Wednesday, August 15, 2007

50 Years of Kerouac's "On the Road"

F(*&^ the system

Today the NY Times had a write-up on the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957) -to be honest I liked his Desolation Angels (1965) better, when people said he was 'past his prime' to be polite or a drunken maniac to be less polite - but so what, that I thought the latter was a more meaningful read is just one person's opinion.

The Times piece was good, especially the part where they highlighted Kerouac's work ethic and how now with technology we are always alienated from the present and Keroauc's whole point was Be Here Now. There is always the cellphone or the internet or the i-pod or something that prevents us (or to be more specific those who use these things as habits) from living in the here and now. People keep going back to the Beats as a reaction.

The Beats of course were all about rebellion against the staid norms of American society at the time. Isaiah Berlin's take on this is that it was youth's reaction against what their parents had to go through - note not a rebellion against the older generation per se, but a rebellion against a society which made their parents have to live in a staid, boring, predictible, workaday and overly comfortable, riskless and stifling America. This was no way to achieve personal enlightenment or human progress.

The other thing that was cool about the Times article is that it mentioned City Lights Bookstore, the mecca of all things Beat and counter-culture. A visit to SF for the adventurous and literary is not complete without a stop at City Lights, so much for coastal rivalry.

But given that Workers is about economics, the book to be held-up as the landmark would be Jackie Susann's Valley of the Dolls, the first million-seller. Not a perernnial seller for the kids like On the Road, but a pretty great movie, a B-movie classic in fact.

Note lastly and perhaps more importantly for some people, it is the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged as well.