‘The assumption that Jack Kerouac was a conservative or a radical is mistaken; he was both, and is a consequence of the either/or viewpoint that has cursed Western thought since Aristotle. We’re much more complex and contradictory creatures than we like to think. “We contain multitudes” as Whitman rightly claimed; the key is coming to terms with how fucked up we are, which Kerouac never did, fleeing into company, solitude and drink with a manic intensity and inertia that finally killed him. The journey narrative that we, and perhaps he, superimpose (the young libertine turning into bitter drink-sodden puritan) is a falsehood. The reason Beckett, Kafka and their like are seen as particularly bleak writers is because they show us the unpalatable possibility that there are no journeys.’
I’ve been wrestling with the ghost of that be-bopping nogoodnik Jack Kerouac, and what he’d have made of the present day, over on the excellent Fertile Fact.