I’ve been a big curmudgeon about the 50th birthday of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, an occasion I’d originally planned to ignore completely. But the Guardian Unlimited was nice enough to ask me to contribute a short piece to their week-long celebration of all things Beat (which also includes, so far, John Freeman on the novel’s Chelsea home and Tony O’Neill on Bukowski’s poetry) and I guess it won’t kill me to crack a smile on the day one of my favoritest books ever was born.
A long time ago, back when LitKicks was brand new, I typed in one of my favorite passages from the book, featuring Sal and Dean listening to Slim Gaillard in a jazz club. Note how Kerouac finds melancholy even inside this joyous moment:
Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody’s head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped into his hand. ‘Bourbon-orooni — thank-you-ovauti …’ Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is.
On The Road became a sensational success, and soon nobody knew where Jack Kerouac was either.
Happy birthday, book.
And please stay tuned for the next installment in our ongoing conversation about literary publishing, coming up later today!