Clive James on Kerouac (1959)

It’s reassuring to learn, as I did from seeing this video, that even as far back as 1959 Clive James was not taken by fashionable trends, and that just two years after its publication he could clearly see what might be wrong with Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road  which many were still praising as one of the defining works of the Beat Generation.

Kerouac stated his wish to be considered “a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam”.  A fairly typical passage of what some referred to as his poetic prose ran:

She’d cradle my broken head in her all healing lap that beat like a heart; my eyes hot would feel the soothe fingertips of joy, the cool, the stroke and barely-touch, the feminine the sweet lost bemused inward-biting far-thinking deep earth river-mad, April caress-the brooding river in her unfathomable springtime thoughts-The dark flowing enriched silty heart-Irish as peat, dark as Kilkenny night, sorcerous as elf, red lipped as red-rubied morn on the Irish sea on the east coast as I have seen it…

Maggie Cassidy (1959)

Interesting that James had already sussed out that rather than long blues, Kerouac’s much praised prose might well be full of hot air.

 

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Added 19.01.2009

 

My thanks to John Naughton for spotting and bringing to my attention the typos.

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