Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jack Kerouac: "Life is too sweet to waste it on self propaganda"

Ouch! I guess this applies to mini-bloggers in spades:
Among the items sold at the literary auction at Bonhams and Butterfields on Monday was a 1961 letter from Jack Kerouac to two friends, Jacques Beckwith and Lois Sorrells. Kerouac had been typing on the page, got a letter from Sorrells then switched gears, abandoning his thought (mostly) to write a letter to them. This is what he typed at the top of the page, before the letter:

I can just see the shabby literary man carrying a "bulging briefcase" rushing from one campus to another, one lecture club to another, nodding confirmation with his hosts that he is right, hurrying to the next town ... a whole gray career of proving himself to others, to as many as can hear him, that he was right ... till finally people say: "Here comes the self-prover again, O dear ... bring out the papers and the canapes." This my friend is what I will become if I accept all lecture offers, TV appearances, radio interviews and start arranging with reviewers and critics who want information and my books through me, a great long lifetime in a briefcase proving my work and my work itself stopped dead at the level where I took to proving myself. So, I say, life is too sweet to waste on self propaganda, I quit self promotion, I enter my page.

This was four years after the publication of Kerouac's greatest work, "On the Road." None of his other books would have the reach or impact of that book -- few do -- but he'd been publishing regularly in the years after. There was a 1958 follow-up, "The Dharma Bums," and "Lonesome Traveler" in 1960.

If you know Kerouac's biography, you know that in 1969 he died of internal bleeding associated with cirrhosis, brought on by years of excessive drinking. It is easy to look back at this refusenik Kerouac, the one crying against self-promotion, as the one who would hear the call of self-destruction, who was resigned, miserable, dissipated.

And yet.
Kerouac was only 47 when he died. Click to read the rest.