Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to the Books

After three posts where I attempted, with questionable success, to expound some of my views on the importance of what we read and why, I'll now return to the original and primary goal of this blog: writing about the books and authors I'm reading and that I feel have significance.

After reading the first volume of Jack Kerouac's selected letters almost ten years ago, I started reading the second volume the other day.  Now, I have owned the second volume since it's release yet I have been carefully avoiding it as I knew what I was in for.  Where the first volume charts the development of a writer, and his letters acting as a primary means of developing his style, the second volume charts his trajectory after reaching his personal apex.

It picks up immediately prior to the publication of On the Road and finds a writer who has already written eleven books, most of which were to become essential Kerouac canon.  With only one published work prior to On the Road, The Town and the City, Kerouac is supremely confident in his abilities and his importance as a writer.  However, the cracks are beginning to show and the slope never levels for him as he finds disillusionment with his celebrity status, abandons Buddhism, and drinks himself into oblivion.  Kerouac preserved all this in the carbon copies of the letters he wrote to friends and publishers, and he presents us with a real-life tragedy.

Kerouac has been loved, hated, and misunderstood.  His writings have been alternately described as the work of a true stylist and dismissed as the ramblings of a drunkard.  I feel that Kerouac was a seeker for extraordinary experiences, and the exuberance of this search is reflected in his writing style, a style that tried to include everything he saw, heard and felt; that tried to absorb countless experiences and ideas into as compact a space as possible; that not only wanted to communicate what he felt, but tried to elicit the same feelings in the reader.  In a generation that grew through the post-war world, his life and his writings remain an experiment in a world where all previous meanings were being questioned.

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