August 28

Jack Kerouac: Definitely Not a Beatnik

As I prepare for my upcoming Route 66 catharsis, or journey to discover my roots (something I should’ve done 40 years ago, not now), I’ve been reading all the "road" books I can find, including On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

One of the great ironies of American literature–and history–is that Kerouac is regarded as the progenitor of the Beatniks, which is about as far from the truth as possible.

Kerouac was a Catholic who dabbled in Buddhism and throughout it all was a William F. Buckley type of political conservative.  He wore no beard and no jeans but did smoke tea, as he called marijuana–and of course, drank a lot.

When he referred to the Beat Generation, he described its inhabitants as being "beat up and beat down"–in other words, a generation that had been pushed under and asunder and dealt severe blows, socially, psychologically and financially.  He even equated being "beat" with "Beatific."  In other words, when you’ve been "beat up and beat down" enough, you become angelic.  You’ve aspired to one of life’s highest realms by virtue of your suffering.

Now, this is all a far cry from the Beatniks and Hippies and the reckless doping and abandonment with whom and with which he’s been mistakenly identified.

Stay tuned for more on Kerouac–and  a bit after that, details on my own journey on the road.



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Posted August 28, 2008 by Gary McCarty in category "Grammar Sucks

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