On Revision and Jack Kerouac

On George Saunders’s Story Club, a fellow clubber remarked on “the illusion of natural genius”. It reminded me, by way of contrast, of Edison’s “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” axiom. Some authors may be good at their craft but they’re also often good or even better at creating the “illusion”.

Jack Kerouac comes to mind. It’s been to long since I read “On the Road” but I feel sure the image of him drafting his manuscript in a blinding flash of uninterrupted inspiration on a continuous roll of paper fed into a presumably scorching hot typewriter has done nothing to glorify the plodding Sisyphean nature of perfecting a short-story.

Glancing over at the Wikipedia entry for “On the Road”. Contrasting his methods with the on-stage performances of Jazz musicians discounts the vast quantity of hours consecrated to “art” in the woodshed. I am not surprised that he has an essay titled “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”.

(I have to stop to admire David Brooks’s commentary on its legacy:

Reading through the anniversary commemorations, you feel the gravitational pull of the great Boomer Narcissus. All cultural artifacts have to be interpreted through whatever experiences the Baby Boomer generation is going through at that moment. So a book formerly known for its youthful exuberance now becomes a gloomy middle-aged disillusion.

On the Road – Wikipedia

Please tell me that you don’t love, “the Great Boomer Narcissus”!)

Kerouac now occurs to me to be a worthy contrast in styles to George Saunders’s loving, workmanlike embrace of revision.

Kerouac’s essay, per this synopsis on Genius (https://genius.com/Jack-kerouac-essentials-of-spontaneous-prose-annotated), is I suspect well worth the while. And the idea that we could someday write at improvisational speed is something we should always aspire towards.

What is so wrong about Kerouac’s modeling himself off of bee-bop Jazz musicians.

Charlie Parker as a role model (minus perhaps the addictions)? C’mon!

Okay. Time to go back to the woodshed…


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