Ever since I posted it many moons ago, Kerouac’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose has been far and away the most visited post on the blog. It is lovely poetry in itself, brimming with inspirational snippets like “Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy” and “Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition.” Crazy stuff; Kerouac is definitely a writer’s writer. Who doesn’t want to be a poet, a literary wild man? His name alone is an incantation.
But I suspect that most writers aspire to living the Kerouac lifestyle than actually writing like him. Hands up: have you ever actually read On the Road? Did you enjoy it? Did you get through it – and be honest – without saying, “What is this about?” Did it make you want to read anything else the man wrote? And if you have read it, do you have any desire to read it again?
My answers: Yes. No. Got through it, but not without a WTF or two. I think I read Maggie Cassidy afterwards; it’s even more unintelligible. No, but I keep it on the bookshelf for ambience.
I used to want to be a writer. Now I write. I don’t know, I guess there are some great lines of poetry in there, surrounded by vast paragraphs of stuff that happened. Kerouac’s rules serve as a warm fuzzy encouragement to get going on your self-expressive writing, but if they didn’t have Kerouac’s name stamped across the top, I wonder if we would consider them nonsense. Beat, hipster, jazz, vinyl, snaps, I’m getting too old for making the effort to go to cafes to hear boring writing read out loud by heirs apparent to the travelling rebel poet crown.
That goes for you too, JD Salinger wannabes. Then again, don’t listen to me. Just turn 30 and re-read Catcher in the Rye. You’ll see what I mean.