Speaking and writing – on the road

Reviewing Jack Kerouac’s second novel, for The New York Times of 5 September 1957, Gilbert Millstein called On the Road  “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat’, and whose principal avatar he is.”

Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo, circa 1956

Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo, circa 1956

Over the past few days, I’ve been looking into what lay behind that one long scroll onto which Kerouac typed his novel.

Concerned about how certain kinds of writing tends to distance the writer from the reader, reduce the reader to abstract function, or even erase the reader altogether, Kerouac began “to search for a relationship to writing that would recover something of the interactive and behavioral immediacy of spoken language.” (Tim Hunt)

Intent on rescuing literary language from this tendency to alienate, Kerouac sought to emphasize “the aural and oral nature of language as speech,” and was determined “to find a way to make writing, like speech, function in actual time.” (Tim Hunt)

What interests me most, I realise, is the use of compositional reflection to create writing that feels natural and spontaneous, and that reads like conversation — and not merely a transcript of the conversation.

For me, that means “listening to the voices in my head” and recording them faithfully.

One thought on “Speaking and writing – on the road

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