I’ve always had a particular liking for British and American authors, even back when my English was really bad and I had to rely on translations. This love for stories and books from the island and other continents deepened once my English language skills advanced to the point where I could start reading my favorite books in their original version. This broadened my knowledge on authors from the English-speaking world as well as further improved my English.
One of my first memorable encounters with American literature was Jack Kerouac and On the Road. I was about 14, or maybe 15, and because I had already been to the US twice, I could remember the wide and open landscapes he wrote about and I longed for these exact landscapes. I too wanted to ride into an adventurous unknown future amidst friends. I too wanted to be free. And I too wanted to be Dean Moriarty –like so many others – the alter ego that wasn’t Jack’s, but haunted him to the grave. [Also, I did not care the slightest that Dean was a male character – I’ve never cared much about gender roles and images and I still don’t. I was 15, I just wanted to enjoy a road trip with someone who seemed like a true companion]
I read The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans, The Town and the City, and Maggie Cassidy, though I never finished the last one as my demons came for some lengthy stay just when I started the book and Maggie Cassidy is not the kind of book I can focus on while at the same time trying to stay mentally sane. Moreover I can remember that The Dharma Bums left a deep impression; once again I felt a longing for solitude, nature and being free, even though I was a few years older than when reading On the Road.
Just recently I started to re-read Jack Kerouac’s works, and in some cases reading it for the first time in the original English version. Two early works of Kerouac – The Sea is my Brother and The Haunted Life – were published ‘just recently’ (a.k.a within the last few years – sometimes I miss important literary milestones thanks to too much literary work) and this prompted me to get back to Jack after so much time passed between our last encounter years earlier.
When I started reading Jack Kerouac in my teens and continued to do so throughout my early twenties, I was myself an avid writer. In some ways I was heavily influenced by Jack, not so much his style – I’m not musical enough, though I love jazz – but rather by his passion, his philosophies and his life in general, always on the move, always travelling and moving throughout the country, always writing (at least I thought so; much later I found out that most of his books published after On the Road were written well before, and that Jack had serious problems to produce any sort of writing since his drinking got out of hand). I wanted to live like Jack and to write like Jack. Which was of course not possible. Thankfully. Also, I never had the stamina to aim for a novel, I’m rather the short-story-type of writer – this may be my way of truly appreciating Jack’s life and personal (hi)story, his unsteadiness and constant rambling cross-country: not being able to stick to one long story but rather jumping from one to another as I liked.
I have not written anything ‘creative’ (‘arty’) in ages, for various reasons: working to get a degree, working as a freelance writer (believe me, one absolutely great way to ruin any sort of creative writing is working as a freelance writer for web contents, online advertisement and alike), demons. But, as I recently rediscovered good old Jack and plan to find out if my love for his writing is still there somewhere, how it has changed after all those years and finally (finally!) reading just English versions, I’m also curious if the pure act of reading Kerouac once again may serve as a catalyst for my own writing. It’s not so much that I think I’m THAT great, but I always loved writing and it’s pretty much the only talent I have (I can also just stand upright and breathe regularly on my own, but that’s rather training than talent).
As a way to spur my academic works (and writing) as well, I just recently started to write daily, in various forms, may it be a blog post, a lengthy diary entry or part of my dissertation (or my talk!!!). It works just fine, at least for now, and maybe, maybe, one day I may finally find how Jack is resurrecting my inner writer in one way or the other. Maybe. Would be fun. And I would again return to being a bit of a cliché…