Yeah, Kerouac lived pretty hard. After one trip with Cassady (Dean Moriarty in On the Road) to Mexico he was so messed up from drug abuse that he couldn’t even gather himself together enough to put words to page for a while. It’s interesting – while I was rereading On the Road in preparation for Geoff’s inclusion of Kerouac as a character, I also happened to be rereading Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther by way of keeping my German in shape for the coming Berlin trip, and there is a certain affinity in the works. I am sure Kerouac fans find that sacrilege against the Newness of Kerouac’s vision, and Goethe fans against the purity of the master’s work, but there is in both that same Damn The Consequences Call to Life which ultimately walks hand in hand with destruction.
It’s like every generation needs to rewrite this book, just inserting the peripheral things it happens to like for the stuff the past generation happened to like. Instead of Werther sharing bread with the local poor children, you get Sal sharing whiskey with hobos in the back of a truck heading for Denver, but really, in terms of what they are trying to do, it’s the same scene. Whenever we get too comfortable with our disengagement and isolation, a figure is called up from the Earth to shake us up and feel again what we are missing thereby. Shakespeare, Goethe, Nietzsche, Kerouac – and now, in our day of choosing virtual internet existences over difficult genuine interaction, it seems to be time for the next instantiation to emerge – but we’ve been waiting A While Now, haven’t we? I think Winton Rowntree, of Subnormality, is probably one such figure, but in mainstream literature (not that I exactly have my finger on the pulse of the current literary scene) I am having a hard time thinking of a good candidate. Maybe there is one and I just have been too busy reading X-Club comics to know about it…
– Count Dolby von Luckner