Neal and Jack and me…

Day 26, zero records bought!!!

Oh dear the Beats…

I am two thirds of the way through the scroll of On The Road. It has been a slow read mainly because of the dense nature of the writing, no paragraph or chapters, one long stream of consciousness. It’s an exhausting read.

I am however starting to lose empathy for Neal and Jack. Originally I was attracted by the great American adventure of crisscrossing the country, hitching, riding busses, jumping trains. It is an adventure that pervades my conscious and subconscious mind.

I have managed to get two thirds of the way cross country twice. Ending both times in Minnesota. Maybe that symbolic distance in my travels and in reading the book has caused this pause for thought. Maybe the eastern end of the mid-west is the eventual stopping point for me. That, if you believe the press, ultra-conservative slightly uneducated and less than liberal area of the world that the Newmerikan Prez calls his base. Populated by evangelicals and those supporting the Newmerika first agenda, if you believe the hype should be a scary place.

Reality is a little more messy than either side would like us to think. Believe me on the apparently super liberal west coast there are just as many asshats as anywhere else in the country.

Back to the book though. Neal and Jack cross the country destroying relationships and cars, getting messed up and generally treating everyone they meet including wives, friends and acquaintances as a means for their own hedonistic rush towards either coast. Damn, it is not the romantic “road” novel I thought it was. Neither are particularly pleasant characters, codependent and enabling each other to worse and worse behavior. No wonder all those critics concentrated on the construction of the novel, the myth of its writing and the breaking of boundaries and structures it has come to represent, rather than the actual story.

The time the book truly comes to life is in the description of music. The writing becomes wilder and looser, mimicking the bop music it is describing. Music drives Jack and Neal to higher and higher highs and worse and worse behavior, stealing cars, groping men and women, stealing money, booze and drugs.

I am currently not sure what to think. So I will take solace in Beat by King Crimson. Fripp and Belew and the boys screwing with your mind with strange rhythms, clashing guitars and stream of consciousness lyrics. Beat was supposedly loosely based on the Beat Generation and released around an anniversary of On The Road so it makes sense. I am not going to even think I am capable of describing what is going on on this album.

In the scroll Kerouac describes bop musicians honking and snorting and howling and sweating and leaping. Music is a physical activity involving sweat and blood, it is an experience between musician and audience when there is always another level to reach. Beat has always been that album to me by Crimson, it is guttural and funny and immediate and dangerous and organized and unpredictable. Fripp in the heart of the storm that his band creates. Let’s be honest, Fripp may be the least visible presence in Crimson and everything that happens is at his behest. They are a band led by a dictator, no consensus to be achieved, everything is directed, even the anarchy.

I started this post a week ago. Since then I finished the On The Road Scroll. It ended mid-sentence and I have to admit I did not read the reconstructed last few pages. I like the thought that it ended with a scrawled note that the dog ate the end of the scroll. It is the ultimate lazy student excuse.

I am two days away from the end of the thing, no record buying in February,. Several records arrived by mail that I bought in January and they arrived this month. I feel that this has invalidated the purge. I have also like an old junkie been perusing Discogs, eBay and Amazon, planning the next fix. I sometimes have dazedly felt I was infiltrating a chapter of Gabor Maté’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

There are now considerable gaps in the to be played shelves. I have managed to enjoy a large amount of music I had bought and not heard, maybe, that is the ultimate outcome enjoying the music I have as opposed toe the constant search for what I don’t have.

2 thoughts on “Neal and Jack and me…

  1. Didn’t know a scroll version had been re-issued. I recall struggling with the penguin edition, many years ago, feeling a bit cheated that no-one I read about generated much empathy in my be-bob heart.
    Congrats in anticipation of your successful period of abstinence.

  2. Good post. I would say that except for some of the actual travelling sequences and the music bits that you mention, “On the Road” can be a very downbeat read with very loose ethics to say the least. I generally prefer Jack’s books about growing up in Lowell. I will revisit “Beat’ the album, have not checked it out in a long while.

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