Bus lit: scraps of Kerouac
My current bus-ride literature is Jack Kerouac Book of Sketches, a paperback about the size of a package of frozen lima beans. The book collects Kerouac’s thoughts and images, the idea being to “sketch in the streets, like a painter but with words.”
As much as I admire Kerouac, I often find him maddening. I flip through the book as the bus bumps over curbs, looking for insight. It’s often not here among these fragments and undeveloped ideas, 15 notebooks which Kerouac typed into a manuscript in 1957 – the year that On the Road came out – but was not published until 2006. There’s enough to keep me going. I guess it’s good bus literature, short lines that my eyes can follow even after being jerked out of place when we hit a Lake Avenue pothole.
A poem-ish scrap called “Coyote Viejo” describes how Kerouac’s father, who was dying, would listen to Danny Kaye on the radio, because he thought he was funny. Kerouac calls Kaye “a stale & narrow clown,” and the time spent by the radio a “waste of time.” But then Kerouac turns on himself, “just as I waste time on box scores,” or “on TV stupidities – how mediocre everything’s got since 10 years!”
Five pages later, a few lines beneath the title TOMBSTONE:
I was a naive overbelieving type.
Perhaps he got them off of a tombstone, or wanted these words on his own marker. Kerouac died at age 47, having destroyed his liver with excessive drinking. His headstone reads, “He honored Life.” I looked it up on the Internet.