling. Going there would be partially-realized by Neal Cassady.

Meeting him is only one month away.