Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Neal Cassady and the Beat Kids.

Usually I know when big books are coming out. I mean, come on people,
I work at a bookstore, one frequented by extremely literate and snobby
people. As such, when “important” books come out I usually have
warning and hear buzz and all that goodness. I mean, I can’t tell you
when Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel (can’t even spell her name)
novels come out, but Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, William Gibson, we
have to fight to keep them in the store. So imagine my surprise on
Saturday when I walked into Booksoup for the first time since Monday
and saw a shining pillar of amazingness staring me in the face. A
book that I hadn’t heard was being published, nor did I know anything
about it.

That book was ‘On The Road.’

I think I just gave a literature professor an aneurysm. I’m not
talking about the On The Road with Dean Moriarty…don’t worry, I read
it years ago. I’m talking about the new On The Road. The Original
Scroll, it’s called. Apparently, and this is what I’ve learned from
my impromtu literary history lesson on Saturday afternoon, Kerouac
originally wrote On The Road on one huge scroll that was actually
tracing paper taped together. This scroll contained all the real
names, like Neal Cassady (the real Dean Moriarty), Allen Ginsberg, and
William S. Burroughs. It also featured something appalling for 1957
(when the book was originally published)….Sex. I know, shocking.
And what’s worse, it featured sex between men and women, as well as
sex between men and men.

Now, let’s back track a little bit. I started trying to read On The
Road when I was a senior in high school. It was a futile mission. I
tried to read it again probably four times before one of the biggest,
most life changing events occurred. I moved to London for a whole
year, and I definitely changed A LOT over the course of that year. I
really grew up that year. And in my last month there, when I was
pretty much done with school but just bumming around the city with my
friends, I finally, finally was ready for On The Road. And I devoured
it. I loved every word, hung on every word, and totally just got the
book. Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks of it as Gospel,
but I did come to the conclusion, after having finished, that On The
Road is a particular kind of book. It’s a book that you have to be in
the right time of your life to read. I tried for so long to read it
(and know many people who had the same experience), but once I had
truly experienced even a little of what life had to offer, the book
suddenly became important.

So you can imagine, when I walked into work on Saturday, I was shocked
that I had not heard a thing about this original scroll. I opened the
front flap and was immediately intrigued…but I was finishing up a
young adult book (they’re good to read at work seeing as I’m actually
reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and you sort of have to not
be at work to read that book). Well, as young adult books go, I
finished within the first hour of being at work and, seeing as we
weren’t that busy, was left with nothing to do…and nothing to read
(which is my worst nightmare). So I nonchalantly picked up this new
On The Road.

One thing you should know, before I continue, is that I HATE hardcover
books. They’re heavy, I can’t put them in my pocket. They’re a bitch
to read when you’re in bed (it’s hard to get comfortable with those
things…they have sharp corners), plus they have that ridiculously
pesky book jacket. I mean they’re just a fucking mess, and I hate
them. So a book has to be very very good for me to read it in
hardcover….usually I just wait.

So back to the story, I sat at the front register and absolutely could
not put down this hardcover copy of On The Road…again. In fact, I
was so intrigued and entranced I bought it and brought it home….I
knew I wouldn’t be able to stop reading it, and I did have to close
the store by this time.

Needless to say, I’ve gotten through a good chunk and it’s absolutely
incredible. It’s incredible to see these people as they were. See
Allen Ginsberg so ridiculously in love with Neal Cassady, hear people
talk so openly and explicitly about sex and drug use in the 1950’s, an
era I usually associate with poodle skirts and pomade.

It’s been a long time since a book has had me distracted at work (let
me rephrase, it’s been a long time since a book that’s not about a boy
wizard has distracted me at work), and who better than distract than
Jack Kerouac.

Peace, Love, and Dean Moriarty,


August 20, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Brits, Education, Friends, Gay/Lesbian, Work

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