The Texas Observer would like to remind you that: DISSENT IS EDUCATIONAL ‘Ms. W.VSMMk.V bSEMgN*K .VWVEgSSWMPXMkkMVWM VM&VNA SUPPORT PUBLIC LIBRARIES and the Observer by donating a tax-deductible Observer subscription to the Texas public library of your choice. Visit our website www.texasobserver.org , or Texas public libraries and to order a subscription. Scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. would ever know. He died in 1968 at age 47 from complications of alcoholism. By the late ’60s, the original friends had drifted apart, and Kerouac had dissociated himself from many of his followers. The social norms that had so constricted the Beats had already begun to change in the ’50s in the aftermath of the Kinsey Reports. The novel Peyton Place was published and reviewed at pretty much the same time as On the Road. The doors to the counterculture had been opened. The Beats were the heralds of change, though, and loud about it, refusing to lead Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation” or, in Kerouac’s words, to “go mad in recognized sanity.” A Ransom visitor signed “Lady Mariposa” wrote this tribute to Kerouac: “Because of you I can be… Besos, mi Jack.” Today, in large measure because of the Beats, homoerotic love dares to speak its name. Along with all the writers who come after them, I am indebted to the Beats for their invigoration of the arts, for shattering the molds and enlarging the realm of what can be printed, sung, painted, and said. There has been a progression since then, however. Think of gangsta rap, of Bret Easton Ellis and the “brat-pack” writers of the late ’80s and the ’90s; think of Andres Serrano’s crucifix submerged in urine. “Transgression:’ sometimes billed as the obligation of a true artist in the contemporary world, has become so widespread and predictable that it seems almost tametrendy transgressive, if you will. There is a muted undercurrent running through Kerouac’s writing. It is discernible in the travel notebook of 1949, where he recorded his plans for buying a farm and growing “sturdy” as well as “seasonal” crops, and in his recurrent daydream of finding the right girl, settling down, and resting his soul. It becomes impossible to ignore in the coda to On the Road, a passage so poignant and lyrical that it seems more sung than said: So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it … the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks, and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of old Dean Moriarty, the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty. Blesses … darkens … cups … and folds in. The prose slows down. After all that frantic rushing around, all that road going, the completion of Kerouac’s journey comes at a broken-down pier in Hoboken, near where he first set out, where he offers up this hymn to night, friendship, remembrance, and rest. A.G. Mojtabai is the author of nine books, including the new All That Road Going, excerpted on page 5. She lives in Amarillo. JULY 11, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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