Allen Ginsberg – Montreal, 1969 (Q & A – 10) (Kerouac))

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) Still from 1959 Silent 16mm Film

Q: Do you feel that the death of Jack Kerouac has taken away his image for people, young people, in the (United) States now, to….

AG: Nobody depended on him, He was just a great drunken lout, fortunately! He did it purposely, he desecrated any image possible! – and he went on television drunk, on (William) Buckley (‘s) and burped and farted, just so he wouldn’t have anybody following him! – I mean he didn’t want anybody.. I mean he used to… He thought that I was a monster for showing my face in public like I do – my horrible hairy face, misleading children, trying just to get laid? – I mean, god! –

Q: What I mean is the energy, say, from On The Road, inspired a lot of people…

AG: Yeah

Q: ….just to get on the road and follow it (Dharma Bums, you know, and Kerouac). Do you think that that type of approach, defining any approach to our society is still (so) popular?

AG: Yeah, the hero-character of Dharma Bums is Gary Snyder, Japhy Ryder, who is, like,
a very great poet, and a very disciplined Zen Buddhist meditation practitioner, and an ecologist of note, who’s leading a lot of ecology action now around (the) Berkeley, San Franciso area, and infusing the whole Left revolutionary group there with some kind of ecological planet consciousness. So I think, like, conceptions that Kerouac was so lyrically exact about, and so sensitive about, and have proved to be like lasting perceptions about the nature of our country, and the American countryside.. See, what Kerouac was saying in
On The Road was get out of the cities and go explore the land again, get back to the…get back to the body of the nation, get back to the Western twang, get back to the provinces, get back to the land, because “the earth is an Indian thing” (I think that’s a phrase in one of the earlier books, possibly On The Road – “the earth is an Indian thing” – which he wrote in 1952, which is an early early vision of that,which is like coming true now, or coming true in people’s consciousness. It’s a pretty line – “The earth is an Indian thing”
(as distinct from, like “The earth is an engineer’s thing” – “The earth is an Indian thing” – [Editorial note – “The waves are Chinese but the earth is an Indian thing” – Jack Kerouac – On The Road, Chapter 5]

So, the other thing is…. I hate to (speculate).. It’s hard to figure out what his “thing” was – he had to take care of his mother, didn’t want to “throw his mother to the dogs of Eternity” he said. And so wound up drinking too much. I had, in fact, mixed feelings about.. in fact, I argued with him a lot. Especially, in the last few months, I wrote him big long letters, because he’d written something that was putting down (David Dellinger) and I thought that was not very Kerouac-ian! And we’d.. you know, kept conflict quite a bit, you know, aesthetic, but, on the other hand, he was always smarter than me, I always felt, he was always way ahead of me in a lot of… you know, very.. Buddhist ways, and psychological ways, like, and language/poetry ways, so I really adored him as a guru, you know, and so it was hard for me to fight with him – in memory even.

I felt a funny kind of joy when he died realizing that I would never have to fight with him anymore! –And also that he was better, like where he wanted to be (“Poor!, I wish I was free/ of that slaving meat wheel/ and safe in heaven dead” – that’s a line of his. [Editorial note – from Mexico City Blues, “211th Chorus”] – And it took me a day to begin crying. (I guess crying for my own youth that was dead, gone, finally). So it was a lyrical thing that he had and that lyricism is too exquisite to be by-passed, as long as people still have tender bellies and hard-ons – Yeah?

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-four-and-three-quarter minutes in (fourth segment) and concluding at approximately forty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]

One comment

  1. the phrase about the earth being an indian thing also appears by itself (without the part about the waves being Chinese) in the story Mexico Fellaheen in Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveler. At the top of third page of that story in the edition which I’m reading. Also there is a long commentary on the phrase here.

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