Up here in the hinterlands of Northern New England, news reaches us, but substance is often months or more behind. So, this will be an incomplete account, barred in courtrooms because the substance is largely hearsay. However, my hope is that the derivative message will be approved by the judge.
For the second time in the past month or so I’ve read about a recently released film based on the societal refugee writers we call the Beat Generation. On the Road was released last year, and the iconic name won’t go unnoticed as the Jack Kerouac novel that has inspired decades of teenagers to questions their confines.
With a cast that includes Twilight sweetheart Kristen Stewart, red-headed favorite Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen among other household names, it will be sure to find its way into the bedrooms of another generation of young adults.
Not that On the Road needs the help. Even for those who are not assigned the text in a high school or college class, word gets out. That Kerouac guy has got one pretty wild story. Suddenly, the world is a lot, lot bigger.
I was in high school when I first had this “Wow” moment. It was inspired by the Beat Generation, but it wasn’t Kerouac and it wasn’t On the Road. I’ve read the book a couple times, but it failed to inspire me the way I saw some of my teenage friends as they traveled to different states to work for nuns and on reservations and even build a shack to inhabit in a parent’s backyard. I liked the story, and even went on to read The First Third, an account as written by Neal Cassady, the basis for On the Road‘s Dean Moriarity.
The moment that caught me was in an expansive suburban Borders (books and music) store. It was the beginning of what became a life changing occupation for myself and my high school partner in crime.
We went to read and hear poetry. It was there, some small coffee shops in a neighboring town and eventually more inclusive open mics in Philadelphia with some songwriting friends.
What we read before this night I can’t remember. How and what we wrote is a mystery, locked in a past life. I started a new life that night.
I remember it as this. Near the end of the evening a scrawny man of average height stepped up to the lectern in a small carpeted area by the cds. He was wearing an un-ironed, un-buttoned collared shirt over a t-shirt. Tucked in. His salt and pepper hair was pulled back into a short ponytail and his shoulders slumped slightly.
He stood up and announced that he was going to read a poem that was not his own. He went on to orate Allen Ginsberg’s America. And right there is suburbia, the universe contracted and shifted, for two girls, maybe 15 or 16, who all in a moment became a part of it.
I’ve had countless such experiences since, but this was the first. For this reason I am all the more curious and intrigued by the film Kill Your Darlings, which explores real-life drama in the worlds of Ginsberg, Kerouac and William Burroughs, showing the life events that contributed to the conception of their own ideas and work.
Again, the quantum physicist in me connects and sets alight. The title, derivative from the Faulkner quote meaning to take out the most favorite parts of your writing . . . which was first accounted to me by my senior year professor Maddy Blais . . . (a Pulitzer Prize winning writer) . . . who wrote a book about a high school basketball team . . . one of whose players I met by accident through a friend in Somerville, Massachusetts . . . the same town where my high school friend went to school and published her first little book.
More writers come out of the woodwork. Paulo Coelho peers around the corner to examine my personal legend. I sigh and think back. Words. Images. Art and Silence. These catalysts propel decades and centuries of change, innovation and interconnection.
We continue to tell stories of the Beat Generation, the Romantics, Punks, Impressionists, Surrealists, and we are drawn, inexplicably to their stories. Perhaps because they were moments of change, but perhaps because they are more of the same. The ideas resonate. We’ve heard the story before. We’re on the playground, and someone has pushed the slow-motion button as the tether ball winds around these lightning rods. It stops, and we toss the ball again.