May 2, 2018

"The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don’t frighten them with imposing papers and threats."

"There’s no defense. Poor people have to expect to have their lives interfered with ad infinitum by these neurotic busybodies. It’s a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don’t exist to their satisfaction. Neal was so mad he wanted to come back to Virginia and shoot the cop as soon as he had a gun. 'Pennsylvania!' he scoffed. 'I wish I knew what that charge was! Vag, probably; take all my money and charge me vag. Those guys have it so damned easy. They’ll out and shoot you if you complain, too.' There was nothing to do but get happy with ourselves again and forget about it. When we got through Richmond we began forgetting about it and soon everything was OK. In the Virginia wilderness suddenly we saw a man walking on the road. Neal zoomed to a stop. I looked back and said he was only a bum and probably didn’t have a cent. 'We’ll just pick him up for kicks!' laughed Neal. The man was a ragged bespectacled mad type walking along reading a paperbacked muddy book he’d found in a culvert by the road. He got in the car and went right on reading; he was incredibly filthy and covered with scabs. He said his name was Herbert Diamond and that he walked all over the USA knocking and sometimes kicking at Jewish doors and demanding money. 'Give me money to eat. I am Jew.' He said it worked very well and that it was coming to him. We asked him what he was reading. He didn’t know. He didn’t bother to look at the title page. He was only looking at the words, as tho he had found the real Torah where it belonged, in the Wilderness. 'See? see? see?' cackled Neal poking my ribs. 'I told you it was kicks. Everybody’s kicks, man!'"

Kerouac, Jack. "On the Road: The Original Scroll" (p. 238). Kindle Edition.

I'm reading that as a consequence of searching for the word "poor" in the only Jack Kerouac book I have in searchable form. I was looking for "poor" because I'd read — in a non-Kerouac book — "Just a moment before, I was feeling a little like Jack Kerouac in that line that Gregory hated, when Kerouac says how, because he was poor, everything in the world belonged to him."

That line, it turns out, isn't in "On the Road." It's in "Visions of Cody." I found it here: "Everything belongs to me because I am poor." Why would you hate that line? "Gregory" was Gregory Corso, and the book I was reading was "When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School." I have been reading that book for practically the entire history of this blog! Here's my post from March 15, 2004, which says I've been reading the book for the past month.

Line from the post that really places it in the past: "Ah! Too bad there weren't video cameras everywhere, because that could be the perfect reality show, combining The Apprentice and The Osbournes!" (the book is about going to study at the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics, where the teachers are famous beat poets who turn out to be — as I put it in '04 — "all old men, somewhat addled and shambling" and the author finds that he is "not quite so much a student as an apprentice").

Yes, why can't I just get through the book, which is quite likable? Obviously, I got very distracted by the blog and fell out of the habit of reading things in paper form. But I picked it up again today because the light was so good for reading outside. It was bright but overcast. I'd read paper books outside all the time if the light could be like that. It was 72°.

"This weather is perfect," I said. "This is the weather in Limbo."

I was talking to Meade, who said: "Limbo, Kansas."


Rob said...

Limbo and Limbo, Kansas seem pretty much identical. Every day an eternity.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm still not sure if Meade said that because there was a tornado warning.

Etienne said...

Limbo - place for innocent souls.

Children who die before they are baptized, go into limbo:
A little sweeter hell where they would always float, far from their mothers, crying. - Jules Michelet, Le Peuple

Paul said...

The UK has been doing this shit to their 'subjects' for decades.

Are we shocked? No?

Wince said...

Oh, you don't know... The Shape I'm In

I just spent sixty days in the jailhouse
For the crime of having no dough, no no
Now here I am back out on the street
For the crime of having nowhere to go

Save your neck or save your brother
Looks like it's one or the other
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

Now two young kids might start a ruckus
You know they feel you trying to shuck us
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

tcrosse said...

Sublimate that liminal limbo.

Sebastian said...

"Yes, why can't I just get through the book"

What was the last real book you read cover to cover?

It's getting harder, isn't it?

Ann Althouse said...

"What was the last real book you read cover to cover?"

Outside of Kindle?

I always buy in Kindle now, because I want to be able to blog things easily and because I like to be able to enlarge the print when as my eyesight fails. That's why the light was so important to me today.

Books with art I might buy on paper.

But putting aside the question of reading paper, the last thing I read straight through was the Jordan Peterson book.

I usually read nonfiction, so consuming the whole thing tends not to matter, and being a blogger, I love jumping all over the place.

The last novel I read was "Brooklyn." Before that, "A Horse Walks into a Bar" and "Mosquito Coast."

MikeD said...

I read "On the Road" post high school Jr. year (1959) and took it to heart. Spent the summer hitchhiking CA hyways & byways; neighbor friends sister in Santa Cruz mtns. and her crazy body builder boyfriend, followed by buddy's ex-girlfriends family preaching to some protected Tribe (they've probably got a casino now) in VDH's Central Valley ending up in Santa Monica. Washed dished for food & enough money for crap hotel all the while searching for cool people like Jack. Search ended in San Luis Obispo when cops busted us for vagrancy and called parentals to retrieve us. However, still think it's a great read, just not a roadmap for minors.

Birkel said...

And with that in mind, says the Collectivist Left, we need you to disarm.

RichardJohnson said...

I read On the Road several years ago. I was not impressed- aimless chronicles of an aimless person. My uncle's ex was, back in the day, Jack Kerouac's girlfriend. But as he couldn't support her in the manner to which her childhood had accustomed her, Jack became an ex.

rcocean said...

I can read non-fiction, but I can only LISTEN To fiction.

It can be a problem, because "On the Road" is meant to be READ. Its like "Catch-22" - if you listen to it, you notice how repetitive and dull it is.

Listening seems to slow everything down. Great if its Hemingway, Terrible if its a mediocre stylist.

rcocean said...

You can also skip around when you read. Something like Joyce or Kerouc cries out to be "skipped around". There's no real plot.

Listening is much more regimented. You're in a straight-jacket.

Michael K said...

I can read non-fiction, but I can only LISTEN To fiction.

I'm the same. I read non-fiction except for a few old favorites I read over and over.

Fiction is good on the car audio. I listened to the "Sharpe" series by Bernard Cornwell but the readers are so good at accents. I have trouble understanding them. They can go from English to Scot to Indian accent in a second.

John Pickering said...

Nice evocative post of the mad hungry days of Jack and Neal and Greg Corso: why did Corso say that, Ann asks. I think it's because Corso knew that though they were separated by age and background, they had in common with Ginsberg that they were poets who went to Columbia, and it was unfair of Jack, a genius, to play the poverty card. Jack in fact had lots of advantages.

Michael K said...

I usually read nonfiction, so consuming the whole thing tends not to matter, and being a blogger, I love jumping all over the place.

I'm reading "The Sleepwalkers, " which makes a pretty good case, so far, that Germany was really provoked in the 1914 war. I'm only about 1/3 into it but it is interesting. The author is a Brit and makes a good case that Britain was wrong in the Boer War, They were after the gold.

There is also a fair argument that the Kaiser, who I have always blamed for the war, was incentivized to build his High Seas Fleet by the fact that he could not intervene in the Boer War.

It's hard to know too much about that period as I think it will kill off civilization. We are into the early stages now.

John Pickering said...

On reading fiction: Getting a copy of Ulysses, a guidebook like Gilbert's, a pencil, and reading for an hour a day, will yield for many readers daily laugh out loud pleasure and the satisfaction, in a month or so, of having read the consummate masterpiece, so far, of the novel in English. If not an hour, a half hour of concentration on Joyce's thorough humorous and humane wit calms the mind and opens it at the same time. Bloomsday is next month, now's a great time to start!

The great novels by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky can be best approached the same way, slowly but surely, with a pencil to mark the copy.