Monday, August 20, 2007

My Dead Sea Scroll

Many summers ago, I borrowed "On The Road" at the YMCA Library and read it in one delirious night or as Paris Review's Matt Weiland said it, I devoured On The Road and the book devoured me. It was what Jack wanted anyway, having written it in three weeks. It was my brother Arell who brought me into Kerouac, with his copies of The Subterranean and Desolation Angels. I can not find a copy of On The Road, until that day. I read other books and essays on Kerouac after that. Kerouac matters because he believes that writing is salvation. He often said that Beat came from "beatitudes" and not "beaten." He wrote feverishly the way Van Gogh painted feverishly. The raw energy is real, not like Tom Wolfe's sartorial exclamations. The book has music the way James Agee's prose is psalmic. There is optimism and we don't know where it came from, knowing on hindsight how Kerouac turned from a handsome guy to a drunken slob. We just knew Kerouac was on a search for something. Whenever I see a copy of On the Road in bargain bins, I buy them and give them to friends or students. I hope they share the magic. The original yellowing and friable manuscript was recently auctioned and it was rolled like a telex paper or a fax machine. It was our Dead Sea Scroll. I can't wait to have the new version of On the Road. It will enlighten us once more.

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