Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

by Edgar Allen Poe, William Saroyan, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson

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Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby Liz » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:07 pm

As seen in each essay, how do you see Kerouac’s feelings about the beats and their meaning change from 1948 to 1969? What is the common thread or his common focus or point in all of the essays? Or is there one?
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:43 pm

Liz wrote:As seen in each essay, how do you see Kerouac’s feelings about the beats and their meaning change from 1948 to 1969? What is the common thread or his common focus or point in all of the essays? Or is there one?


I think if there was a common thread it was to explain the purity and the purpose of the Beats and to point out that other movements which came later were separate and different and not an extension of the "real" Beats. If there was a progression, it was to begin by explaining the Beats and their history to defending them as separate and unique without explaining why. He really did seem defensive on that point.

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby Buster » Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:54 pm

In the earlier writings, he was explaining and defining the movement, trying to characterize what made the beats "beat". Over time, his stance seems to move more toward an "us vs. them" attitude. Even within the movement he categorizes "cool" vs. "hot" beats. Instead of extolling a new and motion-filled kaleidoscope of experience, he is drawing boundaries and making judgments.
I don't know- maybe experience makes cynics of most people over time, but I hope not.
What first drew me to the beats was their curiosity, their willingness to experiment and experience. The unfettered early style of beat writing sometimes missed the mark, but when it was on, it opened doors and windows and let the music in.

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:37 pm

Buster wrote:In the earlier writings, he was explaining and defining the movement, trying to characterize what made the beats "beat". Over time, his stance seems to move more toward an "us vs. them" attitude.Even within the movement he categorizes "cool" vs. "hot" beats. Instead of extolling a new and motion-filled kaleidoscope of experience, he is drawing boundaries and making judgments.
I don't know- maybe experience makes cynics of most people over time, but I hope not.
What first drew me to the beats was their curiosity, their willingness to experiment and experience. The unfettered early style of beat writing sometimes missed the mark, but when it was on, it opened doors and windows and let the music in.


Good job of explaining that, Buster! I think that was what I meant but didn't say very well. I missed the part where he even starts to draw lines among the beats themselves.

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby gemini » Wed Nov 11, 2009 9:17 pm

Yes I agree ladies. Since he is credited with coming up with the name beats, I think he felt it was his responsibility to define them and maintain their status and resented other movements tagged on which detracted from his original view.
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:15 am

Well, I agree with all of you. I think he was attempting to give a history of how they originated and what they turned into. Each piece took on a different focus. Lamb, No Lion, for example seemed to be more about the definition of what beat meant to him in a spiritual sense. In fact, I think his own vision of beat evolved over time. But maybe I’m misreading.

In Lamb, No Lion he emphasizes that it is about sincerity. Maybe one of the things that bugs him so much about it’s evolution over the years is that it ceased to be sincere. The beats after the Korean War were “fake” beats.
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby deppaura » Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:30 pm

"Beatnik" all of a sudden that popped into my mind. I am a San Franciscan and was quite aware of the Beats. Herb Caen, well known newspaper columnist coined that word. It's interesting to watch the cyclical (?) spontaneous changes in people world wide through the ages. I'm having trouble expressing this. But, these movements indicated largely by artistic expression through art, music and literature seem to occur simultaneously. There was the mention of Sartre and his influence in France at the time of Kerouac with his "beat" movement. Human common needs and passions expressed similarly...everywhere. But as they arise on fire, they somehow become diluted and fade away. Until the next one. Was the idea of "beat" seen by Kerouac as sort of his child? His created "child"? Any form of expression from an artist probably has some of his soul within it. I found something else for your consideration, which supports my idea of the jazz influence. I don't present it as dictum, just an idea. Thanks for your indulgence. http://ecommunity.uml.edu/bridge/review ... /Paton.pdf

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby gemini » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:46 pm

deppaura wrote:"Beatnik" all of a sudden that popped into my mind. I am a San Franciscan and was quite aware of the Beats. Herb Caen, well known newspaper columnist coined that word. It's interesting to watch the cyclical (?) spontaneous changes in people world wide through the ages. I'm having trouble expressing this. But, these movements indicated largely by artistic expression through art, music and literature seem to occur simultaneously. There was the mention of Sartre and his influence in France at the time of Kerouac with his "beat" movement. Human common needs and passions expressed similarly...everywhere. But as they arise on fire, they somehow become diluted and fade away. Until the next one. Was the idea of "beat" seen by Kerouac as sort of his child? His created "child"? Any form of expression from an artist probably has some of his soul within it. I found something else for your consideration, which supports my idea of the jazz influence. I don't present it as dictum, just an idea. Thanks for your indulgence.

Yes deppaura , I think you may be correct about the word beat and its origin, but I think Jack felt it was his to defend because he named the beat movement. I picked it up in the intro here of "In Origins of the Beat Generation
Jack Kerouac, coiner and caption of the beat, delivered an address on the topic......

Since you make the point that Herb Caen coined the word, it may even show why so many different connotations were added to the name like beatnik (which also came to my mind when reading Jacks rant). Since the word was used on so many new fads it made him more compelled to separate his movement from the group since the public didn't differentiate.
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby nebraska » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:20 pm

Yes, I got the impression that Kerouac wanted to completely separate any link between "beat" and "beatnik" and any other movement of that sort.

It is really odd, in a way, to see him becoming territorial and angry over all of this when his initial theories were all about love and acceptance and peace. :perplexed: And maybe that has to do with the alcoholism and grandiose behavior/thinking that goes with it.

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby shadowydog » Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:21 pm

Well I have been struggling with this whole proposition since I grew up during this entire era. I never knew the so called "beats" but I do remember the movements called the beatniks; the hippies; the flower power people; the anti war protesters; the draft card burners; the anarchists who preached that violence was justified in the name of peace. I can, to an extend, visualize what I can imagine might have been Jack's confusion and growing horror as his original message was taken over by people who did not understand his message and writings and hijacked it to justify concepts and actions that he never endorsed or believed in.

That is what I get out of his later writings and his final essay.
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby deppaura » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:08 pm

nebraska wrote:It is really odd, in a way, to see him becoming territorial and angry over all of this when his initial theories were all about love and acceptance and peace. :perplexed: And maybe that has to do with the alcoholism and grandiose behavior/thinking that goes with it.

I think the "ego" seems to get in the way. Nebraska says grandiose behavior. Sort of same thing. Maybe he lost a gentleness and sense of humor. A beatific concept should embrace all, always. Would a Gandi rail at opposition? Maybe it just was the deteriorating effect of the booze. I thought Caen's typically clever tongue in cheek turn of a word/phrase..beatnik..coincided with the "movement". He represented San Francisco in a humorous way.

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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby Liz » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:22 pm

Thanks for bringing that up, deppaura. I’ve been thinking about Herb’s coined term. And I didn’t even realize that he was the one who came up with it until I did research on the beats for the On the Road discussion back in ’04. When I found it I thought, how’d I miss that? I spent many a night in North Beach in the early 60s and 70s. I want to make it clear, though, that Herb did not coin “beat” but “beatnik”. And like nebraska, said, Jack wanted to make the distinction between the two. From SF Gate:

HOW HERB CAEN NAMED A GENERATION
Jesse Hamlin
Sunday, November 26, 1995

Chronicle columnist Herb Caen coined the word ``beatnik'' on April 2, 1958, six months after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite into space.

``Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.'s beat generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!),'' read an item in Caen's April 2 column, ``hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles' free booze. They're only beat, y'know, when it comes to work.''
Beatnik must have been spinning around in his subconscious, Caen says, ``and it just came out. I fell into it. To my amazement, it caught on immediately. The Examiner had a headline the next day about a beatnik murder.

``I ran into (Jack) Kerouac that night at El Matador. He was mad. He said, `You're putting us down and making us sound like jerks. I hate it. Stop using it.' And onward into the night.''

Caen says he ``made fun of the beats because they took themselves so seriously. (Allen) Ginsberg was all right. I had a drink with him one night at Vesuvio and we walked across the street to the Tosca. He was barefoot. The uptight Italian who owned the place kicked him out. `But I'm Allen Ginsberg!' he shouted. The guy had never heard of him.''

The beats had a laugh or two on Caen. A poster from the Co-Existence Bagel Shop, a beat hangout, announced: ``We feature separate toilet facilities for HERB CAEN.''

Caen laughs about the footnote to ``beatnik'' in Norman Mailer's ``Advertisements for Myself'': ``A word coined by an idiot columnist in San Francisco.''




Deppaura, thanks for another link to expand our knowledge. I am embarrassed to say that I'm still working on trying to finish the one on Ligeia. But I must say that it is VERY GOOD. I just can't seem to keep up with all of my extra reading. I will let you know what I think when I have read all of these, which I intend to do. Of course, it could be old news by then. :-/
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Re: Jack Kerouac Question #3 - The Common Thread

Unread postby deppaura » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:30 pm

By the early 1950's, Kerouac and Ginsberg had begun to emphasize the "beatific" quality of "Beat", investing the viewpoint of the defeated with mystical perspective. "The point of Beat is that you get beat down to a certain nakedness where you actually are able to see the world in a visionary way," wrote Ginsberg, " which is the old classical understanding of what happens in the dark night of the soul.

O.K., O.K., I'll stop now!! Something else I found.


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