Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jack Kerouac and Me

I am a member of Facebook and as it would so happen, I took one of the quizzes that abound on that social networking site named something like, “What kind of writer are you?” According to this quiz, I am a writer like Jack Kerouac. Now, these quizzes need to be taken with an entire salt lick meant for a herd of cattle but still, I thought I should at least know something about the man.

Jack Kerouac’s parents were French-Canadians who immigrated down to the States where he was born in 1922. He didn’t speak English until age 6. He was known as the Father of the Beat Generation. He was also an alcoholic, according to reports, and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1969.

According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac), “he set down”… “his Spontaneous Prose method“ of which ”the most concise would be Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of thirty ‘essentials.'" With my comments in brackets, they are:

1. “Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy” (Joyful writing is Good Stuff – don’t want to worry about secret notebooks and wild typewritten pages though)
2. “Submissive to everything, open, listening” (maybe a little too laid back for me but I think he meant be an informational and emotional sponge – Good Stuff)
3. “Try never get drunk outside your own house” (So it’s better to drink at home? Alone?)
4. “Be in love with your life” (Good stuff)
5. “Something that you feel will find its own form” (Good stuff)
6. “Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind” (It helps to be crazy to write – Good Stuff)
7. “Blow as deep as you want to blow” (Not a clue, but could have another meaning for a romance writer ☺)
8. “Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind” (Good stuff)
9. “The unspeakable visions of the individual” (Not a clue)
10. “No time for poetry but exactly what is” (Not a clue)
11. “Visionary tics shivering in the chest” (Not a clue)
12. “In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you” (Sounds like it’s drug-induced but he was into Buddhism for a while so maybe he referred to meditation)
13. “Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition” (Plain confusing for us ordinary folk)
14. “Like Proust be an old teahead of time” (marijuana can be made into marijuana tea but I’m not sure how this rule should be read)
15. “Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog” (Deep Point of View – Good Stuff)
16. “The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye” (Look beneath the surface – Good Stuff)
17. “Write in recollection and amazement for yourself” (He wrote largely autobiographical stuff so this would make sense)
18. “Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea” (Makes sense – start from a singular compact premise and swim out into your story with words - Good Stuff)
19. “Accept loss forever” (I’m not sure about this, it sounds like to suffer loss forever and I’d rather move on)
20. “Believe in the holy contour of life” (Good Stuff – I think there is a purpose to everything)
21. “Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind” (Good Stuff – get out of your own way when writing, for that matter, get out of your own way when living)
22. “Don't think of words when you stop but to see picture better” (Good Stuff)
23. “Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in your morning” (Good Stuff - I think he meant to be aware of your surroundings and perceptions)
24. “No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language & knowledge” (LOL - To boldly go where no one has gone before – problem is you might be dead by the time anyone appreciates your work, or you may never be published, but still, points for originality)
25. “Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it” (Good Stuff)
26. “Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form” (Many writers have a more dense ‘cinematic’ style of writing – Good Stuff)
27. “In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness” (Sounds depressing)
28. “Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better” (Okay, but not so crazy as to be incomprehensible)
29. “You're a Genius all the time” (Good Stuff – believe in yourself)
30. “Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven” (a little out there but still Good Stuff)

Some of these things make sense to me, others seem like flower power rejects from the 1960s, which would make sense as his work largely became know after 1959. But I think he had some good points as evidenced by the ‘Good Stuff’ comments. I don’t pretend to know anything about Kerouac’s work aside from knowing his name. I can only go by his rules to see, at this point anyway, if I am like him in my writing style.

To a certain extent, I think modern writers use many of his rules naturally, just because it makes sense to use them. Obviously I was not a part of this generation of writers but I think many of Kerouac’s ideals have been distilled down over the years to the point where mortal writers can use and understand them. Instead of an omniscient viewpoint, which would have been more the style of writing during his time, modern writers generally use first person, second person or third person points of view. These different POVs, if used correctly, can tell a story more effectively and with more impact than a god-like perspective on the story.

Out of his thirty rules, I counted seventeen that I listed as ‘Good Stuff’, which comes out to about 57% of the rules. The others I didn’t understand or were not applicable to me or were dependent upon the type of experience a writer describes. My understanding is far from complete. Perhaps if I had an English Lit background, I would appreciate his rules more but I don’t – I can only go from my own experience and my own understanding of my time on this planet. But looking at the 57% that I do agree with, I can see how modern writers have used his rules to improve how they write and how they perceive the world of their story.

So, am I a writer like Jack Kerouac? I suspect all modern writers use at least some of Kerouac’s rules. Aside from being alcoholic, maybe a drug user, a spokesperson of the 60s beat generation (I was going to say a victim of flower-power but…), I think that the 57% is a decent enough match. Obviously, I am no Kerouac. But I am a Brooke London. And maybe that’s all I need to be.


just a little dharma bum said...

Hey wow I have that list posted on my blog. It was one of the first bits of supplementary information [read: "stuff running along the side of the entries"] I put on when I started blogging last year. I've lived by it like a writing bible for years .. #4 and #6 are my favorites, so happy to see you marked them as "good stuff" :) I combine them sometimes: "I'm a crazy dumbsaint of the mind, in love with my life today" - it helps when you really want to get some decent writing done!

Of course I don't condone Kerouac's painful death by 30 years of alcoholism, the way he rejected his own daughter, his womanizing ways, or anything like that. It's just his work; I love his novels and poetry more than I could ever express.

Yes, you are yourself as a writer, it's all any of us can be - but that was an awesome quiz result from where I am standing [which is in my kitchen, actually].

Tim said...

Thanks for the comments on the Kerouac result- far more value than I usually get from any quiz. :) Must try it myself soon -am now very curious.

It's been too long since I read 'On the Road' to make any substantial comments right now -though come to think of it, your post has just inspired me to re-read it and some of his other novels.

Even after doing English Lit subjects to end of 2nd yr Arts, I still struggled to grasp meaning/s of some of the 30 more literary-oriented points and just didn't bother with a few.

My fave points: 1, 4, 5, 8, 16.


Violetwrites said...

very cool post and congrats.
I am doing reviews of books and people are sending me copies if they want.

Pierre Roustan said...

Yeah, I took that same quiz, Brooke, and they found I'm a writer like James Joyce :-). How fun.