Sunday, June 04, 2006


Lit Crit... Now With Fewer Facts!

An article by Helen Rumblelow in the Times of London compares today's writers to the Beats and finds us to be infantilized:

Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac wrote as adults, their faces pressed to the front windscreen of an old jalopy; Mitchell, Smith, Coe, Sedaris and others write as teenagers, looking back through the rear window of the school bus.

The Beats would have found this preoccupation with adolescent histories bizarre. Kerouac dismissed his past with hardly a parting glance in On the Road. “What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?” he wrote. “It’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

What a fascinating thesis. Particularly if, like the delightfully named Ms. Rumblelow, you apparently have not read any of the authors cited.

Kerouac's writing obsessed over his childhood -- his first book, The Town and the City, is a Thomas Wolfe-like ode to his childhood in Lowell. His 1959 novel Doctor Sax is essentially one long drawn-out riff on his childhood, fueled by old radio-drama and pulp fantasies. And what of Neal Cassady, the model for On The Road's Dean Moriarty? Well, he only wrote one book. It's a memoir called The First Third, and it focuses on... you guessed it... his childhood.

Oh, and Helen? -- Jack Kerouac lived with his mom almost his entire life.

But I'm sure you already knew that.

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