There was an error in this gadget

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Beat, Better, Best

Two friends say they don't get why I made Jack Kerouac Ruby's hero in The Beat on Ruby’s Street. “Truman Capote said his work was typing, not writing,” says one. The other says she read part of On the Road and all she remembers is being bored.

Both believe Gregory Corso is the better poet and I would have to say I understand why. His poems are darker, cleaner and more muscular; you want to keep reading because the rhythm pulls you in. One friend suggested that Ruby should meet Corso instead of Jack (and in the first version of my book, she did.)

But if you take a look at The Subterraneans—it gives you a whole other view of Jack.,I guess I responded strongly to it because I’m a lyricist—and the book is a kind of jazz. 

In fact, I think The Subterraneans is all music, beginning to end. It is the story of a failed romance between Kerouac and an African American woman, called Mardou in the book. But it’s not just a story; it’s a dance and be-bop and a long snake of scat, and reading it makes you wish you could sing it.

I try to tell my friends about this, but they aren't buying it. In any case, I decided that comparisons are useless. I love Gregory Corso’s poetry – but if I were going to choose anyone as the “best” Beat poet, it would have to be Allen Ginsberg. Reading “Kaddish” – the story of his mother Naomi’s descent into madness and the effect this had on this family – continues to haunt me and always will.

We tend to remember people with movie star looks no matter what they do, and some people say that’s why we remember Jack Kerouac. But I still think he was a real writer, though On the Road isn’t the book I would choose to represent him.

As for The Beat on Ruby’s Street, well… Ruby was living in the midst of a whole movement, and she was only hearing bits and pieces of the song. Now, we have the luxury of the whole picture. Lucky us.

If you want to read the books mentioned here, I recommend you support the City Lights editions:

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac
Kaddish by Allen Ginsberg