This is for that friend of mine who refuses to read (or listen to) any of my blogs—because the entries may be lacking in some necessary perspective, or they are simply too unrefined. He is a friend who is a fan of the man that coined the term: “Beat Generation.” The following evidence supports the argument that, if Jack Kerouac was a young man living today, he might have been a compulsive blogger…

“All my editors since Malcolm Cowley have had instructions to leave my prose exactly as I wrote it. In the days of Malcolm Cowley, with On The Road and The Dharma Bums, I had no power to stand by my style for better or for worse. When Malcolm Cowley made endless revisions and inserted thousands of needless commas like, say, Cheyenne, Wyoming (why not just say Cheyenne Wyoming and let it go at that, for instance), why, I spent $500 making the complete restitution of the Bums manuscript and got a bill from Viking Press called “Revisions.” Ha ho ho. And so you asked about how do I work with an editor…well, nowadays I am just grateful to him for his assistance in proofreading the manuscript and in discovering logical errors, such as dates, names of places.”


“By not revising what you’ve already written you simply give the reader the actual workings of your mind during the writing itself: you confess your thoughts about events in your own unchangeable way…well, look, did you ever hear a guy telling a long wild tale to a bunch of men in a bar and all are listening and smiling, did you ever hear that guy stop to revise himself, go back to a previous sentence to improve it, to defray its rhythmic thought impact…If he pauses to blow his nose, isn’t he planning his next sentence? and when he lets that next sentence loose, isn’t it once and for all the way he wanted to say it? Doesn’t he depart the thought of that sentence and, as Shakespeare says, “forever holds his tongue” on the subject, since he’s passed over it like a part of the river flows over a rock once and for all and never returns and can never flow any other way in time? Incidentally, as for my bug against periods, that was for the prose in October in the Railroad Earth, very experimental, intended to clack along all the way like a steam engine pulling a 100-car freight with a talky caboose at the end, that was my way at the time, and it still can be done if the thinking during the swift writing is confessional and pure and all excited with the life of it. And be sure of this, I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless re-hashing speculation and deleting and got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no FEELING. Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS and the hiding of feelings.”


“I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On The Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me, all in the first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious, all detailed, with real names in his case however (being letters). I remembered also Goethe’s admonition, well Goethe’s prophecy that all future literature of the West would be confessional in nature; also Dostoevsky prophesied as much and might have started in on that if he’d lived long enough to do his projected masterwork, The Great Sinner. Cassady also began his early youthful writing with attempts at slow, painstaking, and-all-that-crap craft business, but got sick of it like I did, seeing it wasn’t getting out his guts and heart the way it felt coming out. But I got the flash from his style.”

—Jack Kerouac, excerpted from Writers at Work: Fourth Series.

All that stated, hypocrite that I am, I’ll have you know that I am a compulsive reviser—which is why I rarely finish anything longer than my average blog entry. And to that, Kerouac would likely reply something akin to: “DUH!”

Popular posts from this blog