Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"On the Road" turns fifty

I was fifteen when I read “On the Road”, and sure enough, eager to appear hip and ahead of my times, I embraced Kerouac’s slack sentences and cartoonish evocations of hip style. Somewhere in that fifteen year old brain,though, I suspected that the adventures of Dean Moriarty et al were stupid, very stupid, and all the talk of things God, zen and pulse-racing were the products of someone who was trying to write their away of some deeply rooted dissatisfactions with their life. The fifteen year old was right, and the lesson to be learned from the herded worship of Kerouac’s deceased essence was to not to say I liked something merely because it was a fashion. Kerouac’s books sell, of course, but it’s marketing, not quality that keeps bringing in new readers. The dreadfully wooden prose of Ayn Rand sells famously as well, and in both cases we have examples of adults pushing adolescent agendas to readers who need an image to attach their forming cosmologies to. It’s youthful spontaneity for Kerouac’s cause, hooliganism disguised as spiritual practice, and it’s a bullying appeal to the genius of the misunderstood little man for Rand. With any luck, those enamored of these two dreadful writers grow up and refine their reading tastes, but many do not, and consequently perpetuate the flimsy , sub cult contrivances that constitute both their reputations.