Tag Archives: On the Road film

10 Articles on Jack Kerouac’s Catholicism to Celebrate the Pope’s Visit to the US

25 Sep

9780809323210_p0_v1_s192x300Benedict F. Giamo’s Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester

Pope Francis is in New York City. There are cops everywhere. Everyone I know, Catholic or not, is excited. I’ve never quite seen so many people excited over a religious figure’s visit.

In light of all the enthusiasm over the pope’s visit to America, I thought it would be enlightening to close the week out with a few articles exploring Jack Kerouac’s Catholicism.

  1. The American Conservative’s “The Conservative Kerouac” says: “Yet this bopping, scatting, mystical jazz poet who almost singlehandedly willed the 1960s counterculture into being was himself a political conservative and a Catholic.”
  2. The George Bulletin‘s “Discovering the Catholic Kerouac” says: “At the core of ‘On the Road,’ and at the heart of all his work, is the Catholic and Beat insistence upon an underlying spirituality that inhabits all creation. Kerouac saw the world, and everything in it, as Holy.”
  3. Culture War Magazine‘s “The Apocalypse of Jack Kerouac” says: “The Catholic overtones of Kerouac’s thought are as obvious as a notion of his not utterly incompatible with Catholicism, but occasionally mistaken for it….”
  4. Patheo‘s “5 People It’s Easy to Forget Are Catholic” says: “He was no angel, and certainly not a practicing Catholic (he stopped attending Mass at 14), but it has been rightly pointed out that Jack Kerouac never left his Catholicism.”
  5. The Arts Fuse‘s “Visions of ‘On the Road,’ the Movie” says: “Kerouac’s Catholicism is just one of the elements that’ve been ‘cropped out,’ so to speak, from a new film version of On the Road, directed by Walter Salles and written by Jose Rivera.”
  6. Hermit’s Thatch‘s “Kerouac’s Buddha & Jesus” says: “Personal experience can play into this identification of religious or psychological style.”
  7. CThe Merton Journal’s “Visions of Tom — Jack Kerouac’s Monastic Elder Brother” says: “Having been baptized, brought up and educated a Catholic, by the time he was 19 he had serious misgivings though he continued to have conversations with a local priest, Fr ‘Spike’ Morisette who also had his own struggles with his faith.”
  8. atholic Culture‘s “Three American Sophomores: The Restlessness of Thomas Merton, J. D. Salinger & Jack Kerouac” says: “This is where Kerouac’s religion and pursuit of detachment fails—and fails hard. Taking drugs is one of the most self-centered actions possible.”
  9. The Eponymous Flower‘s “Jack Kerouac was Catholic” says: “Indeed, he was eager to attack the Communists like Ferlengetti and Ginsberg, from whom he disassociated himself from several times in the interview. Despite being terribly drunk, he has moments of clarity and makes one of the most sartlingly accurate description of the false prophets… “
  10. Livemint‘s “Hit the road, Jack” says: “Many readers never get beyond that party-hearty surface and the book’s confessional stream-of-consciousness style. Leland draws a much more complex portrait. Despite the myth that the writing of On the Road was the next thing to speaking in tongues, a laying down of ecstatic inspiration by a Beat young savage, Kerouac was in fact a meticulous, driven writer, a man who “worked hard on his spontaneity”.”

That’s barely scratching the surface. Kerouac’s religious has been dissected by scholars and laymen alike for decades.

“On the Road” Turns 57!

5 Sep

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road turns fifty-seven years old today! It’s such a vibrant work that continues to inspire people to pick up a pen or hit the road that it’s hard to believe it’s been around for so long.

The above picture is what the novel looked like when it first came out. Paul and I actually emulated its design on the title page of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” which I personally was excited about! Since 1957, Kerouac’s novel has undergone many, many cover transformations. I talked about the significance of these design changes here. And I talked about On the Road’s “girly” makeover here.

The novel has since inspired other artists, such as Tim Z. Hernandez, who actually tracked down “the Mexican girl”; Larry Closs; Jonathan Collins; and J. Haeske.

The film adaptation (you can read my experience going to see it here), which has a long history, came out recently and starred some of Hollywood’s biggest names. It sparked a lot of dialogue, including whether Hollywood was glamorizing the Beats.

Of course, even when it was first published, On the Road received criticism for its morality or lack thereof.

Despite these digs at its morality, one of the creeds I’ve heard over and over again — and with which I disagree — is that On the Road is a book only for teenagers.

And if you’re not a teenager and you read On the Road, it supposedly makes you undateabable. Unless maybe you’re a woman.

It seems like everyone has an opinion about On the Road. What’s yours?

UCLA Prof Blames “Beatniks” for Kristen Stewart’s Poetry

12 Feb

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Kristen Stewart’s poetry has been blowing up the internet. I read a bunch of snarky comments about it on facebook last night, and this afternoon on my lunch break I discovered via Poets & Writers that the venerable Poetry Foundation gave it attention on their blog, Harriet.

I wasn’t going to comment on it, but then I read, via The Poetry Foundation, what Brian Kim Stefans had to say about it:

My own initial post went like this: “The second stanza isn’t horrible. Worst part of the poem are those awful adjectives! Stupid Beats.” What I meant by this was that the words “digital” (applied to moonlight), “scrawled” when linked to “neon” (neon is a much overused word by poets who want to sound like Beatniks) and “abrasive” (applied to organ pumps) weren’t working for me….”

What Stefans doesn’t say and what The Poetry Foundation doesn’t say is that Kristen Stewart played the role of Marylou in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat novel On the Road. Part of her training for the film included “Beatnik Boot Camp,” where biographers and Neal Cassady’s son, John Allen Cassady, talked to them about the real-life individuals the novel was based on and the time period. It’s important to state this upfront because the very critique hurled against her work is that it sounds too Beatnik. Whether that’s because her poetry does sound too “Beatnik”—we’ll come back to defining that word in a moment—or whether her association with the Beats fueled criticism of her work is up for debate. Maybe, more than anything, though, the criticism surrounding Stewart’s poetry has less to do with the work itself and more to do with her celebrity persona—which, let’s face it, is similar to how the Beats are reviewed. Even before her poem was revealed, the media has loved to lash out at Stewart.

Actress Amber Tamblyn was also in a Beat-related film—One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur—and has gone on record about being influenced by the Beats. Except Tamblyn blogs for The Poetry Foundations’ Harriet and has published a jazz-inspired poetry chapbook, while Stewart, seven years her junior, revealed her road-trip inspired poem to the women’s glossy Marie Claire. This certainly says something about the difference in the seriousness and literary merit of their work, but it also says something about their celebrity persona and how they are received by the media.

Okay, so now we’re caught up on Stewart. In case Stewart, or you, didn’t know, Stefans makes his authority known at the outset of his open letter:

I’m a poet and professor at UCLA, and thought you might be interested in what some of my poet friends (most of whom also teach and are otherwise very accomplished) and I have been writing on Facebook about your recent poem published in Marie Claire.

I take it Professor Stefans is not a fan of the Beat poetry. That’s fine; to each their own. Stefans is actually quite an accomplished poet, and I particularly respect his postmodern innovations in digital poetry as he bridges the gap between new media and literature. From his UCLA faculty page:

My interests in electronic writing stem directly out of my work as a poet, though it has branched off into any number of art genres that have fallen under the persuasion of digital technology, such as photography, film/video and book publishing. Research interest include creating a “bridge” between the concepts and traditions of various 20th-century avant-gardes — Language writing, the Oulipo, concrete poetry, conceptual art, Situationism, metafiction, etc. — and the various genres of digital literature, including animated poems, interactive texts, algorithmically-generated and manipulated texts, “nomadic” writing, hacktivism and experimental blogs. Presently working on a series of wall projections called “Scriptors” which will appear as gallery and environmental installations in the coming years.

His research and work in electronic literature suggests his open-mindedness toward new and experimental ideas that may not yet be culturally accepted. I would think then that he’d find Stewart’s use of the word “digital” related to his own interests, but perhaps it wasn’t “working” for the Brown graduate who got his MFA in Electronic Literature because it was too obvious of a connection, the word “digital” sounding contrived or outmoded in today’s ever-changing technical world. I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. His forward-searching eye may also be why he lays into her for relying on passé Beatnik clichés and the word “Whilst.” Stefans’ critique of Stewart’s poem is fair and balanced. There is validity to his point about “overused words” in poetry and even Beatnik buzz words.

My contention is with Stefans’ comment “Stupid Beats” and the lumping of Beat literature with “people who want to sound like Beatniks.” Yes, I get that this is a flippant response to pop culture that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, however the cultural knowledge of so-called Beatniks is wrought with so much misconception that it makes me uncomfortable to see a humanities professor at a well-known college perpetuate the stereotype.

Here’s a little Beat 101 refresher course:

  • Jack Kerouac coined the term “Beat Generation” during a conversation with fellow novelist John Clellon Holmes, in which they were riffing on the Lost Generation and their own generation.
  • Holmes went on to write “This Is The Beat Generation” for The New York Times Magazine in 1952.
  • Six years later, journalist Herb Caen coined the term “beatnik” in an article for The San Francisco Chronicle. An amalgamation of the word “beat” and “Sputnik,” the word, as conceived during the Cold War, was derogatory.
  • In fact, “The Examiner had a headline the next day about a beatnik murder,” reported the SF Gate. Note that this had nothing to do with David Kammerer or any of the writers associated with the literature of the Beat Generation.
  • In the column in which Caen coined the term “beatnik,” he was eye rolling at how Look magazine was doing yet another photo spread on the San Francisco Beat Generation scene, saying “250 bearded cats and kits were on hand.” So right there we have it that he wasn’t commenting specifically on Kerouac, Holmes, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and the specific poets or poetry associated with the Beat Generation. He was talking about the scene, man.

Let me put this into more current context. Caen used the word “beatniks” the same way people today use the term “hipster.” Think of the way people in the 2000s equated the Williamsburg hipster with the eccentric trust-fund kid wearing aviator sunglasses and skinny jeans and making really bad “art.” That’s the equivalent of a “beatnik.” They’re both pop-culture fads that aren’t wholly indicative of the art, literature, and music that loosely inspired these “scenes.”

Consequently, saying Kristen Stewart was writing in the vein of bad beatnik poetry could be a worthwhile critique and even a very interesting one if the critic were to delve into more specific examples like the use of the word “neon” (HTML Giant questions if “neon” is solely beatnik; I apparently already have a tag for “neon” because I used it for light sculptor Stephen Antonakos … was he a beatnik??), discuss the appropriation and disfiguration of Beat ideas and style (Stefans mentions a colleague who posted a response to Stewart’s poem that suggests an evolution of Beat literature: “If it’s ‘beat’, it’s more Bolinas or young Bernadette than hortatory elder beat.” [hyperlinks mine]), and analyze the cultural phenomenon of beatniks.

Saying “Stupid Beats,” though, is akin to saying “Idiot Pre-Raphaelites,” “Dimwitted Transcendentalists,” or “Insipid Oulipo.” It’s negating an entire body of literature that has resounding cultural importance.

You can read Stewart’s poem “My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole” on IndieWire’s blog, The Playlist.

Jack Kerouac’s First Novel Translated in Persian, and It’s Not “On the Road”

3 Feb

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More than fifty years after he rose to literary stardom in America, a novel by Jack Kerouac is being published in Persian for the first time, according to Iran Book News Agency.

Rozaneh Publications hired Farid Qadami to translate Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums.

Apparently you can get Farsi subtitles to the film adaptation of On the Road but the novel hasn’t been translated into Persian yet.

Although this may be the first time a novel by Kerouac is being translated into Farsi, the Iran Book News Agency reported in 2010 that Kerouac’s poetry volume Book of Haikus was translated into Persian by poet Alireza Abiz, a story that David S. Wills covered for Beatdom.

In his now famous interview with Ted Berrigan published by The Paris Review, Kerouac claimed to have Persian origins:

And it’s a Cornish name, which in itself means cairnish. And according to Sherlock Holmes, it’s all Persian. Of course you know he’s not Persian. Don’t you remember in Sherlock Holmes when he went down with Dr. Watson and solved the case down in old Cornwall and he solved the case and then he said, “Watson, the needle! Watson, the needle . . .” He said, “I’ve solved this case here in Cornwall. Now I have the liberty to sit around here and decide and read books, which will prove to me . . . why the Cornish people, otherwise known as the Kernuaks, or Kerouacs, are of Persian origin.”

Here is a story about Houman Harouni translating Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” into Farsi, which I found via the Allen Ginsberg Project.

 

Is Hollywood Glamorizing the Beats or Just Retelling Their Stories?

29 Oct

“The flat Hollywood characterization allows viewers to live vicariously through Ginsberg, Kerouac and the gang, but it almost mythicizes them. Hollywood digs right into the drama — catering to what people want to see — and ignores the very human parts of them. But it may be a hard balance to keep. Even when depicting that soul-searching, it’s easy to fall to sentiment. The Beat Generation’s search for belief ends up being something we believe in. We’re all drawn to the image of explorers after all: modern pilgrims, earnestly due west like Lewis and Clark in Mustangs, toward the unknown destination,” writes Karen Yuan in her closing paragraph to “Notebook: Hollywood shouldn’t glamorize the Beat Generation’s self-destruction” in The Michigan Daily.

With descriptions like “wide, fruited plains,” “all vintage Cadillacs and cigarette escapism,” and “slick cool and soft anarchy,” Yuan’s turns of phrases are beautiful in this article. I commend her attention to language in this journalistic essay about writers. It’s a breath of fresh air from so many dry works of criticism. Furthermore, she brings up a valid point on the complexity of Hollywood trying to encapsulate the human experience. Whether one is a so-called Beat, a journalist, or a movie-goer our lives cannot be easily summed up in one film or three films … or even several volumes of literature, as it may be. Yuan herself makes that very point when she says “But it may be a hard balance to keep.”

Consequently, she seems to have out-argued her own thesis, “However, what [Hollywood] doesn’t realize is that the Beats are nothing to be glamorized,” by acknowledging the intricacy of life and that portraying “clouds of brooding angst” doesn’t create balance or reality anymore than depicting “carefree, YOLO-esque youth” does. Though she rightly suggests the Beats’ perpetual movement is related to their “existential search,” it is unclear what she thinks a more accurate adaptation of On the Road or Big Sur would be or how the murder of David Kammerer should have been told.

I would argue that the film adaptation of On the Road did a fine job of showing both sides. It perhaps doesn’t do the existential search justice but there are intimations of it, particularly in the scenes when Sal Paradise hallucinates among the Catholic saints, with the insertion of Proust, and when Dean Moriarty confesses that he doesn’t know why he does the things he does. The go! go! go! mentality comes to a screeching halt in the closing scene, indicating that maybe all those wild times weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Meanwhile, Yuan says Kill Your Darlings contains “tantalizing hints of murder,” when in fact the film does not hint but tells of the events leading up to a murder that landed three of the Beats in jail, with one of them doing time in a reformatory. It does not paint any one character as the villain, but again shows that the people involved and the events that unfolded were complex. Existentialism is a recurring theme of the film as seen through the New Vision. I haven’t seen Big Sur yet, but I’ve read the reviews of the film, and it seems to me that it’s far from glamorizing Kerouac’s life. More so, I’ve read the novel twice and know that it’s actually the antithesis of glamorizing the Beat Generation machine.

So here’s the question … or rather, I should say questions: Is documenting a life, an event, or a novel automatically glamorizing it? Where is the line between telling the truth and glorifying—when storytelling? Do stories have to be redemptive? If they are not redemptive, must they be cautionary tales? If they do not fall into these categories, are we better off ignoring them?

The pastor of the church I grew up in used to say, “Ignorance is not bliss.” Being downright oblivious or purposely ignoring issues doesn’t make them go away. The truth of the matter is the “intrigue and montages of reckless drug use” were a part of the life of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and so forth. And I would gather that the parties and drugs and casual affairs were a lot of fun as they were happening. That’s why people do those things. To categorically demonize these things does a disservice to the truth. The truth of course is much more complex. Consequences aren’t always immediate or even a given. We can look now in hindsight at On the Road and know that Jack Kerouac died at only forty-seven years old, after abusing alcohol. However, we can cast our collective eye on Burroughs and see a man who did a lot of hard drugs who didn’t pass away until he was eighty-three years old.

Yuan says, “They wanted to rebel against this new middle-class United States and find something new to believe in….” Today’s suburban teens and Ivy League undergrads may very well still be searching for something to believe in. I think the Beats’ stories go on, not because they glamorize illicitness, but because they speak to that very basic human need to feel like more than just a cog in the machine but like we’re actually living, that our lives have meaning. I think this is part of what Yuan is advocating for, and I think it’s actually there in the films and in the literature. It’s just not whitewashed, pristine, perfect. But then again, neither is life.

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

“On the Road”‘s Dilemma

12 Sep

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“[M]ost people (perhaps increasingly) don’t seem to be drawn to fiction that offers more questions than answers,” writes Rob Roberge in “Literary Fiction’s Dilemma” for The Rumpus. Toward the end of the essay, the MFA professor and author of The Cost of Living writes:

We are messy creatures. Beautiful, flawed, disturbed, at times selfless and at times selfish animals left to attempt to make sense of a world that doesn’t lend itself to easy questions or easy answers. To document a world where we are neither gods nor beasts but often a mix of both is to document a world most don’t like to think about.

Roberge makes an interesting—and beautifully written—point that we are complicated beings made up of good and bad characteristics. I wouldn’t necessarily say we don’t want to acknowledge the fact that we don’t live in a black-and-white, all-or-nothing world because I think it’s a very American trait to want to see the silver lining in something and to want to hear a comeback story. I would argue we even prefer our characters a little flawed. We like Jo March, Rodion Raskolnikov, Jay Gatsby, and Tom Sawyer. But I think Roberge is onto something. Even if we don’t desire perfect, goody-two-shoes characters—and I don’t mean to say Roberge is suggesting we do—I think we want the author’s point of view to be morally clear.

Roberge’s thesis does not mention Jack Kerouac, but it got me thinking about the criticism I’ve read about On the Road. So many articles I’ve read about Kerouac’s novel and the recent film adaptation refer to morality:

David Depsey’s 1957 article “In Pursuit of ‘Kicks’” in The New York Times:

Today, one depression and two wars later, in order to remain uncommitted one must at least flirt with depravity. “On The Road” belongs to the new Bohemianism in American fiction in which an experimental style is combined with eccentric characters and a morally neutral point of view.

Referring to Norman Podhoretz’s 1958 essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians,” Andrew O’Hagan writes the following in the New York Review of Books article “Jack Kerouac: Crossing the Line”:

In actual fact the Beats now seem pretty innocent: far from being a threatening group of “morally gruesome” primitives, they were a bunch of college kids with a few new things to offer.

Yahoo! Movies describes the film On the Road saying:

Dean is extremely charming and has a flexible moral code….

Amanda Chen reviewed the film for Scene Creek:

If you have a thirst for adventure and a loose line of morality, you will enjoy all that Walter Salles has to offer in his cinematic interpretation of Jack Kerouac’s novel, On The Road.

Ann Hornaday reviewed it for the Washington Post:

The literary and larger cultural argument that Kerouac’s book ignited and engaged — about formalism, narrative, morality and breaking open new ways of being and expression — is virtually nonexistent in “On the Road,” Walter Salles’s warm but strangely staid adaptation of a piece of literature that was never meant to be tamed as cinema.

Robert Moor writes in “On The Road Again” for the Paris Review:

The moral atmosphere of American life has changed considerably over the past half century; we have moved towards Kerouac’s liberal ideals, which has slackened the tension between the lived and the imagined.

An anonymous poster on Barnes & Noble left this review:

I can give you symbolism for every event in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I can give you the moral, philosophical points of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. I can decode the works of Burroughs. But ‘On the Road’ left me feeling like it was pointless…a good, enjoyable read, but…pointless.

These reviews would make one think that Kerouac was the first writer to ever write about characters with flaws, that somehow literature up until 1957 was devoid of characters who did “bad” things—or at least if they were immoral they were severely punished for their crimes. I get the sense that they want to see Dean Moriarty die in a fiery car crash or repent of his sins and devote his life to helping winos and pregnant teens. But that’s not how life works, and I think the beauty of On the Road is that it is complex.

Roberge says readers have trouble with work that “offers more questions than answers.” Interestingly, despite criticism to the contrary, it would appear that Kerouac believed he found good, moral answers:

Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him.

Kerouac’s characters are complex, flawed, blessed, messy, striking, honest, real. They ask questions we might very well be asking ourselves.

You might also like:

Life Continues to Be Absurd: Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Joseph O’Niell

Kristen Stewart Hits the Road

19 Jun

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Kristen Stewart, who played Marylou in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, is reportedly on a summer road trip in the South. According to several sources, she’s been hanging out at bars and shooting pool in Amarillo, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee, and is on her way to New Orleans, Louisiana. Among the hotspots stops on her visits: Coyote Ugly Saloon.

Prior to filming On the Road, Stewart had taken a four-week Beatnik Book Camp and taken a road trip. According to Hollywood Life, at a 2012 screening at SVA, she told reporters she avoided the “grimiest” aspects of road tripping.

In March of this year, she and then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson were planning a road trip in Europe for this summer. They were talking about traveling around Italy, Germany, and France in a van. So will they or won’t they? The rumor mill can’t decide.

Here’s my review of the film adaptation of On the Road.

My Year in Review: 2012

4 Jan

What a full year 2012 was! Here’s a quick little recap:::

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In January I announced that the rumors were true. But it took the full year for it to finally look like this.

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In February I joined Pinterest to discover how it may help me as a writer and have been happily pinning ever since.

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In March my personal essay was included in the book Creating Space.

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In April I was one of the editors representing the Burnside Writers Collective at the Festival of Faith & Writing. It was so special to get to catch up with the other editors and writers, whom I just adore. I also had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop while I was there.

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Image via On the Road with Bob Holman / Rattapallax

In April I also worked to create awareness about what we lose when we lose a language. My interview with poet Bob Holman appeared in BOMBlog.

In May I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. I had a fantastic thesis advisor and a beloved peer group, who challenged me to dig deeper in my memoir about growing up Greek American. After I read a snippet at our thesis reading, an instructor I’d never even had came up to tell me how much he liked my work!

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Image via The Human Tower / Rattapallax

In June I witnessed the world record being broken for the tallest castell on a rooftop.

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In July I heard Amber Tamblyn read for The Paris Review at the Strand. Afterwards we somehow ended up on the elevator together, and I didn’t say anything to her. I never know in those situations if it’s polite to say something like “nice reading” or if the person just wants her privacy. I know she’s involved in the Beat literature community, though, so I should’ve probably talked to her about that.

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Image via The Millions

In August an article I wrote about a funny incident I had related to Jack Kerouac sparked a fiery debate and went viral, getting mentioned everywhere from The New Yorker to The Paris Review.

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Photo via RA Araya

In September I had one of the most surreal moments of my life–reading with David Amram. I got to hear him perform again, this time as an enthralled audience member, in December.

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Photo via RA Araya

That month I also read for poet Miguel Algarin‘s birthday bash.

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I also road tripped through northern and central California, visiting Cannery Row, City Lights Bookshop, The Beat Museum, and attending my college friend’s wedding.

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In October Hurricane Sandy hit New York, and I spent a lot of time in bed.

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In November I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo, but I had a lot of fun creating this ever-evolving Pinterest board for the book I never wrote.

I also gave a reading that got upstaged by a wedding proposal.

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In December there was a flurry of Jack Kerouac-related activities to promote the film adaptation of On the Road, and I got to see author Ann Charters and film director Walter Salles in person at IFC. I also got to take a writing class with screenwriter Jose Rivera at 3rd Ward.

I also went out to Lowell and got to meet Jack Kerouac’s friend and pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.

 

What were the highlights of 2012 for you?

New Year’s Eve with Jack Kerouac

1 Jan

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“The parties were enormous; there were at least a hundred people at Herb Benjamin’s basement apartment in the west nineties. People overflowed into the cellar compartments near the furnace. Something was gong on in every corner, on every bed and couch, not an orgy, but just a New Year’s party with frantic screaming and wild radio music.”

You can read the whole story beginning with Neal Cassady driving Jack Kerouac’s mom back to New York for New Year’s Eve, on page 225 of On the Road: The Original Scroll, published by Penguin Books in 2008.

The recent film adaptation of On the Road does a splendid job capturing the energy at the New Year’s Eve party. Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., tells the true-life events that inspired this story.

List of Reviews of “On the Road”

19 Dec

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[official film still from On the Road]

Yesterday, I posted my review of the On the Road film adaptation. As LeVar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Here are some other reviews of the film On the Road:

The Beat Museum: “Everyone knows a  book is not a movie and a movie is not a book.  The genius of Jack’ Kerouac’s novels is his prose. It’s not the story, it’s not even the relationships, it’s the prose with the language that he uses to sketch the scene to move the story and to describe the relationships.”

Buzz Sugar: “The plot at times drags, but there is so much energy in the production that I didn’t mind. … This is the role Sam Riley has been waiting for — he’s talented and looks great on screen.”

The Film Pilgrim: “Where Salles really shines is the party/drug scenes, capturing the beatnik life style beautifully.”

Film School Rejects: “For a tale which so obviously values hedonism and free expression, On The Road is ultimately joyless and unengaging, and for a self-discovering road movie to fudge the journey so much and lose almost all lasting meaning is downright criminal.”
The Guardian: “The film is stiflingly reverent towards its source material, and indeed towards itself. It’s good-looking and handsomely produced, but directionless and self-adoring, richly furnished but at the same time weirdly empty, bathed in an elegiac sunset glow of male adoration.”
Hollywood.com: “Incorporating more of Kerouac’s writing as voice-overs or something similar would have given it more life, the kind of vivacity Kerouac sought out in spades, which is why he tolerated Dean’s vagaries for so long. More than most movies, it feels like On the Road could have gone in any direction, expanding or reducing characters, shortening the trips to concentrate on the characters more, emphasizing the effects of their missing fathers or not, and it’s this wishy-washiness that undermines the movie.”
The Hollywood News: “Visually, Salles’ ON THE ROAD is a thing of beauty. Eric Gautier’s cinematography is a wonder to behold: the colouring, the tracking of the characters, and the close quarters filming take the audience to Denver, New York and San Francisco like never before. The images conjured by Kerouac’s words come to life in a way never thought possible. But whilst it looks ravishing the film is full of problems, the first of which is a glaring problem: Hedlund is not Dean Moriarty.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “A beautiful and respectful adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel that intermittently leaves the ground to take flight.”
Honi Soit: “Too often unnecessary scenes were included while others were not given the time to become poignant, such as Moriarty’s very brief search for his vagrant father in Denver. I’m happy to concede that part of the frenzy is intentional, to replicate the experience of its addled protagonists, but some tighter editing would not have gone astray.”
The Independent: “Walter Salles takes an orthodox approach to Jack Kerouac’s classic text. As with his adaptation of Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, Salles seems as preoccupied with the mundane as he is with the tales of threesomes, drugs and broken friendships.”
Indiewire: “The atmosphere of his travels comes first, establishing the book’s searching nature ahead of its loose plot. From that early point, “On the Road” adopts a serious, low-key approach to establishing Sal’s world that keeps the characters grounded.”

LitKicks: “Jack Kerouac would have loved this film version of On The Road.”

Movie News: “As a work of narrative semi-fiction, Salles’ version of Kerouac’s book is appropriately graceful, dirty, and enigmatic. He’s a sensitive director and a good storyteller. What doesn’t come across, though, is why the story matters. Who are these Beatniks?”

The NewStatesman: “Once the beats’ credo of philosophy and pharmaceuticals is established, the film starts noticing those people exasperated or excluded by the party. Sal and Dean may be kings of the road behind their scratched windscreen, but Salles is meticulous in balancing the ledger. There is no liberation in the film without suffering, no beat generation without its beaten-down counterpart (usually female).”

The New Yorker: “I found Garrett Hedlund’s teen-idol depiction of Dean Moriarty particularly unsatisfying. … Hedlund’s performance neuters the book’s animating Mephistophelian spirit.”
The New York Times: “The cinematographer Eric Gautier has done brilliant work elsewhere and doesn’t seem capable of taking a bad shot. But everything tends to look too pretty here — the scenery, sets and costumes included, especially for the rougher byways and more perilous interludes, like the Benzedrine nights that feel more opiated than hopped up.”
NPR: “In fact, any film in which all the characters seem utterly convinced of their own importance and coolness from the outset has the same battle. … There is the Ginsberg-like Carlo (Tom Sturridge), a character drawn here as so self-consciously writer-like that his every appearance inspires twitches. He actually says at one point, while pondering how to describe his feelings, ‘Melancholy’s too languorous!'”
Ropes of Silicon: “The tedious result of this adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s famed novel is, however, unfortunate considering Eric Gautier’s rich, smoke-filled cinematography, Walter Salles’s direction and stand-out performances from most of the cast.”
The Telegraph: “Despite its pretty cast and sun-ripened colours, the film quickly settles into a tedious looping rhythm of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) experiencing some kind of beatnik debauchery with co-wanderers Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart), before retiring to a shady corner and scribbling wildly in a notebook.”
Time Out London: “Freewheeling spontaneity is tough to convey on screen, and the drink- and drug-fuelled carousing lacks Danny Boyle-style zing. But the bull-nosed cars, jazz soundtrack and soft light of a bygone era are a joy.”
Total Film: “Even if the film has a patchwork quality, Rivera’s script mines some much-needed humour from events – from Stewart giving new meaning to the phrase ‘two-hander’ to the priceless scene where Dean drives Sal’s mother back to New York.”
Variety: “Yet despite the high level of craft here, it’s an inadequate substitute for the thrilling, sustaining intelligence of Kerouac’s voice. Admittedly, any definitive adaptation would have to adopt a radically avant-garde approach to approximate the galvanic impact Kerouac’s novel had on literary form. But even audiences content with an easy-listening version may be put off by the weak conception of Sal’s inner life.”