Anyone who knows me – students, friends, family – can’t miss that I am a Jack Kerouac fan. And no, my favorite is not On the Road. My favorite is The Dharma Bums. But, either way, I think Kerouac – minus the cliches about him and his work – was one of those lightning bolts in literature, art, pop culture that comes only a few times in a century. On the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, I released a personal audio documentary of a Kerouac-like trip I made with a friend – my Dean Moriarty – across the American west. It was broadcast on public radio stations across the country. And recently, at the college where I teach – Columbia College Chicago – I was privileged to be involved in the campus-wide celebration of Kerouac when his original On the Road manuscript was exhibited at the school.
And now, even more great Kerouac stuff.
There’s a new CD and documentary film just released called – One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur. it is a marvelous collection of Kerouac images and stories, but most importantly it is a collection of new musical works from the indie artists Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jay Farrar of Son Volt. Big Sur was a post-On the Road work that really is a downer. It focuses on Kerouac’s terrible descent into alcoholism and his attempt to dry-up while spending time alone in a cabin owned by Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in California’s Big Sur. The book is wonderful, but depressing. The music in this collection – yes, a bit EMO – but in many respects absolutely beautiful. In a way, it captures Kerouac’s Big Sur – a novel dealing with the depths of human despair, but also engaging glimmers of hope. Sure – maybe a CD collection based around Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums might have been better. (On the Road would have been too much of a cliche, don’t you think?) but still, the music is worth a listen, even if you are are not a Kerouac fan.