About twenty-five years ago I experienced a glimmer of interest in the Beat Generation, the stuff the published, who they were, and how they came to be, focusing primarily on Jack Kerouac.
A friend, Bill, who was more familiar with them, gave me a brief overview, and after his explanation I decided I was missing something. Emerging myself in The Beat Generation Literature, as it were, I read everything Ann Charters ever wrote about them from On the Road to whatever.
I think it was Neal Cassady who came to New York City to visit friends and that was where the two of them met. A strong friendship emerged from that meeting. When Kerouac discovered that Route 6 lead directly from NYC to Denver he was compelled to make the trip.
Kerouac, after many years in the city, knew his way around. Riding subways, buses, and such, he finally made his way into a rural area and hiked to a westbound shoulder of Route 6, and gave his thumb a try. For reasons not explained his attempt failed. As evening approached, lengthening shadows unnerved him and he retraced his steps back into the city.
As my familiarity with him grew I discovered a birthday celebration in Kerouac’s behalf was scheduled at the Hungry Head Book Store in downtown Eugene, Oregon. Bill, and I arrived at the book store early and took our places in the front row. We, strangers to this sort of fanfare, were the only individuals who hadn’t brought a jug. Not to worry, however, there was more than enough to go around. The party was long on celebration and short on information. But I did learn that Kerouac wrote On The Road in one setting, on a single roll of yellow teletype paper, and in one long paragraph. A 1950s editor charged him $750 to rewrite it with periods and paragraphs.
As a result of the party, my interest in Beat Generation Literature diminished somewhat. And I’ve decided the publishing world should have put more effort into locating a better qualified and more deserving author than Kerouac.
In retrospect, I think Kerouac was a mooch. He might have starved to death or perished on the street had his sweet mother not provided him with food and shelter.