Fifty years after the publication of On the Road, the question remains: where was Kerouac going?
David L. Ulin
Why Kerouac Matters:
The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)
by John Leland
$23.95 List Price
A friend of mine once met Jack Kerouac. This was in 1968, in the Carolinas somewhere; my friend was a college student, and Kerouac, well, Kerouac was playing out the string. He was forty-six (the age I am now), broken-down and bloated, a barroom brawler discontent with his legacy. In September of that year, he would appear on William F. Buckley Jr.'s television show, Firing Line, along with the Fugs' Ed Sanders, whose work and politics he'd disavowed. To look at footage of that appearance is instructive— Kerouac drunk in a checkered jacket, smoking a cigarillo and tossing off non sequiturs, face florid and body thick; Buckley supercilious in seersucker, subtly goading him. A telling moment comes at the end of the segment, when Kerouac turns to Sanders and declares, "Say, Ed, I was arrested two weeks ago. And the
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