Friday, March 12, 2010

On The Road and Jack Kerouac Friday 03-12-2010

On this date in 1922, Beat Generation Writer Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Mass. He was to become one of the most famous novelists of the 20th Century. Jack wrote the Beat Generation classic On The Road. This novel was read by just about every writer of my generation. It was an instant hit when released in the early 1950's and inspired the entireBeatnik movement, predating the Hippie movement by at least a decade.

This iconic novel has been in print forever. I remember reading it in high school. It was required reading for misfits and troublemakers- much like Catcher In The Rye. Like most people I wanted to hit the road immediately and have all the adventures the guy in the book (fictional character Sal Paradise, who was based on Jack's real-life friend Neil Cassady) had.

I bought it at least 3 times in my life- in High School, College, and later when I was on the road as a musician.

The cool thing about On The Road was that it was originally written on a scroll- one continuous piece of paper 120 feet long. The original manuscript (now owned by a private collector) is one of the most valuable manuscripts in literature. It was written in 20 days. Jack was a man possessed.

There is a street named after Jack Kerouac in Chinatown San Francisco connecting Grant and Columbus near the City Lights Bookstore.

Jack influenced a whole generation of writers, poets, and musicians, among them Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, John Lennon, Lou Reed, and Tom Waits. Jack was a media star in the 1950's long before the phrase was coined. He appeared on the Tonight Show (when Steve Allen was the host) reading his beat poetry. This was a major turning point for American literaure. Like theFrench Impressionists of painting a generation before, The Beats changed everything.

His writing style influenced me greatly when I started to write novels. There's no question Jack Kerouac was one of the most influential writers of out time. He coined the phrase Beat Generation, and Herb Caen came up with the term "Beatnik" to describe the Beat Generation in North Beach, San Francisco. This was after the Russians sent the satellite Sputnik into earth orbit in 1957, officially kicking off the space race. For a while everything popular had a "nik" on the end of it, like such terms as "no-goodnik." So Herb put "nik" n the end of "beat" and got "beatnik."

Just thought you might want to know...

See ya Monday! Have a great weekend!

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