Saturday, May 24, 2014

Not Hiding

"FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS and the hiding of feelings." --Jack Kerouac

Greenwich Village, 1958.

People think Beats are all about being cool, which means no feelings or at least hiding them. But if Jack Kerouac was one of the founders of the whole Beat movement why would he care about feelings? (At least, people say he does.)

I don’t think he means happy-dumb-sad sack. More, I don’t know. Skin-scraping, fearless, makes you soar. Sore.

What else is left if you’re talking about writing?

I think cool is for the tourists who come here looking for some kind of Beatnik image. (We never use that word). But cool is not what you think it is.

I think if you want to be cool you have to let yourself feel whatever’s around you. You have to care about people, no matter where they are or what they look like. You have to want to write about them or paint them and make it true, so people reading about them or seeing them will understand what they want and who they are.

Jack Kerouac says the only people for him are the mad ones. I know who they are.

To me that means people who aren’t afraid to risk something (or everything). We call them mad but what if they're really the sane ones? What if chasing money and clothes and penthouses and cars is the real madness? What if going out of your way, maybe really out, on a limb where you might not be able to get back, is what makes you human?

For him, being cool-mad-Beat might be going out on the road for weeks and months to find God or America. For my dad it's about playing the perfect note so he could write a song people would remember. Sophie says it’s about spending your last dime on a trip to Paris (and I would probably agree). I'd also say it's about the word—meaning how you use it when you pick up your pen.

Some people say the word Beat makes them think of being beaten down by society. It could be that’s partly true, but just because you're a Beat doesn’t mean you’re broken. It may mean you got roughed up a little but you got back up and left the NORMAL world behind so you could concentrate on what’s important. Kerouac also likes the word Beatitude to describe the Beats – which is more of a blessing, even if it’s a blessing in disguise.

Why? Because if you give up on things like making a lot of $$bread and think more about rhythm and jazz and sound and beatitude. you’re more open to life and living it. 

Which is, I think, what Kerouac means when he talks about feeling and writing. Because your best stuff can’t happen if you hide behind a wall somewhere. And who's going to care if all you think about is being cool (or your idea of it)?

It’s got to be something that you feel deeply and mercilessly. Something that can hurt you and make you scream with joy and make you want to die if you can’t hold on to it.

That’s what I want for my writing.

Young girl: Christina Welsh