Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Being Jack Kerouac

As of late I've been reading The Subterraneans by Kerouac. At the beginning I thought that the chaotic speechlike style of the writing was making the book drag... the flow at points was pretentious and pompous in a way that caught more of my attention than the message the author was trying to get through. This changed in the second half, although I still don't know if this is due to a change in my own perception -getting used to the flow of the book- or a change in the writer -dropping the over the top style a bit and getting into the beat-. However, at this point the love story somehow manages to get the most out of the reader. It preys page after page in what I might have in common of Kerouac's experiences up to the point of exploding when he experiences jealousy. Somehow, the buildup to this part of the book works due to its anarchic style. Since the beginning we know that she's going to run out with Yuri, he has premonitions of what's going to happen and -as the book is more confessed than narrated- we have glimpses of past and future. I just find it hard to believe that any collection of photographs can produce emotional recognition of the same sort or stamp us with the feelings of the author. Reading The Subterraneans I get two impressions... on one hand I am Jack Kerouac watching Mardouc -Alene Lee- having fun with a friend at the back of a car and getting more and more insecure and jealous... and on another hand I'm myself remembering similar feelings once and again. I know what memories Kerouac is preying on, and I can sort of see how his confessional style can make the effect more intense. The fluidity of his prose at points reaches something that is either the blurred beat of the speach of a friend or the mental language we go through on our awake.



(Jack Kerouac by Burt Glinn, 1959)


Instead, when looking at photographs I usually experience the shock of Webb or Gilden... those photographs stamped as with hot iron in my mind for months due to their graphic nature, the aesthetic of a poem spread out in a single layer of paper... but I rarely get the emotional recognition of what is going on in the image, that brings me back my own memories in the way literature does. This doesn't mean that photography can't touch me, although more often it does shock me yet not touch me. Anders Petersen and Tom Wood, do somehow touch me more, although I find it hard to put in words what would they prey on. Tom Wood, for example, doesn't seem to rely much on a narrative, and the feeling I get seems to be out of the raw beauty of his images. Petersen seems more predictable, being a close and more obviously emotional photographer that he is... all feels like getting out the notebook again...

5 comments:

jeff hammond said...

man, this could be used as an ad campaign for "go read a freaking book you halfwit day"

thanks for this.. it's an eye opener

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

It's nice to see Kerouac's writing still inspires analysis. Thanks for keeping it alive.

Rick Dale
Author of The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions
www.thebeathandbook.com

e.g.gatsby said...

funny, we've read the book at more or less the same time...
and I know what you mean about the first part vs the second, it was similar for me..
but(!) the first part has this one incredible paragraph, which is probably one of the best thing's I've ever read... the one starting with "She went into some kind of gift shop and there was a man in a wheel chair there. (She wandered into a doorway with cages and green canaries in the glass..." etc etc, ~page 17 probably ^^
yeah, anyway... kerouac is pretty awesome :)

J. Karanka said...

yeah, I think that the problem is how to make photographs resonate as close to the observer as language can... somehow literature can build your expectations and get you through a narrative that photographs just don't seem to convey even if ambiguity seems to be the visual answer (if there's no answer the viewer will be engaged by building one), but is this the same amount of engagement as a narrative without an answer (as there's no question either) produces into you? what a mess... I don't know if anybody who's not reading a good book right now can get into what I am trying to say... holy garry, bring me the eloquence!

EgoPimp said...

Very nice black and white, I love this style. Candid Street is something I am trying to master.

Gary.