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Windblown world : the journals of Jack Kerouac, 1947-1954 /
edited and with an introduction by Douglas Brinkley.
imprint
New York : Viking, 2004.
description
xliv, 387 p. : ill.
ISBN
0670033413
format(s)
Book
Holdings
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A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
SECTION I The Town and the City The Town and the CityWorklogs These meticulous logs of Kerouac's progress on his first novel, The Town and the City, filled most of two journals, running from June 1947 to September 1948, when Kerouac completed the manuscript. They begin with Kerouac's summer ?mood log.' In November 1947, he begins his ?winter writing log,? which catalogues his progress on The Town and the City. Other than a brief portion written in North Carolina, this was all written in New York while Kerouac was living with his mother in the small walk-up apartment above a drugstore at 94-10 Cross Bay Boulevard in the nondescript working-class town of Ozone Park, Queens. Leo Kerouac died in the same apartment in 1946. It had two small bedrooms, a kitchen in which Kerouac wrote each night, and a sitting room with a piano. The first journal itself measures about 7H by 8H inches. The cover has ?1947?1948? written at the top, with ?NOTES? in bubble lettering below it and ?JOURNALS? below that. In the bottom right is: John Kerouac 1947 N.Y. June?December The second journal these logs were pulled from, like the previous one, measures about 7H by 8H inches. On the cover ?FURTHER NOTES? is written in block lettering, and below it is written ?Well, this is the Forest of Arden.' In the bottom-right corner is the following: J Kerouac 1947?48 N.Y.C. JUNE 16?47? Just made one of those great grim decisions of one's life'not to present my manuscript of ?T & C?* to any publisher until I've completed it, all 380,000-odd words of it. This means seven months of ascetic gloom and labor'although doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now. I think I will get this immense work done much sooner this way, to face up to it and finish it. Past two years has been work done in a preliminary mood, a mood of beginning and not completing. To complete anything is a horror, an insult to life, but the work of life needs to get done, and art is work'what work!! I've read my manuscript for the first time and I find it a veritable Niagara of a novel. This pleases me and moves me, but it's sorrowful to know that this is not the age for such art. This is an excluding age in art'the leaver-outer [F. Scott] Fitzgeralds prevail in the public imagination over the putter-inner [Thomas] Wolfes. But so what. All I want from this book is a living, enough money to make a living, buy a farm and some land, work it, write some more, travel a little, and so on. But enough of this. The next seven(TEEN) months are joyless to view'but there is as much joy in these things, there is more joy, than in flitting around as I've done since early May, when I completed a 100,000-word section (Mood Log). I might as well learn now what it is to see things as they are'and the truth is, nobody cares how I fare in these writings. So I must fare in the grimmest, most efficient way there is, alone, unbidden, diligently again, always. The future has a glorious woman for me, and my own children, I'm certain of that?I must come up to them and meet them a man with things accomplished. I don't care to be one of those frustrated fathers. Behind me there must be some stupendous deed done'this is the way to marry, the way to prepare for greater deeds and work. So then?10-DAY MOOD LOG, JUNE 16? 26 ?47JUNE 15 (SUNDAY)?I find it almost impossible to get underway again: my mind seems blank and disinterested in these fictions. I give up after 500-words of a preliminary nature. MONDAY 16?Feeling just as hopeless'feeling that I may not, after all, be able to complete anything. But I write 2000-words pertaining to the chapter, and things begin to break, or crumble & seethe. TUESDAY 17?Reluctance! Reluctance always! We hate original work, we human beings. Wrote 1800-words pertaining. I'm back in these regions of fumbling dark uncertain creation, but it's my
First Chapter
SECTION I
The Town and the City
The Town and the CityWorklogs

These meticulous logs of Kerouac’s progress on his first novel, The Town and the City, filled most of two journals, running from June 1947 to September 1948, when Kerouac completed the manuscript. They begin with Kerouac’s summer “mood log.” In November 1947, he begins his “winter writing log,” which catalogues his progress on The Town and the City. Other than a brief portion written in North Carolina, this was all written in New York while Kerouac was living with his mother in the small walk-up apartment above a drugstore at 94-10 Cross Bay Boulevard in the nondescript working-class town of Ozone Park, Queens. Leo Kerouac died in the same apartment in 1946. It had two small bedrooms, a kitchen in which Kerouac wrote each night, and a sitting room with a piano.

The first journal itself measures about 7H by 8H inches. The cover has “1947–1948” written at the top, with “NOTES” in bubble lettering below it and “JOURNALS” below that. In the bottom right is: John Kerouac
1947 N.Y.
June–December
The second journal these logs were pulled from, like the previous one, measures about 7H by 8H inches. On the cover “FURTHER NOTES” is written in block lettering, and below it is written “Well, this is the Forest of Arden.” In the bottom-right corner is the following:
J Kerouac
1947–48
N.Y.C.
JUNE 16—’47—
Just made one of those great grim decisions of one’s life—not to present my manuscript of “T & C”* to any publisher until I’ve completed it, all 380,000-odd words of it. This means seven months of ascetic gloom and labor—although doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now. I think I will get this immense work done much sooner this way, to face up to it and finish it. Past two years has been work done in a preliminary mood, a mood of beginning and not completing. To complete anything is a horror, an insult to life, but the work of life needs to get done, and art is work—what work!! I’ve read my manuscript for the first time and I find it a veritable Niagara of a novel. This pleases me and moves me, but it’s sorrowful to know that this is not the age for such art. This is an excluding age in art—the leaver-outer [F. Scott] Fitzgeralds prevail in the public imagination over the putter-inner [Thomas] Wolfes. But so what. All I want from this book is a living, enough money to make a living, buy a farm and some land, work it, write some more, travel a little, and so on. But enough of this. The next seven(TEEN) months are joyless to view—but there is as much joy in these things, there is more joy, than in flitting around as I’ve done since early May, when I completed a 100,000-word section (Mood Log). I might as well learn now what it is to see things as they are—and the truth is, nobody cares how I fare in these writings. So I must fare in the grimmest, most efficient way there is, alone, unbidden, diligently again, always. The future has a glorious woman for me, and my own children, I’m certain of that—I must come up to them and meet them a man with things accomplished. I don’t care to be one of those frustrated fathers. Behind me there must be some stupendous deed done—this is the way to marry, the way to prepare for greater deeds and work. So then—10-DAY MOOD LOG, JUNE 16– 26 ’47

JUNE 15 (SUNDAY)—I find it almost impossible to get underway again: my mind seems blank and disinterested in these fictions. I give up after 500-words of a preliminary nature.

MONDAY 16—Feeling just as hopeless—feeling that I may not, after all, be able to complete anything. But I write 2000-words pertaining to the chapter, and things begin to break, or crumble & seethe.

TUESDAY 17—Reluctance! Reluctance always! We hate original work, we human beings. Wrote 1800-words pertaining. I’m back in these regions of fumbling dark uncertain creation, but it’s my one and only world, and I’ll do the best I can. What would be the best medium for earnest thoughts if not a novel—earnest thoughts refined, as from crude one, into earnest motives—and the unconscious intuitive drift of great themethoughts rushing. I often think a notebook is better—but no, a novel, the very tale of earnestness and life-meaning, is the best thing. (“It will be better for you.”—Mohammed)

WEDNESDAY 18—A great physical lassitude and physical melancholy. I eat a big meal at 1 A.M. and walk two miles* and do some writing—1800-words. Something’s wrong—I keep saying, “Why do I haveto write this?” It would be far better if I were asking myself—“Why do I wantto write this?” That’s the greatest writing, the unconscious. Someday I’ll learn, someday I’ll learn. I’ve got to do this now, though—how best to do it, that’s the problem. A monstrous job, but alright if I can only believe in its sure realprogress. I wish I could write from the point of view of one hero instead of giving everyone in the story his due value—this makes me confused, many times disgusted. After all, I’m human, I have my beliefs. I put nonsense in the mouths of characters I don’t like, and this is tedious, discouraging, disgusting. Why doesn’t God appear to tell me I’m on the right track? What foolishness!

THURSDAY 19—Read Tolstoy’s moral essays and I writhed and wrestled to the conclusion that morality, moral concept, is a form of melancholy. Not for me, not for me! Moral behaviour, yes, but no concepts whatever. There is a lugubrious senility in morality which is devoid of real life. Let’s just say—the substance of things is good, its formis good too until the form dries up, and then anyway, being bad, useless, outworn, the substance marches off and leaves the form- husk there. All very general. I concluded that Dostoevsky’s wisdom is the highest wisdom in the world, because it is not only Christ’s wisdom, but a Karamazov Christ of lusts and glees.* Let’s have a morality that does not exclude sheer life—loving! Poor Tolstoy, anguished because he started rich and profligate—yet when a Count retires to the peasants, it’s really of some account to the world(pun intended.) Tolstoy must have been self-conscious of his moral importance in the eyes of the world. But Dostoevsky, Shakespeare—their morality grows in the earth, is hidden there and brooding. Dostoevsky never had to retire to morality, he was always it, and everything else also. (Today’s busy thoughts.) Wrote 2000-words, walked at night, saw a terrible auto crackup, but nobody killed.

FRIDAY 20—Things going smoothly again in my soul. Back to the humility and decencyof writing-life. A Galloway* friend visited me in the afternoon; but wrote again at night. It occurs to me that one of the gutsiest, greatest ideas a writer can have is that he writes about someone merely “to show what kind of a mad character he is.” This idea has to be understood in the American sense. My Galloway friend wants specific conclusionsfrom literary art, I agree with him, and I think nothing is more specific about a person than the tone and substance of his personality, his being, the fury and feel and look of it. To show “what a mad character” Francis is, I wrote a sketch of someone else in such a way as you may or may not like this someone else, but you see that Francis definitely does not like him.† And what is the purpose of these arts and devices?—what is the point of Francis’ dislike of someone else?—specifically, that’s the kind of character he is, that’s what he does. This would take too long to explain—at least, this is my mood tonight, a good one, and I got to writing at 1 A.M. and wrote on final draft of this week’s 8000-words.

SATURDAY 21—Day off. Went out in N.Y.

SUNDAY 22—Another thought that helps a writer as he works along—let him write his novel “the way he’d like to see a novel written.” This helps a great deal freeing you from the fetters of self- doubt and the kind of self-mistrust that leads to over-revision, too much calculation, preoccupation with “what others would think.” Look at your own work and say, “This is a novel after my own heart!” Because that’s what it is anyway, and that’s the point—it’s worrythat must be eliminated for the sake of individual force. In spite of all this insouciant advice, I myself advanced slowly today, but not poorly, working on the final draft of the chapter. I’m a little rusty. Oh and what a whole lot of bunk I could write this morning about my fear that I can’t write, I’m ignorant and worst of all, I’m an idiot trying to achieve something I can’t possibly do. It’s in the will, in the heart! To hell with these rotten doubts. I defy them and spit on them. Merde!

MONDAY 23—Wrote in the afternoon for several hours, went into N.Y. on business of a minor sort, and came back at night and wrote some more. A day of intense feelings, described elsewhere, a day of great rending thoughts that twist one back to face sudden realities heretofore avoided—and there you are, facing them, like looking into the sun, blinking, admitting the truth. Well, a very dramatic way of growing up, and of describing it. The details of it?—a fraction of those thoughts on paper and I would have enough thematic material to write ten epic American novels (maybe a couple of Siamese novels thrown in.) If the ordinary men, the men who work and keep their silence, by which fact they are not ordinary after all—if, then, the general run of men, were to write down alltheir thoughts or a fraction of them, what a universe of literatures we’d have! And I struggle with these pencil-marks and scribblings.

TUESDAY 24—Wrote on the final draft. Chapter will be 10,000-wds. long now.

WEDNESDAY 25—Wrote. Am reading the New Testament, really for the first time.

THURSDAY 26—Wrote on final draft, working slowly. Went to N.Y. to complete plans for going to sea this summer—I need to make a living.* Can I go about in camel’s hair, and leathern gird, and subsist on locust and wild honey?—(I probably could, with practice, but what of my wife, children, and mother? But Jesus would teach themto look only to God, too.) Still and all, if Jesus were sitting here at my desk tonight, looking out the window at all these people laughing and happy because the great summer vacation is beginning, perhaps he would smile, and thank his Father. I don’t know. People must “live,” and yet I know Jesus has the only answer. If I ever reconcile true Christianitywith American life, I will do so by remembering my father Leo [Kerouac], a man who knew both of these things. This only breaks a little ground on the subject. I must see—

FRIDAY 27—Completed the work, and placed it in the main manuscript, where it is as a grain of sand on a beach. And what is this beach? Only time will tell—I only know I should do it, I do it. 8,000-words in chapt. + 7,000-words in notebook ? 15,000 Now that’s all—there is nothing further to say on the subject of my work, which I have created myself, and whose face I do not know. What it is, what will come of it, I repeat, I don’t know. It will be there—that’s all one can be certain of—it will be there, it will abide and be there, and there’s nothing to say. This is darkness and yet this is also light—This is life and work. Don’t laugh, this is what it is.

Work of this kind is like a human being: What is it, whencedoes it come, where is it going, and why, and when, and who will know it? Work like this is something alive, and full of unknowables, and it abides even as you do not know whatit is.

So I console myself, saying, do not ask me what this book is, whence it came, whyit came and for what purpose, do not point out its imperfections, gaucheries, crudenesses—rather, you might just as well say to me, looking at me in the eyes:—“Whatare you, whencecame you, why, and for what crude imperfect purpose?”—

Remember—

the flashing exhilirated maddening discoveries and truths of youth, the ones that turn young men into visionary demons and make them unhappy and happier than ever all at once— the truths later dropped with the condescension of “maturity”—these truths come back in true maturity, maturity being nothing less than disciplined earnestness—these truths will come back to all true men, who make of them no fiery invidious “flag of youth” any more, but make of them what they can—here:—for example—If a boy finds that idealismis the highest virtue of man and holds this idea up like a flag in the greedy self-centered world, if a boy once does this, and even namesand numbers the idealisms, but later discovers that there is also a practicalworld—why, he will still later discover that the idealistic Jesus-soul isthe only soul!

The life’s gone out of it—out of anything which has artificially built itself outward from the substantial essence of itself—let’s make this clear—a town is more essential, more substantial, more livingthan a great Rome city, the great Rome city has deviated from the original purpose of a town, a place for people to live in, and become a city, a place for people not to live in, a place for people to hide from life, the earth, the meanings of family and soul and labour— let’s make this clear—the life’s gone out of it—out of anything which has run astray (“Lead us not into temptation”), anything which has lost itself in cant, artificiality, self-deceit and irrelevent horror, above all, in glittering triviality.

The earth will always be the same—only cities and history will change, even nations will change, governments and governors will go, the things made by men’s hands will go, buildings will always crumble—only the earth will remain the same, there will always be men on the earth in the morning, there will always be the things made by God’s hand—and all this history of cities and congresses now will go, all modern history is only a glittering Babylon smoking under the sun, delaying the day when men again will have to return to the earth, to the earth of life and God—

—Go ask the Central-American Indian who lives on the green earth that has grown on Mayan rooftops—

James Joyce did say—“History is a nightmare from which I am not yet awake.”* But he is awake now, as sure as sunlight.

We live in the world we see, but we only believe in the world we do not see. Who has believed in the worldand died with its name on his lips? Who has said, at death, “I believe in the future of this baubel, that triviality, this irrelevence—it will live forever!” Who has died not thinking of the firstand lastthings, the Alpha and the Omega of life on the earth?

We are come onto this earth and we do not know what we are supposed to do, and in all disorder and confusion, we cry out in our souls—“There must be truth, for I myself am true! true!” Yet all is false and foolish around us, and we ourselves are falsest and most foolish, and oh what are we supposed to do? What tremendous disorders appear, and where are we in it?—We don’t feel at last that we are true. We feel we are false through and through. But I will soon write a paper entitled—“Strange Reasons for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and Why Men Should No Longer Commit Suicide”—in which I will show that no matter what has been done to the man, he must not be destroyed or destroy himself—because in all the disorder and ghastly ruin of the world and the human imagination, there is still life and the possibility of redemption through the mere seeing of the earth, through wonder, the most abject kind of wonder shuffling down a street, and in this the whole thing is redeemable, and AT LAST, true! This is so unspeakable. A murderer must be given a chance to repent—The suicidal man must give himself a chance to wonder again, to see again. It’s all here—for here is the chiefest thing: If a dead man were allowed to return to the earth, to live again among men on the earth, for one day— whatever this soul would seeand think, that is for us now, the living now, that is the only truth, the most central feeling possible to man, the deepest. (And I often wonder:—would this resurrected man waste any time contemplating the good and evil in the world? or would he just feast the eyes of his soul in a hungry viewing of life on earth, of the reality of life on earth, the thing itself: little children, men, women, towns, cities, seasons and seas! A riddle! A riddle!)

Accursed is he who thinks and thinks but is never happy in his thoughts, who can never say—“Here I am, thinking.” It is no fun, no sport, this eternal thinking of mine which goes on a good twelve hours a day. Why do I do it? It’s a form of brooding, I actually look like a hound-dogall day. And how my mother is used to it! I think if I were not around the house brooding she would be certain the wheels of the universe had stopped turning. And what do I think about? What thoughts I have!—What thoughts! a whole host, multitude, and world of thoughts, I keep devising new ones and reworking old ones, some of the old ones are concluded and are only thought of as conclusions, whole worlds of new ones come crashing into my feelings, and it never ends. Why do I think? It’s my life, right there. That’s why I must be alone and thinking six days out of the week, because it’s my life. What will these thoughts win me?— They are not of this world. I don’t know whatthey are myself!

ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS

Christ’s teachings were a turning-to, a facing-up, a confrontation and a confoundmentof the terrible enigma of human life. What a miraculous thing!—what thoughts Jesus must have had before he “opened his mouth” on the Mount and spoke his sermon, what long dark silent thoughts!

First he knew the enigma of life, it was the cause of all sin and trouble; he was a man, he knew what men felt about wanting to live yet doomed to die, about wanting to manage yet cast into great labour and pain and adversity in order to manage, about wanting to eat yet having to kill to eat, about wanting possessions yet having to deprive others for them—he knew how gold was the symbol of men’s sweat-and-blood with which an idler could buy men even as they toiled—he knew the fatal meanings of sickness, bereavement, poverty and death on earth—he knew it all— and finally, in a vision, he saw the only wayto confound all this! “My kingdom is not of this world.” Consider that just once more, it is the most ringing sound of all human time—

“My kingdom is not of this world.”

Hear its tremendous music, the music of thought, the dark music of dark thought. Of all riddles, this is the only riddle, the Alpha and Omega of riddles—I call it a riddle because it confoundsthe senses—

The riddle of life propounds in the souls of men a moral proposition, to which they respond variously and at all times. All men are aware of the proposition, but most men ignore its meaning, a meaning almost invisible, and live vigorous absentminded lives and ‘trouble not themselves.’ Other men who know the meaning of the proposition, of fairness and unfairness in the enigmatic situation of life, seek consciouslyto ‘trouble not themselves’ and would imitate most men, for strength. Finally, some men suffer from knowing all this and almost die, in life, until and if they hold their sorrow well, and seek strength to hold it more.

There are a hundred ways of saying this. ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ and ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ say this. I wish I could say it with as much power and clarity. ‘Moby Dick’ also says this, and [Walt] Whitman says it sometimes. Some others.

And the glory of children forever is that they have not begun to perceive that adult human strength depends mostly on forgetfulness.

DOWN SOUTH (1947)*

After ten days in a different part of the world, among different people, in the world itself, and not in the night’s-landscape of one’s own soul (and an “artist’s” soul, at that), after only ten days pursuing different aims and so on, how easily feelings can change, on the surface, and make one realize the mutability of opinions. When I said, ten days ago, “My kingdom is not of this world!”—this was only an opinion, perhaps, and not a feeling: because now, again, the world opens up as a place of powerful things for me to feed upon, the excluding moralities vanish in an October rush of excitement, hunger, joy and zeal, the self-disgust of lonely introspection becomes the social gregarious keenness so necessary as a fuel to get one around in things.

I detect a strong dualism—between loneliness, morality, humility, sternness, critical Christianism—and charm, open-mindedness, dask (the attempt at dash), humourousness, Faustian power and lust for experience. These two sets of impulses will never cease to work in me. Which at least makes for good fuel for getting around.

“Getting around” seems to be my most persistent feeling—probably the only basic feeling mentioned in all notebook rhetoric. For what am I?—a “character” (in the American sense.) They call me Kerouac, omitting the first name, as though I were a kind of figurein the world, much less a “guy,” a “power.” This is what they do, smiling when they think of me, even when I spend long winters of loneliness and strive to be stern, silent, majestic. The result is always … Kerouac. Here I’m giving leeway to what casual acquaintances think of me. The purpose of all this writing is unclear, but it serves unknown needs fortuitously at work and at living.

For what I am is at all times of the least importance, of lesser importance the more I accomplish, of no importance whatever a hundred years from now. The central essence from which we all draw our blood, that’s the thing, the place, the Father, the all. I mean this—and when I speak of anything, I hear choruses of unknown past, present, and future voices uttering the words with me. The me and the all, the son and the father. When Christ directs all his motives to God, over the heads of men, a man in another history directs all his motives to the All, overthe heads of men and of his own. The essence of religion, the thing that “will keep you out of a psychiatrist’s office”—as though such were the purpose for religion (critical Christianism.) Didn’t Jesus warn against the sin of ignoring the madman, to most high exalted point of recognizing no madness anywhere? If little Jude the Obscure refuses to step on worms in the path, he must grow up and assess no living man a worm or a madman: which he fails to follow up.

It is all irreconciliable—the All is irreconciliable. I cannot kill a fish, ere I kill a man, but men eat the little fish, I am a man. To bring morality into the vast thingthat is organic life, is futile. And futility is the meaning of life, its nobleness—nobleness a thing of principal foremost importance and power, greater than occasional achievement.

Words, words, words—and what are blank pages for?

I keep wondering if “mankind” in Jesus’s time was so young and inexperienced in the ways of earthly livelihood that its only recourse was a turning-in to selfless immolation—and if “mankind” now has begun to learn to make a more comfortable life for more men, the American dream, and therefore, changes its life meaning into a “livelihood of man,” with religion dead, and “progress” at full sail. Let’s mull these things over back in the profound night’s-landscape of loneliness in Ozone Park, where work is done, and slightest earthly tremors are felt as great shocks and revelations.

Do I grow stupid away from the blessed “Dostoevsky’s Russia” of myself?—the moor of myself, every inch my own creation?—where it becomes clear that too much thinking is worse than none, and that to be specific and grave is like a plow in the hands.

My grave and specific thoughts—

A little mangy dog is tied by a chain to a fence by a Southern poor white family, it whines in the night, it is ill fed, and cruelly treated. Shall I free this dog?—sneak down at night and release him? Will he bark at me, bite me and despise me in the dead of night for meddling in the affairs of this unmoral organic earth. I am not God: What shall I do in this suffering world? Suffer. But is that enough to satisfy the big moral feeling I have. Why should I have a moral feeling on that scale. I am not God. If I were offered the power of miracle, could I yet alleviate the vast organic suffering, without disrupting some inner God’s purpose in it all. Why is it that I can bear my own troubles and pain because I believe in fortitude, and have to, of course, but do not grant this fortitude to other and fellow-creatures? If the little mangy dog suffers, and I try to help him, has he not the right to despise me for assuming that he cannot bear his own lot. There’s an invisible organic law, to which “Progress” is stone blind—but bless it. Women love men because they are blind, God loves life because it is blind—and woman and God are love and wrath combined, the woman will eventually soothe you (as my mother soothed and comforted my dying father) just as surely as God soothes all life in the end, even in death lastly—

We catch a fish, a bass, we call it George, hand it over to a Medieval hook, hang it over the side to live and “keep fresh” with a hook torn through its dumb mouth. We finally go home, lock George up in a dark compartment to suffocate and die, alone, while we drive along in the fresh Carolina air. Oh Jesus!—your fishermen held millions in their nets! Dumb writhing fish, dying and working parched gills in this world. Oh God!—this is all of us, it happens to all of us. What shall we do, where shall we go, and when do we die like this? What is there to say here, that wasn’t said—we are doomed to suffering and darkest death. It has been made hardfor us, hard!We are fish wriggling in the net, fighting one another for the watery parts where we can yet breathe. (Therefore the tenant farmer on his gray rickety porch in the noonday sun, poor, humbled, cheated, dying—and therefore the big tobacco man from Wilson with his big 42 foot yatch in the waters, his case of Scotch , his radio, his clean white trousers.) Jesus—your only answer to all things alive! And you have made it hard, hard, even as Our Father made it hard.—

So the poor man of poverty and silence, and the big city of talkative cocktail hours. What shall we do about that?

Bless it all—it’s God’s whole works.

KINSTON, N.C.*

July, 1947

From now on—

—less notes on the subject of writing—

—and of myself—

—and more writing.

From now on, no more shouted doubts, no more of the roots of the tree, but the foliage of it. This is a coming of age. A man must keep his doubts to himself and prove his works instead.

“THE AMERICAN ‘TASTE’”

No human being in the English-speaking world can pronounce the word “taste” in just that way that a certain kind of American pronounces it. It is incredible to hear it. It sounds something like “tayest,” it sounds amazing, and it is too rich to be true. It is pronounced by an American who has been “abroad” and who has been to Harvard or Columbia, and who might be rich, but not necessarily. Let us look at him, at this rare, strange creature, let us hear him say, “But my dear Tom, just where is your sense of tayest! Really!” Just where he got the idea that living was a matter of “taste” only God can say. From books written in Europe by continental-phenomenal snobs, from some strange, dark, lonely notion that all the wildness and brutality and vast sweep of American life can be cancelled, in one swoop, by the word “taste”—it’s hard to say. But Thomas Wolfe has already covered the satirical aspects of this phenomena, and I leave it to any amateur psychologist to decide the rest. It’s unimportant.

“ON A DEEP LIFE”

JULY ’47

That kind of lifetime most often observable in obituaries of respectable proportions, and indeed in the obituary sketches of most of this world’s lifetimes, the kind of life that can actually be summed up in two or three paragraphs—these lives must surely have been used as cheap coin by the deceased. When you read these obituaries, you often think, “Well at least there’s a generation forthcoming from them, who might live a little more intensely.” But you know the children of these people will live similar absentminded lives, and die summed up in two paragraphs. A few hollow titles, a few “public services,” a medal, some property and means, a diploma for something— that’s what they leave for their children to mull over, if indeed their children are capable at all of mulling over anything in the heat of blind acquisitive days. My father’s life was so rich and so deep that I still spend my days absorbed in its details, which could fill a book. My father did not die blankly leaving life to be fulfilled, if at all, by his children. He fulfilled it, just as I want to fulfill it in my way, sincerely.

NOVEMBER 1947

(After the California trip)*

Now I have to get back to “the humility and decency of writing-life.” And to the resumption of writing-logs …

* * *

There’s something really wrong about being worldly, I’m convinced of that for once and for all, and I’m in a position right now to look into it. How worldly I do sound! But look—I’ve seen a lot of things. These are just ways of evoking and enunciating the worldly blankness I feel after being away from the controlled madness, the tumultuous sensitivity of writing-life for so long. I don’t like the feeling of “knowing it all,” knowing what I want, how to get it, all clear, and not “glaring in” like Carlyle’s reality, but just clear and glistening. I’ve got to learn to walk back to the shadows of truth.

WINTER WRITING-LOG 1947–1948

NOVEMBER

MON. 3rd—Completed some notes in my notebooks pertaining to the difficulty of getting back to long writing, and then, at 5 o’clock in the evening, as it got dark outside, I resumed on the novel after the long layoff. First, however, with real excitement, I thought about how it would be a great idea to strike out for Northwest Canada with a real good buddy (someone like Hal Chase) and go join the gold rush there. That too is the shadows of truth!Anyway, as long as there’s a sincere, intense guest—and writing an epic novel is that, too. 12MN—Overpowered by the sadness of not knowing what there is in the world, and what I’m doing. Feeling completely indifferent to good and evil, too, to beauty or anything else. I know that thisis the root of all human troubles, all of them. Indifferent to that knowledge, too. Nothing got written.

TUESDAY 4th—I had to go out and walk in the rain in N.Y. and rage around with my friends. We smashed recordings of Mozart over our heads, I and the daemonic one. We got drunk. I came out of it beautifully, remembering the simple beauty of life, and came home.

WEDNESDAY 5th—Wrote extensive notes. All day it kept occurring to me that there’s nothing so manly as the sight of a man writing in great laborious measures and subjecting himself to all the pitfalls of vast mental work. Is that my piddling goal?— manliness?

Doing a lot of thinking, so important to me, really, that I can’t write it down. Undergoing an inner revolution.

THURSDAY 6th—Am freeing myself of old shackles, to be described later. I think that I’m about to be free at last. It’s really amazing. And it’s all so silent, I can’t say it. Began writing in a freer style tonight. 1000-words pertaining, in an hour. Can it last?

FRIDAY 7th—2500-words today in a few hours. This may be it—freedom. And mastery!—so long denied me in my long mournful years of work, blind powerful work. Too moved now to explain what all this is. It has to do with everything in my nature and of course, then, in my corresponding work. How I could praise heaven for something like this, towards which I’ve struggled so long: mastery of my art, instead of slave to it! 1500-more words at night, just like that. That’s five thousand in the past 24 hours. Not that it’s easier, it’s only more myself.

Technically, the great change is from the epic-lyrical feeling for life to the dramatic-moral, without abandoning the lyrical altogether, this goes in the writing. The result has that invisiblepower in it, the power of moral drama, technically the narrative power, with less emphasis on descriptive moods, descriptive obsession (the obsession to sing with the right hand and not let the idle left hand know too much.) This proves that I still can’t, and won’t, explain this fine change.

SATURDAY 8th—Big American Saturday. Had great conversation with Ed White at night. There is a fine, fair soul of a man, and greatly accomplished, and modest too. His ideas are always simple and true.

SUNDAY NOV. 9th—Read the papers. Lionel Trilling’s review of Sherwood Anderson occasioned some interesting thoughts on the subject of Francis Martin. (Now that this new change has come about within me these garrulous logs seem less and less necessary or even worthwhile.) I feel a kind of dumb silence. 2000-words at night late: and a bare loneliness.

MONDAY NOV. 10—Worried about money again—but to waste time on little jobs when my writing is reaching climax and mastery is not too sensible. I will spend more time and energy hereafter trying to sellmy stories, too. The “Christmas in New York”* written in California is highly saleable: when I get it in the mail from the studios I’ll make some snap decisions on it, whether magazine-form or book form, or as it is—screen story—and take it around. It wouldn’t be bad to make a modest living from writing: no more cotton-picking!

This thought, concerning the change in my writing which now seems so important, came—: that it was not lack of creation that stopped me before, but an excess of it, a thickening of the narrative stream so that it could not flow. Yet tonight I’m really worried about my work. First is it good now?—and will the world recognize it as such. The world isn’t so dumb after all; I realize that from reading some of my unfinished or unsold novels: they are just no good. I will eventually arrive at a simplicity and a beauty that won’t be denied—simplicity, morality, and a beauty, a real lyricism. But the now, the now. It’s getting serious. How do I know if I’m reaching mastery? I have always believed that, in the past when I indulged myself in self- deceiving ecstasies and disgusts. The thinking has got to be real now. Enough, enough. Tonight: 2500-words, though I wasted time reading my old writings. I can do 4000 a day now. That’s a step forward anyway. It’s 9500 words in five days, or rather four days, without really getting to it as yet, that is, in amount of time spent. There’s something so horribly French-Canadian about my gaucheries here and there in past—and present?—work:—something childish and sincere, yet unintelligent. That word again?

TUESDAY NOV. 11—Wrote letters in the afternoon. All confused, all confused as Dark Eyes showed up again. We’ll see about these lovely interruptions. It’s no great tragedy, anyway. And just this moment another period of non-creativeness is striving to come over me. It’s like a disease, or rather like a madness. “So what?” rings in the chambers of my head, I challenge everything I see with this hoodlum’s thought. Now, nowI will catch ennui as it tries to catch me, and I will wring its scrawny neck. Ennui is a scrawny gray person, a lounging hoodlum, a lout. No, no, no more smiling joy in life, no charming interest in things and people, just an Apache in a dim street waiting with a knife, and bored, and therefore vicious. Who shall I kill tonight, what shall I destroy? A thrilling wave of physical nausea tries to command my being, just for the sake of variety—a physical sense of sinking and surrendering to base despair and thoughts of knavery, violence, and sarcasm. Lies! Lies!—I only feel like my true self, a dreamy slothful moron dreaming of chaos. More lies! It is at this time that lying is a joy, a life’s work. More and more lies. This is the pleasingly sharp-pointed blade I will prick myself with if I let things ride, the marvellous knout to use on myself and others. And what nonsense & crap!

Tonight I’m going to write greatly and love greatly and strangle this folly. I’m catching these damnable changes of purpose in the flesh, red-handed, and throwing them to the winds, just like that. I challenge whatever comes into me at times like this to look me in the eye, I challenge for the possession of my being:—perhaps for variety’s sake. Oh yes, I know that I should never have been a writer, it’s not in my nature, but we will see this out to the end. 2000- words tonight.

WEDNESDAY NOV. 12—Powerful winds that crack the boughs of November!—and the bright calm sun, untouched by the furies of the earth, abandoning the earth to darkness, and wild forlornness, and night, as men shiver in their coats and hurry home. And then the lights of home glowing in those desolate deeps. There are the stars, though! high and sparkling in a spiritual firmament. We will walk in the windsweeps, gloating in the envelopment of ourselves, seeking the sudden grinning intelligence of humanity below these abysmal beauties. Now the roaring midnight fury and the creaking of our hinges and windows, now the winter, now the understanding of the earth and our being on it: this drama of enigmas and double-depths and sorrows and grave joys, these human things in the elemental vastness of the windblown world. 1500-words tonight. Tomorrow is a day off, otherwise, with a few more words tomorrow, I’d achieve my new schedule goal of 15,000-words per week. By February, the last lines of T & C will be finished and re- finished, and typed, and ready for the publisher. Made extensive notes tonight too. Will control these gratuitous energies!

THURSDAY NOV. 13—Went out on big binge which lasted into—

FRIDAY NOV. 14

—and

SATURDAY NOV. 15

SUNDAY NOV. 16—Made extensive notes, Sat. night, about 2000-words. Today read and ate and recuperated. Wrote 4000-words tonight, wonderfully absorbed too. What more need be said? Talk is cheap. I’m happy.

MONDAY NOV. 17—I feel very happy today also, and you know, I’m not so worried as before about becoming unhappy, although, of course, I worry a little. And this is not the happiness of a magazine-writer who sends in his gay little philosophy of life to the editor for the one paragraph spread in front of the magazine: This is a serious happiness full of doubts and strengths. I wonder if happiness is possible! It is a state of mind, but I’d hate to be a bore all my life, if only because of those I love around me. Happiness can change into unhappiness just for the sake of change. Like my hand, which I burned with a cigarette the other night: the wound is healing only because the skin is changing. And, similarly, all change is a gateway, a gateway to happiness or unhappiness, in pulses like the heart pulse. Change is a gateway. But these notes aren’t nearly as ebullient, and I must say, entertainingly brilliant, as my running thoughts all day & yesterday. 1500-words tonight, a rather slow night.

TUESDAY NOV. 18—Sometimes my effort at writing becomes so fluid and smooth that too much is torn out of me at once, and it hurts. This is too much mastery! Accompanied with that feeling is the fear of not being perfect, when before, good is good enough, fair is fair enough. Also there’s the reluctance to soil white clean paper with imperfections. This is the curse of vanity, I know. 2500-words tonight. Moving right along—over 20,000 words since 12 days ago, a rate equal to fifty thousand words per month.

WEDNESDAY NOV. 19—Dark Eyes came to my house tonight and we danced all night long, and into the morning. We sat on the floor, on the beautiful rug my mother made for me, and listened to the royal wedding at six in the morning. My mother was charming when she got up and saw us there. I made Dark Eyes some crepe suzettes. We danced again, & sang.

THURSDAY NOV. 20—I have Dostoevsky’s “Raw Youth” and Stendhal’s “Rouge & Noir” in the house now. My impulse is to write a simple sequence in my novel tonight: There’s too much of the “pale criminal” with us, and not enough simple beauty. Just look at the people of the world adoring the little Princess and her wedding in London:—is this adoration to be laughed at? The world isn’t so complex and daemonic as we writers try to make it, really. A wedding, a young bride—those things are the center of existence, not the daemonic relationships of neurotics and fools. I still think Julien Sorel is a nothing. Tonight:—Confused sadness—no writing.

FRIDAY NOV. 21—A hot-and-cold shower would have roused me to work last night, I bet. 2500- words today — and after thinking about the book as a whole, I see that the main substance of it is as yet unwritten. Yet there’s over 200,000 words done, more than that, close to a quarter- million words and no ‘main substance’! But I’m notdisappointed, indeed I feel refreshed and eager, and I know I can do it without any real trouble. The only problem is time—time presses, I need the money of a career very soon. It’s about time, now. What I’m doing with this huge manuscript now is bearing the burdensome mistakes of the past, of novice-writing. But so much there is noble, powerful, and beautiful, that I won’t throw it away, so I must carry it with me now.

SATURDAY NOV. 22—Went out on dull carousals, forced into them, really. Missed the football game, and instead got involved in a silly argument with Burroughs and Ginsberg in the afternoon, about psychoanalysis and about “horror.” They are still wrapped up in the same subjects as a year, two years, ago. Everybody likes to stew in the same old juice year after year, myself included.

MONDAY NOV. 24—Gloomy, rainy, dark day, and tired musing. Maybe it’s because Dark Eyes is out of reach for awhile. I’m in a mood now but it doesn’t bother me, and I can write in spite of it. A pretty bad day all around. I wrote somewhat at night, but confusedly. That newly-found mastery momentarily lost: but I’m not worried, and besides, ‘it’s no great tragedy.’ That’s one of my finest sayings, really. Poof!

TUESDAY NOV. 25—Took my screen story in to a new agency, Bergh & Winner. Fiorini, young editor, may be the man I’ve been wishing for: serious, intelligent, full of gravity. What will he think of T & C when I show it to him? In this harsh world, a sympathetic editor?—!! Wrote 2000-words tonight. Hard going right about now, but I mustn’t desire it too easy, or grow soft. I feel I have a high destiny, but that it is my fate to work hard at it. It is discouraging to read the great Dostoevsky, but every now and then I get a glimpse of my own unalterable words—or word. I could talk a lot about this right now, but I don’t want to. You grow more taciturn after awhile, or go crazy aggravating your heart … no? yes.

WEDNESDAY NOV. 26—Went into town again on various businesses. Saw Burroughs and Ginsberg again, this time accidentally. We were all in high spirits. I mention this for some obscure reason. It always amazes me to find myself acting furtively like a Dostoevsky character. I remember saying to myself, “Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that.” Which of course they weren’t, or they would have to be raving mad, and probably are, as I am. “We were all in high spirits …” Yet there’s a lot of peculiar emotional energy always at work between us and we all know it. Life is a tremendously furtive thing. I finally wheedled something out of my mother. I told her it hurt me to hear her say she was tired of working, even as she adjured me to continue writing and writing for her sake, to spend no time doing anything else. “Yes,” she said mournfully, “I know it hurts you, but I say it just the same.” And there was nothing malicious whatsoever in this mournful confession. Wrote 2500-words tonight, probably the best writing I’ve ever done (argument between George Martin and his son about his leaving college.) But it’s always discouraging to spoof out after a few thousand words and to wait for next day’s energy. I wish I had the mental energy of ten great novelists! Or could devise some way to get “the most out of myself,” as Goethe did, without breaking down (as Goethe did) or without excessive asceticism leading to a blurring of impressions. We’ll see. I’m always in a hurry, necessarily too! Really.

THURSDAY NOV. 27 (THANKSGIVING)—Rich duck dinner, a little movie with my mother, and celebrated by reading Dostoevsky at night—“A Raw Youth”—and also the Life of Goethe, he and his “psychic cataclysms” and none the less great for it. My mother and I held long gossipy conversations. I’m learning so much from her nowadays. She speaks of the fat, happy Russian women, the peasant women, and how, if Russia is ruined by Communist Politburos and Sovietism and all that “planned” scientific coldness of the system, Russia might yet be saved when “the women bring the men down to their knees.” (!)—the women, mind you, not the “political” women and the “women”-soldiers of Russia, but the fat, happy peasant women. A really astounding and profound remark. What did Joan Adams Burroughs say about it? “Sounds like a veiled threat of castration.”—that particularly in connection with an allied remark my mother had made: “A man is not a man if he doesn’t respect women.” What about all this! Tonight, wrote 2000-words (interrupted by visit.)

FRIDAY NOV. 28—It was today I wrote those 2000 words, not yesterday, but no harm done. Today was one of those days when I can see “mountainous outlines”—the contour and shape itself of my novel, and this is a rare blessing. Consequently I arrived luckily at the key problem of the rest of my novel, and that’s that. Only the work remains. (A really amazing solution, too!)

SATURDAY, NOV. 29—Day off, social “duties”—and a lot of restless, thoughtless barging-around at parties and binges in N.Y.

SUNDAY NOV. 30—Same thing, same stupid things.

MONDAY DEC. 1—This is the crucial month. On it, and on its work-project, depends the success of the whole winter—(like a campaign.) No more bingeing-around for weeks now, but inviolablework. Tonight: wrote 1000-words Full of tormented thoughts that come up from a taut and twisted stomach, literally—a hangover, of course, yet a sense of the terrible fatality of life. I know what these thoughts are, and why they hurt so much—close to madness, but I’m not psychotic, nor split off from reality in the slightest, a little bit perhaps, but that [is,] normally at least. And dreams I had during a nap, the mad smile of a man’s face, and myself earnest and worried. That mad smile—pleasedness and the insanity of it. If I could only draw that smile I saw in the dream, and the other night. The man who smiles that way knows a lot and despises it all, yet it shouldn’t be, it really shouldn’t be—and why do I say that?—I’m terrified at the sight of madness. It’s a horrible sight. Especially in a friend. If you have a friend, and he’s insane, undoubtedly insane, and he hates you, but only with a smiling indifferent scorn and not serious hatred, and you yourself don’t know how to hate back at him, don’t know how he smiles, you even dream of that smile—it’s the Devil himself showing through with all the complex diabolism possible, it’s the Devil at his evillest. A long drawn-out staring insolent smile breaking out suddenly on a face that has always been gloomy and severe, and sometimes charming—this enough to make me want to cry, as though I were watching my father go mad before my eyes.

TUESDAY DEC. 2—Feverish night of writing, with my blood pounding, my nerves jangling, yet my whole being incredibly alive. It isn’t a feeling of comfort but I know it for a visitation of ecstasy, grave thoughtful ecstasy, and I welcome it, even though my very chest is thumping. Wrote 3500-strange-and-exalted words. It’s an ecstasy that’s “grave and thoughtful” because I am not possessed by it, I myself possess it and can touch it and examine it. What lonely joys these are! I thank God for them. And with this writing I have completed a large 33,000- word section, and am ready to embark on the last great constructions of the novel. A mountain- peak completed this night, and the last peak in sight, snow-covered and far, but no longer purple from sheer distance. (Ah these literary people!) Amen.

WEDNESDAY DEC. 3—And here is the last great discovery of my “youth”—now I’m no longer a “youth”. I know now what it means to retire from life, and what it means to come to it. But later, later—Tonight I do feel like living “three lives,” in fact, naturally, a thousand lives as well. It’s one of those nights when you can’t possibly imagine ever being bored again—and I don’t think I ever will, either! All the souls to explore!—It’s not so necessary to love, really, as it is to settle something deep with all of those who really matter. Love and hate are the same thing, differently sifted through personal … pride, or what have you … personal pride or even just personal-ness. All the souls to explore throughout life, and if you could live a thousand lives, or have the energy of a thousand lives in you! This has always been one of my favorite notions. And all the dark Brooklyns to explore, and ships, and skies, and things—those my old, everpresent ecstasies—and the woods of the earth to explore, to live in. To live is to explore. An adventure of the heart, the mind, the soul. Dostoevsky says it’s a sin to be afraid: and of course that’s true. I know now tonight that I will endeavor to settle everything that needs to be settled, I’m no longer afraid of settling things anymore, and if I had a thousand lives and energies, and could settle all the varieties that show up in life! There it is—For the first time in my life, I’m really on my knees to life and ready to kiss its hand. What next? And how can I write anything tonight. Tonight I’ve only just solved the entire novel, that’s all, perhaps I’m even quite modest about it all. Solved this novel and signed my life away to fifty other long novels. This is the way it’s been tonight, as I just sat around in my chair with my feet up on another chair. In spite of all this, I foresee that I’ll stillhave trouble waking up in the mornings from now on.

THURS. DEC. 4—The happy ending of the “Brothers Karamazov” and also of “A Raw Youth,” called “Dickensy” and dull and uninteresting by some critics, is not the laughing mockery of a great genius of understanding, but rather, it seems to me the admission that though human beings do not need “happiness” they might as well be happy. This is like God’s gratuitous sunshine after a bad storm, and it is good. I say to these critics: “Don’t be ass-holes all your life.” Another completely different thought: Americans are socially ignorant, that is, they don’t understand the “facts of life” like the French, say—but they have the most beautifully proportioned emotional makeups of any nation, that’s why they say Americans are “placid.” The sensitivity and violence of Frenchmen and Austrians and what not is only the result of a horrid mixup in their hearts—and too much talk, too. A European in general is carried away by distorted pride. What about that. Wrote 2000-words tonight, beginning on an entirely new kind of section (The War)— and pondering how much it deserves in view of proportions and the necessity of getting my theme towards conclusion. I’ll never have to worry about this kind of thing in my other future novels, for reasons unclear to me now, but I just know. (More sense later on?)

FRIDAY DEC. 5—Went into town to get a new topcoat—had dinner at Burroughs—and at night had an astounding conversation with Ginsberg which revealed how deeply similar our visions of life are. It’s only that he hadtried to be clever (i.e. sardonic) about it, but a sorrow has come over him and he speaks without intellectual guile. His vision of life, however, is infinitely more complex than mine, perhaps ripertoo, and in the end, he being a Russian Jew, especially Russian, it is fundamentally different from mine in terms of “space,” the feeling he has about space (he’s surrounded by it, it is mysteriously incomprehensible to him, and it’s the same to him at all times everywhere,) whereas, for me there’s a difference I can’t really define, except that I’m always keenly conscious of whereI am and the special atmosphere of where I am. Still, I believe his vision is deeper, though not as grave as mine. And in the end, for him, life at its highest is comedy—people running around in the “Forest of Arden”* and meeting again all the time, and all seeking to love one another, but being so tortured and unhappy about it sometimes that it’s funny to watch. My vision emphasizes the urge to brooding self-envelopment while all the love is going on, that is, people have to work and live while they love. It’s Russian of him to overlook the meaning of some old man going to bed at night in his red flannels and with a cup of hot toddy and a newspaper—in his vision, that old man must rush out of bed and go and settle something with someone else. These two things do exist, however, self-love and love. His vision is beautiful and more benign than mine, but there’s something sweetly true in both visions.

SATURDAY DEC. 6—As a result of that mad conversation, I dedicated the weekend to a new idea, and tried commencing a new novel. It was splendidly successful (no title yet) and I shall finish it later on after T & C is all done. Went to a movie with my mother, read Stendhal’s life.

SUNDAY DEC. 7—Continued thinking and writing my “new” idea. But a strange thing happened—for the first time in a whole year, more than a year, I fell asleep deliberately on the job, and woke up at dawn sick and nauseous. I took a long walk and almost fainted. Then, it was then, I decided to resume and finish Town & City before anything else. This was my physical system itself, the man itself, revolting against any abandonment of two years of supreme effort, since after all, this “new idea” is not new, and all the magnificent structures of T & C were dedicated laboriously, painfully and patiently to the same end—proof of that is Peter Martin’s absorption with “the world itself” in T & C, and other things. However, it is suddenly occurring to me that a great new change is about to take place in mankind and in the world. Don’t ask me how I know this. And it’s going to be very simple and true, and men will have taken another great step forward. It will be a kind of clear realization of love, and war will eventually seem unreal and even obsolete, and a lot of other things will happen. But madness will rule in high places for a long time yet. All this is going to come up from the people themselves, a great new revolution of the soul. Politics has nothing to do with this. It will be a kind of looking around and noticing of the world, and a simultaneous abandonment of systems of pride and jealousy, in many, many people, and it will spread around swiftly. Enough for now:

MONDAY DEC. 8—Wrote 3500 words, swiftly, surely. Am no longer worried about “labor”—just my mother.

WEDNESDAY DEC. 10—Went into town to see Lennie Tristano’s opening—great jazz music, “new sounds,” ten years ahead of be-bop. I was alone. Came right back home at 2 A.M. to write, and wrote 2500 splendid words, too. That happy weariness at dawn.

THURSDAY DEC. 11—At 5 A.M. wrote 1500-words. Spent most of the night typing and re- working 3,000 words in the manuscript, and thinking of the structures. The world is a structure of souls, nein? And so on—

FRIDAY DEC. 12—Went into town to see all the kids, the “men and women and things” of the world, and had a great time: Vicki [Russell], Tom [Livornese], Ginger, Ed White, Jack Fitzgerald, Jeanne his wife, Burroughs, Joan [Adams Burroughs], Julie, Bill Garver, Sam Macauley, Hunkey [Herbert Huncke] himself(!) (just out) and all the others wandering in the “sad paradise” of Ginsberg. Spent dayswith Vicki just “goofing off” and then I came out of it walking two miles in Manhattan, alone for sweet musing. Read all the papers—

SATURDAY DEC. 13—(goofing)—

SUNDAY DEC. 14—that is, read all the papers tonight.

MONDAY DEC. 15—Wrote 2000-words, good ones too.

TUESDAY DEC. 16—Halfway mark of the month. Re-wrote 2500-words for main ms. And wrote 1000 words tonight, poor miserable brow-sweated words that they are. Does anything good come out of mere diligence, without the divine intelligence that one should have? If not, I’m hanged if I know how to workin this world. Life is easy, but work—

WEDNESDAY DEC. 17—What a depressed, beleaguered, lonely night last night! (Just like the old days.) No work today, went peddling my screen story (in vain, I’m afraid)—but I did get to see that marvellous film “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” A great story, by a greater director, Elia Kazan. And I went to see people and none of them were in: it was as though all my friends had suddenly vanished like ghosts in N.Y. This often happens in N.Y., by the way, and it is eerie, and enough to drive one insane when it happens. What is even more eerie is that I ran into two of them on Times Square and they never saw me, and I followed them awhile, and they too eventually vanished (so perhaps it was just an illusion of mine.) This is material for a [Edgar Allan] Poe or “horror” short story. I dreamed up another fantastic story called “Life and Millions,” to be described elsewhere. These past few days I’ve been lost in fantasies and reveries again, the mad & lonely young poet again—which I actually don’t welcome, by the way, it’s too eerie, unreal, insane, lonesome, joyless and morbid.

THURSDAY DEC. 18—Got up early, set to work—yet wrote only 1000-words!—but rewrote 3000 for the main m.s.—and what’s funny, spent 2 hours at dawn (my best writing-time) looking for an excerpt among the two million words in the orange crates. Had to find it. Found it. Then I had to go to bed from sheer exhaustion. What a night.

FRIDAY DEC. 19—Wrote 1500-words, hard-earned, so hard-earned. I’m going through a difficult period this week: worked like a dog and only produced 5500 words. This is disgusting. No matter how urgent it is for me to finish this book, it takes its own slow damned time, and this is the worst, unhappiest thing I can know. Why is everything so slow? What tiresome experiences.

SATURDAY DEC. 20—Refrigerator was moved in, etc., and into N.Y. for the night seeing the kids.

SUNDAY DEC. 21—Had to visit relatives in afternoon. At night, read my “sea diary” of 1942, and what a nice little job it turned out to be, almost Goethean in its sincerity and scope at times. Then I started writing the “Greenland narrative” for my novel, although, since it bears only slightly on the novel’s theme, I decided to fuse it swiftly, moodfully. There’s a novel in itself there, with Melvillean possibilities, so I’ll generally “save” it for later and extract only the juices I need for now for T & C.* Wrote awhile and went to sleep in an effort to get back on a day-timeschedule, since my eyes are beginning to ache and water again from too much lamplight.

MONDAY DEC. 22—But news came of the certainty of a Christmas trip to North Carolina so I closed up the books—for a week.

* * *

SUNDAY DEC. 28—Back again, to the great snow of ’47, which I had to go and miss.† No snow at all in eastern N. Carolina. It was a dull trip too, but I got a sort of rest anyway, although I took sick. That makes 12,000-miles of travelling for 1947 for me anyway, which isn’t exactly a dull or lazy year—along with the 250,000 words of writing. Tonight, recuperating from an intestinal illness, I gazed at my novel and its imminent conclusion—within 2 months. And what snow outside, what wonderful tons of snow everywhere! I love to see New Yorkers without their infernal cars, for once. They seem to love this respite from the machine.

MONDAY DEC. 29—I had been thinking of going to some N.Y. or Brooklyn College this year for the sake of the $65-a-month G.I. subsistence, which would pay the rent. But a rested glance at my novel rather (somewhat) convinces me that it will sell to a publisher anyway, and needs all my attention and energy this winter. I can study on my own for a whole year after it’s out of my hands: reading everything, anything I want to read, keeping notebooks, travelling. So I think I’ll do nothing but write T & C this winter and the quicker it’s off the better all around, rent money or not. Wrote 1000-words in the afternoon, fitfully, impatiently—as though I didn’t want to write any more. But it may only be the weakness of my illness lingering. I hate to write away from my theme, to write build-up material for it, it’s far from the goal. Wrote another 2500-words at night, and that broke it, coralled it, and tied it for good, because I went over a tough hump. Great! Great!—to do things like this, even when I’m sick, that’s the happiness of my mad life. Now I see clearly the end of the novel, by six weeks, the middle of February? So many happy things I could say, but that’s enough, I’m tired of writing. This makes 25,000-words for this month, December, and 55,000 since I got back from the West. An

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-08-16:
Much of Kerouac's reputation rests on his first two novels, and these selections from a series of spiral notebooks into which the fledgling author constantly poured story ideas and private thoughts offer an intimate perspective on those novels' development. Anybody who's ever started a novel will grasp Kerouac's obsession with his daily word count and the periodic frustration and self-doubt. "I know that I should never have been a writer," Kerouac laments at one dark moment; in another, he wonders, "Why doesn't God appear to tell me I'm on the right track?" Historian Brinkley, author most recently of a book on John Kerry (Tour of Duty), addresses this religious devotion in an introduction that effectively establishes the historical context, clarifying, too, just how much time Kerouac really spent refining the allegedly spontaneous On the Road. Still, there's plenty of the familiar Kerouac on hand: all-night drunken conversations with other Beat writers, casual sexual encounters and a final notebook entitled "Rain and Rivers," filled with real-life episodes in an early version of the freewheeling style that transformed Kerouac from a promising young novelist to a literary legend. These journals are an essential resource for American literature scholars, but the force of Kerouac's personality makes them an engrossing read for lay admirers. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Oct. 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-06-15:
Edited by Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2005-03-01:
Kerouac (1922-69) wrote these journals between the ages of 25 (before he published his first novel, The Town and the City) and 32 (when he had almost completed On the Road). Logically arranged and intelligently edited by noted historian Brinkley (Douglas Eisenhower Center, Univ. of New Orleans), this volume makes a compelling chronicle of Kerouac's exhilaration and despondency; isolated writing and all-night drinking bouts with Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and other notable contemporaries; and above all his energy and dedication to his craft. Here are references to Kerouac's most-admired predecessors among American novelists, notably Thomas Wolfe and Mark Twain, and such lamentations as "it's sorrowful to know that this ... is an excluding age in art--the leaver-outer Fitzgeralds prevail in the public imagination over the putter-inner Wolfes." Here are records of Kerouac's early breaks from writing to begin his peripatetic life, his dreams of owning a farm and fathering many children, his deep mystical Catholicism. In sum, this book--with its notes and holograph illustrations--is a significant addition to the constantly growing body of Kerouac scholarship, providing fascinating insights into the development of a significant American novelist. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. B. H. Leeds Central Connecticut State University
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, June 2004
Publishers Weekly, August 2004
Booklist, October 2004
New York Times Book Review, October 2004
San Francisco Chronicle, October 2004
Boston Globe, November 2004
Choice, March 2005
School Library Journal, March 2005
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Summaries
Main Description
Jack Kerouac is best known through the image he put forth in his autobiographical novels. Yet it is only his prolific journals, in which he set down the raw material of his life and thinking, that reveal to us the real Kerouac'his true, honest, deep, private, philosophical self.In Windblown World, distinguished Americanist Douglas Brinkley has gathered a selection of journal entries from the most pivotal period of Kerouac's life, 1947?1954. Here is Kerouac as a hungry young writer finishing his first novel, The Town and City, while forging crucial friendships with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Truly a self-portrait of the artist as a young man, these journals show a sensitive soul charting his own progress as a writer and responding to his literary forebears. Finally and perhaps most appealing to Kerouac's legion of fans, the journals tell of the events that would eventually be immortalized in On the Road, as Kerouac narrates two trips across the United States and Mexico and slowly cultivates his idea for a jazz novel. This unique and indispensable volume is sure to garner major critical attention and become an integral element of the Beat oeuvre.
Main Description
Jack Kerouac is best known through the image he put forth in his autobiographical novels. Yet it is only his prolific journals, in which he set down the raw material of his life and thinking, that reveal to us the real Kerouac—his true, honest, deep, private, philosophical self. In Windblown World, distinguished Americanist Douglas Brinkley has gathered a selection of journal entries from the most pivotal period of Kerouac’s life, 1947–1954. Here is Kerouac as a hungry young writer finishing his first novel, The Town and City, while forging crucial friendships with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Truly a self-portrait of the artist as a young man, these journals show a sensitive soul charting his own progress as a writer and responding to his literary forebears. Finally and perhaps most appealing to Kerouac’s legion of fans, the journals tell of the events that would eventually be immortalized in On the Road, as Kerouac narrates two trips across the United States and Mexico and slowly cultivates his idea for a jazz novel. This unique and indispensable volume is sure to garner major critical attention and become an integral element of the Beat oeuvre.
Main Description
Jack Kerouac is best known through the image he put forth in his autobiographical novels. Yet it is only his prolific journals, in which he set down the raw material of his life and thinking, that reveal to us the real Kerouac—his true, honest, deep, private, philosophical self.In Windblown World, distinguished Americanist Douglas Brinkley has gathered a selection of journal entries from the most pivotal period of Kerouac’s life, 1947–1954. Here is Kerouac as a hungry young writer finishing his first novel, The Town and City, while forging crucial friendships with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Truly a self-portrait of the artist as a young man, these journals show a sensitive soul charting his own progress as a writer and responding to his literary forebears. Finally and perhaps most appealing to Kerouac’s legion of fans, the journals tell of the events that would eventually be immortalized in On the Road, as Kerouac narrates two trips across the United States and Mexico and slowly cultivates his idea for a jazz novel. This unique and indispensable volume is sure to garner major critical attention and become an integral element of the Beat oeuvre.
Unpaid Annotation
In "Windblown World," distinguished Americanist Brinkley has gathered a selection of journal entries from the most pivotal period of Kerouac's life, 1947-1954--a self-portrait of the artist as a young man.
Table of Contents
The town and the city worklogsp. 3
Well, this is the Forest of Ardenp. 131
Psalmsp. 153
1949 journalsp. 181
Rain and riversp. 281
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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