Excerpts from On the Road
They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
What is the feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.
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Today is Old Jack’s birthday, so I thought I’d give him the honor of being today’s Monster of Poetry. You’ll notice that today’s selections are not, technically, poetry. But they are. There’s a point where anything crosses a certain line and becomes poetry. Prose, essays, drunk emails, the menu at your favorite restaurant. Even what you eat at the restaurant, or an eyelash on a cheek, or a home run and a cracked bat. Kerouac knew this. Many great writers have gone through life reading and watching and writing great, well-loved things, but never wrote poetry. Jack couldn’t help but be a poet. When you hear how his friends talked about him, they all knew he was something special, a human like no other. He saw the deepest life in anything, and he knew how to pull it to the surface. His way of writing, spontaneous prose, was an attempt to access that deep purity and make it available to everyone. This was his gift. It’s also what poisoned him in the end. Because when he reached down deep, deep, deep, he found that in the heart of things is a great joy, but also a great melancholy. And he said, “I want to work in revelations, not just spin silly tales for money. I want to fish as deep down as possible into my own subconscious in the belief that once that far down, everyone will understand because they are the same that far down.” He knew this deep joy and sadness permeated us all. He drank himself to death as a way, he thought, to enjoy life; a part of me thinks he really drank to push down the painful feeling of knowledge. The rest of us have only just begun to understand him. Happy Birthday, Jack.