The American Novel Since 1945: Jack Kerouac, On the Road (cont.) (Lecture 9 of 26)

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ENGL 291: The American Novel Since 1945

Lecture 9 - Jack Kerouac, On the Road (cont.)

Overview:

In this second lecture on On The Road, Professor Hungerford addresses some of the obstacles and failures to the novel's high ambitions for achieving American community through an immediacy of communication. Sal Paradise's desire to cross racial boundaries, for example, seems ultimately more exploitative than expansive; Dean's exuberant language of "Yes!" and "Wow!" devolves into meaningless gibberish. And yet the novel's mystical vision of something called "America" persists, a cultural icon that continues to engage the interest of readers, scholars, and artists. Among these latter is the digital art collaborative Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, with whose online work DAKOTA Hungerford concludes the class.

Reading assignment:

Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)

The American Novel Since 1945: Lecture 9 Transcript

February 11, 2008

Chapter 1. Kerouac's Mythical America: Trans-historical Communities [00:00:00]

Professor Amy Hungerford: All right. I've put two quotations on the board for your consideration. The first is from Norman Mailer. This is from Advertisements for Myself. He says, "Jack Kerouac lacks discipline, intelligence, honesty, and a sense of the novel." Of course, some people might apply those adjectives to Mailer himself, but that's what Mailer said. "On the Road"--this is from a critic named George Dardess; this is from a 1974 article about On the Road--"is a love story, not a travelogue and certainly not a call to revolution." So, I put these up here to sort of sit in the background of what I'm going to talk to you about today about the ultimate payoff for Kerouac's effort and the Beats' effort, more generally, to imagine a language that is the adequate analog to experience, a language that is itself a kind of experience, and further, that is an ecstatic, mystical kind of experience.
Last time, in addition to introducing that idea of language to you, I conducted a reading of the first part of the novel where I suggested that Kerouac tells a story that is not so much about the escape from an American consumer culture of the postwar period as it is a story about the absolute immersion in a culture of consumption. So, what Sal Paradise consumes on the road extends from pie, as I demonstrated to you by the multiple references, the simple food that the body needs and wants; to girls, all the women that he tries to sleep with and that Dean tries to sleep with over the course of the novel; to money and the consumer goods that come with it in order to build a middle-class American life with his aunt in New York--remember he buys the icebox, the first electric icebox of their family, the first refrigerator of their family, when he comes back from his first road trip--to a kind of mystical access to America, a history of jazz. There's a whole set of mystical cultural artifacts that Sal Paradise and his friends consume over the course of this novel.
So, I want to begin just by pointing to you, on page 297, a somewhat more complex example of what this looks like toward the end of the novel. This is at the bottom of that page. They're driving out of Mexico, Sal and Dean, and they meet indigenous people along the road.
As we climbed the air grew cooler and the Indian girls on the road wore shawls over their heads and shoulders. They hailed us desperately. We stopped to see. They wanted to sell us little pieces of rock crystal. Their great brown, innocent eyes looked into ours with such soulful intensity that not one of us had the slightest sexual thought about them. Moreover, they were very young, some of them eleven and looking almost thirty. "Look at those eyes," breathed Dean. They were like the eyes of the Virgin Mother when she was a child. We saw in them the tender and forgiving gaze of Jesus and they stared unflinching into ours. We rubbed our nervous blue eyes and looked again. Still they penetrated us with sorrowful and hypnotic gleam. When they talked they suddenly became frantic and almost silly. In their silence they were themselves. "They"ve only recently learned to sell these crystals since the highway was built about ten years back. Up until that time this entire nation must have been silent."
That's Dean. In this fantasy about the indigenous girls, what you see is a commitment to language and the activity of selling, buying and selling, entirely entwined with one another. So, the fantasy here is that it's selling and buying that produces in them a language that looks very much like the language that's frequently attributed to Dean: frantic and silly, almost silly. Remember, as the novel goes on and Dean gets more and more hyper, sort of "wigged out," his language becomes more and more frantic, and more and more actually silly. So this is here attributed to them. There are other fantasies at work here, obviously. One is that they are reading a kind of Christian essentialism into these people, into their eyes. They see the Virgin Mary, and they see Jesus. There is a whole mystical objectification of these people that's going on, that's allied to the religious strains of this novel, which I'm going to pick up again a little bit later on in my lecture today.
So, this is a more complex and, sort of, dense example of how that consumer, that push to consume, that consumer sense drives and motivates the novel and plays out in what they see when they are on the road. In that passage that I read to you when they're in the mountains in Colorado drunk, yelling, they call themselves "mad, drunken Americans." Well, what does America mean in this novel? And what does it mean to be an American in this novel? So, that's the question I'd like to take up today first. Coming from Lolita, the vision of America in On the Road looks quite different. In Lolita the vision of America is minute; it's detailed; it's concrete. Remember, for example, the Komfee Kabins that Nabokov gives us as Lolita and Humbert tour around: the painful, luminous, tiny detail of all that they see on the road. Think to yourself. Do you see any of that kind of detail in this book? I see shaking heads. No. We really don't. What do we see instead? What America do we see?
I'm going to look back to a passage I talked about in a different vein last time, on 26 and 27, just for one quick example. This is, remember, when he's hitched a ride in this truck, and it's a truck bed full of men who have hitched rides. And he's talking with Mississippi Gene. This is at the bottom of 26:
There is something so indubitably reminiscent of Big Slim Hazard in Mississippi Gene's demeanor that I said, "Do you happen to have met a fellow called Big Slim Hazard somewhere?" And he said, "You mean that tall fellow with the big laugh?" "Well, that sounds like him. He came from Ruston, Louisiana." "That's right. Louisiana Slim he's sometimes called. Yes, Sir. I sure have met Big Slim. And he used to work in the east Texas oil fields?" "East Texas is right and now he's punching cows," and that was exactly right, and still I couldn't believe Gene could really have known Slim whom I have been looking for more or less for years.
In this scene Big Slim Hazard is an American type, just as Mississippi Gene is himself. Their names tell you that they're almost cartoonishly American types. The fact that Mississippi Gene knows this vague person, Big Slim Hazard, gives you the feeling that America is a tiny community in which these types loom large, that anyone from anywhere--if he's the right kind of American--will know the other members of that American tribe of types. So, Mississippi Gene knows the America that Sal knows, and it's America populated by these larger-than-life figures. The very vagueness of the description: "You mean the tall fellow with the big laugh?" How many people can we imagine who might fit that description? It's like telling your horoscope; if you're general enough, you're going to make a match. So, Sal is convinced--he wants to be convinced; he desperately wants to be convinced--that Mississippi Gene knows Big Slim Hazard. Let's look at another example on page 59. This is something else Sal wants.
I wanted to see Denver ten years ago when they were all children--[That's Chad and Dean and the other Denver natives they have among them in their gang] and in the sunny cherry blossom morning of springtime in the Rockies rolling their hoops up the joyous alleys full of promise, the whole gang, and Dean ragged and dirty, prowling by himself in his preoccupied frenzy.
There is a nostalgia here, not for the past of the old West. It's important that Denver is in the West. The nostalgia here is not for the old West, but for the young West. The West in On the Road is an area of youth. It's always, in American lore, been an area of adventure and imagination, but this is well after the end of Manifest Destiny. There is no border in the West. So Sal has to reinvent one, and in some sense it's a border of time. It's a spring of youth that's inaccessible, somehow, to Sal, that these men he's with who are so exciting to him as their own kind of western American type, that they blossomed and grew in this particular place, and he wants to have been there with them. So, in a way, by longing to be where they were when they were children, by longing to inhabit that time, as well, he wants to become them. So, this is just one of the ways that Sal longs to assimilate them to himself. The other big way, of course, is through Dean's language, but this is another way. It's a vision of the West as a place of, generally, male youth. When he's back in New York--this is on page 125--his New York friends meet his road friends, and are delighted by them. This is one of his friends: "'Sal, where did you find these absolutely wonderful people? I've never seen anyone like them.' 'I found them in the West.'"
So, there is that sense of the West as a source, and what he's going to do is take them back East. So, the West is a fountain of youthful energy that Sal continually draws back to the East, to New York. Sal is never really going to be gone from New York that long. He never really wants to leave, and one sign of it is that icebox, but the other sign of it is that he continually returns and takes these people with him. And part of the pleasure for him is to do that transaction, to enliven the old East with the young West. These are all stereotypes of America, but Sal really believes them and really inhabits them. Now look on 172. This is Sal in one of his major moments of vision. He's in New Orleans, and he's on Market Street. Oh, sorry. He's in San Francisco, and he's on Market Street. This is the middle of 172.
I looked down Market Street. I didn't know whether it was that or Canal Street in New Orleans. It led to water, ambiguous, universal water, just as 42nd Street in New York leads to water and you never know where you are. I thought of Ed Dunkel's ghost on Times Square. I was delirious. I wanted to go back and leer at my strange Dickensian mother in the hash joint. I tingled all over from head to foot. It seemed I had a whole host of memories going back to 1750 in England and that I was in San Francisco now only in another life and in another body. "No," that woman seemed to say with that terrified glance. "Don't come back and play your honest, hardworking mother. You are no longer like a son to me and like your father, my first husband, 'ere this kindly Greek took pity on me." The proprietor was a Greek with hairy arms. "You are no good, inclined to drunkenness and routs and final disgraceful robbery of the fruits of my 'umble labors in the haberdashery. Oh, Son. Did you not ever go on your knees and pray for deliverance from all your sins and scoundrel's acts? Lost boy, depart. Do not haunt my soul. I have done well forgetting you. Reopen no old wounds. Be as if you had never returned and looked in to me to see my laboring humilities, my few scrubbed pennies, hungry to grab, quick to deprive, sullen, unloved, mean-minded son of my flesh. Son! Son!" It made me want to think of the big Pop Vision in Graetna with Old Bull. And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on with a phantom dogging its own heels and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright mind essence, innumerable lotuslands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven.
That language at the end there is pure Allen Ginsberg. So, that's that incantatory Beat mysticism. It's a mysticism of emptiness, in the end, but what fills that emptiness as we lead up to that moment is this fantasy of trans-historical existence, that he can somehow embody a whole human story across time. Where's that story coming from? Well, this is a Dickensian mother. It's Dickens in part, that stereotype of old London, of the urban working class, but it's not just Dickens. Moby Dick is here too. If you look at that litany of streets that lead down to the water, any of you who have read Moby Dick will recall that Ishmael talks at the beginning, before he gets on the Pequod, he talks about how streets that lead to water draw you inevitably, and he talks about all the streets in New York that end in water. And he has this long meditation on that aspect of city geography. Well, here is Sal having that meditation, too.
So, what you see in this passage is not only a sort of mystical trans-historical fantasy, but a literary one. He's getting his mythology not just from the cupboard of stereotypes that are proper to American self-conception. He's looking back to literary stories, too, that he can assimilate into his experience and read through, experience through, so that every little thing he experiences, like this moment of abandonment. Dean has gone off with Camille; Marylou is off somewhere else; he's starved; he doesn't have any place to go. But it becomes a moment of vision, and it can be a moment of vision because he has these ways of layering over that experience with mythic and literary significance. Finally, on 147, we have another example of this, and it shows us something even a little different, or it pushes the point further. This is in New Orleans:
There was a mythic wraith of fog--[this is the middle of that big paragraph] over the brown waters that night together with dark driftwoods and across the way New Orleans glowed orange bright with a few dark ships at her hem, ghostly, fog-bound Cereno ships with Spanish balconies and ornamental poops, 'til you got up close and saw they were just old freighters from Sweden and Panama. The ferry fires glowed in the night. The same Negroes plied the shovel and sang. Old Big Slim Hazard had once worked on the Algiers ferry as a deck hand. This made me think of Mississippi Gene too and as the river poured down from mid America by starlight I knew, I knew like mad, that everything I had ever known and would ever know was One. Strange to say, too, that night we crossed the ferry with Bull Lee a girl committed suicide off the deck either just before or just after us. We saw it in the paper the next day.
Here you get a dream, not just of trans-historical time, the old Spanish ships that turn out just to be freighters from Sweden and Panama; you get another nod to Melville, Cereno ships (Benito Cereno is one of Melville's famous novels). "That everything I would ever know was One." The oneness that he is looking for is partly that oneness of mystical emptiness that we saw in the last passage. But here we get the sense of the racial oneness that comes out in some of the other parts of the novel: the Negroes plying the shovel and singing, another American type. But this is a type with which Sal longs to merge. And this is how--on 179 and 180--this is how he images a way out of himself. So this is on 179.
Chapter 2. Defining American Identity: Sal's Illusory Vision of Mystical Oneness [00:22:03]
So, I'm moving from the question of "What does America look like; what's the mythic vocabulary that Sal is using?" to, "How does he find his identity as an American?" So, first he makes America mythic, rather than specific (if we compare him back to Nabokov), and then he enters into that mythology through acts of identification. And here is one of the most important.
At dusk I walked. I felt like a speck on the surface of the sad, red earth. I passed the Windsor Hotel where Dean Moriarty had lived with his father in the Depression '30s. As of yore, I looked everywhere for the sad and fabled tinsmith of my mind. Either you find someone who looks like your father in places like Montana or you look for a friend's father where he is no more. At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching along the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night.
He goes on in this vein for that whole paragraph if you just skim down.
I was only myself, Sal Paradise, sad, strolling in this violet dark, this unbearably sweet night wishing I could exchange worlds with the happy, true-hearted, ecstatic Negroes of America.
Well, this is hugely stereotypical, hugely appropriative. Sal wants to take the entire life experience of a group of people and suck it into himself. Now, you want to ask yourself: What is the sadness that motivates this appropriation; why does he want to become the Negro? He says in another moment, "I was Mexican." He's always trying to be more exotic than himself, than simple Sal Paradise. Well, Baldwin had something to say about this. James Baldwin characterized this passage as "absolute nonsense, and offensive nonsense, at that. And yet, there is real pain in it, and real loss, however thin. And it is thin, thin because it [Let's see. Sorry. There is a typo in my note here] It does not refer to reality, but to a dream." That's what it is: "It does not refer to reality, but to a dream." And he says of his own writing, "I had tried to convey something of what it felt like to be a Negro, and no one had been able to listen. They wanted their romance."
Well, I think that's a pretty clear-eyed view, and a clear indictment, of what Kerouac is doing through the character of Sal. Sal in this moment becomes so naïve, naïve of history, of actual lived history of his own country. But, as you've seen, the mythic quality of America has pushed all of that aside. So, it's not just the Komfee Kabins that we don't see; it's the whole history of slavery. And when he goes picking in the cotton fields, he imagines that he could be a slave. And then he makes some comments about how, well, he could never pick cotton fast enough; he's just not able to do it as black men are. So, it's motivated by a huge blindness about the racial history of the United States in any of its detail. That sense of the oneness, I think, points to why and how he makes that illusion, the oneness. He felt that it was all one. The oneness is elevated from this sense of appropriation, to a mystical level. So that oneness looks something like the Buddhism that Kerouac studied for a time; it looks like something more than the effort for Sal just to be something exotic. It looks like, by entering into that oneness, by adopting all these different identities, that Sal participates into some larger mystical body.
But, what is that larger mystical body? We have been given one candidate: that it's America, that it's somehow America. And I want you to keep this in mind and make a note to yourself. Think about this vision of an American mystical oneness when you go to read Crying of Lot 49 'cause you're going to see something quite similar there. There's actually a wonderful episode in On the Road that is nearly a carbon copy of what you'll see later in Crying of Lot 49, where Dean looks down on Salt Lake City at night, and he looks at the pattern of the lights down below him. Oedipa Maas in Crying of Lot 49 will sit up on a bluff overlooking San Narciso, and she'll look down at the pattern of light. And it's an important moment in that novel, a moment of religious revelation, but what's being revealed remains in Pynchon quite difficult to pin down. Here, it's equally vague. So, on 5, back to that question. What can motivate this kind of effort? On page 181 he says:
There was excitement and the air was filled with the vibration of really joyous life that knows nothing of disappointment and white sorrows and all that. The old Negro man had a can of beer in his coat pocket which he proceeded to open and the old white man enviously eyed the can and groped in his pocket to see if he could buy a can too. How I died. I walked away from there. [And then this wonderful transition] I went to see a rich girl I knew. In the morning she pulled a hundred-dollar bill out of her silk stocking and said, "You've been talking of a trip to Frisco. That being the case, take this and go have your fun." So all of my problems were solved.
Sal needs the rich girl to keep his vision fueled, but the white sorrows are part of what it pays for. The rich girl provides him with---in a way--with these white sorrows; she funds them. You can have white sorrows, whatever those really are. You can have white sorrows if you have the hundred-dollar bill to send you off on one of these odysseys. You're not pinned down to a place working for a living. I'm not going to talk about jazz, and the way it figures, but I hope that you will have a chance to talk about that in section because that brings together several elements of what's important in the novel.
Chapter 3. Dean and Sal, Again: The Theme of Sadness [00:30:01]
I want to focus now on the sadness. I don't know if you noticed how often that adjective appears in the novel. Did any of you notice that? "Sadness…sadness…sad night." One of the saddest things, after Dean and Sal get into their only fight, really, is the uneaten food on Dean's plate, the sadness of the uneaten food. What's sad in this novel, I think, is the way the specificity of persons pushed back against that general collapse into mystical communing with one another. What's sad: Dean's wife, Camille, and their baby. It's sad. He abandons them, and she is left with them. All the women in Dean's life call him to the carpet and tell him of all his sins. That's a sad moment in the novel, a moment of difficulty, a moment of specificity also. What else is sad? It's sad when Dean leaves Sal feverish in Mexico. He's off. He has his girls to chase, his wife to go back to, to divorce, whichever one is which. He has all of these machinations to attend to. The friendship between the two, in the end, doesn't seem to mean very much, or, at least in that moment it doesn't seem to mean very much.
If George Dardess is right that this is a love story, it's the love story between Sal and Dean. And I hope, as you are reading, you notice that chapter opening where once again Dean appears at the door when Sal shows up, and he's totally naked. I hope you noticed that. It's the third time that we see that so there is an eroticism between them. And there is this heartbreaking love that Sal has for Dean, and, if you track that through, the major turning points in the second two thirds of the novel are moments when Sal makes it clear to Dean that he actually cares about him. And I can point you to some of these pages. This is on 189. I'm not going to do them all, 'cause there is something else I want to show you today. This is after Dean has been, sort of, called to the carpet, and he says:
The -[This is on 188] the thumb became the symbol of Dean's final development. He no longer cared about anything as before but now he also cared about everything in principle.
That's such a great encapsulation of not caring about any specific thing, but still being incredibly invested. But this is mirrored by Sal's very specific investment in Dean, and this is on the bottom of the facing page, on 189:
Resolutely and firmly I repeated what I said. "Come to New York with me. I've got the money." I looked at him. My eyes were watering with embarrassment and tears. Still he stared at me. Now his eyes were blank and looking through me. It was probably the pivotal point of our friendship when he realized I had actually spent some hours thinking about him and his troubles and he was trying to place that in his tremendously involved and tormented mental categories.
So, he finally realizes that Sal actually has a specific love for him, not caring about him somehow in principle, which is the way of course that Dean cares. So, this is the sadness of the novel. It's this unrequited love; Dean is never capable of loving Sal in the same way that Sal loves Dean. And, at the very end, when Sal has to leave Dean on the street, I actually love how this works. He's in the back of a Cadillac. His friend, Remi, is taking him in a limousine to a concert, a Duke Ellington concert [which is important by the way, and I'll leave you to think about why that might be important]. Remi won't have Dean in the car, so the car drives on. Sal is with a new girlfriend, Laura, about--to whom he's told all about Dean.
"Dean, ragged in a moth-eaten overcoat he bought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone and the last I saw of him he rounded the corner of Seventh Avenue, eyes on the street ahead and bent to it again. Poor little Laura, my baby, to whom I had told everything about Dean, began almost to cry. "Oh, we shouldn't let him go like this. What'll we do?" Old Dean's gone I thought and out loud I said, "He'll be all right," and off he went to the sa--and off we went to the sad and disinclined concert for which I had no stomach whatever and all the time I was thinking of Dean and how he got back on the train and rode over 3,000 miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway except to see me.
In that moment Sal supplies the answer for why Dean came, "never knew why he had come anyway," and then Sal supplies "except to see me," and his own pain and tears are routed through Laura. It's Laura who cries at Dean's abandonment, while he maintains this composure, this masculine composure: "he'll be all right." But, the sadness here is surely Sal's.
By the end, the language of experience--this is on 304--the language of experience that Dean represents is completely exhausted. This is how Dean talks at the very end:
He couldn't talk anymore. He hopped and laughed. He stuttered and fluttered his hands and said, "Ah, ah, you must listen to, hear." We listened all ears, but he forgot what he wanted to say. "Really, listen. Ahem. Look. Dear Sal, sweet Laura. I've come, I've gone, but wait, ah, yes," and he stared with rocky sorrow into his hands. "Can't talk no more. You understand that it is, or might be, but listen." We all listened. He was listening to sounds in the night. "Yes," he whispered with awe. "But you see, no need to talk anymore and further."
Dean's language has gone from this sort of quasi-academic gibberish of the beginning of the novel, to this completely fragmented, broken version of the "yes"s and "ah"s and "wow"s of those early, ecstatic days. So, Sal's language, by the end, has absorbed some of this, and yet gone on to honor a kind of coherence that Dean cannot inhabit anymore, or maybe that Dean never inhabited.
So, the last sentence of the book, which I want to read to you--I think I have time--just because this is the language that Sal comes out of it with, or that Kerouac comes out with as, the payoff for opening language, in the ways that Dean's language of immediacy represents. So this is one sentence, page 307, the last paragraph.
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old, broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable, huge bulge over the West Coast and all that road going, all the people dreaming and the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry and tonight the stars will be out and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks, and folds the final shore in and nobody, nobody knows what is going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty. I even think of old Dean Moriarty, the father we never found. I think of Dean Moriarty.
So, he's blasted open the syntax of that sentence, piled clause upon clause upon clause, phrase on phrase, to include that whole road in the one sentence. So, if the dream of Kerouac's language is to pour experience into language and make language immediate, this sentence is a very fine example of the payoff. There is a kind of goofiness at the center of it, "God is Pooh Bear." What does that mean? God is just a toy? God is a children's story? But then there is that lyrical, elegiac, always sad sense of longing, and the excess of the end: "Dean Moriarty…Dean Moriarty's father…Dean Moriarty." You can't just say it once. You have to try to fill that void by saying it two times and by invoking his father a third time. So the excess and the longing are there, each trying to drive or satisfy the other.
Chapter 4. The Publication History: Creating a Literary Object [00:41:12]
Now, if we have any doubts that On the Road is mythic in itself, I just want to show you quickly two things. In 2007, On the Road had its fiftieth anniversary of publication. It was written in 1951 and it was published in 1957 by Viking. So last year we were treated to these two books. One thing that fascinates me about them is that they are examples of how publishing houses rely on known names for making money. So, Viking has On the Road in their backlist, so they can make new copies. The pagination of this is exactly the same. All they did was bind; they made a retro cover, and they bound the original book review from the New York Times into the front. They just printed that in, and then they just reproduced the text again, so it becomes a sort of keepsake book. I'm not sure that a lot of people are going to read this book, but a lot of people might buy it as a keepsake.
This is the original scroll version. This is like the sop to scholars. This is for the scholarly buyer. This is for people like me (or not like me). This is the original typescript put into pages, but, as I think I mentioned in my first lecture, Kerouac wrote the manuscript for On the Road on one long, 120-foot roll of paper. He just stuck it in the typewriter. No paragraphs, no nothing; he just went. So, this book reproduces that, just breaking it as the pages demand (instead of actually giving us a scroll, which would be pretty cool). But what else they do, is they lard it with scholarly articles. There are--let's see--three scholarly articles, and then there is a note on the editing of the text and there are suggestions for further reading. It makes it into a real literary object, sort of like a modernist text. And what I love here is that, apparently, at the very beginning of the scroll, Kerouac made a typo, and the editor says, "I read it. I let the typo stand." Here it is, the editor, Howard Cunnell: "Because it so beautifully suggests the sound of a car misfiring before starting up for a long journey, I have left uncorrected the manuscript's opening line, which is 'I met met Neal not long before my father died.'" There is the fantasy that the writing approximates the actual car trip, "met met." Oh, "it sounds like a car starting. I'm going to leave that in there." So, the editors just buy--completely buy--the text's own mythology and produce all this apparatus around it to help us believe it, too.
Now, the last thing I want to show you is on a less skeptical note. If you ever doubt that the legend and the dream of On the Road is alive and is powerful in art, literary art and visual art, today, all you need to do is look at a very recent work of digital art. This is Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, which is a collaboration of an American man and a Korean woman who create online digital artworks. And this is one of them from 2002 called Dakota, and I think you will see immediately how and why it is related to On the Road. It's also related to Ezra Pound's Cantos, but I'm not going to burden you with that right now. What I want you to do is just think about this. It runs about six minutes, so I'm going to let that go now. [digital artwork playing] All right. Okay. So, if you ever doubted that the dream of an immediate language that is somehow the correlate to jazz and experience, that's your dream living on. Okay

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