Thursday, 12 June 2008

12 June 2008

then that strange red afternoon. But I had to get going and stop moaning, so I picked up my bag, said so long to the old hotelkeeper sitting by his spittoon, and went to eat. I ate apple pie and ice cream---it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer. There were the most beautiful bevies of girls everywhere I looked in Des Moines that afternoon---they were coming home from hi school, but I had no time now for thoughts like that and promised myself a ball in Denver. Allen Ginsberg was already in Denver; Neal was there; Hal Chase and Ed White were there, it was there hometown; Louanne was there; and there was mention of a mighty gang including Bob Burford, his beautiful blonde sister Beverly; two nurses that Neal knew, the Gullion sisters; and even Allen Temko my old college writing buddy was there. I looked forward to all of them with joy and anticipation. So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines, Iowa. A crazy guy with a kind of toolshack on wheels, a truck full of tools, that he drove standing up like a modern milkman, gave me a ride up the long hill; where I immediately got a ride from a farmer and his son heading out for Adel in Iowa. In this town, under a big elm tree near a gas station, I made the acquaintance of another hitch-hiker who was going to be with me a considerable of the rest of the way. He was of all things a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who’d been driving a truck for the Post Office most of his worklife and was now headed for a girl in Denver and a new life. I think he was running away from something in NY, the law most likely. He was a real rednose young drunk of 30 and would have bored me ordinarily except my senses were sharp for any kind of human friendship. He wore a beat sweater and baggy pants and had nothing with him in the way of a bag---just a toothbrush and handkerchiefs. He said we ought to hitch together. I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road. But we stuck together and got a ride from a taciturn man to Stuart Iowa, a town in which I was destined to be really stranded . We stood in front of the railroad ticketshack in Stuart waiting for the westbound traffic till the sun went down, a good five hours…dawdling away the time at first

3 comments:

Joseph Hutchison said...

Simon, you may fantasize about getting inside Kerouac's head, but unless you're typing on his beat Underwood (see http://www.kerouac.com/images/lck1/10%20Jack%27s_typewriter_is_on_display_at_the_Cultural_Center.JPG)in April of 1951 at 454 West 20th Street in Manhattan, you'll never even come close. Have fun, though!

information as material said...

Hey Joseph,

Thanks for the post.

I appreciate what you are saying but I can't transport myself back in time - so it's not intended as a work of historical re-enactment. As Walter Benjamin noted, we can only see the past through the lens of the present. I’ve always loved that comment by Jackson Pollock, written around the same time Kerouac was bashing away on his typewriter:

In interview, Jackson Pollock responded to a question about his controversial method of painting with the following statement: ‘My opinion is that new needs need new techniques. And the modern artists have found new ways and new means of making their statements. It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any past culture. Each age finds its own technique’. (Jeremy Millar, ‘Rejectamenta’, Speed – Visions of an Accelerated Age, ed. Jeremy Millar & Michiel Schwarz (London: Photographer’s Gallery & Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1998) 87-110:106.)

If Kerouac were alive today, would he publishing on paper or blogging his way across America? Each age finds its own technique.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t recalled this at the time of writing to you, but as I went back to my source for the Pollock quote, the passage of text that immediately proceeds it is:

“In April 1951, while high on Benzedrine, the twenty-nine year old ‘Beat’ writer Jack Kerouac inserted a continuous roll of paper into his typewriter and over the next three weeks produced the language and basic structure of his novel On the Road in a 120-foot scroll of single-spaced typescript.”

In the same sense, I think there are many parallels to be drawn between Kerouac and Pollock, both from a similar era. Thinking of how long Kerouac contemplated his project, wrote about it in his diaries and had several false starts, take a look at this text, from the same brilliant piece of writing ‘Rejectamenta’ by Jeremy Millar:

“In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim commissioned a large scale mural from Jackson Pollock. Pollock contemplated the one-hundred-and-sixty square feet of empty canvas for weeks on end without making a mark. Then, in an overnight burst of activity, Pollock completed the entire canvas.”

I’m more interested in tracing, pressing myself up against the existing text, hitting the same letters in the same order (give or take a few slippages), reconstructing the same words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. I’m also interested in the way my project is the opposite of Kerouac’s spontaneous 21-day sweaty literary marathon on a continuous scroll of paper. Mine is a slow reading, a daily event, breaking up Kerouac’s text, masticating on his words, digesting them slowly and in terms of driving, I’ve probably shifted into reverse - the further forwards I progress on his road from East to West, by the nature of blogs, the further backwards ‘my’ story goes, disjointed, broken up as a daily bulletin. There’s more differences than similarities which makes it challenging that the same piece of writing, typed up in a different context, is an entirely new piece of writing.

Thanks for the image though of Jack Kerouac’s typewriter which I have set as my background.

Simon

Emily said...

then that strange red afternoon. But I had to get going and stop moaning, so I picked up my bag, said so long to the old hotelkeeper sitting by his spittoon, and went to eat. I ate apple pie and ice cream---it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer. There were the most beautiful bevies of girls everywhere I looked in De Moines that afternoon---they were coming home from hi school, but I had no time now for thoughts like that and promised myself a ball in Denver. Allen Ginsberg was already in Denver; Neal was there; Hal Chase and Ed White were there, it was there hometown; Louanne was there; and there was mention of a mighty gang including Bob Burford, his beautiful blonde sister Beverly; two nurses that Neal knew, the Gullion sisters; and even Allen Temko my old college writing buddy was there. I looked forward to all of them with joy and anticipation. So I rushed past the pretty girls, and the prettiest girls in the world lie in Des Moines, Iowa. A crazy guy with a kind of toolshack on wheels, a truck full of tools, that he drove standing up like a modern milkman, gave me ride up the long hill; where I immediately got a ride from a farmer and his son heading out for Adel in Iowa. In this town, under a big elm tree near a gas station, I made the acquantance of another hitch-hiker who was going to be with me a considerable of the rest of the way. He was of all things a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who'd been driving a truck for the Post Office most of his worklife and was now headed for the girl in Denver and a new life. I think he was running away from something in NY, the law most likely. He was a real rednose young drunk of 30 and would have bored me ordinarily except my senses were sharp for any kind of human friendship. He wore a beat sweater and baggy pants and had nothing with him in the way of a bag---just a toothbrush and handkerchiefs. He said we ought to hitch together. I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road. But we stuck together and got a ride from a taciturn man to Stuart Iowa, a town in which I was destined to be really stranded. We stood in front of the railroad ticketshack in Stuart waiting for the westbound traffic till the sun went down, a good five hours... dawdling away the time at first