The Textuality of Soulwork: Jack Kerouac’s Quest for Spontaneous Prose

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Page 1 → Introduction JACK KEROUAC WAS,

as his friend John Clellon Holmes so aptly put it, “a word man,” a writer. Yet we have tended to focus more on Kerouac’s life than what he wrote, how he wrote, or the significance of his writing practice. Even the oft-rehearsed story of how he drafted On the Road in a mere three weeks, typing it onto a 120foot “scroll,” is usually treated as an occasion for biographical celebration rather than something to analyze and assess. Kerouac’s colorful life and influence on his Beat contemporaries, especially Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, deserve full study, as does his ability (especially in his two most widely read novels, On the Road and The Dharma Bums) to respond to emerging social patterns and possibilities for identity and thereby both record and help shape the zeitgeist of the 1950s. And Kerouac’s deep spirituality—the complex, at times conflicted, dialectic of the French-Canadian Catholicism of his childhood and the Buddhism that he explored as an adult—also deserves full study. In his life and through his writing, Kerouac is, in many ways and rightly so, synonymous with the term Beat. But just as Thoreau matters not only for his sojourn at Walden Pond but also his innovative brilliance as a writer, so Kerouac matters not only for taking to the road and resisting mass society and conformity but also for his innovative brilliance as a writer. The study following this introduction focuses on the nature of Kerouac’s writing, particularly his interrogation of writing as a medium, first in On the Road, then in the posthumously published Visions of Cody. The goal is to trace his experiments in his formative period, 1950–1952, in order to show that he was engaged in what might be termed a crisis of textuality—one with significant implications not only for understanding his work but also for framing mid-century American literary experimentation. It is offeredPage 2 → as a supplement to studies of Kerouac the person, Kerouac the media figure, and Kerouac the cultural visionary. And by foregrounding how Kerouac came to recast writing as a medium for performing (rather than a medium for composing), it is offered as a complement to studies that have focused more directly and extensively on the thematic and expressive dimensions of his canon.1 The question of the nature and implications of Spontaneous Prose has necessarily figured prominently in earlier studies of Kerouac, and these earlier studies, in pursuing this question, offer a number of powerful readings. This study differs from what has been the main road of critical reflection in two ways: First, the primary focus is on the period from late 1950 through spring 1952 in order to clarify the genesis of Spontaneous Prose. Second, this study approaches Spontaneous Prose from a different angle. By and large, discussions of Spontaneous Prose have focused on the significance of improvisation. Improvisation is certainly a key factor, as George Dardess clearly demonstrated in “The Logic of Spontaneity: A Reconsideration of Kerouac’s ‘Spontaneous Prose Method’” and as Regina Weinrich and others have further elaborated and refined. And this is the basis of my earlier attempt to make sense of Kerouac’s approach in Kerouac’s Crooked Road. We can, in fact, productively read Kerouac through the lens of spontaneous equals improvisation, but improvisation might be better understood as a necessary condition of Spontaneous Prose rather than a sufficient condition. For Kerouac to write “spontaneously” it was necessary for him not only to license himself to improvise but also to reconceptualize writing as a medium, and therefore, as well, to reconceptualize how writing enacts language. And if this is so, Kerouac’s development of Spontaneous Prose was both the development of a new procedure for generating writing (improvisational performance rather than deliberative composition) and a new understanding of what writing itself was and could be. Spontaneous Prose was, for Kerouac, not just a new way to play the game: it was a new game entirely. Our investigations of Kerouac and his fiction have tended to focus on how well he was able to “play the game” through his new technique rather than on how he was redefining the game and thereby, necessarily, bringing new procedures into play. This study considers the emergence of Kerouac’s improvisatory procedure in the context of his reimagining of the nature of writing as a medium and the nature of writing’s relationship to language. It thus considers issues and instances treated in earlier studies, but does so Page 3 →with different assumptions and for a somewhat different purpose. It is offered as “and also,” not as “instead.” In traversing Kerouac’s work, we might want both road maps and topographic maps to guide our explorations.

Specifically, this study attempts to make sense of what is, I suggest, most puzzling in Kerouac’s writing practice: his sensitivity, even hypersensitivity, to the differences between speaking and writing as modes of language—indeed, modes of being in language—and how this put him at odds not only with mid-century norms for fiction but also with his era’s paradigm for textuality and the critical systems that symbiotically reflected and reinforced that paradigm. There are, I think, two primary reasons why his wrestling with (even resistance to) writing as a medium and desire to reimagine writing in the image of speaking (rather than the reverse) has gone largely unnoticed. One is that we have focused on On the Road as originally published by Viking Press in 1957 as his paradigmatic work. While this is the book most central to understanding how the media and his audiences constructed Kerouac during the Beat era, it only partly reflects—and only partly enacts—his rejection of the textuality of modern print literacy. A second reason we have failed to come to terms with Kerouac’s efforts to reconfigure writing as a medium is that we have not approached his work with analytical tools that foreground the differences between speaking and writing as ways of practicing language. In his fiction Kerouac was not only reacting to (and resisting) the ways that a capitalistic economy increasingly based on consumption and conformity threatened to erode and even erase the individual (matters clearly present in On the Road), he was also responding to the impact of contemporary mass media—film, radio, recordings—not just as content but as new media—new technologies of the voice and therefore technologies of language—competing with writing. Kerouac, I believe, sensed not only how these media threatened print’s hegemony as the dominant medium for creative work in language but also how their difference from writing demanded reconsidering what writing itself is (or could be)—much as print’s advent had disrupted the hegemony of manuscript culture, altering how writing functioned as a medium, and changing the practice of literature in the process. For Kerouac, the conservative move of relegating “popular” literature and creative work in other media such as film to the pernicious limbo of “middlebrow” or the sneering erasure of “lowbrow” in order to affirm “serious” literature as a “high art” was not an option.2 The impact of new media could not be resisted by institutionally privileging established norms for Page 4 →literature (whether in the classrooms of Columbia University or the elite literary reviews with their roots in the formalisms of the New Criticism). Instead, the expressive power of new media (film, radio, sound recordings of music) required reconsidering the nature of writing as a medium and exploring new ways of writing and alternative strategies for literature through what Kerouac termed “wild form.” For literature to matter, the challenge of new textual media had to be engaged—not evaded or ignored. And to consider Kerouac’s work in this context requires pushing beyond On the Road to investigate the experiments that led to Visions of Cody, which Kerouac initially titled On the Road, and which he initially thought would replace what we know as On the Road. Visions of Cody, not the 1957 On the Road, is where Kerouac first fully realized his experimental approach to writing, and its experimental fictional rhetoric must become central to our thinking about his work if we are to understand his participation in what has been termed “the linguistic turn” and how his experimental work enacts a radical break with the modernist textual paradigm that dominated literary production for the first half of the twentieth century. Typically, “the linguistic turn” would be engaged through the work of Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, and others of the pantheon of postmodern theory. These theorists, though, for all their power and reach, do not quite engage what is most distinctive and significant about Kerouac’s experimental practice. Instead, the approach in this study derives from the work of Walter Ong, Jack Goody, Eric Havelock, and others who have explored what Goody has termed the “literacy hypothesis.”3 Central to this multidisciplinary research in literary theory, rhetoric, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, linguistics, and classics is the recognition that writing (however its invention is variously explained and however “writing” as a medium is variously modeled) converts an aural behavior (speaking) into a visual system (writing) that can be stored as an object outside individual biological memory, can be transmitted across space and time (in ways that physical speaking cannot), and can thus be accessed through culturally learned and mediated processes by readers who need not be physically present to the writer. That is, writing has the capacity to give language a relatively stabilized material form (as coded markings on a surface) and thus to make language independent of actual speaking/hearing (an aural activity that could be neither stored nor precisely reproduced or transmitted—as opposed to reperformed—until the historically quite recent development of Page 5 →technologies for analogue sound recording such as the tape recorder). The research on

the literacy hypothesis underscores the multiple ways that acquiring writing can alter our cognitive relationship to language and how this can, as well—under different historical, social, economic, political, and technological conditions—help shape new cultural forms and alter established cultural practices.4 The potential relevance of the literacy hypothesis for the study of writers such as Kerouac, for whom the oral practices are important, seems clear. However, the literacy hypothesis focuses on how literacy has impinged upon, reshaped, competed with, and typically in part erased (overwritten) oral practices when writing is first introduced as a technology of language in societies that had lacked it. The title of Ong’s best-known work (the study with the widest circulation among those who study literature) reflects this focus on the processes of cultural and social transformations: Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. However, modern writers already function, both in fact and by definition, fully within the realm of literacy.5 Mid-twentieth-century writers in the West were not preliterate participants in an oral culture being overtaken by literacy (whether one understands literacy as a cognitive matter, a matter of institutional practices, or a combination of the two). It is clear that Kerouac was compelled by the Quebecois storytelling in the French-Canadian neighborhood of his childhood, by “men talking in bars,” and by the virtuoso performances of such inventive talkers and performers of talk as W. C. Fields, Lord Buckley, Lester Young, and Neal Cassady. And it is clear that he sought a fictional mode that could both represent and contain such voicings.6 But he was also widely read (much more so than his image would suggest) and deeply committed to writing. For Kerouac, how literacy might have disrupted orality historically is necessarily secondary to the question of how a literate individual in a highly literate culture committed to writing literature might experience the dialectic of speaking and writing and how the two might diverge, conflict, converge, and entangle. In this study, the cognitive, cultural, and historical investigations of the literacy hypothesis are a context for considering the interplay of speaking and writing in Kerouac’s work. But to fashion a tool kit for writers drawn to oral practices, I have drawn, as well, on several additional figures whose research complements the literacy hypothesis and lends itself to an approach that could be termed the rhetoric of textual mediation. One is the work of the linguist Josef Vachek, whose analyses of the oddities of spelling Page 6 →in English led him to note that alphabetic writing is a doubled system that can be used directly as a visual code that is received and processed visually (as itself language) or as a code for storing an approximation of the sound of speech (in which case writing represents language but is not itself language). The way writers use the mechanism of writing under different historical and technological conditions can, I’ve come to believe, reflect distinct and differing understandings of what language does, how writing functions as a medium, and how writing relates to speaking as an alternative practice of language. If so, the page (as a mechanism for storing writing and from which we operationalize it) can vary in how it functions for the writer and the reader. For example, a particular poet or the poets of a particular movement might conceptualize the page as a surface upon which to compose language (language understood, in effect, as synonymous with writing). For these poets, the act of writing the poem is akin to painting on a canvas, and the reader figures as a potential viewer who will, belatedly, admire the piece of work as it hangs decorously on the wall of the page (Pound’s approach in “In a Station of the Metro” comes to mind, and it might be said that this approach to language and page lends itself to New Critical theories of composition and analysis). Conversely, it is also possible to imagine the page as a space for enacting speech, which is then stored in the writing for the reader to retrieve as if hearing the poet speak (either through the mediation of the page or from the surface of the page as if the page were a kind of stage).7 These comments on Vachek also reflect my indebtedness to textual studies and editorial theory, especially Jerome McGann’s insistence on what he has termed the textual condition. The theoretical and applied work of Jerome McGann, Peter Shillingsburg, John Bryant, George Bornstein, and others has dramatically increased our understanding of how texts are initially generated in a field that includes not only the writer but also rhetorical conventions, economic institutions, and technological factors and the conventions shaping their use. These all become elements of the work, participating in its function and meaning as it is generated, produced, circulated, and consumed. Some have worried that attending to the economic, sociological, and technological instantiations of a work (including the emerging transformations driven by digital production and circulation), as well as attending to the multiple forms a work may take over its productive life, can reduce the work of art to merely a

circulating object to which meanings attach themselves much as barnacles and seaweed foul the bottom of a tramp steamer. Page 7 →We should, it seems, want the clean and shiny hull—better yet, the imagined hull twinkling in the designer’s eye as the pen first dips toward the waiting surface of the page. But the multiple materialities of writing, publishing, and reading (and how these change over time) contribute to a writer’s understanding of the nature of language, the nature of writing as a medium, and what it means to shape language into literature. They are precisely where the dialectic of orality and literacy—as reconfigured for modern writers as the dialectic of speaking and writing within the society’s institutions of literacy—become visible, historically specific, and critically productive. Friedrich Kittler’s investigations into “discourse communities” provides an additional way to ground how particular writers and communities of readers understand the nature of writing and its relationship to language. Kittler, especially in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, explores how both technological and institutional factors mediate how writers and readers understand specific communications media. For Kittler, how a communications medium functions is shaped by its physical factors, by changing technologies of production and transmission, and by institutional dynamics operating under specific historical conditions. Writing’s cognitive dynamics, thus, inhere partly in the nature of writing itself (that it is visual rather than aural would be one factor), but these cognitive dynamics necessarily shift in response to such factors as the development of print, shifts in literacy patterns, what writing is used for, and how writers and readers are acculturated into the medium through educational processes and institutions. Writing’s cognitive dynamics in a manuscript culture will not be the same as its cognitive dynamics in a print culture, nor in a culture where writing is largely produced and consumed digitally. Nor will writing’s cognitive dynamics be the same in a society that emphasizes reading the page aloud to oneself or to an audience, some of whom are literate, some not, and in a society that emphasizes solitary, silent reading. The latter situation is more likely to lead to a sense of writing and language being synonymous and both conceptualized as visual systems. The former situation is more likely to lead to a sense of writing not as itself language but instead as a system for storing language, with language being understood as speaking. Moreover, the implications of print as a specific presentation of writing will differ as the institutional context shifts. As a result, how writers and readers in Goethe’s Germany might conceptualize writing and reading and how Kerouac and his readers might conceptualize them could differ in fundamental ways, and these differences would be determined not by biology, nor by a Page 8 →fixed and constant cognitive pattern driven by the specific features of a particular technology (such as writing itself or writing with a pencil or writing with a typewriter), nor by the particular economic and cultural practices of the period but by the historically and sociologically conditioned interactions of these factors. Several developments make this an appropriate moment to reconsider Kerouac’s aims as a writer and his understanding of the nature of writing. One is simply the passage of time. Ironically, part of what has made On the Road matter culturally—the controversy it initially generated—has partly obscured why it is imaginatively and aesthetically compelling. When first published, On the Road was hailed by some and assailed by more for its series of hedonistic pilgrimages in search of kicks and “IT.” To some, the book’s travels offered a vision of escape from the middle-class conformity in Cold War America, which we now happily dub “containment culture” (perhaps to reassure ourselves that we are less “contained” or more critically aware of, and resistant to, our containment). For others, these travels were a sordid threat to social norms and culturally authorized meaning. The tug-of-war over whether the novel’s response to mid-twentieth-century America is nihilistic (as detractors claimed) or beatific (as Kerouac claimed) or a road map to a distinctly American sense of individual authenticity and freedom (as some of its champions then and now have claimed) or a misguided fantasy about such freedom has tended to focus our attention on what is represented in the novel and Kerouac’s biographical stake in his fictions. But however shocking the drugs, kicks, and seemingly casual sex might have been in 1957 (or would have been in 1951 when Road was drafted), these would now barely rate the literary equivalent of a PG-13. While the “what” of the novel matters to understanding it as a mid-twentieth-century document, the shocked and fearful dismissal implicit in the title of Norman Podhoretz’s attack on the Beats, “The Know-Nothing Bohemians,” has become primarily a matter for social history, making it easier to see that the radical quality of On the Road is less a matter of Benzedrine, fast cars, marijuana, and failed three-ways than Kerouac’s attempts to reimagine the gap between writing and speaking and thereby reimagine literature.

Another factor that makes this an appropriate moment to explore Kerouac as a writer, rather than public figure, is the documentary evidence that is now available. In recent years, we have seen the publication of an edition of the April 1951 draft of On the Road, the original “scroll,” as well as the Page 9 →publication of selections from Kerouac’s letters and journals.8 Additionally, his manuscripts and papers are now part of the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library as the Kerouac Archive. Isaac Gewirtz’s Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac and On the Road, drawn from these materials, underscores how the manuscript material can complicate our sense of On the Road’s development. The following chapters consider how Kerouac’s experiment of drafting On the Road by typing continuously onto a roll of paper in April 1951 and the subsequent experiments that developed into Visions of Cody reflect his search for an approach to writing that would confront—and in some way resolve—the gap between speaking and writing as modes of language. Chapter 1 addresses how and why this gap complicated his project as a writer. Chapter 2 focuses on Kerouac’s journals and his letters to Neal Cassady, especially those from late 1950 through January 1951, to consider why, what Ong has termed the “fiction” of the reader, was to Kerouac a barrier to overcome rather than an enabling “fiction.” Chapter 3 focuses on the April 1951 scroll draft of On the Road as, in part, a further experiment in solving the problem of what he termed “the mysterious reader” and how he adopted a kind of typetalking, thereby shifting writing from a medium for composing to a medium for performing. Chapter 4 draws on Kerouac’s unpublished work journal from fall 1951 to chart his shifting sense of writing, textuality, and On the Road as he developed what he called “sketching” (later elaborated as Spontaneous Prose) and worked toward what would become his experimental magnum opus, Visions of Cody. These previously unavailable documents chart his decisive break with the textual paradigm of print literacy through the strategy of sketching, his recognition of what Ong would term secondary orality, and his initial formulation of, and experiments with, this new paradigm for textuality. Chapter 5 focuses on Kerouac’s experiment with tape recording in Visions of Cody and how this led, in “Imitation of the Tape,” to the innovative sense of writing as a medium that enabled him to elaborate sketching into Spontaneous Prose and use it as a method for both writing and structuring extended works of fiction, so that Visions of Cody became not simply a collection of pieces but a series of interrogations of literary language, fictional rhetoric, and textuality. The epilogue considers the implications of Kerouac’s approach to writing for textual theory. Those who prefer reading a study such as this one through the lens of its theory may wish to start with the epilogue; others Page 10 →may prefer to leave it for last; and others may prefer to skip this course altogether, depending on whether they regard such matters as appetizer, dessert, or peas and carrots to be eaten only under duress. We don’t have to have the literacy hypothesis (however useful the work related to it can be) to know that speaking and writing are different ways of practicing language. What matters for Kerouac is how he understood, and reacted to, this difference—not the way Saussure or Kittler might theorize it. To get at Kerouac’s understanding, we need to interrogate his writing as much as, if not more than, theories that might be applied to it, and in chapters 1–5, I’ve tried to minimize explicit theorizing and foreground Kerouac’s own terms for what he was doing. That said, the arguments in this study are deeply indebted to the work of Goody, Ong, Kittler, McGann, Vachek, and others, and I hope this case study points to some possible ways that their work can be productively combined and used for critical purposes. Kerouac has, I believe, something to teach us about the linguistic turn not simply because he participated in it but because he reflected on it and wrestled with it as he developed what he once termed the “wild form” of Visions of Cody. While it is true that he had colorful friends and could evoke them with exceptional energy, it is time to focus on his fictional experiments. This study assumes that Kerouac can—and should be—approached as an artist who was probing the nature of language and the nature of writing as a mode of language, and therefore, as well, interrogating the nature and dynamics of textuality. Moreover, his desire to recuperate the dynamics of speech and speaking and enact them within the process of writing—to reimagine writing in the image of speaking—needs to be recognized as nothing less than an attempt to subvert his era’s paradigm for textuality and reinvent the category of literature as an expression of what might be termed secondary literacy. Kerouac did not set out to subvert the conventions for the modern novel because he and his friends were behaving unconventionally. Rather, his sense of the gap between writing and speech drove his explorations of elements such as point of view and generated the

experimental aesthetic of On the Road and the fuller realization of that aesthetic in Visions of Cody.

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Part I: On the Road Page 12 →

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CHAPTER 1 “The Roar of Time” Kerouac in the spring of 1971. I was living in an old trailer off a rural road outside Ithaca, New York. (It had something to do with the draft and the way things were then, which I won’t bother to talk about.) I had heard of Gary Snyder and picked up The Dharma Bums. I didn’t rush out for a rucksack but did buy a copy of On the Road—the cheap paperback with the bright yellow cover. I liked it well enough in a casual way. Next came Dr. Sax. That was when it hit me that Kerouac was not just a chronicler of his friends. In Sax the language was rich, rhythmic, and deeply individual. The novel was complex and layered, yet emotionally immediate. This Kerouac required the same complete attention that late Henry James required, but Kerouac’s prose exhilarated while James’s (at least for me at the age of twenty-one) did not. One attended to James’s intricate subtleties. With Kerouac, one participated in the writing’s dynamic unfolding.1 Kerouac’s reputation was then in almost total eclipse. I was vaguely aware of Truman Capote’s seemingly decisive barb—“That’s not writing, that’s typewriting”—and had come to Kerouac assuming he mattered, literarily, only because of his Beat betters. But from the first page of Dr. Sax, through The Subterraneans, “October in the Railroad Earth,” and Visions of Cody (which I read in proofs the summer before McGraw-Hill published it), I was convinced that the best of Kerouac was indeed “writing.” I FIRST READ

Forty years after my initial traversal of Bums and Road, I am still convinced that Kerouac’s work matters—aesthetically as well as culturally. And I am convinced that we have yet to account adequately for his approach to writing. This failure has been driven partly by our tendency to fixate on his biography and partly by the way the story of Kerouac drafting On the Road in three weeks, typing the book onto a 120-foot roll of tracing Page 14 →paper, has supported the misperception implicit in Capote’s quip that Kerouac’s commitment to Spontaneous Prose meant trading craft, control, and depth for mere surface momentum.2 But the books are more than kicks and colorful prose, and our general lack of attention to Kerouac’s writing as writing, rather than typing, is one reason why we still have so little understanding of either his aesthetic achievement or the implications of his approach to writing—as distinct from the significance of the cultural circulation of his image. In one sense, this failure matters little. While many (most?) of Kerouac’s more acclaimed contemporaries have been retired to the assisted living of the teaching anthologies or entombed in literary histories and critical monographs to be honored only by the most scholarly and theoretically astute among us, Kerouac continues to be actively—and widely—read. His primary books can be found on the shelves of any Barnes & Noble, and new titles published from his papers find a ready audience. Even though academe has largely ignored Kerouac, he remains a cultural presence. Yet our failure to understand the nature of his writing has a cost. Until we understand how his writing was indeed writing—that is, until we understand the actual logic and dynamic of his approach and how he conceptualized writing and its relationship to language—we will fail to understand not only his more radical projects (such as Visions of Cody) but even his less radical work (most notably On the Road). Moreover, we will fail to understand why he helped enable the more fully validated experiments of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. But perhaps most significantly, we will fail to understand how Kerouac’s experimentalism bears on what was at stake in the broader shifts in literary practice in the United States in the decades following World War II. In Kerouac’s Crooked Road: The Development of a Fiction (first published in 1981), I tried to address these issues. Working from the materials then available,3 I argued that Kerouac made five primary attempts at On the Road, taking a different approach to narrating his road material in each. In what I took to be the three primary attempts (each abandoned) prior to the three-week typing marathon that generated the novel as we know it, Kerouac first used an omniscient third-person point of view, then shifted to a limited third-person point of view, and finally tried using a young African-American boy traveling with his older brother as a first person narrator (Kerouac later used this material for his final novel, Pic4). In this scenario, Page 15 →On the Road (as derived from the three-week April 1951 scroll draft and published by Viking in 1957) figured as the fourth version. Like

the Pic material, this fourth On the Road also used a first-person narrator—but an adult, whose background and experiences echo Kerouac’s own. Where the function of the child narrator in Pic, who speaks in dialect, is almost certainly modeled on Huck in Huckleberry Finn, the adult narrator of the published On the Road, Sal, perhaps owes something to Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Following the April 1951 version, Kerouac made yet another attempt at the novel, working on it throughout the fall of 1951 through the spring of 1952. Parts of this version—for a time titled On the Road, for a time Visions of Neal, and finally Visions of Cody—were published by New Directions in a limited edition as Excerpts from Visions of Cody in 1959, and the complete Visions of Cody was finally published, posthumously, in 1972. Each section of Cody utilizes a different approach to writing, each of them more radical and experimental than the Viking On the Road.5 In Crooked Road I developed three related claims. I proposed that Kerouac’s explorations of point of view as he progressed from the conventional, omniscient third-person strategy of the earliest attempts at On the Road to the experiments of Cody argued against the view that he was simply typing out unreflective accounts of colorful adventures with colorful friends. Second, I proposed that both Road and Cody demonstrate Kerouac’s deep investment in the American literary tradition, especially such paradigmatic texts as Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn, and that his dialogue with the tradition informed his two quite different completed versions of his Road novel. Third, I proposed that On the Road as published by Viking was, in spite of being composed in the brief span of three weeks, a relatively conventional novel with clear parallels to The Great Gatsby. It was then my sense that On the Road should be understood as Kerouac’s final apprentice novel and that the more fully experimental Visions of Cody marked his maturity as a writer. It was my hope that the readings offered in support of these claims would establish that Kerouac should be treated as a significant experimental writer, just as Burroughs and Ginsberg were then being treated. These claims have aged with varying degrees of grace. I would still argue that Kerouac’s dialogue with earlier American texts was crucial as he developed his Road novel and that his sense of the tradition was acute and nuanced. But I’ve come to question the claim that On the Road is a relatively conventional novel. My failure to recognize the extent of Kerouac’s experimentationPage 16 → in Road was due, I think, to two things: One was the desire to emphasize the achievement of Visions of Cody and to validate it as the final version of On the Road. Whatever Visions of Cody might be, the writing in it was clearly and unmistakably more than typewriting, and Cody seemed then a more powerful basis for arguing for the need to reexamine Kerouac and study his most distinctive and accomplished work, which I still believe is Visions of Cody and the work that followed directly after it—in particular, Dr. Sax. The other factor in underestimating the extent to which On the Road itself was already a break with mid-century conventions for the novel was the emphasis I placed on Kerouac’s shifts in point of view across the series of attempts at Road as I’d mapped them from the evidence then available. I still see Kerouac’s efforts to develop a mode for his Road novel as in part a search for a narrative point of view that he could use (as he put it in a crucial letter to John Clellon Holmes written July 14, 1951) to “come to know & tell the truth (all of it in every conceivable mask) & yet digress from that to my lyric-alto knowing of this land, this huge complicated inland sea they call America.”6 But the account of Kerouac’s search for a voice and form in Crooked Road, while perhaps right enough in its general arc, is overly schematic. While Kerouac’s successive attempts at his Road novel did involve experimenting with point of view, the question is why point of view was such an issue for him. In labeling his mode of writing Spontaneous Prose, by allowing Ginsberg and others to celebrate—even mythologize—the drafting of On the Road in three weeks as a “scroll,” and by terming his style “bop prosody” (thus linking it to the jazz innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie), Kerouac pointed to one answer: that the road experience, especially as exemplified by Neal Cassady (the prototype for Dean in On the Road and Cody in Visions of Cody) required a mode of writing that could express the speed, discontinuities, and modulations that were features of the road as he’d experienced it. But his correspondence and work journals show that he did not develop Spontaneous Prose until October 1951—half a year after the On the Road scroll—as he worked on what became Visions of Cody. To understand the presumed spontaneity of the Viking On the Road, we need to consider how it anticipates but also differs from the more radical approach to writing in Visions of Cody.7 But even distinguishing Spontaneous Prose from the experiment of the On the Road scroll is not enough. Kerouac’s approaches to point of view in his attempts at On the Road, his sense of bop prosody, and his

formulation of Spontaneous Prose reflect a more fundamental issue that derives from Page 17 →the way he experienced language. Until we address this, we will continue to misconstrue the nature and significance of his experimental approach to writing and fail to understand the nature and extent of his achievement in Visions of Cody. For the most part we shift so easily and unconsciously between speaking/ hearing and writing/reading that they simply seem two aspects of the same thing—language. Yet there are important differences. Speaking—the immediacy of voiced language—is intrinsically interactive and interpersonal; it is a behavior. Speaker and listener are physically present to each other, and the listener engages the speaker’s linguistic acts directly.8 Writing, though, eliminates this behavioral immediacy. The transaction between writer and reader is displaced, deferred, and mediated through the written object. For a reader, the writer is necessarily absent. In writing—and reading—what is present is writing, not the writer (or as Barthes would have it, what is present is the written object he terms a “text”; what is absent is the “author,” since the displacement inherent in writing causes the author’s death in the sense that the “author” can be neither actually in the “text” nor present for the reader). And for the reader, the writer’s composing is necessarily an absence. The reader can infer it has happened but not engage it directly. Although language is present for both listener and reader, for the listener it is present as the embodied action of the physically actual speaker, while for the reader it is present as the visual materiality of the text—a written object that attests to its having been written but can neither disclose the dynamics of its writing, nor what it meant for the writer to write it. In speaking, language is like shaking hands; the action “means” largely through the transaction of the two people joined in the gesture. In writing, language is an object, which can be taken up and considered by any number of different readers at different times, in different places, under different conditions, for different purposes, and generating different responses. When I talk to you, I interact with you directly. When I write to you, I construct an object, which you, whomever you are and whenever and wherever you may be, could read if you chose to. Unlike the case with speaking/hearing where we, both I and you, are present to each other, in writing/reading I and you are rhetorical positions, each constructed (by the writer in the act of writing and preserved in the writing), and neither the actual I nor actual you are directly knowable to the other. With writing, the I and you are both linked Page 18 →and separated by writing. The act has become fully replaced (erased and overwritten) by the product of writing—that is, the piece of writing—and the way print multiplies the written object, while removing the personal traces of handwriting, intensifies this.9 For the most part we adjust without thinking to differences in how writers conceptualize writing as a medium, which is in part a matter of how they conceptualize the relationship of speaking and writing. We read Whitman’s songs of himself one way; we read e.e. cummings’s typographical constructions a different way. We shift back and forth so “naturally” between language as the immediate, interactive behavior of speaking and language as the deferred, constructed object of writing that we become relatively blind (and deaf) to the differences between these two systems, and our failure to register the gap between them can even lead to conceptualizing speech and speaking as if they are a byproduct of writing and the written.10 The differences between speaking and writing as modes of language should, it seems, matter little for writers of literature and their readers. Writers write to produce writing. Readers read what’s been written. To paraphrase Tina Turner, what’s speaking got to do with it? For one thing, the way a writer practices writing necessarily involves assumptions about how speaking and writing relate, align, diverge as practices of language. A writer might, for example, see writing as a mechanism, for storing speech in visual form; for this writer, speaking would be language and writing a means to represent and package speech as language for shipping it across time and space (much as one might convert a Word document into a PDF). Another writer might, though, understand speech as raw material that writing fulfills by freeing language from behavioral contingency. For this hypothetical writer, speech is subordinate to writing and only becomes fully language when smelted into writing. For this writer, speech is iron ore; ordinary writing pig iron; and literature stainless steel; or, to put it less metaphorically, speech would be language in contingent and partial form, while writing would be language fully realized. For this writer, writing is language, language is writing: “that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Such differences in how writers understand the relationship of speaking and writing to each other and how they understand them as aspects of language matter for how writers write and what they write. More specifically, for this study (if I view it as a presentation in writing) or discussion (if I view it as talking about these issues), the differences between language as speaking and writing and their interplay or divergence matter because they Page 19 →complicated Kerouac’s efforts to draft On the Road, help clarify the nature and implications of Spontaneous Prose, and help explain why, in late 1951, he shifted from attempting to revise On the Road to focus instead on the experiments that became Visions of Cody. For Kerouac, speaking and writing often seemed different, even conflicting, modes of language, rather than different channels of the same thing, and his successive attempts at On the Road leading to the April 1951 scroll can be seen as a search for an approach to point of view that would give writing the behavioral immediacy of speaking, each of them discarded, in spite of their merit as writing and fiction, because they failed to resolve the conflict Kerouac felt between literary writing (emphasizing compositional deliberation) and speaking for and to a listener. His experiments, beginning with the April 1951 scroll, moving on to sketching in the fall of 1951 and the varieties of wild form and Spontaneous Prose that followed can, in turn, be framed as a series of reimaginings of writing (and implicitly literature) in which he turned away from the established modes for fiction at mid-century and attempted to overcome—or at least lessen—the differences between speaking and writing. It might be said that prior to the scroll, Kerouac was trying to write literature as he had been taught to think of that category; after the scroll, he was attempting to redefine literature by reengineering the relationship of writing to speaking. If so, his efforts to write On the Road should be read not as a search for a literary style or form in the usual sense but as a campaign to confront the differences between speaking and writing—to resist the tendency in mid-twentieth-century Anglo-American literature to privilege writing over speaking (indeed, to conceptualize language in the image of writing), and thereby to forge an approach to literature that would overcome the split between language as interactive behavior and language as composed, visually encoded object. As such, Kerouac was not searching for a way to adapt his era’s institutionally validated models for literature (based in part on Henry James’s systematizing of point of view in The Art of Fiction, further restricted and theorized by T. S. Eliot’s arguments for the writer’s absence from his own writing, and committed to Ernest Hemingway’s writerly precisions). Kerouac was, instead, trying to subvert this paradigm by recuperating speaking as the basis of writing, re-creating writing in its image, and reinserting the figure of the writer as actual voice at the center of his fiction. * * * Page 20 → Kerouac’s Quebecois heritage was plausibly a factor in his sensitivity to the differences between speaking and writing as modes of language. Kerouac was raised in the French-Canadian neighborhoods of Lowell, Massachusetts. This context figures explicitly in Dr. Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Visions of Gerard, and Satori in Paris (and implicitly in other works, including The Town and the City). The implications of this for his sense of region, social class, ethnicity, and gender are multiple and rich, but the significance of his Quebecois roots extends beyond thematic matters. Kerouac’s first language was the joual dialect of French spoken in Lowell, and his earliest schooling was in French in neighborhood Catholic schools. He began to learn English only when he shifted to a public elementary school. That joual French was the primary language of his earliest childhood, would, by itself, make it an important imaginative complement to English for Kerouac. But what needs to be stressed is that joual, for Kerouac, was initially and fundamentally an oral realm—learned in the home and spoken in the streets, on the playground, in the neighborhood shops, and in the parish church. Like all children, Kerouac learned to hear and speak his mother tongue before he learned to read or write it.11 English, though, was another matter; it was initially a language of the classroom—something learned through and with the disciplines of learning to read and write. That Kerouac reports (in what may be an exaggeration) that he still felt awkward and self-conscious as a speaker of English well into high school, when he was already an avid reader of literature in English and already writing fiction in English, is also worth noting, as is his admission that his oral facility in French was much greater than his written facility. (It was once fashionable to disparage Kerouac’s command of French, but recent trends in

TESOL offer a useful perspective. French, for Kerouac was a “heritage language,” which he acquired by ear and in the home; but he lacked formal training in its grammatical rules and its written conventions; these formal structures were features of his second language, English, which, in TESOL terminology, would be his “dominant language.”12) Kerouac’s differing acculturations into joual and English have important implications for his sense of writing. Joual was not only intimately aligned with childhood, family, and the French-Canadian enclave, it was also deeply associated with the interactive immediacy of conversation and the performance of storytelling (this is particularly evident in Dr. Sax). English, conversely, was not only the language of the larger society (to which French Canadians and their neighborhoods were distinctly marginal), it Page 21 →was also alphabetic letters on the page and the academic rules for deploying them. Reducing Kerouac’s relationship to joual and English to a simplistic binary of joual as oral language and English as visual language (i.e., writing) would be a mistake, but the differences in how he acquired joual and English seem to have heightened his sensitivity to the differences between speaking and writing as different modes of language, different ways of experiencing language, and different ways of enacting language. It is also plausible that this was, in turn, a factor in his perspective on what the process of writing literature entails and on what literature should be. Kerouac’s sensitivity to the differences between speaking and writing as alternative ways of enacting language complicated, it seems, his efforts to write literature and helps explain the approach to writing that he developed—preliminarily in On the Road, then more fully in Visions of Cody. How this might be the case can be glimpsed in Kerouac’s relationship to Neal Cassady. What initially fascinated Kerouac about Cassady was not simply his Westernness, energy, sexual dynamism, or unconcern for such legalisms as whose name was or wasn’t on a car’s registration. While these contributed to Kerouac wanting to exploit Cassady as a fictional character in Road and Cody, Cassady’s importance for how Kerouac wrote, as opposed to what he wrote about, is more a matter of Cassady’s speaking—its spontaneity, dynamism, immediacy, and (especially) its performativity. That Cassady’s talking fascinated Kerouac has been widely recognized, and both Cassady’s talking and letters to Kerouac (especially the so-called Joan Anderson letter of December 23, 1950) were clearly factors in Kerouac pushing beyond his earlier, more conventional attempts at his Road novel to the April 1951 scroll that became On the Road, but we have been too satisfied with Kerouac’s own explanation for this, alluded to in the opening passage of On the Road: that Neal/Dean/Cody signified vitality at a time when he was (as the persona of Sal puts it) “feeling that everything was dead.” That is, we have tended to accept Sal’s regeneration through Dean both as the diagnosis of Kerouac’s dilemma as a writer (understood as a psychological matter relating to events in his life and as cultural matters relating to America’s drifting into corporatism and conformity as he searched for a way to write On the Road) and as the dilemma’s solution. However, there is another way to approach Kerouac’s fascination with Cassady’s verbal prowess—one that brings us closer to how and why these Page 22 →oral performances mattered for his writing and his innovations as a writer. Early in On the Road, Dean shows up at the apartment where Sal is living with his aunt, claiming he wants Sal to teach him to write. Sal recalls:

I told Dean, “Hell, man, I know very well you didn’t come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.” And he said, “Yes, of course, I know exactly what you mean and in fact all those problems have occurred to me, but the one thing that I want is the realization of those factors that should one depend on Schopenhauer’s dichotomy for any inwardly realized . . .” and so on in that way, things I understood not a bit and he himself didn’t. (OR-V, 3)13

At the level of plot, this exchange illustrates both Dean’s desire to be part of Sal’s circle of college-educated friends and his naiveté about their world. As Sal puts it:

he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he heard from “real intellectuals”—although, mind you, he wasn’t so naïve as that in all other things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness. (OR-V, 3-4)

But the exchange also highlights a major difference between writing and speaking—at least as Sal is experiencing them. In this scene, writing is solitary labor, a matter of will. It is a mysterious discipline in the sense that Sal can’t explain how to do it or how to learn it. Dean’s response is, as a statement, nonsense. He ignores Sal’s actual points; instead, he performs in response—enacting his sympathy with Sal’s emotions about writing. His performance reveals his lack of understanding of both Sal’s analysis and the terms that “real intellectuals” use, but this doesn’t change—or even lessen—the way his performance functions as a reply to Sal’s situation. Moreover, Dean’s ability to respond—to engage the moment, fill it with speech, empathize with Sal, and simultaneously assert and celebrate himself—does not require “the energy of a benny addict” (even if “benny” might at times have accelerated Dean’s speaking), nor does it require mastering a particular discipline. Instead, speaking is—unlike writing—an immediate behavior (the temptation here is to label it as natural as Page 23 →well, though that would be to devalue the cultural and social dynamics that necessarily shape and inflect speaking). Writing, as Sal frames it here, is a process of composing, completely at odds with the reacting and interacting of speaking. And for Dean speaking is also, and further, a matter of performing. As Dean demonstrates (and this is apparent even through Sal’s burlesque of his spiel), we can talk without having to aspire to be a talker. To be a writer, though, we must not only aspire to be one, but must as well, it seems, commit to a rigorous, isolating process of developing craft and control. Moreover, the kind of writing Sal imagines in this passage implicitly separates the writer from the reader, since writer and reader are necessarily separated in space and time. What follows in the passage underscores this dichotomy between speaking and writing—one performative and directly interactive; the other compositional and indirectly interactive. In the April 1951 scroll (as published in On the Road: The Original Scroll) the narrator, Jack, the equivalent figure to Sal, adds the following.

That was the winter of 1947. Shortly after meeting Neal I began writing or painting my huge Town and City, and I was about four chapters on when one night, when Neal ate supper at my house, and he already had a new parkinglot job in New York, the hotel NYorker lot on 34 st., he leaned over my shoulder as I typed rapidly away and said “Come on man, those girls won’t wait, make it fast,” and I said “Hold on just a minute, I’ll be right with you soon as I finish this chapter,” and I did and it was one of the best chapters in the book [. . . .] As far as my work was concerned he said, “Go ahead, everything you do is great.” (OR-S, 111–12)

This suggests that what made the chapter “one of the best” was, at least in part, the pressure to write quickly, without doubts and reconsiderations—a rationale that seems to validate the usual view of Kerouac’s method, since this is supposed to be how he wrote/typed the scroll in April 1951 to generate this account of writing the scene from the earlier book (The Town and the City) he was then drafting. But what is more important here is the way Jack/Sal is for once not writing in isolation for an unknown, abstract future reader but writing instead with, for, and to an immediate, physically actual audience—Neal/Dean. In this scene Neal’s presence gives the process of

writing some of the characteristics of speaking. Leaning over Jack’s shoulder, the Neal-who-reads as Jack writes/types functions not as a deferred, hypothetical reader (as we do as actual readers Page 24 →to either of the published versions of On the Road) but instead as a kind of immediate auditor (a “readitor”?) who both elicits the writing and to whom the writing is directed. That Neal might, in fact, have little interest in what Jack is typing and might be leaning so Jack will “make it fast” because “those girls won’t wait” doesn’t change this. Whether Neal is an encouraging reader/listener or an impatient one, his presence and participation alter the usual dynamic of writing. Jack is performing, rather than composing, and this gives the act of writing some of speaking’s behavioral immediacy and interactivity. This scene’s entangling of writing and speaking is even more apparent in Kerouac’s revision of it for the 1957 Viking Road.

As far as my work was concerned he said, “Go ahead, everything you do is great.” He watched over my shoulder as I wrote stories, yelling, “Yes! That’s right! Wow! Man!” and “Phew!” and wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Man, wow, there’s so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears . . .” (OR-V, 4)

In this extension, Dean reacts to Sal’s typing in the same way he reacts, later in the novel, to the soloing of jazz musicians in a club. That Kerouac added this unit after he’d completed the scroll draft (thus after drafting those jazz scenes) suggests that he was aware of this parallel when he added these sentences and may have added Dean’s reaction to Sal’s typing/writing performance with this parallel in mind.14 In the extended version of the scene, Dean casts Sal as a performer and participates directly in the performance as he responds to the writer writing. He does not treat Sal as a writer in the traditional sense (i.e., an isolated figure composing for a generalized audience figured as “the reader”). And whether Dean’s fears for writerly conventions and literary expectations were actually Cassady’s fears at the time or ones Kerouac invented for Dean makes little difference. This evocation of Sal writing as if for a physically present auditor who responds as if to a performance makes this moment something other than the usual dynamic of writing. Dean’s direct participation pushes the abstract, belated reader who will presumably read the writing when it is published into the background. Substituting a physically present and participating surrogate reader (Neal/Dean) for the physically absent readerto-come enables Jack/Sal to Page 25 →write as if he is performing for—speaking to—an actual “you” rather than composing for a reader who is not only absent but also necessarily imagined as a hypothetical “other.” Walter Ong has argued that this reader is always a fiction, which is to say that the reader is necessarily a function and thereby fundamentally (for the writer when writing) an “it” rather than a “you.”15 In this passage, the act of writing takes on some of the dynamics of oral performance and becomes an analogue to it, but writing—at least writing a novel—can never fully replicate the behavioral interactivity and immediacy of speaking. That Kerouac extended this brief description of what might be termed the “scene of writing” as he reworked the April 1951 scroll draft of On the Road indicates that this characterization of writing should be taken seriously.16 For Kerouac, it seems, what mattered about Cassady’s speaking was not only its immediacy and energy—important as these were as signs of its authenticity—but that his ability as an oral performer did not require the alienating search for technique that writing seemed to require. Cassady’s speaking, as represented in On the Road, shows him not only using his speaking to immerse himself in the present and to control those in the moment with him but also simultaneously performing what might be termed “songs of himself.” As such, Cassady challenged for Kerouac the assumption that literature is language perfected through the discipline of writing (compositional design, revision, and such) and confronted him, instead, with the possibility that literature—at least when produced according to mid-century notions of craft and form—might well be language attenuated and

diminished specifically because of writing and by it. For Kerouac, the possibility that Cassady’s oral performances might be artful, in spite of their lack of writerly control (perhaps even because of it), placed him squarely in conflict with mid-century norms for stylistic craft. It also placed him at odds with the norms for how fictional point of view should be constructed and utilized as a central feature of fiction. Accounts of Kerouac’s drafting of the April 1951 scroll of On the Road typically cast him as an intuitive writer who had little interest in fictional conventions.17 For Ginsberg, his presumed ignorance of such formalities enabled his genius; for more academically oriented figures such as Lionel Trilling and Norman Podhoretz, his presumed ignorance proved that his writing was, indeed, merely a distasteful cultural symptom akin to juvenile Page 26 →delinquency and rock and roll. But Kerouac’s journals and correspondence show that he was widely read, and the essays he wrote for his literature classes while a student at the New School for Social Research show that he was not only aware that his impulses as a writer set him at odds with academically validated modes but that he was also questioning the terms of his conflict with these norms, trying to assess the validity of his resistance to them, and searching for an aesthetic that would enable him to move beyond the conflict rather than give in to it.18 For Kerouac, Cassady’s example challenged the paradigms of fiction, making it more necessary for him to make a radical break with them but also more difficult to do so. Cassady embodied not just the problem of how to write On the Road but also the problem of how to resolve the gap between speaking and writing as different systems of language, each with distinct possibilities and limitations (much as the more oral domain of joual and the more writerly, visual realm of English each had distinct psychological resonances for him). If Cassady’s orality, his bravura abilities as a performer and the energy of his interactions, suggested new stylistic possibilities, the seeming freedom and demonstrable power of Cassady’s orality also called into question the writing Kerouac had been doing as a hardworking apprentice to the craft of fiction in The Town and the City and the initial attempts at On the Road. They even seemed to call into question literary writing itself as defined in the academy and enforced by the literary publishers, journals, and reviews that made a writer’s reputation (or destroyed a writer through benign and sometimes malign neglect). For Kerouac, his joual orality and his fascination with Cassady’s oral prowess (as well as his sensitivity to the language of Times Square hustlers such as Herbert Huncke, the verbal innovations of jazz talkers like Lester Young and Slim Gaillard, the vaudevillian mastery of W. C. Fields, and the linguistic complexity of Lord Buckley’s oral compositions) combined to make him unusually aware of the differences between speaking and writing, which contributed, I’m suggesting, to his desire, even need, to make writing mime, and preferably recuperate, the immediacy and interactivity of speaking and oral performance. It is important, though, to note that Kerouac’s sensitivity to language as an oral medium did not in itself create the dissonance between speaking and writing as modes of language; it simply heightened his awareness of their inherent differences.19 For the speaker, the listener not only provides Page 27 →the immediate context for what is said and how, the listener’s presence also requires the speaker to speak. As speakers our speaking is not only directed to the listener but also elicited by—and partly shaped by—the listener. Moreover, the give-and-take of speaking is not solely a way of communicating perceptions or developing claims. It is also social—a means to negotiate such matters as proximity and distance, belonging and independence, and desire and antipathy. As we talk, the explicit content is often secondary to these implicit dynamics (in a bar, for instance, the question “come here often?” is seldom an attempt to solicit information about how often the someone comes to the bar).20 Moreover, speaking necessarily unfolds in direct correspondence to and within real time, biological time, diachronic time, as the speaker and listener interact (even if the listener only listens). While writing is also a behavior, it is a behavior of a different sort. As Ong has stressed, writing not only shifts language away from the aural but also removes it from the temporal frame of its production.21 For the writer, the embodied moment(s) of composing are preliminary to the actual life of the language (the writing) that the writer constructs. Instead of interacting directly with a physically present auditor or audience, the writer interacts with a thing, an object (the page). The behavior of writing is not with an actual other (as in speaking) but with the white, initially empty surface of the page, and this gap between the writer and reader is additionally shaped by the need to convert the aural temporal flow of speaking into the fixed, discrete blocks of the visual code of writing. In writing, the writer interacts directly with the page but only indirectly with the reader. While writing is behavioral,

the behavior is of an attenuated, even alienating, sort; page and writing code sever the moment of writing from the moment of reading, making them disconnected, rather than interconnected, behaviors. For the writer, the reader’s reception of what the writer has written is necessarily inferred. It exists as a kind of symbolic projection. Writing entails another decisive shift from speaking—what Ong has termed the “commitment of the word to space.”22 In writing, language becomes visual symbols arranged on a surface (a sheet of paper or clay tablet or computer screen) instead of a succession of sounds in time. Kittler, in “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter,” advances a complementary point, when he observes that writing does not merely store language but fundamentally transforms it: he notes that writing cannot “reproduce” the actual “time flow” of “acoustic data” as speaker and listener collaboratively enact language;Page 28 → instead, writing as visual code converts (and qualitatively alters) the “time flow” of embodied speaking and listening into what he terms “the grid of the symbolic.”23 As Ong’s and Kittler’s work suggests, it matters that speaking operates within actual time responding directly to a specific listener or set of listeners, while writing, instead, operates indirectly for an absent, temporally displaced other, who is always to a greater or lesser degree an abstraction (ranging from the relatively specific “you” addressed in a personal letter to the generalized figure of the reader in the traditional novel, whose function is akin to the focal point in a painting using linear perspective). The gap that speakers and listeners negotiate and the gap that writers and readers negotiate are qualitatively different. Moreover, the role of time in the written text differs radically from the role of time in spoken interactions. In composing, a writer can spend hours honing a brief passage (as Hemingway reports he often did, and as Pound did in compressing the initial version of “In a Station of the Metro” to the final pair of lines).24 As a result, there is no direct or necessary correspondence between the time taken to write a passage and the time it takes to read it. Conversely, in telling a story orally, the time it takes to tell the story and the time it takes to hear it are not only equal in duration, they are precisely the same segment of elapsed time for both the teller and listener. Time as represented within a written passage, narrative time, has no direct relationship to either compositional time or reading time. In writing and reading, time is constructed; it is implied and necessarily symbolic.25 And this constructed time (which exists as if outside of biological time) supersedes (or at least distorts and obscures) both the time taken to compose the writing and the time taken to decode it in reading. To write requires learning to set aside the desire for an actual auditor. The writer foregoes the behavioral immediacy of speaking in order to focus on the particular rhetorical possibilities of composed writing—the written. In writing pragmatically—minutes of a meeting, a legal brief, technical procedures, etc.—this is a relatively straightforward matter; there is little reason for the writer to want to seem actual or present to the reader—or to want the reader’s presence. Literature, though, operates along less (or differently) functional lines and within multiple contexts, and this complicates the cost of writing. Works of literature enact, among other things, emotions. Yet the process and medium of writing prevent the writer and reader from being directly present to each other. In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” that paradigmatic modernist manifesto, Eliot solves this problem Page 29 →by insisting that the emotion in a work of literature is necessarily severed (and should be) from the writer’s own emotions, which for Eliot are unknowable and irrelevant (or should be). The emotions in The Waste Land do not, Eliot would have us believe, relate in any way to his own situation when he was composing it or what he might have felt while composing. The emotions in the poem happen through composing, but they reside in the result (the poem), not in the context or process through and from which the result was constructed. For Eliot, the way writing as a medium separates writer from reader was artistically enabling and seemingly welcome. For Kerouac, it was not. In spite of his determination to write literature, this dynamic of writing was something to overcome; he wanted writing to have at least some of speaking’s behavioral immediacy—both for himself as the writer and for the reader. He was committed to writing literature yet seeking to subvert writing as a mode of language. If Cassady’s formidable oral skills were in part an inspiration to search for a way to write as if speaking directly to the reader, his example was also a threat, precisely because Cassady’s ability to compel his listeners brought the differences between writing and speaking into stark relief and called into question whether writing could, in fact, engage the reader with any degree of authenticity and immediacy.

For Kerouac, composing written equivalents to Cassady’s speaking (or Slim Gaillard’s or Mississippi Gene’s) was a relatively straightforward matter given his ear for speech rhythms and inflections, but representing what a character might say and the character’s manner of saying it (as Twain did, for instance, in Huck Finn) is not the same thing as writing as if the writer (not the character) were actually speaking to the reader and the reader actually listening—that is, as if writer and reader were present to each other in time in spite of their absence from each other in space. While Cassady’s example plausibly helped Kerouac reject the usual view for his era that the only possible basis for artful creation in language was the compositional deliberation and control writing made possible, Cassady’s abilities as a speaker did nothing to address the greater challenge—how to recast writing as a medium so that it could be used as a performance medium (rather than a mechanism for encoding and storing composition) and thereby have something of speaking’s participatory, interactive immediacy in spite of the gap the page creates between writer and reader—a gap which, ironically, the page also partly bridges. While Kerouac’s search across his various attempts at On the Road was Page 30 →for an approach to point of view adequate to the fluidity and pace of his experiences of Cassady and the road, his search was, more fundamentally, for a way to make writing’s encoding and storage of language engage the reader as if directly and to function as if the reader was a specific and actual other rather than an abstract position within a fictional system. For Kerouac the goal was to subvert writing as the “grid of the symbolic” and to replace it with a mode of writing that enacted the behavioral interactivity—the immediacy and actuality—of speaking and speech. Put another way, Kerouac’s need was to reimagine writing, both as medium and practice, so that he could overcome its inherent abstraction (its removal of language from time and corresponding commitment of language to space) and overcome, as well, the ways that mid-century norms for fiction intensified this abstraction by treating the writer’s manipulation of writing as fundamental to the writer’s craft—the writer’s artfulness. If Cassady’s oral prowess was one factor driving Kerouac’s search for an alternative mode of writing and if what might be termed Kerouac’s “bilanguagalism” (the “orality” of joual and the “literacy” of English) was another, then what is needed to understand Kerouac’s writing experiments is less an analysis of such relatively surface features as point of view but instead an investigation of how his sense of writing’s relationship to speaking informed the experiments through which he confronted, then subverted, the modern and modernist textual paradigm and the conventions for the novel this iteration of textuality supported. For Kerouac, the challenge in writing was not to commit language to the space of the page and then artfully exploit its possibilities. Rather, the challenge was to develop an approach that would reconnect writing to time so that writing would speak within time. For Kerouac the page needed to be something other than a frame to hold the writing composed and stored upon it; it needed to be a channel for transmitting the action of writing, as if writing were a kind of speaking and as if the writer and reader had an equivalent reality and immediacy for each other. As such, he sought to write not only against the grain of the conventions for fiction in his own period but also against the grain of writing as a visual medium. This is, at root, what is at stake in Kerouac’s experimentation first, in partial and preliminary form, in On the Road and then more radically and fully in Visions of Cody and the work that followed. In proposing that Kerouac sought to reconceive writing so that it could have something of speaking’s interactive and behavioral immediacy, I am Page 31 →offering, I realize, one more option for trivializing him. What could be more foolish than a writer rejecting, even in part, the material conditions of his medium? But Kerouac’s importance to his Beat contemporaries and in the decades since to writers who have risked experimental styles and forms suggests that his attempt to write against the grain of writing deserves to be taken seriously, and Ong’s anticipation of what he termed “secondary orality” provides a possible reason. In Orality and Literacy Ong proposes that electronic media that store and/or distribute speech without converting it into visual, written code (analogue recording, radio, film, etc.) would generate a “secondary orality” that would draw on the dynamics of both speaking and writing but differ from each.26 Ong anticipates that the voice, through electronic circulation as a simulacrum of speaking, would regain some of its cultural status as a viable alternative to writing and print for important cultural and social discourse. The way television news (in which the anchor’s voice plays so central a role) has come to compete with—and even partly transform—such print-based forms as newspapers is a possible illustration of how the electronically circulated voice now exists alongside the original medium of language as speech and the subsequent medium of language as writing.

Kerouac’s significance as a writer is at least in part his sensitivity to the cultural and aesthetic possibilities of secondary orality, and his experiments with reconfiguring writing in the image of speaking were inherently a pioneering effort to shape a mode of literature that engages, even exploits, secondary orality. As such, his decision to write against the grain of writing is not an evasion of the craft of writing (merely, as Capote termed it, “typewriting”). It is instead the search for a new understanding of what writing could be (or, as he might have thought, had to be if writing were to retain imaginative power in a period when literature was being overtaken by radio and film) and the search for a model of textuality to support it. A brief comment from Kerouac’s fall 1951 work journal underscores how much he was, in the months following the On the Road scroll, searching for a mode of writing that would break with, and transform, the textuality of modernism and its (to borrow from Cleanth Brooks) commitment to well-wrought, polished urns. In the November 15 entry Kerouac says of his strategy of writing by “sketching” (the basis of Spontaneous Prose): “the result is not ‘literature’ and certainly not fiction but definitely something living.”27 That Kerouac is here talking about the writing experiments that mark the beginning of Visions of Cody shows that he knew, and accepted, that the approachPage 32 → he was developing involved something other than what the authorities of the day would acknowledge as “‘fiction’ or even ‘literature’ in the literary & publishing sense.” It also shows that he was aiming at a living text (implicitly, a text that operates as if in time) and not a textual urn (a fixed, symbolic object that operates as if in space and freed from time). In the next day’s entry Kerouac adds the following.

Made important decision about the Neal book [Visions of Cody]—no false action, just visions of what I know he did, NO TIME, NO CHRONOLOGY, composing willy-nilly, as [John Clellon] Holmes says, a book surpassing the problem of time by itself being full of the roar of Time (not his words).

The assertion “NO TIME, NO CHRONOLOGY” seemingly contradicts what I’ve been proposing, but Kerouac, here, is setting himself the task of writing without regard for constructing a representation of time—symbolic time—within the work of fiction through plot, point of view, symbolic architecture, and other predetermined structural devices that would then be used to subordinate and control his responses to his material as he writes. That is, he is proposing that his responsiveness to his materials and to his writing process as he is writing should be at the center of the fiction—and openly so. To write in this manner would be to trust that “the roar of Time” (actual time) can fill the text. In the mode of writing Kerouac is declaring here and which he develops in Visions of Cody, writing is (as in speaking) to be aligned with biological time and to operate within it. The actual unfolding of time as the writer writes is to be reconnected to the actual unfolding of time as the reader reads (much as a recording of a jazz performance retains the duration of the performance, so that the listener, in playing the recording, experiences the performance as if actually occurring in time—a time necessarily prior to and displaced from the listener’s listening, yet directly analogous to it and synchronized with it, so that the listener’s experience includes the awareness that the time and timing of performance is actual rather than, in Kittler’s sense of the matter, symbolic).28 In this journal entry, Kerouac is imagining writing as performance, not composition, and he is projecting writing—and reading—as a direct exchange between writer and reader that would have at least some of the interactive immediacy of speaker and listener.

Page 33 →

CHAPTER 2 “A Book Always Has a Voice” made of Jack Kerouac drafting On the Road in three weeks in April 1951 by writing/typing it as a single 120-foot paragraph on a roll of tracing paper.1 Writing so “spontaneously” supposedly enabled Kerouac to capture the freedom of his road experiences, express his commitment to the moment, reject the stifling social orthodoxy of 1950s containment culture, revolt against the academy’s frigid formalism, and generate a quintessential American novel. There’s some right to this but also some wrong. For one, as already noted, Kerouac did not regard the scroll (as this manuscript is commonly dubbed) as Spontaneous Prose, which he first used as a method mid-October 1951 for material later incorporated into Visions of Cody.2 But, a more fundamental problem with this view is the way Kerouac’s presumed lack of reflection—or, as some would have it, his intensity and honesty—encourages a focus on what Kerouac presents in On the Road rather than a consideration of how he actually wrote the novel and what this might tell us about how he understood writing as a medium at this point in his development. The focus on content (its “truth” and its “reality” seemingly secured by the naiveté of the composing process) is a way to validate the book’s importance as a catalyst for the Beat Generation. But the measure of Huck Finn is not only how many boys took to rafts after reading it, and the measure of On the Road is more than how many might-have-been Cold War warriors opted instead for a fast car out of town. MUCH HAS BEEN

While our attention to the actions portrayed in On the Road has helped us appreciate its representation of America in the late 1940s and how readers in the late 1950s used those representations, it has contributed to a tendency to underestimate, misperceive, or simply ignore how deeply radical his conception of writing as a medium (as distinct from writing as a process)Page 34 → actually was. Kerouac was not just using dashes and participles to evoke a fast car on the road with Cowboy Neal at the wheel; he was, more fundamentally, reconceptualizing writing as a medium by reimagining its relationship to speech, thus problematizing writing’s relationship to language. To understand this, we need to consider not only On the Road as drafted in April 1951, the scroll Road, but also what led him to that experiment and why he pushed beyond it with the experiments that evolved into Visions of Cody. That is, we need to understand that the scroll version was not the breakthrough in Kerouac’s development but a breakthrough, preceded and followed by others, and to do this we need to consider three things: First, what was Kerouac rejecting in opting for this approach? His letters to Neal Cassady in late 1950 and early 1951 are particularly important in this regard. Second, why was he initially dissatisfied with the April 1951 version of On the Road—his sense that the scroll experiment had not actually resolved his dilemmas as a writer. Third, is the question of how the even more radical experiments across the fall of 1951 and into 1952—the work Kerouac shaped into Visions of Cody—recast these dilemmas and push beyond them. To understand Kerouac’s approach to writing (both as medium and method), we need to stop thinking of the scroll as some kind of ex nihilo immaculate conception and to consider its gestation, birth, and subsequent development. When Ann Charters was preparing her bibliography of Kerouac, he told her that The Town and the City (his first novel) was “written according to what they told me at Columbia University.” It was, he noted, “Fiction,” then added, “But I told you the novel’s dead.”3 The implicit dichotomy here—The Town and the City as conventional and therefore to be discounted and On the Road as radical and therefore to be validated—aligns neatly with the usual narrative of Kerouac’s development, where The Town and the City is the promising but conventional apprenticeship and On the Road the breakthrough to originality and the paradigm for the work that followed. But the characterization Kerouac offered Charters is misleading. He did not, when he was drafting The Town and the City, view it as being written according to the norms of Columbia University. Moreover, he casts “Fiction” and the “novel” as synonymous terms, even though his journal entries from the late 1940s (as he worked on The Town and the City and then on the initial attempts at On the Road) show that he thought of the novel as a specificPage 35 → and limited tradition within the more expansive and fluid category of Fiction with a capital F. Kerouac was, in The Town and the City, already questioning the conventions for the novel, which he saw as

falsely constraining, and was already committed to pushing beyond these constraints. That he would later label The Town and the City as a novel reflects two things: first, his later sense that the book as he’d actually drafted it (from March 1946 to May 1948) had not sufficiently transformed his era’s norms for the novel to become Fiction in the fuller sense that he had been seeking, and second, his sense that the revisions Robert Giroux, his editor at Harcourt, Brace and Company, pushed him to make once the work was accepted in March 1949 had made it more clearly a novel in the usual sense but weakened it as Fiction. For Kerouac, The Town and the City had not been an attempt to write a book according to mid-century norms for the novel—either the academic or commercial norms. It was an attempt to resist those norms. And the terms of this resistance help explain why he initially found writing On the Road so difficult and point to what he was trying to accomplish with the April 1951 scroll experiment. There is nothing overtly experimental about The Town and the City. Even when it was published in March 1950, it seemed to be—in form, style, theme, and mood—a backward glance. Instead of taking Hemingway as his model (as current fashion dictated), Kerouac modeled his family saga on the work of Thomas Wolfe. If it was a novel “written according to what they told me at Columbia University,” Kerouac must have been dozing during the lectures on irony, formal control, compression, and authorial distance. But his approach in The Town and the City wasn’t the result of not knowing what an ambitious young fiction writer was expected to do; it was the result of his decision to not write in that manner. In the final paragraph of “The Minimization of Thomas Wolfe in His Own Time,” a paper he wrote in February 1949 for a course he was taking at the New School, Kerouac proposes that Wolfe’s work “represents, for all its famous faults, one of the few big endeavors in 20th Century American writing to arrive at the divine secrets of solemn existence”; then adds the following.

Wolfe was no Henry James novelist, but his “Come-up-to-the-mountains” love song in “Look Homeward, Angel” is the intense work of a genuine poet. Concerned with final human matters, as of God, and “dark time” in the midst of the hagglings of an intelligentsia that had never been so superficial as in the Twenties,Page 36 → and perhaps so in the Thirties from sheer desperate exhaustion, Wolfe was a Classicist writing in a Romanticist letter in a naturalistic atmosphere—a position of extreme loneliness in any case.4

As Elbert Lenrow, the instructor for whom Kerouac wrote this essay, has observed, “The influence of Wolfe upon Kerouac in The Town and the City has been universally noted, indeed proclaimed by Kerouac himself.”5 In drawing on Wolfe for The Town and the City Kerouac was choosing not to do “what they told me at Columbia University.” He was, instead, attempting to write Fiction that would not be merely a novel. Kerouac’s comments on Wolfe suggest that he perceived a dichotomy between Fiction (the “work of a genuine poet” who risks violating formal conventions) and the novel (works composed according to formal conventions and studiously observing them). To be a “Henry James novelist,” craft was sufficient, but Fiction had to draw from the soul. That Kerouac valued the intensity of soul over formal control is implicit in his August 20, 1948, journal entry. Reacting to a magazine rejecting a section of The Town and the City and the editor’s “silly letter gently advising me how to write,” he comments:

For all the flaws in Thomas Wolfe, would I reject the sum of his work, his soul?—but I guess I’d better become an editor myself and make the same criticizing everyone else makes, and learns in college, and be on the safe side. Yes, I deeply regret that I cannot write; yes, boys, forgive me for—for whatever I did that excites your critical faculties. (WW, 121)

This valuing of soul over convention and novelistic form is also evident in the journal entry for June 18, 1948,

written as Kerouac was typing up The Town and the City, which he’d finished drafting the month before. In the entry, he asserts that “the great novel of the future is going to have all the virtues of Melville, Dostoevsky, Céline, Wolfe, Balzac, Dickens and the poets in it (and Twain),” then adds the following,

A ‘soulwork’ instead of a ‘novel,’ although of course such a name is too fancy, and laughable, but it does indicate someone’s writing all-out for the sake of earnestness and salvation. The idea is that such a work must infold the man like his one undeniable cloak and dream of things . . . his ‘vision of the world and of the proposition of things,’ say. (WW, 95)

Page 37 → This entry shows that Kerouac believed that The Town and the City had not gone far enough to be “soulwork.” It also shows that he was drawn, at this point, to writers who were willing to risk compromising formal consistency and control in order to achieve emotional intensity and that he was determined that his next book would place even more emphasis on soul rather than form.

If my hand could only ‘keep up with my soul’—(but cross out those quotes, I do have a soul, and besides, though I am ashamed of my own madness among the regularities of noon’s wonderful commerce, I don’t care, I shall bury the shame, I’ll always find a way to honor among thieving self-lacerations and abasements)—so as I say, if my hand could capture it. Here, I think, is one of the secrets that will lead to the miraculous novel of the future; and when I’m finished with T&C [The Town and the City] in all its aspects, I’m going to discover a way of preserving the big rushing tremendousness in me and in all poets. A certain gadget, the wire-recorder, may help in some respects, although it’s a bit awkward to spill your visions into a microphone . . . One big thing is to develop a strenuous accountability (you see it’s moral, no gadgets invade man’s true necessity), and the habit, the daily labor of writing en passant, keep a vast and cosmic diary. Imagine such a diary after a year’s time . . . two million words from which to hew (and hue) out a soulful story. (WW, 94–95)6

In the soulwork Kerouac hopes to write, he would, it seems, express his “soul” without concern for form or convention, then “hew” the results to reveal the form of his “soulful story.” He would not use a predetermined form nor observe academically validated conventions but would, instead, strive to be a Melville or a Wolfe—a “poet” putting form before soul. These journal entries indicate, that is, that Kerouac did not see The Town and the City as a novel as he was writing it but as an attempt at Fiction. They also show that he wanted to push even farther in his next book, his “Road book,” in the direction of “soulwork.”7 When Harcourt, Brace accepted The Town and the City in March 1949,8 Kerouac found himself in a conflicted situation. What he viewed as an expression of his soul was to Robert Giroux, his editor, raw material to be processed. Giroux insisted that the book had to be cut down to make it more publishable, and he soon had Kerouac laboring at revisions, the two of them at times working on the manuscript together. Giroux’s efforts, both during editing and when the book was first published, suggest that he had Page 38 →Kerouac’s best interests at heart, but to Giroux this meant adapting the manuscript to the norms of the market, even if doing so compromised Kerouac’s aesthetic aims. For Giroux, the conventions of the novel needed to control the Fiction; structure needed to contain the soul. The manuscript needed fewer of the descriptive and emotional digressions that, for Kerouac, were part of “writing all-out for the sake of earnestness and salvation.” Giroux, as it happens, had graduated from Columbia University in 1936, and Kerouac’s comment to Charters that The Town and the City had been “written according to what they told me at Columbia University” should perhaps be rephrased as “revised according to what Robert Giroux of Columbia University told me.”

Giroux may well have seen himself playing Maxwell Perkins to Kerouac’s Thomas Wolfe, and his interventions probably improved The Town and the City’s chances of attracting positive reviews and generating sales, which Kerouac acknowledged in his journal entry dated “NOV. 2–NOV. 6.” (WW, 244)9 But even as he worked at The Town and the City under Giroux’s direction, Kerouac was already attempting to write On the Road, and the various, partial drafts of the attempts from late 1948 to early 1950 reflect his difficulty in finding an approach for this new book. The dialogue with Giroux was plausibly a factor. Kerouac was searching for a way to make his new book soulwork; Giroux was pushing him to write as a “Henry James novelist.” The cuts, polishing, and restructurings Giroux was urging for the book Kerouac was trying to leave behind pushed him in one direction; his desire for his new writing to be “the big rushing tremendousness in me” was pulling him in another. Another factor complicating Kerouac’s early attempts at On the Road was the complexity of his responses to the personal, social, and cultural significance of his Road material. For Kerouac, the search for a workable strategy for point of view was also a search for a form and structure that would be sufficiently flexible to accommodate multiple (even conflicting) layers of response and implication. His drafts, notes, and work journals in this period repeatedly show him mapping out intricate plots and sets of characters with elaborate allegorical implications and historical dimensions, even as these documents show him trying to engage his own emotional involvement in his road experiences more directly. He wanted to convert his experiences into a kind of typology that would give the American present meaning in terms of the past and the various symbolic constructionsPage 39 → of America that he found in nineteenth-century American literature yet also to probe his own subjectivity, his present.10 Kerouac’s inability to make any of the usual and conventional approaches to point of view work for On the Road can be read as an indication that he lacked the aesthetic sense and discipline to craft fiction that matched his ambition. But his inability to complete any of the initial attempts at On the Road does not reflect an inability to write novels according to the precepts of Columbia University. Rather, his inability to write On the Road as a conventional novel (albeit in the tradition of Wolfe, Melville, etc., rather than in the tradition of James) reflects his inability at this stage to resolve a more fundamental aesthetic challenge: his desire that his fiction should not simply use what he termed (in his June 18, 1948, journal entry) “the big rushing tremendousness in me and in all poets” as the raw material to be converted into fiction but to have “rushing tremendousness” itself be the fiction. For Kerouac, the appeal of Wolfe, Melville, and the others he was invoking as a countertradition of Fiction to the more mainstream fiction of “Henry James novelist” was, it seems, his sense that they were committed to “rushing tremendousness” and willing, when necessary, to sacrifice formal consistency to it. But if Wolfe and the others seemed to legitimize prioritizing rushing tremendousness, Kerouac’s initial attempts at On the Road document his inability to adapt any of the models he considered for his own book. It was one thing to be drawn to Pierre and The Confidence Man as more productive models for On the Road than The Ambassadors. It was another to actually write On the Road using these models. The question is why. The answer has, at least in part, to do with how Kerouac understood rushing tremendousness and why he wanted it to be the fiction (Fiction) rather than, more conventionally, using it as material for the fiction (novels). In the June 18, 1948, journal entry (quoted earlier), as he tries to imagine “the miraculous novel of the future,” he wonders whether using a wire recorder might help him “preserv[e] the big rushing tremendousness in me and in all poets.” For Kerouac, rushing tremendousness was, it seems, not simply intense involvement in one’s material (and a willingness to sacrifice fictional control to it); it was also private remembering and discovering through remembering, then reacting to the remembering as it was occurring. Such a process, though, is intrinsically directed inward to the self, not outward to an other. It arises from the self and unfolds in private terms and Page 40 →figures rather than social and public ones. As such, rushing tremendousness is akin to daydreaming. As relatively formless inner monologue, it has little relationship to crafting fiction—if fiction is understood as something shaped for a reader, and for Kerouac to make even an approximation of rushing tremendousness accessible to a reader would require using writing to represent the experience rather than using writing to record the action of rushing tremendousness directly as it is happening. And the distance needed to translate this action into fictional counters, then structure it for a reader, would mean sacrificing the immediacy, fullness, and transparency of rushing tremendousness to the arbitrary rules for novels. Kerouac’s notion of using a wire recorder (a forerunner of the tape recorder) to capture rushing tremendousness

(for later “hew[ing]” into a “soulful story”) further clarifies his problem. While the wire recorder could seemingly preserve rushing tremendousness without one needing to stop to write things down, the recorder’s immediacy and transparency is in part illusory—as Kerouac’s doubts about the “microphone” suggest. To access rushing tremendousness directly and preserve it fully required solving two problems: one temporal; the other rhetorical and, it might be said, behavioral. A wire recorder could address the temporal problem by preserving the actual time (the tempo, duration, etc.) of tremendousness as it was happening. But the recorder could not resolve the second problem. As Kerouac imagines it, rushing tremendousness is the self, engaged with the self, performing for the self, and using the internal language of the self without regard for its effect or meaning for another person (or for the self at a later time). For the microphone to record the “rushing” of this “tremendousness,” this internal action has to be externalized. It has to be spoken. The microphone cannot access this interiority directly. The microphone would free Kerouac from having to convert the interior action into writing (and he notes the appeal of this), but it would not free him from having to externalize the interior action as speech. However, speaking internally to one’s self and speaking externally are quite different things. To direct speech externally requires performing it for another, real or imagined. The microphone is a mechanical device. One can speak into it but not to it; one can only speak through it as if to another—a specific “you” that one imagines as if present or a fictionalized “you” who becomes, in effect, the abstract figure of “reader.” The dilemma with rushing tremendousness is not how to preserve it for later access. The dilemma is how to redirect it outward, either to an actual Page 41 →other (as one does in talking to and/or with someone) or an imagined other, in which case the speaking for this belated other is seemingly no different than writing for an imagined and belated other. This is at the crux of the dichotomy between soulwork and novel. To create Fiction that would be rushing tremendousness and thus soulwork (and be free of the teachings of Columbia University) not only required reconceptualizing writing as an action or process that would foreground the writer’s subjectivity but required, also and somehow, making the writing be that subjectivity, not merely its representation. This was less a matter of finding or inventing the right form than of rethinking how writing enacts subjectivity and how writing relates to speaking and to language. Kerouac’s various attempts at On the Road from the fall of 1948 through the fall of 1950 show him not simply experimenting with point of view and not simply searching for the stylistic fluidity needed to express being on the road. If these had been the only challenges, he would probably have managed to complete one of the versions he attempted prior to the April 1951 scroll. But as he worked at these early attempts, his search for a viable form (plot, point of view, symbolic structure, etc.) for his Road material necessarily failed to express the interiority of rushing tremendousness, and these attempts inevitably reentangled him in the conventions that were, he sensed, preventing him from moving beyond the mode of The Town and the City, trapping him within fiction and not taking flight as Fiction and soulwork. The breakthrough—actually, the start of it—came when Kerouac stopped worrying about symbolic structures and began to shift from exploring fictional form to focusing instead on what he termed “voice” (as distinct from point of view). Ironically, this shift was initially a move away from writing not only novels but also, in some sense, from Fiction as he had been understanding the category. The shift was also a move toward beginning to rethink writing’s relationship to speaking. Kerouac’s October 6, 1950, letter to Cassady sets the terms for this shift.

Hello There My Dear Neal, To you I could write a 5000-word letter every blessed day but of course a man must earn his living and plan for the future and save his energy for his work, otherwise I’d do it and keep you well-informed and well-read. Well, I have a thousand things to talk about, but where to begin? Why, begin where I Page 42 →feel like beginning. And when you work on your Cassady-novel, remember this tip from an old, old redoubtable hack. Harrumph! Egad! Kaff-kaff! First let me say that I have been digging the World Series and the tones of the various announcers. (SL,


The opening sentence here reflects a conflict between what Kerouac wants to do and what he feels he “must” do. He wants to write Cassady chatty letters but feels he should, instead, preserve his writing “energy” for the “work” of writing a book that would, he hopes, justify (both psychologically and economically) his sense of himself as a writer. The relative commercial failure of The Town and the City (during what should have been its period of greatest sales) was probably a factor in his sense that he needed to “work” to produce work that would make money and also a factor in the self-mockery of calling himself, even if partly in jest, “an old, old redoubtable hack.” What is clear is that he wants to ignore the conventions “hacks” must observe and write to satisfy himself, even as The Town and The City’s lack of sales was increasing the pressure to fulfill these conventions. The opening of this letter implicitly projects two different writing processes. To “write” as a writer, a professional, is to be a “man” who “earn[s] his living” by his writing. But this requires conforming to the market and makes the “work” of writing a kind of day job. It is to be a “man,” but it also to be a “hack” because the writing (as process and product) is neither creative nor authentic. To write to Cassady, though, is to ignore market conventions and forego “earn[ing].” It is pleasure rather than work—and authentic. It’s akin to getting together for a beer and kicking around the day’s events—akin, that is, to talking, as the letter’s opening makes clear. The address is not the conventional “Dear Neal” signaling this is “a letter.” Instead it functions as if a spoken action playing with the convention. “Well” and “Why” also signal that Kerouac is imagining himself talking to Cassady as he writes. In asserting the freedom to begin wherever he wants, he also signals that he is allowing himself the discontinuities and digressions—the make it up as you go—of actual conversation. The letter’s aural quality is also apparent in the interjection, “Harrumph! Egad! Kaff-kaff!” On one level, this is simply playing, but Kerouac is also evoking the character Major Hoople in the long-running comic strip Our Boarding House. In the strip, the Major typically intrudes in the conversations of others, posing as an expert on the topic at hand and partly covering his ignorance with bluster and interjections such as “Egad” and “Kaff-kaff.” Page 43 →Evoking Hoople functions in three ways. The interjections ask to be processed as sound rather than sense; they are a spoken gesture (the writing here encodes sound). Interjecting the interjections is also a kind of shared joke, much as both oblique and direct references to the most recent episode of a popular TV show function in banter around the proverbial water cooler; this aspect of the interjection underscores the way Kerouac is performing his language for Cassady as a specific you, an actual other, rather than the more abstracted position of reader. The gesture’s performativity and its specificity to Kerouac and Cassady is underscored by the way Kerouac, having, in effect, revealed his “tip” about writing (“Why, begin where I feel like beginning” without regard to convention and preestablished form), first announces that he is about to offer Cassady a “tip,” then stops short of doing so, playfully posing as “hack,” then further burlesquing his pose by miming the blowhard Hoople, whose advice (as he knows Cassady would know) is typically absurd. Kerouac advises Cassady, mocks himself for doing so, and authorizes Cassady (in his position of less experienced writer) to ignore the advice. The passage is both casual and virtuoso—and can be so precisely because Kerouac is specifically addressing Cassady, an actual person, not the position of reader. He knows the contexts he and Cassady share, knows precisely his position vis-à-vis Cassady (and Cassady’s vis-à-vis him), and knows how to perform these positions.11 This letter also bears on the problem of how to engage and convey the interiority of rushing tremendousness. The interjection “Kaff-kaff” should, it seems, be followed by the “tip” for Cassady to use for his “Cassady-novel.” Instead, Kerouac digresses.

First let me say that I have been digging the World Series and the tones of the various announcers. This morning I did the World Series the honor of getting up early and blasting ahead of time. There’s an announcer from Philly called Gene Kelly who is an exact replica of John Holmes (that is, dig John as a radio announcer), with the same way of being proud of his verbs, and so on, like when a

groundball is hit, he’ll say . . . “a slow, twisting, weak roller” as if baseball was the significance of life in itself, the things that happen in it representing in symbols of action, the symbols of (twisting) despair in the “modern world.” I must say, it’s mighty cool. Then quickly I turn to old reliable southern-accent Mel Allen, who has that simply back-country mind, like Dean [Moriarity], just pointing out things like . . . “Well, there’s Johnny Mize mopping his face with a handkerchief” or “there’s Del Ennis picking up a bat at the batrack.” You can Page 44 →tell, Neal, how I dig all this; my mind, wrapped in wild observation of everything, is drawn, by the back-country announcer, back to the regular, brakeman things of life, and it is such a relief, and such a joy, and even such a Grace from heaven, that I always say: “Yes! Yes! that’s right!” á la a fellow whose initials are N.C. (SL, 230–31)

This digression is, in a sense, rushing tremendousness, here labeled “digging.” The effectiveness of the passage stems in part from Kerouac not having to create a rhetorical frame or fictional structure for his multiple responses. The letter’s occasion does that, freeing him to veer from connecting the manner of John Clellon Holmes to Gene Kelly and his pride in his verbs to what he sees as Kelly’s implicit allegorizing of baseball to what he recognizes as Mel Allen’s absorption in the literal details—as well as Allen’s seeming rejection of the symbolic and allegorical. And he can evoke Allen’s full participation in the game and rejection of abstraction as a redemptive relief from Kelly’s implicit intellectualism (and in the process connect Allen to Cassady). The account describes Kerouac’s recalled participation in the broadcasts as he listened, and it explores his participation, discovering in the process of doing so how the contrast between the two announcers doubles into the contrast between the styles and world views of his two friends, Holmes and Cassady. This in turn drives a new realization about the imaginative alternatives the two friends signify for him, leading him, without quite rejecting the pole that Holmes represents, to affirm to Cassady that his side of the polarity is finally more fundamental, thereby affirming that Cassady is part of the larger group while giving himself and Cassady privileged positions within it. As an account of rushing tremendousness, of digging, this passage cannot be Kerouac’s actual experience of listening to the broadcasts, yet his writing, his voice here, has the richness of engagement and the forward momentum of his digging, in spite of being a belated representation. The question is why the passage can represent (narrate) what Kerouac is recalling yet seem to recuperate something akin to its actual energy and immediacy. The answer is that his writing here is not an attempt to present or narrate what he “dug” (as if that was the actual experience and the writing represents it); instead, the writing here is enacting a further experience (a reexperience, if you will) that itself becomes primary. The desire to share the memory with Cassady allows the rushing tremendousness of the actual—that is, the past—experience to become a new experience. The simultaneity of recalling, discovering additional dynamics in what is recalled, Page 45 →and sharing both with an actual other who (though physically absent) seems present because the writing is to a specific you who will listen rather than a generalized reader who will (perhaps) at some point read—all of these combine as Kerouac enacts himself through writing to Cassady, which is also enacting (negotiating) the terms of their relationship. The intimacy and immediacy of a letter are necessarily imagined constructs but potentially real enough (unlike the conventions for the novel written according to “what they told me at Columbia University”) to support writing as if it is happening in real time and with an actual other. The letter to Cassady is not simply represented information; that is, it is not a composition; rather, it is a performance—a performance specifically for Cassady and specifically engaged with Cassady (in spite of his physical absence and even though the reading will occur at some future point). This writing as performance rather than writing as composing helps to clarify the nature of the April 1951 scroll experiment, especially if considered in the context of the letter’s latter sections where Kerouac discusses the role of voice in fiction. Kerouac first offers the dichotomy between “cool” and “raw.”

A raw mind and a cool mind are two different minds. The raw mind is usually associated with the physical life, whether athletic, work or just beat (like Huncke); the cool mind is the intellectual emphasis and the physical counterpart of it is a kind of gracefulness . . . a gracefulness that is almost effeminate. That is why Holmes, in his novel, is always referring to me as “awkward” and you as “burly” or whatever. (SL, 231-32)

Kerouac, here, recuperates and extends the distinction between the baseball announcers, Kelly and Allen, and underscores that this distinction (for him) involves contrasting styles of knowing and writing. The “cool mind” observes, then steps back to formulate and allegorize. The raw mind leverages observation into participation and trusts that instinct and emotion will reveal the depth and complexity of what the cool mind reduces through its intellectualized formal constructions. The raw mind gives itself over to rushing tremendousness; the cool mind does not. Implicitly, the cool artist composes according to learned, intellectually understood conventions, while the raw artist performs and discovers. After elaborating cool and raw, Kerouac turns to the question of his writing and to Cassady’s.

Page 46 → I’ve also been thinking of cool with regard to my writing and YOUR WRITING, which is very important to me. The modern young writer is now faced with the problem of many voices in America. A book always has a voice, i.e. in Dostoevsky it’s the anonymous monk of Karamazov who has, on the surface, a prissy (almost) gossip-voice but inside of which the reader hears the enormous rushing noise of a great voice muted in the silence of books [. . . .] Mark Twain, you can hear him just as plain, saying, “Well, he was satisfied,” and it’s nothing but a Missouri voice on the river pier. (SL, 232)

Kerouac is not, here, using voice in the sense of point of view. Instead, he is concerned with how a writer’s subjectivity can infuse the writing no matter what the formal strategy. Voice in this sense is a kind of linguistic fingerprint, and much as the baseball announcers inevitably reveal their inherent modes of knowing in describing the games, a writer inevitably manifests his or her voice in whatever he or she writes. For Kerouac, then, Twain’s “Missouri voice on the river pier” is as present in A Connecticut Yankee as Tom Sawyer as Huckleberry Finn in spite of the different handling of point of view in each. In this passage Kerouac is not focused on voice as something a writer represents (Huck’s voice, for example, as composed by Twain); he is focused on how the writer’s stake in his material and relationship to language create a presence (if necessarily an illusory and problematic one) that marks, for example, a passage as Melvillian (or, for that matter, as Jamesian). As Kerouac sees it here, voice is the defining quality of the writer’s writing—the basis of its authenticity, power, and significance.

Well, since Mexico, I’ve been trying to find my voice. For a long time it sounded false, of course, For a long time I labored on several other variations . . . one an outright voice for “the boys” (that is, the boys at the office, or the brakemen you see, which will be my ultimate voice); and a voice for the critics, etc., etc. Henry James is a cool voice; Hawthorne is cool. Melville in Confidence Man is the strangest voice ever heard in America [. . .] the voice of Confidence Man is partly Shakespearean with a beautiful interspersion of backwoods voices and nigger voices and all kinds [of] voices. Now, I almost had the urge to TYPE OUT your last letter, the best part, or all of it, for it was the best letter I ever received and the best letter you ever wrote in your life, to show you YOURSELF how you should write, i.e., the way YOU write when you’re not hung up on making a LITERARY voice and

working two days on one crazy sentence. My important recent discovery and revelation is that the voice is all [. . . .] You, man, Page 47 →must write exactly as everything rushes into your head, and AT ONCE [. . . .] (Incidentally this voice I now speak in, is the voice I use when writing to YOU.) How can I reconcile myself to printing this? I never would . . . What I’m going to do is let the voices speak for themselves. (SL, 233)

In the remainder of the letter Kerouac demonstrates his command of a range of distinctive American voices and letting them “speak for themselves.” Kerouac’s comments in this letter do not present a theory of voice, but they show him using the dichotomy of cool and raw as a way to try to sort out why his attempts at On the Road to this point had stalled out and also beginning to identify aspects of what would become Spontaneous Prose. For one thing, the comments show him recognizing that he had been writing for the “critics” and had not yet based On the Road on the “outright voice for ‘the boys.’” Implicitly, he hints, he had been doing precisely what he accuses Cassady of doing (being “hung up” on “making a LITERARY voice” and “working two days on one crazy sentence”12). But, significantly, he stops short of committing himself to enacting voice in the way he exhorts Cassady to enact it, even though this is what he is doing earlier in the letter. In the letter, he allows himself to “write exactly” as things are “rush[ing] into [his] head, ” but such “speak[ing]” cannot, he assumes, be “reconcile[d]” to “printing” (i.e., to standing as a literary composition as opposed to functioning as an address to a specific other in a letter). In this October 1950 letter to Cassady, Kerouac intuits the direction his work will go—writing performatively as if for an actual other instead of composing per established structures and convention for an abstract reader. He exhorts Cassady to forge ahead in this direction, but he himself, the letter shows, was not yet able to believe this direction could be fully literary. Instead of committing to performing his own voice directly, as he urges Cassady to do, he imagines himself mimicking various American voices—in effect being the ventriloquist to the voices he will use to speak the books he plans to write. In these comments, he is recognizing a central puzzle for him as a writer: how to speak authentically with immediacy and actuality even though he is doing so in writing, while yet having his writing have the density, depth, and range of implication—the literariness—of the writing of such figures as Melville and Twain. In his October letter to Cassady Kerouac proposes that “A book always has a voice” and that this voice—for writers of Fiction who operate as poets—can be the writer’s actual voice, even when the voice is expressed Page 48 →through a character (such as Ishmael or Ahab or Huck). At the same time he senses that the voice the writing evokes, projects, or conveys is never directly or simply or fully the writer’s own.

Can you tell me Shakespeare’s voice per se?—who speaks when Hamlet speaks? HAMLET, not Will Shakespeare, whose voice we’ve never really heard, except in the sonnets, and that is veiled in poesie. (SL, 233)

That Kerouac was, in October 1950, unsure how to resolve the conflict between the voice of the book being the writer’s own voice (even when expressed through narrators and fictional characters) and the authenticity of the voice coming from the writer’s ability to construct the voice through art rather than from the writer’s authenticity (which the reader cannot access) is underscored by the way this comment on Hamlet leads immediately to instructing Cassady to “write exactly as everything rushes into your head” but then leads to Kerouac assuming that he will instead focus on a “LITERARY” voice by not performing his own “voice per se” but instead “let[ing] the voices” of his characters “speak for themselves” as Shakespeare allowed “HAMLET” to speak. Cassady should, and Kerouac seems to imagine can, speak his confession directly to the reader who will hear (by listening more

than reading), and Cassady can do this precisely because he is literarily innocent and untainted by literary ambition. He can ignore the craft of writing (composing) and simply write as if he is talking. But Kerouac (at this point) sees no way to allow himself the same freedom. His ambition and awareness of literary history, literary conventions, and commercial markets mean that his act of writing, unlike Cassady’s, cannot be natural, cannot be innocent, cannot be transparent, and to write as if it could be would be to be inauthentic.13 Soon after his October 6 letter to Cassady, Kerouac attempted a version of On the Road where he attempted, in fact, to let the “characters speak for themselves.” The narrator in Pic, a young boy hitchhiking with his older brother, a black jazz musician, speaks in dialect, which suggests Kerouac was basing the strategy on Twain’s use of Huck in Huckleberry Finn (as does the way Pic is both insightful and naïve, or, more accurately, the way he is insightful because of his naiveté). By early December 1950, though, Kerouac had apparently abandoned this version and was thinking about his writing Page 49 →in much the same way as he’d been in early October. Writing Cassady on December 3, he complains:

Another welter piling up is not only the need for me to write and sell stories, and a new job I have doing synopsis for 20th Century at home for pay, but to write that fucking Road. Down the road night; American road night; Look out for Your Boy; Boy on the road; Hit the road; Lost on the road—I don’t even know what to call it. My artistic problems now resemble your own. (SL, 237-38)

The last comment here implies that Kerouac, after Pic failed to develop, was suffering from writer’s block. The latter part of this letter suggests that one factor was his dismay at The Town and the City’s commercial failure, in spite of his faith in its aesthetic merit. Kerouac’s admission:

Well man, it’s one of those nights when I’d much rather talk to you than write it. Please don’t abandon tape-recorder. (SL, 238; italics added)

suggests that another factor (one that echoes the October 6 letter) was his continued desire for the immediacy and connection of talk rather than the isolated labor of writing. The implicit contrast here between talking (necessarily a matter of engaging a specific other, an actual you) and writing (a matter of constructing something for an abstract and absent reader, a position experienced as a function, an “it”) suggests that Kerouac was still caught up in the conflict between (as he’d put it in the October 6 letter) “the voice I use when writing ‘YOU’” (i.e., Cassady) and any of the literarily derived voices he had been attempting to construct for his novel. The jolt that helped Kerouac begin writing again was, ironically, Cassady—Cassady writing according to the advice Kerouac had given him in the October 6 letter. As Ann Charters and others have suggested, Cassady’s letters were a catalyst for Kerouac moving beyond the conventions for the novel as he’d been understanding them during the preliminary attempts at On the Road and beginning to incorporate the energy of rushing tremendousness into his work. Charters writes:

On December 23, 1950, Cassady sent Kerouac a long, handwritten letter telling the story of “Christmas of 1946 Denver” with his girlfriends Joan Anderson and Cherry Mary [. . . .] it was apparently intended to be part of what he called the Page 50 →“novel” based on his life that his friends Ginsberg and Kerouac had been urging him to write since they first met. (SL, 241)

Charters adds that the so-called Joan Anderson letter (only part of which survives14) “seems to have helped him [Kerouac] to trust his own voice as a writer and break free from the influence of Thomas Wolfe’s fiction, so that he could write what he later called ‘true-story novels’ like On the Road based on his direct experience” (SL, 242).15 The impact of Cassady’s letter is evident in Kerouac’s nearly instantaneous response, written on December 27.

Just a word, now, about your wonderful 13,000 word letter about Joan Anderson and Cherry Mary. I thought it ranked among the best things ever written in America and ran to Holmes & [Alan] Harrington & told them so; I said it was almost as good as the unbelievably good “Notes from Underground” of Dostoevsky. It was with some surprise I saw they weren’t as impressed. I think it’s because Holmes is really not hip to anything until it begins to sink in much later [. . . .] I say truly, no Dreiser, no Wolfe has come too close to it; Melville was never truer. I know that I don’t dream. It can’t possibly be sparse & halting, like Hemingway, because it hides nothing; the material is painfully necessary . . . the material of Scott Fitz was so sweetly unnecessary. (SL, 242)

Kerouac, here, is responding to the “raw” in Cassady’s narration, something the “cool” Holmes initially fails to acknowledge. But he is also recognizing, I’d suggest, that Cassady’s sudden momentum comes specifically from heeding Kerouac’s exhortation to write “the way YOU write when you’re not hung up on making a LITERARY voice,” which is to say he is recognizing that Cassady—by writing his account as he would talk to Kerouac in a letter—has not only achieved a degree of creative momentum but also demonstrated the validity of the advice and its possible value for writing literature. If so, Kerouac’s enthusiastic reception of the letter comes not only from the writing being raw, not cool, but from recognizing that the approach he’d urged Cassady to adopt could have value for his own Fiction and that he should follow his own advice. The letter he wrote Cassady the next day shows him setting out to do precisely that. Kerouac’s December 28 letter to Cassady underscores the rightness of Charters’s claim that the Joan Anderson letter encouraged Kerouac to take new risks in his writing and that these risks contribute to the April 1951 Page 51 →scroll experiment. This letter, though, also complicates our sense of Kerouac’s reaction to Cassady’s letter. While he seems to be embracing Cassady’s success at writing “the way YOU write when you’re not hung up on making a LITERARY voice,” Kerouac’s awareness of himself as a “writing-man” (i.e., someone who consciously writes Fiction and hopes to become part of the tradition of Melville and Dostoevsky) made the mode of the Joan Anderson letter riskier for Kerouac than it was for Cassady. This is evident in the letter’s opening section, where Kerouac declares that he is “renounc[ing] all fiction” to commit instead “to writ[ing] a full confession of my life” to Cassady without regard for any other audience, yet also signals that he still sees himself as a writing-man and as such inevitably concerned with publication and the reception of his writing beyond the YOU of Cassady.

The time has come for me to write a full confession of my life to you. So many things have to be discussed [. . .] that of course I don’t know where to start. In the first place there is the matter of motives: why a man should write the confession of his life to a buddy and yet have the temerity to try to claim that he does not harbor the tiniest wish to publish for money and profitable fame; a writing-man at that, a previously published writer. Then shall I say, Neal, I hereby renounce all fiction; and say further, dear Neal, this confession is for YOU, and through you to God, and through God back to my life, and wife, whatever and what-all. I urge you to consider my motives carefully; I hope I will become more interesting and less literary as I go along and proceed into the actual truth of my life. This: burn these things if you feel that the time has come for me to renounce the world; or keep them, to hand, personally, to Giroux the editor at Harcourt-Brace. I already assume that you’ll not burn, not turn in, my work; but this is temerity. (SL, 246)

Kerouac here casts Cassady as both his auditor, the YOU to whom he will speak in writing, and his confessor. But he also co-opts Cassady as his editor and agent and expects him to gather the writings and publish them. The two roles are contradictory. Casting Cassady as “buddy”/priest who will hear his confessions offers Kerouac a way to evade “My artistic problems” and no longer be “hung up” on projecting or controlling “a LITERARY voice.” Yet suggesting that Cassady will arrange to publish the confessions as literature underscores that he is still writing Fiction to be read beyond his circle of intimates. Ironically, presenting a collection of letters as a book would have mimed the epistolary Page 52 →novel as popularized by Samuel Richardson and others in the eighteenth century, even as it would have reversed the rhetorical ploy by having the letters be an actual correspondence rather than a fictional one. As a widely read “writing-man,” Kerouac would have known that what he was proposing to Cassady would mime Pamela et al. even as he was “renounce[ing] all fiction.”16 Other comments in this letter also suggest Kerouac’s desire to escape from the literary convention in order to be “non-literary” yet use the “non-literary” to produce literature. He asserts to Cassady, “I have renounced fiction and fear. There is nothing to do but write the truth” (SL 248), then adds the following two paragraphs later:

Enough, enough of scriveners. Still another thing; I hate to begin: I fear. I aim to employ all the styles and nevertheless I yearn to be non-literary. Nonliterary. Dribbledrags. This is the odd beginning. (SL, 248)

Kerouac’s desire to write not simply a publishable novel but great Fiction is evident in his “aim” to “employ all styles” (i.e., to draw on his command of literary technique), but his desire to be “non-literary” is also evident. The way he keeps interrupting his narration, his “full confession,” with asides points to the conflict between these desires and his uncertainty about how to resolve it. Some of the asides reflect the self-consciousness he is feeling about writing to Cassady in this way:

If you burn these things I believe with growing conviction now that it will not make the slightest difference: my second book will still be the first book of truth I shall have written. (SL, 248) .... ... Still, this may be bullshit. (SL, 249)

Other asides reflect his inability to free himself from “the mysterious outside reader” (i.e., the abstract reader to whom the fiction writer directs the novel). Referring back to the opening of the letter, he tells Cassady the following.

[T]here’s the feeling that you and I both know the falseness of the first and above paragraph; the stiff, necessary, opening preamble, written with the mysterious outside reader, who is certainly not God, bending over my shoulder; Page 53 →even the neatness of the page, not a correction, not an X, not a blot; and the fact that I write this, as you know, almost and certainly more than almost in direct challenge to your colossal achievements of the past two months (the letters, your own confession in non-chronological fragments, something I do not hope to best, but equal); [. . . .] and if the

“mysterious reader” (providing you do not burn the manuscripts) fails to understand the level of our common comprehension, then it’s not our fault but a fault in American education; [. . .] and of course I already, again, assume that you will see to its publication. (SL, 247–48)

As the letter develops, Kerouac even reacts to the threatening, constraining presence of the “mysterious reader”: “(O mysterious reader, bend no closer.)” (SL, 251). In this December 28 letter, Kerouac, paradoxically, imagines escaping the literary in order to become more successfully literary than he’d yet managed. The problem, signaled by his anxious awareness of the mysterious reader, is that he cannot simply will himself to be literarily unselfconscious; he is a “writing-man.” The confessional mode as he saw Cassady achieving in the Joan Anderson letter was possible for Cassady precisely because he had not been corrupted by the self-consciousness of being a writing-man. For Kerouac, the desire to write significant literature is implicitly in part a desire for recognition, which necessarily places him in competition with Cassady. For another, the desire for literary achievement—of the sort managed by Melville, Twain, and the other writers he admired—forces him to take the mysterious reader into account. For Kerouac, the attempt to write directly to the YOU of Cassady becomes, as a result, an attempt to use the ploy of writing as if directly to Cassady in order to evade yet engage the mysterious reader. Kerouac cannot speak directly in writing to Cassady (because the aim is in part publication); while Cassady can speak directly in writing to Kerouac (because the aim is confession and self-expression). For Kerouac, the act of writing is both literarily noble and suspiciously ignoble and dishonest. Cassady (as Kerouac seems to imagine it) had not fallen into literary knowledge and consciousness. In his December 28 letter to Cassady and others over the next few weeks, Kerouac shared various childhood and adolescent memories (some of which later figure in Dr. Sax and Visions of Gerard), but the mysterious reader continues to intrude. It is noteworthy that the mysterious reader isn’t a factor in the October 6 letter where Kerouac talks to Cassady about listening to the World Series game. In that letter Kerouac has no sense that he is Page 54 →writing to be published—no sense, that is, that what he writing is to be literature. But in the late December 1950 and early January 1951 letters, his sense that his “confessions” are to be assembled and published brings the mysterious reader into the mix. This disrupts the illusion that the writing is a kind of performance (an actual I talking to and with an actual YOU) by making it necessary to consider the writing as something being made for an unknown other (mysterious reader) for whom the writer is an equivalently hypothetical construction. As a writing-man, Kerouac cannot forget that he is composing a literary object for later study, and this disables his sense of writing as an action. The doubleness of Kerouac’s sense of his writing in these letters is particularly clear in the January 8 letter, written two days before he broke off the series.

Good God, man, what’s this world come to, that I can’t freely undertake to tell you (my friend & willing listener) every single thing I can recall about my life and deal with my memory as if it were my single moral responsibility, without feeling a twinge of guilt that I would bore “the reader.” Yes, the “mysterious reader” re-entered lately; I wrote several pages that were not primarily addressed to you, only secondarily; I tore them up; they were of no value to anybody. It is to YOU I have to tell everything [. . . .] As long as you live you will have that cell of your brain in which all these things will be stored, and as you palpitate, so will these “Confessions of a So-Called Writer” or whatever I’ll call it. Many titles came to my mind (assuming publication already) [. . . .] For I still have a secret ambition to be a tremendous life-changing prophetic artist. So long as such vanity stays on, how can anything I do be worth my own weight in water? (SL, 273–74)

A paragraph later, he adds the following.

Let me just bask in the conviction that I can’t bore YOU so I may continue; just as though you and I were driving across the old U.S.A. in the night with no mysterious readers, no literary demands, nothing but us telling . . . “telling eagerly the million things we know,” as I said in 1947 in my crazy notebooks . . . (SL, 274)

Kerouac’s failure to resolve this doubleness is plausibly why he abandoned this strategy. In the October 6 letter, Kerouac does not view what he is writing as literature.Page 55 → This frees him to write as if he is engaging the actual Cassady as he writes. But in the December 1950 and early January 1951 letters, he directs his writing to Cassady both as a ploy to evade the mysterious reader and as a ploy to write for the mysterious reader. This destroys the sense of performing in actual time for an actual other, driving instead a sense of composing an object for future, unknown readers. In writing as if performing for the reader (the YOU), writing records the unfolding of language directly as a diachronic process, and if the reader processes the writing as if it is performance, the reader (acting as if a listener) experiences the writing as a mediation connecting the writingspeaker directly to the reading-listener (rather than the reader treating the writing as a composed object that is finally independent from the writer). Implicit in this is the sense that writing as performance records speaking or operates as an imitation of speaking, while the activity of writing as composing erases itself into the written object that results from it, confronting the writer with the reader’s absence and confronting the reader with the writer’s absence. In speaking, the speaker directs language directly to another; in writing, the writer directs language directly to the page (and indirectly to the reader). In a letter, the specificity of the reader being addressed reduces the gap between the direct target of the page and the indirect target of the reader. In literature, the hypothetical nature of the reader exacerbates the gap.17 While Kerouac’s letters to Cassady from late December 1950 through early January 1951 underscore the importance of the Joan Anderson letter for the April 1951 scroll experiment, these letters also complicate its importance. The letter can, it’s true, be seen as factor in Kerouac coming to “trust his own voice as a writer” (as Charters proposes) and thus risk “writ[ing] what he later called ‘true-story novels’ like On the Road based on his direct experience.” But this ignores Kerouac’s difficulty in coming to terms with the oppressive presence (actually the anxiety inducing absence) of the mysterious reader. The Joan Anderson letter showed Kerouac the freedom that ignoring the mysterious reader could create but did not, since he was a writing-man, offer a strategy for doing so—at least if his goal was to write Fiction in the fullest sense of that term as he associated it with the work of Melville and others. In the October 6 letter to Cassady, Kerouac asserts that “A book always has a voice” and imagines two strategies for realizing such a voice. One is to “let the voices speak for themselves”; this he attempted in what later became Page 56 →Pic. The other is to “write the way YOU write when you’re not hung up on making a LITERARY voice and working two days on one crazy sentence.” This is what he attempted in his late December 1950 and early January 1951 letters to Cassady—only to discover it made his debilitating awareness of the mysterious reader even more acute. Kerouac’s October 6 letter to Cassady shows he could already approximate the freedom, complexity, immediacy, and depth of the Spontaneous Prose he later achieved in Visions of Cody even before the April 1951 scroll. But his December 1950 and January 1951 letters also show that he had yet to find a way to write fiction that would build on the freedom of the October 6 letter (or even sustain it). In them, the attempt to cast Cassady as a substitute for the mysterious reader partly screens the mysterious reader’s problematic absence but leaves this absence unresolved. In the October 6 letter, Kerouac writes as if facing Cassady and speaking to him. In the December and January letters, he pretends to face Cassady but remains (in varying degrees) always positioned in relationship to the mysterious reader at his shoulder, who looks on judging the writing as fiction composed for an unknown, belated other, rather than hearing the writing as a confessional self-disclosure to a friend.

For Charters and others, the Joan Anderson letter points Kerouac toward his writing destiny. But the letter was not simply a road map; it was also a roadblock. In the Joan Anderson letter Cassady is not simply slapping down memories; he is remembering through performing his memories for Kerouac as he addresses him in the letter. In attempting this confessional voice in the December 1950 and January 1951 letters, Kerouac discovers that he cannot completely disentangle the actual YOU he is addressing, Cassady, from its problematic double, the mysterious reader, precisely because he—a writing-man committed to literature—is himself problematically doubled: as the I confessing to his friend and as an author writing for a reader. Being a writing-man necessarily brings the mysterious reader into the mix, places the “I” speaking the letters in a false position, and destroys the illusion of intimacy needed to write performatively to and for YOU. As a writing-man, the speaking/writing I has no choice but to be concerned with the absent figure actually being addressed—the mysterious reader. In the Joan Anderson letter, Cassady as I writes as if speaking to and with and for an actual other. In Kerouac’s attempt, the actual Kerouac and actual Cassady are each shadowed by a double: Kerouac by the role of author; Cassady by the mysterious reader, and this doubling disables the dialogue of the speaking I and Page 57 →receiving YOU. Kerouac cannot write as Cassady did in the Joan Anderson letter—at least not if his goal is to produce literature. Two’s company; three’s a crowd. And four? Well, four is like early arrivals at a party who don’t know each other, self-consciously nursing their beers, alternately posing and trying to disappear. The Joan Anderson letter did not solve Kerouac’s problem with voice, because he was unable to imagine his own voice (as opposed to the voices he might construct for a narrator or characters and “let[ing] the voices speak for themselves”) as sufficiently authentic or sufficiently literary to command the mysterious reader. At best he could imagine himself as an authentic hearer and as someone who could deftly ventriloquize voices but not as an authentic speaker recording his voice in his writing. And to write On the Road he had to resolve his conflicted sense of wanting to write as if speaking directly in writing to a known and actual YOU such as Cassady, yet wanting to create fictional characters and use them, in composing a novel, to master the mysterious reader. In writing as if speaking to an actual other, authority resides in the speaker. In writing for the mysterious reader, authority is constructed and resides in the literary object. To be a significant literary writing-man, not merely a redoubtable hack, Kerouac needed to have, and to enact, both kinds of authority, and this meant that Cassady’s method in the Anderson letter (his lack of method as method) was insufficient. Its value was not in showing him a way beyond the dilemma of the mysterious reader but in forcing him to recognize more clearly that the mysterious reader was precisely his dilemma. To write On the Road Kerouac had to resolve his competing desires to practice writing as performance (as if speaking to an actual other) and to practice writing as composing (the crafting of fictional systems). In the April 1951 scroll On the Road he resolved these conflicting desires in one way, but did so only partially. The subsequent experiments gathered as Visions of Cody pioneered a different, more complex resolution.

Page 58 →

CHAPTER 3 “That’s Not Writing, That’s Typewriting” A MONTH AFTER

drafting On the Road in three weeks, Jack Kerouac summarized the process in a letter to Neal


From Apr. 2 to Apr. 22 I wrote 125,000 [word] full-length novel averaging 6 thous. a day, 12 thous. first day, 15,000. last day [. . . .] If it goes over (Giroux waiting to see it) then you’ll know yourself what to do with your own work . . . blow and tell all. I’ve telled all the road now. Went fast because road is fast . . . wrote whole thing on a strip of paper 120 foot long (tracing paper that belonged to Cannastra.)—just rolled it through typewriter and in fact no paragraphs . . . rolled it out on the floor and it looks like a road. (SL, 315–16)

These comments support, it seems, the usual view that Kerouac wrote fast; wrote without reflection; wrote, that is, “spontaneously,” and Gerald Nicosia’s description of Kerouac’s sense of things as he was starting the scroll (derived from an interview with John Clellon Holmes) also supports this view.

He [Kerouac] and John [Clellon Holmes] also had a long discussion about Jack’s problems with On the Road. Jack told how he had been struggling to create plausible backgrounds and family situations for his characters, and how he finally had to admit that he couldn’t catch the thing about it that he wanted that way. “I’m going to forget all that horseshit,” he concluded. “I’m just going to write it as it happened.”1

Nicosia then concludes that Kerouac—by committing himself to just writing what happened and writing just what happened—“had finally found his own literary road.” Page 59 → Kerouac’s decision to write naturally rather than literarily and thereby create an unmediated account of his experiences rather than convert them into fiction is, then, seemingly the essence of the scroll On the Road. And we are to celebrate him as an artist because he refused artistry and to celebrate his book as literature because it rejects the category of literature. Embedded in this view is the belief that the scroll draft of On the Road can be the only authentic iteration of the work with any later revisions—whether Kerouac’s own or the meddling of the editors at Viking—to be scorned. In this account, the writing of On the Road is like a pair of before and after photographs: the attempts prior to the scroll are the before shot of a frustrated writer-to-be wandering the Atlas of writing styles searching for his writing road. The after shot is the courageous writer cutting the chain-link fence to the impound lot of convention and driving off into the sunrise of artistic individuality. Just as Saul arose as Paul, John arises as Jack, finding the true road of Road by traveling the road of no road. Truman Capote’s “That’s not writing; that’s typewriting” is simply a failure to recognize that the typewriting transcended mere writing. However, this binary of Kerouac prior to the scroll searching for spontaneity and after the scroll redeemed by spontaneity miscasts the nature of the scroll experiment, distorts what Kerouac actually achieved in On the Road, and provides no basis for understanding why he proceeded, within months of the scroll, to the revisions that spiraled into Visions of Cody. To understand the scroll experiment, to understand why he chose to revise On the

Road, and why, for a time, he set it aside to work on Visions of Cody, we need to consider not only how the scroll was a turning away from trying to write On the Road as a conventional novel but also how it was an attempt to resolve the dilemma of the mysterious reader so apparent in the letters to Cassady in December 1950 and January 1951. That is, we need to treat the scroll as a development from the more conventional attempts at On the Road that preceded it, not simply a break from these attempts. Doing so shows that its narrative momentum (whether in the April scroll as published as On the Road: The Original Scroll or the version Viking published in August 1957 with its authorial and nonauthorial revisions) is not yet the momentum of rushing tremendousness, not yet Fiction with a capital F as Kerouac was imagining it in 1948. Reading the April 1951 On the Road as an evolutionary step rather than a radical break shows that it is, in crucial ways, still (as Kerouac designates it in his May 22 letter to Cassady) a novel and fiction and not yet confession and Fiction. Page 60 → For Kerouac to write On the Road by going “fast” and “tell[ing] all,” it was not enough to ignore conventions for plot and structure, nor enough to dispense with the baggage of the characters’ family situations, nor enough to stop worrying about the density of the prose (as opposed to its momentum). He also had to finesse the mysterious reader. In his October 6, 1950, letter to Cassady, Kerouac delineates (as discussed in chapter 2) two strategies for doing this. One is to write without regard for “LITERARY” form or style and instead to “write exactly as everything rushes into your head and AT ONCE” (the “AT ONCE” indicating this is to be done with little planning or refining or compression). However, to write as things rush into one’s head requires writing as if speaking (talking) to the reader, which means writing as if the reader is someone the writer knows. Kerouac’s other strategy in the October 6 letter is to commit himself to the voices of the characters, to subsume his voice so fully into theirs, that their “voices,” in “speak[ing] for themselves,” will infuse the fiction and both be and reveal his own voice (in the sense of his personal vision or perspective and his own distinctive tone) to the reader, as he believes Shakespeare, Melville, and Twain have done. The usual view is that Kerouac moved beyond these dilemmas by feeding the roll of paper into his typewriter, gulping a pot of coffee, and hammering out “I first met Neal not long after my father died” (as the opening reads in the scroll draft). But this would mean he had stopped thinking of himself as a writing-man trying to create literature. If he had, this might have erased the mysterious reader from the equation and freed him to write with Cassady’s unself-consciousness in the Joan Anderson letter. Kerouac describing the scroll draft as “no fiction” in his May 22 letter to Cassady can be read as evidence that he had, in fact, stopped thinking of himself as a writingman. But a closer look at the letter suggests otherwise. Noting that he hopes he can “sell” the April Road to a publisher, he adds the following.

(will now write all my books in twenty days.) Of course since Apr. 22 I’ve been typing and revising. Thirty days on that. Will be my routine . . . starting with my own life, pure aspects, no fiction, till I can invent like a Dostoevsky and of course I know how and can and will [. . . .] How many times do I have to tell you the letter about Joan Anderson is an American masterpiece and so are you leaving it to ME to sweat to publish it. Now you also know why I haven’t written lately—novelwork—and soon as I finish I write you huge letter telling EVERYTHING about N.Y. (SL, 317)

Page 61 → Like many of Kerouac’s comments about his work, this one is contradictory. He insists that the scroll draft is “no fiction,” yet terms it “novelwork,” noting that he has been revising and admitting that his goal is to be able to “invent like Dostoevsky” so that he can write “fiction.” That is, he is still entangled with being a “word-man,” writing for the market and writing for literary recognition and posterity. If this is so, the sudden burst of work of the April scroll was not simply Kerouac freeing himself into originality by turning away from his prior

conceptions of the literary. And if this is so, the scroll was not simply a break with prior attempts at On the Road but also an attempt to recast the mysterious reader. In the usual reading of On the Road, Sal (the narrator in the Viking version) is simply Kerouac with an alias, and Jack (the narrator in the scroll version) is Kerouac without the label. If this is so, the disabling doubling of the December 1950 and January 1951 letters driven by Kerouac’s sense of himself as a writing-man has, indeed, evaporated. Jack/Sal is Kerouac speaking directly and openly to the reader as if the reader is actually “YOU.” And if the alternatives as he began the scroll were to “let the voices speak for themselves” (“fiction” as he had attempted it in Pic) or to speak directly in his own voice (practicing “confession” as Cassady had in the Joan Anderson letter), then Kerouac, indeed, was opting for the latter in On the Road. There is, however, a third alternative: to let the voice (instead of “the voices”) speak for itself—but to do this through a fictionalized projection of the self rather than one’s own voice. That is, Kerouac could perform a version of himself, instead of performing his actual self or composing a fictional character such as Pic. In this approach, writing becomes a kind of speaking rather than a mechanism for constructing representations of speaking, and it casts what is being narrated as neither fiction nor not-fiction but as a kind of hybrid—derived from and grounded in the real but the real known through and in part transformed by imaginative engagement. For Kerouac, this shift in how writing relates to voice and how the actual relates to the imagined is the decisive break with trying to write fiction according to the dictates of Columbia University. It marks the point where he shifts from composing with writing to performing in writing. From the scroll on, Kerouac would explore ways that writing could capture (and operate in the image of) the rhetorical dynamics of speaking rather than the ways writing could be used to compose representations of his characters speaking. Page 62 → In both the scroll and Viking versions of On the Road, “I” and “YOU” remain doubled figures, but Kerouac’s shift to treating the I as a fictionalized projection of the self rather than as himself recasts the way I and YOU function, so that they complement and complicate each other instead of disabling each other. That the I is partly fictional projection frees Kerouac to perform variations of himself and his own experiences (through Jack/ Sal)—much as one, in a social situation, performs a story through a pose that is partly one’s actual self and partly a constructed self. At the same time, the way that Jack and Sal are also partly Kerouac with his specific histories frees him from having to invent a fictional architecture within which the character will operate. He is freed to “telled all.” In a sense, this is simply to say that Jack and Sal are personas, not Kerouac. This echoes a claim in Crooked Road that On the Road’s narrative strategy resembles that of The Great Gatsby, with Sal paralleling Nick Carraway and reflecting back, as Nick does with Gatsby, on Dean’s story as he narrates it, trying to differentiate his hero’s actuality from his symbolic dimensions. But the persona Jack/Sal functions differently than Nick does. While F. Scott Fitzgerald clearly drew from his own experiences in inventing Nick, Nick’s story does not mime Fitzgerald’s life. Nick’s way of speaking may be closer to Fitzgerald’s than Huck’s was to Twain’s, but Nick, like Huck, is an independent fictional character. Nick and Huck derive from their authors but are not images of them. Jack and Sal, though, not only derive from Kerouac, they are openly versions of himself. They are a kind of hybrid—the direct biographical I and a character derived from it. In the scroll, Kerouac uses a version of himself as narrator, then has this I speak as if a character, thus creating a voice that is both actual and fictional. The figure Jack/ Sal in the two completed versions of On the Road is not simply Kerouac, nor fully an independent fictional character. And Jack and Sal as projections of the writing Kerouac function less as personas in the usual sense (a character distinct from the writer who speaks as if the source of the book’s language) and instead function more as surrogates for the writer (Kerouac who enacts himself by performing as Jack/Sal). The notion of surrogate also bears on Kerouac’s approach to the mysterious reader. Nicosia notes that Joan Haverty, whom Kerouac married shortly before writing the scroll, “had been asking him [Kerouac], ‘What did you and Neal really do?’ and he decided to write the novel as if he were answering her questions,”2 and Ann Charters quotes Kerouac as saying that he wrote On the Road “for my new wife, to tell her what I’d been through. Page 63 →It’s directed toward a woman. That’s why women like it. It’s sexy because it’s addressed to a woman.”3 These

comments suggest that Kerouac was addressing Haverty instead of the mysterious reader, but it would be more accurate to say that he was addressing the mysterious reader as if this troubling function were Haverty. This resembles Kerouac’s strategy of trying to narrate his past in letters to Cassady (for later fictional use), but in those letters he could not resolve the doubling of Cassady, as actual YOU, and the mysterious reader, as belated, hypothetical you. In On the Road, though, Kerouac is performing through the figure of the first-person narrator who is a version of himself. The I of Jack/Sal is not Kerouac as I. This shift, coupled with projecting the reader as someone having a specific interest in both teller and story, enabled Kerouac to imagine Jack/Sal addressing an imagined listener who is not mysterious but instead has Haverty’s curiosity about the story. As a result, the Kerouac who writes is not only doubled but redoubled (Kerouac, Jack/Sal, writing-man) and so is the actual Joan Haverty (Haverty, the YOU projected through Haverty, mysterious reader). And if so, this means that Kerouac’s approach in the April 1951 scroll was not a full break with the earlier Road attempts (especially in the last months of 1950 and in January 1951) but a further development of them. That is, Kerouac was still writing fiction as literature, but generating his fiction through the confession of his surrogate, Jack/Sal. The strategy mimes the strategy of the Joan Anderson letter even as it regrounds and subverts it. In On the Road it is not Kerouac confessing (in the sense that it is Cassady confessing in the Anderson letter); it is Kerouac, performing as Jack/Sal, imagining himself confessing—a ploy that rejects fiction à la Columbia University but aspires to the depth and range of voice he found in Melville, Twain, and the other writers of Fiction he most admired. In the scroll and Viking Roads, Kerouac solves the conflict between speaking directly in his own voice and “let[ting] the voices speak for themselves” by casting himself as a character in his own fiction, then “let[ting] that voice speak for” itself to the mysterious reader, whom the speaker engages as if an actual other actively attending to the telling. That this YOU may well, for Kerouac, have shared traits with Joan Haverty is significant only insofar as it underscores that the novel is spoken as if to an actual YOU rather than constructed for an absent reader. The seeming transparency of voice in On the Road has contributed to the critical view that Kerouac is a naïve writer. If On the Road were merely KerouacPage 64 → writing as Cassady did in the Joan Anderson letter, this view would be justified. Sal would be Kerouac; the YOU would be Haverty; and we as actual readers would be voyeurs tuned to a reality TV show (Beatnik Island: The Road to IT). But Road’s rhetoric is not this simple, and Kerouac was more than a spontaneous, unreflective confessor who could type. In the usual account of On the Road, what Kerouac gained by typing onto the long sheets of the scroll was the freedom from having to stop every few hundred words to insert a sheet of paper, which helped him focus on his inspiration and sustain his creative momentum. But substituting the roll of paper for separate sheets also altered the nature of the typewriter (at least for Kerouac), implicitly shifting what the machine was recording. Instead of the typewriter being a mechanism for typing the written up into pages, it became a machine that could record the act of writing as it was happening. The momentum the combination of typewriter and roll of paper enabled downplayed the typewriter as a means to store what one had composed and instead supported typing as performance (the performing of writing), where reconsiderations, elaborations, excisions and rephrasings would occur, as it were, in post-production after the performance had been recorded onto the unrolling (and continuous) page rather than occurring before typing or in intervals between typing. For Kerouac, the combination of the roll of paper and typewriter became a machine for recording extended writing performances rather than a mechanism for producing typed pages. It was a way to treat writing as performed language recorded in writing rather than think of writing as something to be composed. The term typewriter is something of a misnomer. Initially, the machine’s use was to type up already drafted material.4 It converted handwritten script into uniform characters that approximated the characters used in printing. Rather than a typewriter, it was a type-encoder. Well into the twentieth century writers of literature typically wrote in longhand, then gave their manuscript (i.e., handscript) to a typist or typed up the material themselves, then used the typescript for further revising and rewriting before preparing a final typed copy (devoid or largely devoid of markings by hand) for the publisher to set into type and print (i.e., publish) for the market.

This process emphasized not only the difference between handwriting (a primary activity) and typewriting (a secondary activity of encoding the already written for further development), it also emphasized the sense of writing as language operating on a spatial surface (rather than unfolding in a one-to-one relationship to time as speech does) and the sense of writing—at least for Page 65 →literary purposes—as compositional (occurring through deliberation, layering, excisions and insertions, resequencing of elements, etc.) rather than performative.5 Adding a roll of paper to a typewriter is, in a sense, only a minor tweak to the mechanism. But this tweak helped Kerouac begin to treat the typewriter as a mechanism for recording the process of his writing instead of using it to type up written product (i.e., either that which was already written or brief units worked out in mind so that they might be written down). The act of writing and the act of recording the writing became the same act—or rather the same process operating in actual time. With the scroll, Kerouac shifted from encoding writing in type to, instead, writing in type. The difference is slight, but the character of the difference matters. Typing to encode writing is inherently compositional. Writing in type, however, casts typing and writing as a single action and makes it more possible to treat writing as a variety of performance. In the original economy of typing, the written, the product, is what matters. In the scroll, the action of writing is what matters. In the former, the product is all; the process that led to the product is irrelevant (as well as largely invisible) to the reader. In the latter, the result still matters but so does the process. Our sense of the process, that a process is in play, becomes an aspect of our sense of the result, much as it does in a jazz performance, where what matters is how the creator/performer elaborates the materials in real time. In adapting the typewriter into a mechanism that could record extended writing performances (at least it could if one had his stamina, typing prowess, and the ability to write as if performing) and by treating the typewriter as a device for recording the process of writing in real time, Kerouac was able to begin breaking away from the established sense of the page as a surface on which one composed writing. This is, I suggest, what Capote was sensing—and rejecting—in asserting that On the Road was merely typewriting rather than writing. The term writing designates both the act of composing and the product that results. We make a piece of writing by writing. We also tend to assume that a writer chooses each move, guided by the meaning to be conveyed, the work’s architecture, and the relevant conventions (formal features, market expectations, etc.). And reading, then, is the reciprocal process of tracking the relevant conventions, contexts, and structures to decode the work (both as the sum of its writing and also, literally, the coded visual marks on the page). For Capote, writing is the craft of honing words to be reproduced as Page 66 →print, and typing is a procedure for presenting writing. The typewriter, for Capote, is neither a machine for writing, nor a machine for writing type; it is a machine for encoding writing in an approximation of type.6 It is, of course, the case that many writers, by the middle of the twentieth century, wrote at the typewriter, rather than drafting in pen or pencil, then typing up their material. But implicit in Capote’s comment is a belief that even writers who wrote at the typewriter might still, as Kerouac had put it in the October 6 letter to Cassady, “work two days on one crazy sentence.” In the scroll, Kerouac, though, was using the typewriter differently. Instead of writing at the typewriter, he was writing on the typewriter. And in the May 22 letter to Cassady, he notes, “Went fast because road is fast.” To compose a full-length novel of 125,000 words (Kerouac’s figure) in twenty days is, indeed, to go fast, but fast is relative. The image of Kerouac banging away at high speed hour after hour is a compelling one, but Kerouac was, according to those who knew him, an exceptional typist—quite capable of 100 words per minute. To manage the average of 6,000 words a day that he reports, he would have had to type for sixty minutes a day and produce the equivalent of twenty-four double-spaced typed pages. We also know now that he was, as he performed On the Road, at times reelaborating scenes he’d attempted in earlier versions and also working from a list of scenes he planned to include.7 While it’s clear that the scroll did not, to invoke again the October 6 letter, involve any “working two days on one crazy sentence,” it is also clear that it was not a single headlong performance (as the lore has it) but instead a succession of performances—each a single take.8 The musical implications of performance and take are, I suggest, relevant to understanding the typewriter’s function in the scroll. John Clellon Holmes, in a December 27, 1950, letter to Kerouac, recalls Kerouac telling him, “I haven’t got form really. But I think my book [The Town and the City] has deep form.” Holmes suggests

that Kerouac’s inability to complete any of the abandoned attempts at On the Road, in spite of the “magnificence” of the writing, may have been because he was focusing too much on the “difficulties of form” (in the sense of predetermined structure) instead of trusting he would discover and achieve “deep form” as he was writing. Holmes, then, urges Kerouac to

Go back to the moment (if this can be done) when “On the Road” came to you out of nowhere. Go back to that instant, and remember it in all the naked excitement it possessed then . . . Think only of your feelings and believe in them. Page 67 →Turn neither right nor left! Start writing some night, in this reverant [sic] mood, and go on. Fill your head (and page) with everything you can think of, in its natural order, in the beauty of its happening, and then worry about the rest.9

Holmes, here, is not only encouraging Kerouac to trust that engaging his material without prior concern for architectures would yield “deep form,” he is also encouraging him to perform rather than compose. Holmes begins the letter by citing the recently released recording of Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert,10 which he believed transcended Goodman’s studio recordings because the live performances had the same “triumph of material over form” that Holmes believes characterizes “the rhetoric of Melville and Whitman.” When Holmes wrote Kerouac urging him to write as if playing live, Kerouac was at the height of his excitement over the Joan Anderson letter and attempting to write letters to Cassady that he hoped might function as fiction, and so may have paid little direct attention to Holmes’s advice at the time. But whether he drew on Holmes’s letter or not, it is likely that he understood the scroll as an attempt to write by emphasizing the momentum of performance over the intricacy of design and conventional form and that the scroll experiment was in part a way to keep himself from “working two days on a crazy sentence.” Moreover, it was an attempt to solo with the voice he was projecting for his surrogate, Jack/Sal—a voice that would matter because it would have the living quality that excited Holmes in Goodman’s Carnegie Hall solos. Or, to put it in the terms of Kerouac’s October 6 letter to Cassady, Goodman’s Carnegie Hall solos were raw (expressing the actual moment of performing) rather than cool (shaping the music for the sake of its structural possibilities rather than elaborating it for the emotional engagement of playing for one’s self and one’s audience). It should also be noted that Kerouac’s sense of the typewriter as potentially a recording (rather than encoding) device may have been informed by his own experience with wire recorders and tape recorders, both then relatively new technologies primarily used by professionals. Through Seymour Wise, a friend from his days at Horace Mann Prep School, Kerouac had met Jerry Newman, who had been recording jazz in the Harlem after-hours clubs (including Minton’s, where he captured historically important performances of Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and others as they experimented with what would soon coalesce as bop) as early as 1941 while still a student at Columbia. In late 1949 Newman, Wyse, and a third partner, Bill Page 68 →Fox, started Esoteric Records, an operation affiliated with the Greenwich Music Shop, which they also operated. Esoteric’s releases included both acetates Newman had recorded in his student days and new performances taped in the small studio that was part of the record store.11 Kerouac seems to have met Dizzy Gillespie through Newman and to have been an observer at recording sessions. That is, Kerouac had seen the way analogue tape could capture and reproduce an actual performance. In tape recording, there is no need to write the music one plays—the tape “writes” the music as the musicians play.12 For Kerouac, then, his experience with jazz improvisation included not only hearing jazz played live in clubs and listening to jazz recordings, it also included firsthand experience with analogue recording. This experience included Newman recording Kerouac singing and reading from his own work.13 There is no way to know whether this familiarity with recording technology contributed to the scroll experiment. However, the analogy between a roll of paper unrolling in actual time as the writer performs in writing and the reel of magnetic tape unrolling in actual time as the musician performs suggests the possibility that being recorded could have helped Kerouac see

this analogy and to consider treating writing, like jazz, as a process of performing rather than a process of composing. To suggest that Kerouac’s writing in the scroll On the Road, like jazz, privileges improvisational immediacy over form is to repeat what has been said many times, but the implications of this for Kerouac’s sense of writing as a medium and the typewriter as a mechanism merit further elaboration. In Capote’s comment, writing and typing are different orders of activity: writing is the selecting and ordering of words to fulfill compositional goals; typing is a way to give what has been written (even if one has written it at the typewriter) a physical form for subsequent use. For Capote, whether one writes using a pencil, a quill pen, a linotype machine, or a typewriter is indifferent. Writing is the discipline of composing what some would term the linguistic code (the set and sequence of words and punctuation that express the writer’s creative vision as an artfully realized work). The typewriter is merely a tool; typing is merely a procedure. Typewriting is not writing. For Kerouac in the scroll, typing is more than a procedure and the typewriter more than a mechanism. The typewriter is an instrument, like Goodman’s clarinet, on and through which to perform writing. Or, more accurately, Kerouac’s fluency as a typist, the possibility of typing for extended periods created by using the roll of paper instead of separate sheets, and his Page 69 →sense that Jack/Sal could relate the material as if talking to a specific YOU made it possible for him to treat the typewriter as a kind of type-recorder for capturing writing performances much as the wire recorder he had considered using (in the 1948 journal entry discussed earlier) could (he’d imagined) record rushing tremendousness. In this sense, the scroll is the record of Kerouac performing on the typewriter rather than writing (composing) at it. The momentum of On the Road’s prose (even in the Viking edition where the copy editors compromised his effects by altering and adding punctuation, among other changes) is partly a matter of going fast but also a matter of using the type-recorder to write by “blow[ing]” (i.e., write by performing in language as a musician would perform in sound). Intertwined with these factors is a third: that in the scroll Road Kerouac lets his character, his surrogate, Jack/Sal “speak” (as he’d put it in the October 6 letter). In the scroll, writing becomes the writing down of what is said (i.e., writing stores the action of speaking rather than storing the result of writing). That is, it is Jack/Sal who speak(s) to the projected figure of YOU while we, the actual mysterious reader, overhear the written record of the speaking as if YOU and as if Kerouac is an I speaking to us (this is why so many readers feel Kerouac is talking specifically to them and why his claims to sincerity are in some sense actual, not a fictional ploy, and matter for his aesthetic). By using the typewriter as an instrument for performing writing (not just a tool to convert writing into an approximation of type), Kerouac broke, decisively, from the sense of writing implicit in Capote’s quip. For Capote, writing, the craft of composing the written object, mattered only for the product produced. Process was preliminary labor. The marble chips on the studio floor had no bearing on the statue, except in so far as they proved the artist’s commitment to the work of art (both in the sense of making the art and in the sense of the finished art object which justified the labor of its making). In using the typewriter to perform, not compose, Kerouac shifted, at least for himself, the relationship of making to made. The statue was to be a record of its carving, as if we might observe the sculptor working and see this process as the art—or, more to the point, the action of Jackson Pollock generating a canvas that foregrounds motion rather than the spatial relationship of objects, or, alternatively, Charlie Parker elaborating, altering, and reelaborating the elements of a Gershwin composition by treating these elements as a vocabulary for virtuoso improvisation. In the scroll, Kerouac uses the typewriter not only to record his material (“telled all” as he puts it Page 70 →to Cassady) but also uses it to record the process of writing, so that writing becomes both the action of the writing and the product of this action. Capote’s sense of writing is, of course, the paradigm for the mainstream of serious American fiction for at least the first half of the twentieth century (and the paradigm of “Henry James novelist” as Kerouac put it while working on The Town and the City, as well as the paradigm for the novel according to Columbia University as he understood that). It is not, though, the paradigm for writing in the April scroll experiment. Kerouac did not, simply, fail at writing in Capote’s sense of the matter. He succeeded (or failed) at writing understood as a different medium, a different practice.14 For Capote, writing could represent what characters might say, but writing itself should differ from speech with its tendency toward informality, repetitions, and fragmentary zigs and zags, rescuing language from the pressures of real-time performance and the tendency of speaker and listeners to reduce

language to behavioral gestures. For Capote, language is most fully realized in writing; speaking and speech operate under the sign of writing as a kind of lesser country cousin. For Kerouac, the experiential richness and dynamism of language—as opposed to its possible compression and precision as writing—was most fully present in speech and speaking. For Capote, speech was raw ore to be refined; writing the precious metal; and truly artful writing subsumed the imprecision and particularity of speaking into the perfection of the written. For Kerouac, speaking was language in its energy and individuality, and the challenge was to create a mode of writing that would harness and exploit the energy of speech. For Capote, writing is the material one uses to perfect a textual object. For Kerouac, writing is a medium for recording the action of language. Where dialogue in Capote’s approach is a composed substitution for speech, in Kerouac even narration is a kind of talking to the YOU of the reader. Rather than writing controlling speech (as in Capote), writing was to be, in Kerouac, driven and vitalized by the dynamics of speaking. For Kerouac, the goal was to use writing to serve the voice and enact it. As such, Capote’s quip would have been more to the point had he said, “That’s not writing; that’s talking masquerading as writing.” In his letters to Cassady from late 1950 and early 1951, Kerouac repeatedly refers to writing as work and counterpoints this with the pleasure of talking. He doesn’t, he admits, want to write; he wants to talk—especially with Cassady. In these letters, he understands writing much as Capote did (i.e., writing is a craft of perfecting or intensifying or complicating dimensionsPage 71 → of language that are merely latent in spoken exchanges), yet he senses that he wants writing to be raw (as his and Cassady’s speaking to each other is), not cool. With the April scroll, Kerouac shifts decisively from treating writing as a medium for composing (cool) to treating writing as a medium for performing (raw). This makes it possible for writing—both act and result—to retain some of speaking’s immediacy and motion. By using the typewriter as an instrument for performing, he is able to begin practicing writing in the image of speaking rather than, as he had been doing, conceptualizing writing as a compositional system that need not have any link to the dynamics of actual speaking, even when being used to compose representations of speech. In the scroll writing occurs in real time; it is action and process rather than composed object. That is, On the Road needs to be approached not as writing stored in typing (the typical practice for the first half of the twentieth century). Nor is the scroll simply writing (in the conventional sense) composed on a typewriter. Rather, it is writing performed as if directed to an actual YOU (as in speaking) and as if happening as action and process within actual time (as with speaking). As such, it is a hybrid of writing and talking enabled by Kerouac’s reconfiguring of the typewriter—what should, I suggest, be termed typetalking.15 The nature of Kerouac’s typetalking is perhaps most apparent, oddly enough, in some of On the Road’s seemingly more conventional writing. Midway through Part One of the Viking version, for instance, Sal brings a waitress he’s met to the apartment where he is staying in Denver on the night before he plans to push on to San Francisco. Sal tells us:

I got her [Rita] in my bedroom after a long talk in the dark of the front room. She was a nice little girl, simple and true, and tremendously frightened of sex. I told her it was beautiful. I wanted to prove this to her. She let me prove it, but I was too impatient and proved nothing. She sighed in the dark. “What do you want out of life?” I asked, and I used to ask that all the time of girls. “I don’t know,” she said. “Just wait on tables and try to get along.” She yawned. I put my hand over her mouth and told her not to yawn. I tried to tell her how excited I was about life and the things we could do together; saying that, and planning to leave Denver in two days. She turned away wearily. We lay on our backs, looking at the ceiling and wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad. We made vague plans to meet in Frisco. (OR-V, 57–58)

Page 72 →

Sal’s behavior is exploitative. His claim that he wants “to prove” that sex is “beautiful” is a con, and he knows it. Yet he does want to prove this for her, not just on her, and regrets his failure. Similarly, asking her what she “want[s] out of life” is both a ploy and genuine. Sal is, it seems, attempting to lessen her sense that she has been used and is doing so at least in part to ease his guilt, but he does want her to be “excited” about life, even though what excites him is the prospect of pushing on to “Frisco,” not the “things we could do together.” Sal’s participation in the moment, his relationship to Rita, and his act of relating these things to us is complex. He wants a genuine relationship, yet wants freedom. He barters romantic clichés for sex, yet sees a beauty within the clichés and his relationship to her. And he celebrates this possibility to Rita—and us—even as he knowingly manipulates her. We might conclude that Kerouac was himself so confused or superficial that he failed to recognize these contradictions, but that would be a mistake. In the next paragraph, Sal, having walked Rita home, “stretch[es] out on the grass of an old church with a bunch of hobos.” First, the talk of the hobos makes him “want to get back on that road” (and presumably away from domestic entanglements just as the hobos have rejected, transcended, or failed at such entanglements). Seemingly, their talk “of harvests moving north” with the season should evoke for Sal the freedom to follow the warm weather and drink in the evening after a day in the field. And it does, but the fantasy of moving harvest to harvest also evokes a sense of the cycle of seasons and a pastoral or romantic, even domestic, fantasy closer to the Tin Pan Alley line, “Shine on harvest moon for me and my gal.” This would, at least, explain how Sal veers from “want[ing] to get back on that road” as he listens to the hobos to noticing, instead, that the evening is “warm and soft,” which (seemingly through his association with “warm and soft” and his complex encounter with Rita) leads him to add:

I wanted to go and get Rita again and tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time, and calm her fears about men. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious. I heard the Denver and Rio Grande locomotive howling off to the mountains. I wanted to pursue my star further. (OR-V, 58)

Page 73 → What might seem random or simply misplaced in Sal’s reflection is central to how the narration works. What matters is not Sal pausing with the hobos (who have rejected domesticity more definitively than he has) but how their talk drives a desire to “get back on that road,” even as it also leads him to extend his meditation on his encounter with Rita and how, in turn this, his desire (both real and self-delusion) for “real straight talk about souls, ” so quickly becomes (as he hears the locomotive) “want[ing] to pursue my star further” on the road. In the three paragraphs that follow Sal’s hollow conquest of Rita and moment on the church lawn, Kerouac layers and complicates these desires, reactions, and reflections. If we read the passage slowly (allowing its reversals and paradoxes to resonate) rather than headlong (as the process of writing the scroll might suggest), what stands out is that the scene’s action (seducing Rita, lounging with the hobos, listening to the train whistle) is secondary, an occasion for something else. While the writing does relate Sal’s actions, more fundamentally it enacts his awareness of self, of other, of social conventions, and of cultural context. If we focus on what the novel represents at the expense of tracking how it represents, we miss the imaginative action in the passage. The novel is about being “on the road,” Dean, America, and so on, but these elements are occasions for Sal’s awareness—his often simultaneous senses of engagement and alienation; of cultural and personal past; of mythic possibility; of gritty reality; of fantasy, fact, failure, and hope. Sal’s awareness in this scene can be read simply as his confusion—or Kerouac’s, but there are too many instances of Sal’s simultaneous awareness of, and allegiance to, conflicting desires and values for this to be random

accident. Sal’s persistent commitment to conflicting possibilities threads through the whole book and has thematic implications. Later in Part One, for instance, as he travels by bus to Los Angeles, he encounters “the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks” (OR-V, 81). Sal’s time with Terry, first in Los Angeles, then in several agricultural communities in central California where he attempts to support her and her small son by picking cotton, reenacts the issues in Sal’s reflections on his brief affair with Rita, intensifying his experience of his contradictory desires, hopes, and guilty failures. The way the other relationships in the novel (Dean’s with Marylou, Camille, and Inez; Remi’s with Lee Ann; Dunkel’s with Galatea; even Sal’s “miserably weary split-up” that opens the Viking version and his liaison with Laura at Page 74 →the novel’s end) similarly play out competing desires for sexual freedom, domestic stability, and romance, reinforcing and complicating the pattern, which is further framed by Jane and Bull Lee’s parodic domesticity in Part Two and Sal’s glimpse of the Greek wedding party early in Part Three with its pastoral overtones. The ways the episode with Rita anticipates the episode with Terry and, conversely, how Sal’s relationship with Terry complicates the episode with Rita suggest that the parallels between the novel’s various romantic (or merely sexual) pairings are not random. Sal senses the contradictions in his desires and actions, but he also senses that these contradictions cannot be resolved into a final structure or hierarchy in which, for example, the desire for stability and domestic order would trump sexual desire and the freedom (yet isolation) of being on the road or vice versa (or even one where mutual sexual pleasure would permanently transcend the dialectic of freedom from the other and responsibility to the other). This conflict, infused throughout the novel, is not resolvable, nor can it be given some kind of final or stable mapping. Moreover, it is best understood as an unresolvable dynamic rather than an unresolvable structure, which is why On the Road’s coherence does not (cannot) derive from its plot (with a thematic argument developing in tandem and progressively with the series of actions, as Kerouac had attempted in the earlier, abandoned attempts at On the Road) but emerges instead from its recursiveness, in which nodal moments of experience, awareness, and reflection, such as Sal’s account of his seduction of Rita, are probed through parallel moments (such as his encounter with Terry). In Road each repetition deepens the central conflicts rather than progressing toward some final resolution. Kerouac, like Whitman, is willing to contradict himself in order to express the multitude of implications he senses. If we focus on the motion within episodes such as Sal’s affair with Rita and on how these passages function as variations of a series of unresolvable desires, the coherence underlying On the Road’s seeming randomness becomes clearer. Sal’s desire to go on the road is both a desire to escape and a desire to settle down. It is a desire for freedom from structure and obligation but also a desire for place, significance, and meaning. Leslie Fiedler once dismissed Road by suggesting that Kerouac and his characters thought they were playing at being Huck Finn but actually playing at being Tom Sawyer while managing only to become Becky Thatcher (Fiedler, 491–92). But Fiedler (brilliantly right about so many things) is wrong about this. Page 75 →While Sal and Dean are avatars of Huck, and arguably failed avatars, they are Tom and Huck stuck in the village wanting to be Huck and Jim on the river. If Sal and Dean fail to fulfill Fiedler’s agenda, it is not because they fail to understand the difference between Huck and Tom—or the difference between Huck and Jim. They fail at being Huck and Jim (even as they succeed at not being Tom) because they are adults, compelled to find a way to include Becky on the raft—something that should have interested Fiedler, given the larger argument of Love and Death in the American Novel. Sal’s mix of insight, self-awareness, and blindness to the implications of what he observes is also integral to his openness to possibility, yet awareness of loss—traits that define him as a character and a narrator. Moreover, this mix helps illustrate the nature of typetalking. Sal’s account of his tryst with Rita does not present Kerouac’s interpretation of the encounter. If it did, he would have to resolve the contradictions into a series of subordinations that would control their meaning and then signal this resolution for the reader. Instead, as Sal talks through the memory to the YOU who implicitly listens, Kerouac, performing through his surrogate, is recovering, probing, and discovering through his own memory, which is the occasion for the performance. As such, Sal’s encounter with Rita is not something fixed and known—a thing to be represented. The past is, instead, an occasion (in the twinned present of Sal’s telling and of Kerouac’s writing) for discovery through the simultaneity of remembering, reexperiencing (from a new perspective), and relating. In recalling and telling, Sal brings out aspects of the

experience that he may only have partly sensed at the time or have understood differently, and he is doing so precisely because he is offering the memory to the implied listener. In writing the scene, Kerouac reexperiences the past through Sal (as he performs the writing), discovering aspects of it and meditating on it. He is able to do so precisely because he projects Sal as talking as if to an actual YOU, which enables Kerouac to write as if freed from the gaze of the mysterious reader. He can imagine Sal talking to a Joan Haverty-like figure in the same manner that he was able to talk, in writing, to Cassady about listening to the two World Series radio announcers. Passages such as Sal’s recounting of his time with Rita demonstrate that On the Road develops as a continuous series of performances of associationally related moments. In writing as Capote understands it, the writer transforms his consciousness of his material into a work of writing. In writing as Kerouac practices it in On the Road, the writer creates consciousness Page 76 →by interacting with the elements of his experience, doing so as the reader listens. For Kerouac, consciousness is an action, not a thing or state, and enacting (performing) consciousness in writing becomes a way to gain additional depth and richness. The story being told must be discovered in the telling as the telling is happening. The fundamental quality of Sal’s consciousness and the multiple ways he relates to the world around him require simultaneity, not subordination, and the coherence of On the Road is that of a jazz solo, not the coherence of a fugue or even a symphony. As such, Sal’s description of several jazz solos in Part Three, chapter 4, can be read as an analogy for the way Kerouac develops Sal’s engagement of his experience and performative telling of it. In describing the solos, Sal emphasizes the way the soloist develops relatively simple motifs through repetition, variation, and layering. In elaborating the motifs in the actual time of performance (rather than the separate time and space of solitary composing), the soloist discovers and interweaves the multiple possibilities of the motifs rather than (as a composer would) selecting from the possibilities, then fixing them within a closed, hierarchical structure (and the soloist does so, as Kerouac emphasizes in these scenes, by engaging time and acting within it and by performing for and in dialogue with those for whom he is soloing). In the jazz performance, the work is bounded by the performer’s stamina and inventiveness. In the composed work, the structure derived from the motifs controls the piece and determines where and how it must end. In Sal’s performances, process itself is structural, which is why Sal as a persona for Kerouac in On the Road and Nick as a persona for Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby function differently in spite of the clear parallels. In Gatsby, we can, as many have noted, distinguish between the time of the novel’s action and the time of its telling. As Nick narrates his history with Gatsby, he is reflecting back on his earlier actions as a character, and there are two Nicks: the earlier Nick, who participated in the story he tells, and the later Nick, who reflects on the story as he tells it. The novel is two actions: the explicit story of Nick, Gatsby, and Daisy from Nick’s first hearing of Gatsby to Gatsby’s death, and Nick’s growing awareness as he reflects on events, extrapolating from what he knows and wrestling with Gatsby’s problematic “greatness.” For Nick, his earlier experience is a text to be interpreted, and experiencing (what the naïve Nick does as he interacts with Gatsby, Daisy,Page 77 →and Tom) and reflecting (what Nick does as he tells the story to make sense of it) are two distinct levels. In On the Road, the way Sal is a character in the story he tells after the plot’s action has ended resembles Fitzgerald’s handling of Nick, but how Sal functions as narrator enacts a different fictional rhetoric. In Gatsby, Fitzgerald maintains a consistent distinction between Nick as a character and Nick reflecting. In On the Road, however, the dichotomy between Sal as character and Sal reflecting is neither fully established nor consistently maintained. This can be taken (and has) as a flaw in the novel.16 But for Sal to perform his awareness (as in the episode with Rita), the distinction between experiencing and reflecting cannot be as absolute or consistent as it is in Gatsby. Here, again, the difference between performance and composition implicit in jazz and in Kerouac’s portrayal of jazz in the novel is helpful. In jazz, the soloist subverts the distinction between past and present, between what has been experienced and known and what is being performed and discovered. In the moment of performing, he draws on previous interactions with musicians; the musical materials at hand (melodies and changes); and his sound and stance toward his particular musical language (his musical character). These histories, structures, and possibilities must be engaged and enacted fully in the present, driven by present contexts, and managed in the real time of the

performance’s actual duration. The materials of past experiences must be reexperienced and re-created in the act of playing for one’s self, the other musicians, and the audience. The past cannot be rep-resented (as if a text or composed score). It must be re-presented by reinventing its possibilities as if the past were also the present and by discovering what is new in the already known and thereby knowing it differently. In this process, both the material of the past and its performance in the present are dynamic and changing. While performance draws from what has been experienced, it exists in and through engaging the present. It is not a packaging of the past for present consumption. The past is raw material to be transformed—as the dichotomy between experiencing and reflecting disappears, as experiencing and reflecting merge together. This analogy suggests that Sal isn’t treating his past as a fixed text to be interpreted, but as material to be performed. Rather than reflecting on the past to know it, he is engaging the past in order to perform it, and in reexperiencing the past in performing it, the past becomes new experience in the present that can, in part, change the past. In Gatsby, the past is closed Page 78 →and fixed, a text for Nick to decipher. In Road, the past is not fixed. It is an archive known temporarily and provisionally through performance and open to multiple constructions, none of them final. Sal reexperiences the past in telling it, and because the past is, thus, new experience, he alters it in performing it. In his performance of the tryst with Rita, then, we cannot fully know which of his awarenesses and conflicting impulses reflect the original experience and which reflect his reexperiencing of it as he performs it for the YOU who listens by reading. That is, in On the Road, Kerouac recasts the dichotomy of experience and reflection implicit in Fitzgerald’s fictional mode into the dialectic of experience and reexperience. Because the conditions of performing both drive and inflect the improvisation, Sal cannot be merely a pseudonym for Kerouac, nor can he be a conventional persona who can be completely differentiated from Kerouac. Instead, Kerouac performs himself through (and as) Sal. And On the Road is, in turn, a sequence of performances enacted through what might be thought of as performative identity (a constructed stance for performing, a surrogate) that is more akin to the relationship of the biographical Lester Young to his performance stance of “Pres” or of Billie Holiday’s to “Lady Day” than of Fitzgerald to Nick. Sal’s full name of Salvatore (i.e., salvation) Paradise points to the way the name functions as a performative stance (and the way Remi and Bull pun on “Sal” further suggests that Kerouac was aware of what he was doing in naming the version of the self through whom he performs the story). Discussions of Kerouac’s method have tended to focus on the speed with which he composed On the Road. And the April 1951 scroll experiment was a decisive break from the conventions of “Henry James novelist.” But speed of composition was neither the whole of Kerouac’s method nor its essential feature. In his May 22, 1951, letter to Cassady, where he recounts writing the scroll, he notes, “will now write all my books in twenty days” (SL, 317), as if he will use the scroll method for all his books, but his letters, work journals, and the manuscripts of the books that follow On the Road show that he used a number of methods to generate his manuscripts. Sections of Visions of Cody, for instance, were first written in pencil in small notebooks, then typed up and incorporated into the manuscript, and Dr. Sax was drafted in pencil. This suggests that writing the April 1951 scroll quickly was a tactic, a means to accomplishing something else, and the something else was, it seems, shifting from writing as composing to writing as performance. In On the Road Kerouac performs Sal performing his story Page 79 →for the imagined YOU (thereby freeing himself from the debilitating abstractions of writing-man and mysterious reader). The significance of the scroll is not that Kerouac wrote quickly but that he (in part by writing fast) began performing in writing as if for an actual listener instead of composing for the abstract position of the mysterious reader. Once he’d made this shift, he could, as it were, perform both slow ballads and up-tempo pieces. He could, with pencil, write as if he were Coleman Hawkins doing “Body and Soul” or perform on the typewriter as if he were Bud Powell doing “Un Loco Poco.” Kerouac’s performative typetalking, not how quickly he wrote the scroll, is what creates the fictional rhetoric of On the Road and explains how the book subverts the form of the novel even as, on the surface, it seems to fulfill it. In composing a novel, the writer usually treats the surface of the page (both the actual page on which one writes and the anticipated page of the published work) as a surface upon which one arranges, distills, and finally stores the product of writing, which is writing. In the attempts at On the Road up through what became Pic, Kerouac, I suggest, approached writing in this way. In performing as Sal and imagining Sal talking to YOU, Kerouac,

instead, treats the page as a recording mechanism, not a field for composing. In the scroll Kerouac was able to imagine the page (rather the roll of paper) as a transitive medium that both records the performing of language and conveys that action (when converted into print) to the reader. Here, again, the analogy of music is helpful. In On the Road Kerouac functions like a musician in a recording studio, performing for those who will eventually listen to the recording. For the recording musician, the recorder stores the performance in a form that can be copied and distributed to the listener. Similarly, the typewriter as typetalking recorder stores the writing performance so that it can be copied and distributed to the reader who then attends to the performance in reading. Typetalking is not, then, actual talking to the reader but a recorded performance of writing as if talking to an actual reader. That recordings created through performance can have great immediacy and impact—in spite of the mediation and deferral of the process—is evident in such titles as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, and (to pick examples closer to Kerouac) the classic sides of Billie Holiday, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker. Kerouac’s recasting of writing from a compositional medium to a recording medium for performance has implications for the relationship of the scroll Page 80 →draft of On the Road to the version Viking published in 1957. The core of the matter is revision. Kerouac later claimed that he never revised his work, and Allen Ginsberg put “First thought, best thought” at the center of the Beat aesthetic. In a September 3, 1973, letter, Ginsberg explained the relationship of the scroll On the Road to the Viking version in these terms.

There is only one real On the Road original mss. I know of, written on teletype roll. I think [Ann] Charters’ biog. is wrong about so many many revisions for publishers later—Jack was probably overly-courteously writing his editors that he was “working” on the book over & over while he made minor chronologic revisions & excisions demanded. But previous to the W. 21’st Street teletype roll (or whatever kind of paper it was) there was no other on the road tho I guess there were many separate sketches of road type material. The point of On the Road was on the roll, i.e. the realization he could just start out and type endlessly speaking the story in his own natural speedy way, on typewriter. . . . I don’t remember as a single Conception any Conception as on the Road till he got inspired (by Cassady letter) to breakthrough to his own naked & endless head Consciousness and set down & type it out—on W 21’st st. in room off 9th Ave with his second wife Joan Haverty—17

In his comment “speaking the story in his own natural speedy way, on typewriter,” Ginsberg is recognizing what I’ve termed typetalking, and this is a factor in his sense that the “only one real On the Road” is the 120-foot-long paragraph of the scroll. In speaking, what’s said cannot be unsaid—it can only be supplemented and extended through more speaking. If I mean to write “write” but mistype it as “right,” I can delete “right,” replace it with “write,” and the reader (who cannot be you because I am calling your attention to this instead of hiding it) would not know. It would be as if the wrong of “right” never happened. If, however, in a conference session Professor X inadvertently refers to Professor Y (who happens to be in the room) by a pejorative nickname, say “Dr. Wrong” instead of “Dr. Long,” there is no way to erase the wrong to make it right. For the reader, the wrong “right” never happened. For the listener, the wronging of Dr. Long as Dr. Wrong can only be supplemented with retractions, substitutions, and apologies—perhaps in time to be forgotten, but even then Dr. WrongLong would still have been wronged. The other basis for Ginsberg’s belief in the sanctity of the scroll, his convictionPage 81 → that it is the “only one real On the Road,” is his sense that it records Kerouac’s inspired take on the material and that revisions, because they would happen outside this originary context, could only taint the testament by responding to such extraneous factors as literary fashion. That is, Ginsberg locates the significance of On the Road in what he sees as Kerouac’s “breakthrough to his own naked & endless head Consciousness” as he typed away at the original draft in April 1951 and sees this visionary, compositional act as so revolutionary, authentic, and powerful that it both erased any prior work Kerouac might have done on his Road novel and transcended any minor compromises imposed on it in

publication. Ginsberg, in this letter, casts writing as the recording of the moment of inspiration. As such, writing more nearly resembles Moses receiving the tablets than Charlie Parker generating yet another performance of “Rhythm” changes. Prior to the publication of On the Road: The Original Scroll in 2007, the actual differences between what Kerouac wrote in April 1951 and what Viking published in 1957 had to be guessed at. Views such as Ginsberg’s encouraged us to see the Viking Road as a compromised approximation of what the book should be and to lament the stodginess of mainstream publishers and other circumstances that kept us from the full presence of Kerouac “endlessly speaking.”18 The relationship, though, between the scroll and Viking versions of On the Road is not this simple, and the differences between the scroll and the various typescripts Kerouac developed from it suggest that Ginsberg’s faith in there being “only one real On the Road” needs to be reconsidered. The following example suggests the problem with believing that the scroll is transparently the true On the Road and anything deviating from it a false Road. When Sal and Terry arrive in Los Angeles (in Part One, chapter 13), they try for jobs in a drugstore at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Here are two versions of the scene:

We went to Hollywood to try to work in the drugstore at Sunset and Vine. The questions that were asked of us in upstairs offices to determine our fitness for the slime of the sodafountain greaseracks were so sinister that I had to laugh. It turned my gut. Sunset and Vine!—what a corner! Now there’s a corner! Great families off jalopies from the hinterlands stood around the sidewalk gaping for sight of some movie star and the movie star never showed up. When a limousine passed they rushed eagerly to the curb and ducked to look: some character in dark glasses sat inside with a bejeweled blonde. “Don Ameche! Don Page 82 →Ameche!” “No George Murphy! George Murphy!” They milled around looking at one another. Luscious little girls by the thousands rushed around with Drive-in trays; they’d come to Hollywood to be movie stars and instead got all involved in everybody’s garbage including Darryl Zanuck’s. Handsome queer boys who had come to Hollywood to be cowboys walked around wetting their eyebrows with hincty fingertip. Those beautiful little gone gals cut by in slacks in a continuous unbelievable stream; you thought you were in heaven but it was only Purgatory and everybody was about to be pardoned, paroled, powdered and put down; the girls came to be starlets; they up-ended in Drive-ins with pouts and goosepimples on their bare legs.

We went to Hollywood to try to work in the drugstore at Sunset and Vine. Now there was a corner! Great families off jaloppies from the hinterlands stood around the sidewalk gaping for sight of some movie star and the movie star never showed up. When a limousine passed they rushed eagerly to the curb and ducked to look: some character in dark glasses sat inside with a bejeweled blonde. “Don Ameche! Don Ameche!” “No George Murphy! George Murphy!” They milled around looking at one another. Handsome queer boys who had come to Hollywood to be cowboys walked around wetting their eyebrows with hincty fingertip. The most beautiful little gone gals in the world cut by in slacks; they came to be starlets; they ended up in Drive Ins.

There are several ways to explain the differences between the two versions. The second might have been cut down from the first, especially since Sal’s responses in the first seem richer, both more impressionistic and grittier, and his relationship to what he is describing is more volatile. The additional phrases in the first tend to be moments when the literal detail of what Sal sees and his imagistic extension of it fuse so that observation and response, apprehension and expression, are simultaneous. The prose in the first also has more momentum, and sound is more integral to the effect of the passage. But above all, Sal’s sense of the scene has more depth in the longer version. The stream of “gone gals” is, for Sal, like being in heaven, but he senses that the reality is one of loss.

Instead of achieving a Hollywood Rapture, the “gals” become victims of the Hollywood stardom game, economic reality, and the interplay of sexual desire and manipulation. The “pardon[ing]” evokes both a need for religious forgiveness and a legalistic sense of things, which “paroled” reinforces. The fantasy of “heaven” and the undercutting “put down” are heads and tails of a single coin. And the way Page 83 →the “gals” become “upended” (as opposed to merely end[ing] up” in the second version) with “pouts and goosepimples on their bare legs” underscores their status as exploited sexual commodity. Some readers may prefer the more impressionistic, longer version; some the second for its greater narrative clarity. The question, though, is why they differ. Surprisingly, the shorter (and seemingly more conventional) version is from On the Road: The Original Scroll and the Viking On the Road, which are all but identical in wording and punctuation. The longer is from the Paris Review, where it was published as part of “The Mexican Girl.” Moreover, the sentences and phrases that are most distinctive in the Paris Review version are not in any of the typescripts of On the Road known to have survived.19 How “The Mexican Girl” came to be published in the Paris Review is clear. Malcolm Cowley arranged the publication of several excerpts from On the Road while Viking was hanging fire over whether to publish the novel. Cowley was, it seems, trying to create what in the movie biz today would be termed buzz. Because the extant typescripts of On the Road (for this passage) are largely the same, Kerouac could, easily, have typed up the selection without revising it. Instead, he rewrote it, and the Paris Review text of the scene differs significantly from the scene in On the Road. That Kerouac rewrote the passage is not necessarily surprising. Why he did not incorporate the revisions into On the Road as he prepped the typescript Viking used as setting copy is unclear. One explanation is that Kerouac simply forgot he’d made the changes and didn’t think to incorporate them in the final typescript. However, the care Kerouac took with his manuscripts argues against this. The Paris Review version could also be explained as simply revision—a rewriting to more fully realize the original intention for the material than he had in typetalking the scroll, then decided not to use. There is, though, a third explanation: that Kerouac saw “The Mexican Girl” not as an occasion to transmit the original moment of inspired writing (as Ginsberg’s view suggests he should have), nor as an occasion to perfect his composition through considered revision (as Capote’s view suggests he should) but instead as an occasion to reperform the piece for a different occasion and for a different moment in time. Here, again, music provides a helpful analogy. Coleman Hawkins developed a particular approach to “Body and Soul,” but each recording differs in the specific way he actualized that approach for the specific occasion. Had Kerouac been revising in the traditional sense (to perfectPage 84 → and finalize the passage as a written object), he should have incorporated it into the text of On the Road (or if, as Ginsberg would have it, the scroll was the text of On the Road, he should have meticulously preserved the original wording and punctuation of the passage). But if publishing the piece in the Paris Review was, for Kerouac, a specific opportunity to reengage and reperform the material, then there was every reason to elaborate and reinflect the material as he prepared the new typescript.20 Perhaps the clearest reason to conclude that Kerouac generated “The Mexican Girl” episode as a distinctive performance rather than a revision from or toward On the Road in any of the typescript versions is that the differences in it change how Sal functions as narrator. Many of the changes (as in the drugstore scene) put more emphasis on Sal’s awareness of his situation. In the Paris Review version Sal is either more explicitly aware of the implications of his dalliance with Terry or more willing to confess his awareness to the reader. Sal knows that he is passing through and that this makes his love for Terry, though real in one sense, also an exploitative masquerade. Terry, because of her child, family, and the way social class and ethnicity come into play, cannot walk away from her situation. Sal (in part because he is male) can walk away, knows it, and knows he will. Matters that are implicit in On the Road are explicit in “The Mexican Girl.” One could argue that On the Road would be stronger had Kerouac incorporated the grittier Paris Review version into the Viking On the Road, but if he had, the approach to Sal in this scene would have conflicted with the approach to Sal in the rest of the novel. In On the Road, Sal as a character in the novel’s actions is, depending on one’s reading of the book, either coy about the more troubling implications of his actions or naïve about them (I argue for the latter). Sal is clearly a tourist in the interval in the Central Valley with Terry, but Kerouac maintains Sal’s naiveté in On the Road so that his actual love for Terry, the way both are finally caught in the romantic clichés of popular culture (evoked, for instance, in

the way Sal uses Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man” both to celebrate what he feels for Terry yet also, seemingly inadvertently, to underscore how much she is the victim), and the way both are finally caught in their differing class-inflected and ethnically inflected identities can resonate simultaneously. The treatment of Sal in “The Mexican Girl,” in spite of its distinctive strengths, would not fit in On the Road as published. That Kerouac began reworking the scroll almost as soon as he finished it and prepared several distinctly different typescripts in his attempts to Page 85 →publish the work suggest that he (unlike Ginsberg) viewed the scroll draft as one possible realization of the material rather than the realization of it to be preserved to the greatest extent possible. In the May 22 letter, written a month after finishing the scroll, Kerouac tells Cassady, “I’ve been typing and revising. Thirty days on that” (SL, 317). The typescripts not only differ in wording, but also in key details and even in which scenes are included.21 The nature of the differences strongly suggests that the typescripts are not a series progressing toward a single outcome—a kind of ultimate Road, nor can they be dismissed simply as Kerouac degrading the revelation of the April scroll. They are distinctive versions that reflect his shifting sense of the work. That is, they are what John Bryant has termed a “fluid text,” and a full reading of On the Road should take the form of a comparative study of the overlaps and divergences of the versions, with each version considered as a distinctive performance of On the Road (much as each of Ellington’s recordings of “Black and Tan Fantasy” are each a distinct realization of the piece).22 The usual view of Kerouac’s work as unreflective accounts of his life argues against him being able to sense that his handling of Sal in “The Mexican Girl” would not match his handling of Sal in the rest of the novel. Comparing the scroll and Viking Roads shows, however, that he was quite able to notice and control such things and that they matter for how we read the novel. Late in the trip from California to New York that is Part Three of the Viking Road, Dean is driving so recklessly that Sal, afraid they will crash, gets down on the floor in the backseat and tries to sleep. In the scroll Road, Jack comments:

As a seaman I used to think of the waves rushing beneath the shell of the ship and the bottomless deeps thereunder—now I could feel the road some twenty inches beneath me unfurling and flying and hissing at incredible speeds and on and on across the groaning continent. When I closed my eyes all I could see was the road unwinding into me. (OR-S, 332)

Two factors contribute to the passage’s sense of helplessness and mortality. The first is Kerouac’s experience as a merchant seaman during World War II, when he was acutely sensitive to the possibility of his ship being sunk by a German U-boat. Second, he is echoing chapter 60 of Moby-Dick, where Melville describes the whale line unfurling and hissing from a whale boat when a whale is harpooned—a moment that emphasizes the possibility of Page 86 →sudden, violent death. For Kerouac, Melville frames his doubled memory of the North Atlantic hissing beneath the ship’s hull and the Iowa road beneath the car. The passage is both real (in the sense of describing what apparently happened) and literary. But what matters is that real and literary are so fused that they cannot easily be separated. The literary is not an ornament advertising the writer’s mastery, nor is it a device or code that controls meaning. Rather, Melville’s moment fuses with Kerouac’s moment to intensify the remembered moment. Part of Kerouac’s genius in the scroll is that such a moment can seem completely artless and naïve—merely typewriting. In the Viking Road Kerouac alters this passage—subtly but significantly. In what follows, the first line of each pair is the reading of On the Road: The Original Scroll (in italics); the second, the reading of the Viking Road.

As a seaman I used to think of the waves rushing beneath the shell of the ship As a seaman I used to think of the waves rushing beneath the shell of the ship

and the bottomless deeps thereunder—now I could feel the road some twenty inches and the bottomless deeps thereunder—now I could feel the road some twenty inches

beneath me unfurling and flying and hissing at incredible speeds and on and on beneath me, unfurling and flying and hissing at incredible speeds

across the groaning continent. across the groaning continent with that mad Ahab at the wheel.

When I closed my eyes all I could see was the road unwinding into me. (OR-S, 332) When I closed my eyes all I could see was the road unwinding into me. (OR-V, 235)

The opening lines, other than the comma in the third of the Viking version, are identical. In the fourth, though, the Viking version adds “with that mad Page 87 →Ahab at the wheel.” In one way, this revision simply reinforces the allusion to Melville already in the passage, but labeling Dean a “crazy Ahab” utilizes Melville differently. In the scroll, the Melville allusion (muted and easily missed) deepens the scene emotionally. The fusion of hissing road, hissing water, and hissing whale line intensify Jack’s imaginative participation in the scene. Characterizing Dean as Ahab in the Viking, though, interprets the trip itself. If Dean in his mania is figuratively Ahab, then the car is the Pequod, and the journey/voyage potentially doomed and damning, and the phrase signals a moment of Sal (and Kerouac) pulling back from participating in the experience to frame it allegorically. A second instance of Kerouac adjusting an allusion to Melville in the scroll shows him, similarly, responsive to the implications of seemingly minor details. Here, also, the reading from The Original Scroll is first and italicized.

In the month of July, 1947, having finished a good half of my novel and having In the month of July 1947, having

saved about fifty dollars from old veteran benefits I got ready to go to the West saved about fifty dollars from old veteran benefits, I was ready to go to the West

Coast [. . . .] All she wanted was for me to come back in one piece. So leaving my Coast [. . . .] All she wanted was for me to come back in one piece. So, leaving my

big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable

home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a

Page 88 → few fundamental things were packed, left a note to my mother, who was at work, and few fundamental things were packed and

took off for the Pacific Ocean like a veritable Ishmael with fifty dollars in my pocket. took off for the Pacific Ocean with fifty dollars in my pocket.

What a hang up I got into at once! As I look back on it it’s incredible that I could [no corresponding text]

have been so damned dumb. I’d been poring over maps (OR-S, 114–15) I’d been poring over maps (OR-V, 9–10)

Here, Jack/Sal is about to embark on the novel’s first trip, the one that begins with the Route 6 debacle and does not include Neal/Dean. In The Original Scroll, Jack emphasizes his progress on his novel (The Town and the City), as if this has earned him a vacation, and he labels himself “a veritable Ishmael,” invoking both the biblical outcast and the opening of Moby-Dick. Kerouac eliminates the reference to progress on The Town and the City in the Viking version, and, in a move that seems the opposite of the revision just considered, drops the allusion to Ishmael. Dropping the detail about progress on the novel shifts the trip from being simply R&R from the real work of being a writer to the traveling to come as itself the significance of taking off—as it presumably should be in a book about being on the road. Kerouac also had a plausible reason for deleting “Ishmael.” For Sal to be a “veritable Ishmael” at this point (as Jack is in the scroll) would signal that Sal, rather than Dean, is the novel’s central figure. In the Viking Road, Sal’s relationship to Dean is fluid. At times he tags along as a kind of apprentice to Dean as road master; at others he is Dean’s faithful squire (Sancho Panza to Dean’s Quixote); at others he is the elder brother caring for his younger brother. This fluidity (and Sal’s uncertainty about what role he wants) is apparent in other ways. For example, when Sal is riding on the truck with Mississippi Gene and his charge, Sal relates to the two of them as if he wants to be both figures—the caregiver and the cared-for. Had Kerouac not deleted “veritable Ishmael,” it would Page 89 →have compromised the thematic and experiential fluidity that characterizes Sal as character and that contributes to how he functions as a narrator.

While Jack seeing himself a “veritable Ishmael” in the scroll version and Sal characterizing Dean as “that crazy Ahab” in the Viking version are both literary allusions, the gestures function differently. In the scroll, “Ishmael” specifies Jack’s role in the narrative—outcast and questing hero. In the Viking Road, “that crazy Ahab” signals Sal’s increasingly conflicted sense of Dean and their relationship as the third trip careens on across the Midwest. The Sal who reacts to Dean as “crazy Ahab” may still be the book’s central character but less as its hero and, instead, more as a locus of awareness and interactive reflection. There is another possible factor in Kerouac eliding his explicit labeling of Jack as Ishmael in the scroll while adding the characterization of Dean as Ahab in the Viking Road. In a journal entry dated November 17, 1948, Kerouac writes the following.

Real intellectual concentration in a work of art is after all only a thing in itself—an analysis, an “insight” like Proust(?)—it is not life itself, as in Dostoevsky and Shakespeare and sometimes even in Céline. (WW, 170)

Labeling Jack as Ishmael in the scroll functions intellectually, not as “life itself.” Sal’s sense that Dean might be a “crazy Ahab” driving them to destruction, though, is not an intellectual construct applied from outside the moment but instead a recognition and act of questioning from within the moment as Sal reexperiences the scene in performing it for YOU (which is also the moment of Kerouac reperforming the novel as he generates the typescript that becomes the setting copy for the Viking Road). For the narrating Sal, “that crazy Ahab” is an aspect of “life itself,” but in the scroll, the overt allusion to Melville (Ishmael) replaces participation with analysis. In the Viking Road, the overt allusion to Melville (Ahab) intensifies and complicates the moment. The differences between Jack as character and narrator in the scroll Road, Sal in the Viking Road, and Sal in “The Mexican Girl” underscore that On the Road is fiction, not autobiography or memoir with the names replaced. Kerouac’s focus was the fictional truth of his material, not its literal truth. The innovation of the scroll is not spontaneity (in the sense of Spontaneous Prose, which Kerouac had yet to develop) or the speed with Page 90 →which it was written, but the decision to narrate the novel as if recalling and telling the story to an actual other. And just as no one tells/performs a story the same way twice, each telling of On the Road is a distinctive performance. The typetalked scroll (all 120 feet of it) is the first complete performance of On the Road, but not the only performance or the only legitimate performance. The mystique associated with the tale of Kerouac writing On the Road in three weeks of inspired, confessional, spontaneous typing has enhanced interest in On the Road for half a century, but it has also contributed to a trivializing of Kerouac as a writer by casting him as an undisciplined literary naïf. It has also distorted our understanding of Spontaneous Prose by equating it with speed writing (see the next chapter), and it has contributed to On the Road being read primarily as a document of the lives of Kerouac and Cassady and their Beat-ness. If what makes On the Road matter is unvarnished revelations of what Jack and Neal really did (“Wow! ”), then the April 1951 scroll must be the version that’s all it can be because it contains scenes Kerouac later omitted or altered and details he later excised. But the novel’s power to compel more than fifty years after its publication is not so much the events in it as the awareness the events elicit, and this awareness is at points richer in the Viking Road precisely because of the changes Kerouac made to the scroll. Shortly after the long trip that concludes Part Three of the Viking Road, Neal, in the scroll version, shows Jack some snapshots, and Jack says the following.

I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot, of our actual lives, our actual

night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. Juices inform the world, children never know. (ORS, 354–55)

Jack’s doubled awareness of “the senseless nightmare road” at the time of this scene as he tells the story is infused, as well, with his awareness of how the snapshots will seem to “our children.” This elicits his sense of the difference between what adults come to know and “children never know,” intensifyingPage 91 → the pathos of the gap between the actual experience and what the snapshot evokes. In the Viking Road, the passage reads the following way.

I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, or actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance. (OR-V, 253-54)

In the Viking version “smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives” replaces the scroll’s “smooth wellordered lives.” The scroll wording characterizes the kind of “lives” the children will imagine from the photos. The phrase “stabilized-within-the-photo,” adds an almost allegorical dimension—to live within the photo would be to fulfill cultural expectations for being an adult, which neither Sal nor Dean do, and neither are stable, partly as a result of this and partly as its cause. Moreover, instead of the passage closing with Jack’s recognition of the role “Juices” play, the Viking version closes with Sal’s recognition of “emptiness” with neither beginning nor end and a final recognition driven by the disparity between the experiences and the snaps, the juxtaposition of hopes and realities, and the awareness of time’s passage which is an awareness of “ignorance” when it comes to being able to answer the passage’s implicit questions. What we now know about the typescripts of On the Road clarifies how these differences occurred. The Viking On the Road does not derive directly from the scroll or from the typescript Kerouac reports preparing from it in May 1951. Instead, it derives from a typescript he prepared several years later, perhaps as late as 1956.23 In the years between the scroll and this later typescript, Kerouac had written (though not yet published) Dr. Sax and The Subterraneans, among others, had developed Spontaneous Prose in writing Visions of Cody, and had begun exploring Buddhism. Replacing “Juices” with “endless and beginningless emptiness” reflects his explorations of Buddhism, and the phrase “stabilized-within-the-photo lives” reflects the associational freedom of Spontaneous Prose. In both the scroll and Viking versions of this passage, the impact comes not from the action portrayed but from the speaker’s awareness. And this awareness differs in the two versions. For Jack in the scroll, the snapshots evoke the intensity of “Juices,” Page 92 →their transitoriness, their cost. For Sal, the snapshots are lens and mirror glinting darkly with the “emptiness” in which human action and consciousness occur. In the scroll, Jack glimpses the cost of being human. In the Viking Road, Sal confronts the cost of consciousness. Because the Viking Road is a later performance of the novel, Sal’s awareness cannot be identical to Jack’s in the scroll, just as the Kerouac who first performed On the Road as the scroll and the Kerouac who later reperformed the novel were not identical. For one thing, when Kerouac prepared the version of On the Road that Viking actually published, Buddhism had become a factor in his worldview. For another, his sense of himself as a writer had been challenged by the multiple rejections of On the Road.24 Also, his sense of writing itself had changed precisely because of his experiments with Spontaneous Prose in the months following the scroll that developed into Visions of Cody. Sal, as a surrogate for an older Kerouac, does not reexperience and perform the events in quite the same way that Jack Duluoz, as a surrogate for the younger Kerouac, had performed them.

The Viking Road (in spite of Viking’s meddling with Kerouac’s typescript25) is not a lesser version of the “true” On the Road understood as the scroll’s 120-foot-long paragraph. Rather, the scroll is the first performance of the work. The typescript from May 1951 that Kerouac prepared as he readied On the Road for submission to Giroux and Harcourt, Brace is akin to a producer taking the tapes from a recording session and readying them for release. The typescript Kerouac later prepared in the mid-1950s, which Viking processed and published amounts to a rerecording, a revisionary take on the original performance. One implication of this is that On the Road (as the scroll) precedes Visions of Cody, which Kerouac wrote partly because of his dissatisfaction with the scroll. Yet On the Road (as the later typescript and Viking text) also follows Visions of Cody and is partly shaped by it. The concluding passage to the first chapter of the Viking Road (a passage absent from the scroll) where Sal finds that Dean reminds him “of some long-lost brother” (OR-V, 7) is, thus, an echo, not a precursor, of the passage in Cody where Jack recalls his initial impressions of Cody and concludes, “I didn’t think of Cody as a friend” (VC, 339).26 Critically, we’ve been right in wanting to argue that On the Road is a different kind of book—its writing a different kind than Capote’s. Critically, we’ve been wrong in wanting to believe that On the Road is so singular a moment of inspired confession that its language and Kerouac are so much an identity that mere writing disappears and we touch the tail of his plaid Page 93 →flannel shirt in reading. Critically, we need to consider that Kerouac was committed to writing and to writing literature (though in a different sense than “Henry James novelist”) and that the scroll was less an attempt to escape from being literary and instead an attempt to reground the literary in voice and performance rather than point of view and composing. As such, the scroll is a crucial stage in a process that, for Kerouac, did not stop with the scroll but continued through the attempts to rework the scroll in the summer and early fall of 1951, then onto the experiments with Spontaneous Prose and wild form that coalesced as Visions of Cody across the winter and spring of 1952, and then on through the subsequent performances of “The Mexican Girl” and the typescript of On the Road that Viking finally published in 1957. In typetalking On the Road in the three-week marathon of April 1951, Kerouac finally completed a version of the novel he’d been trying to write since late 1949, but the dynamic of typetalking—that of talking in writing as if telling the story from the perspective of the present moment for an actual listener—meant that subsequent iterations of the work would become, at least potentially, new performances of the materials. As such, the scroll is no more the definitive or true On the Road than the typescript Viking used to set On the Road. Indeed, the nature of typetalking—in contrast to the pragmatics of publication—implies that each performance is finished, while the work itself remains unfinished in the sense that another performance could occur—and “The Mexican Girl” is such a performance, though of a section and not the whole of the work. As the typescripts of On the Road become more available for comparative study, the differences between these performances will require, and repay, analysis. One thread will, I suggest, be driven by the need to make sense of how Kerouac’s development of Spontaneous Prose in October 1951 became a factor in the typescripts that followed the scroll. The differences also suggest that the critical task in years to come will be to understand the versions of the novel as an array of performances, each a different take on the scenes and sequence of the typetalked scroll, each authentic and viable. Doing so, it will be easier to come to terms with the fact that a number of the most celebrated passages in the Viking Road were not part of the scroll but added later and that these passages (not the sections carried forward from the scroll itself) are the units informed by “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” Page 94 →

Page 95 →

Part II: Visions of Cody Page 96 →

Page 97 →

CHAPTER 4 “Blow as Deep as You Want” in January 1973, Visions of Cody has confronted readers with a basic question: is it a cohesive, albeit experimental, work or essentially separate pieces—the literary equivalent to a sampler box of holiday chocolates. Reviewing the book for the New York Times, Aaron Latham argued for the latter. SINCE ITS PUBLICATION

“Visions of Cody” is a bizarre book with a bizarre history. When Kerouac wrote “On the Road” in 20 days on a continuous roll of paper in 1951, friends like Allen Ginsberg read it and did not much like it. Kerouac had not yet invented the legend that he never rewrote anything, so he set to work composing inserts, which he hoped would make his friends like his book better. These inserts, however, grew uncontrollably. . . . By the spring of 1952, the new sections were almost as long as the original. At some point in early 1952, Kerouac decided not to use the inserts to patch up his earlier work but to consider them a new book in and of themselves. He called this new work “Visions of Cody.” Kerouac was like a mechanic who had started out to repair a car with spare parts and had ended up building an entirely new vehicle instead. The form of the new book was no more what Jack Kerouac had set out to create than the form of “The Waste Land” was something T. S. Eliot had set out to create. It just happened, practically by accident, at least by indirection “The Waste Land” achieved its disconnected quality when Ezra Pound cut out all of Eliot’s connections; Kerouac’s new book achieved its discontinuous structure when he decided to leave out the book for which his inserts had been written. He kept the repair parts but junked the car.1

Page 98 → Visions of Cody, he concludes, should be read “in bits and pieces as if it were a book of poetry rather than a continuous narrative because it simply is not a continuous narrative.” Latham was then researching Kerouac to write a biography and had at least some access to Kerouac’s papers (then still not generally available), so his view carries some weight. He is right that Visions of Cody, other than the retelling of the events of Parts Two through Five of On the Road in the final section, mostly lacks plot in the conventional sense. And Kerouac did generate at least one section of Cody as a possible “insertion,” as he termed it, for On the Road as he explored ways to improve what he characterized (in a July 14, 1951, letter to John Clellon Holmes) as “spontaneous unartificed too-pure too-raw criticizable ‘Road.’” But Kerouac’s fall 1951 work journal shows that most of Visions of Cody was written as he searched for an approach to writing and fiction that would take him beyond the “too-raw” April 1951 scroll—not as repair parts for On the Road. Also, the initial drafts for some of the pieces in Visions of Cody show that Kerouac reworked them, in minor but telling ways, as he integrated them into the book, and the Visions of Cody typescript shows that he reordered some of the sections as he finalized the book, which suggests he was purposefully structuring it. While a few Visions of Cody “bits” did begin as “repair” work for On the Road, Kerouac, the evidence shows, combined these “bits” with units originally written for neither Road or Cody and others written specifically for Visions of Cody after he began thinking of it as a distinct project (the evidence also shows that Visions of Cody’s initial title was On the Road and that it was to replace, not supplement, the April 1951 scroll).2 Visions of Cody is a vehicle in its own right, not a box of repair parts, and it needs to considered as such to understand its implications for Kerouac’s approach to writing. Visions of Cody, though it derives from On the Road, is not subordinate to it. In June 1948, as Kerouac was completing the primary draft of The Town and the City, he expressed his desire to write “Fiction” that would be

“A ‘soulwork’ instead of a ‘novel’” yet would “have all the virtues of Melville, Dostoevsky, Céline, Wolfe, Dickens and all the poets in it (and Twain).” To do this would require finding a way to write that would “preserv[e] the big rushing tremendousness in me and in all poets” (WW, 95).3 The April 1951 On the Road scroll marks Kerouac’s decisive break with the paradigm of a novel. In it, he begins recasting writing in the image of speech, as typetalking, and using writing as a medium for recording performance rather than a medium for composing. In Visions of Cody, Kerouac further recasts writing’sPage 99 → relationship to speech in formulating Spontaneous Prose, then adapting it to perform Fiction as rushing tremendousness and achieve his goal of soulwork.4 Two documents help clarify the transition from On the Road to Visions of Cody and what Kerouac was attempting in the latter. One is the August 28, 1951, through November 25, 1951, work journal, in which Kerouac works out the conceptual groundwork for Visions of Cody’s experimental aesthetic. The other is his July 14, 1951, letter to John Clellon Holmes (who had recently completed his first novel, Go), in which Kerouac explains his desire for a more radical approach to writing than the one he’d managed in the scroll. Kerouac’s initial sense that the intense three-week effort of performing the scroll On the Road was a significant breakthrough is evident in his May 22, 1951, letter to Cassady, where he claims that he will use this new method for all his future projects and asserts that the “Book marks complete departure from Town & City and in fact from previous American Lit” (SL, 315). Two comments, though, suggest that he was already reassessing the scroll. He admits, “I don’t know how it will be received” and notes that he’d been working for “Thirty days” not simply “typing” the scroll onto sheets of paper (presumably in order submit it to Robert Giroux, the editor who had accepted The Town and the City and who was “waiting to see it”) but also “revising” it (SL, 317). Kerouac’s typing skills meant that would not have needed thirty days to type the scroll on sheets of paper. And if the revisions had been simply breaking the scroll into paragraphs and replacing actual names with fictional ones, that would have added little time to the process. He was, it seems, not just copying the scroll draft as he typed but reworking it.5 By mid-July Kerouac was considering reworkings to the scroll Road that would have gone well beyond touching up the paint job and polishing the chrome. The July 14 letter to Holmes shows that one factor was that both his agent, Rae Everitt, and close friends, Ginsberg and Lucien Carr, were insisting that the book had to be reworked to make it publishable. Another factor was Giroux’s rejection of On the Road as he had typed it up from the scroll.6 But Kerouac was also becoming dissatisfied with the novel for his own reasons. Even if On the Road as it stood had, as he put it, “telled all,” it was not yet Fiction in the fuller sense he was after. In the letter he characterizes it as “spontaneous unartificed too-pure too-raw criticizable ‘Road’” and declares he is “ready to write ‘Horn’—immediately—another big ‘creative’ construction.” The phrase “big ‘creative’ construction” apparently refers back to The Page 100 →Town and the City and probably one or more of the abandoned attempts at On the Road that preceded the scroll.7 The dichotomy here between “too-raw”—that is, as insufficiently transformed from the actual, as in not fully cooked rather than too explicit—and “creative” defines the two impulses Kerouac had been trying to unite in his work, and he returns to this dichotomy later in the letter: “The On the Road that I’ve written now is the false one from the point of view of art—and yet it’s the true one that happened.”8 The challenge is to fashion a mode of writing—and version of On the Road—that would be “true” to what “happened” (the “too-raw”), “true” to “art” (the “creative”), and “false” to neither. Another comment in the letter expresses this desire even more directly.

—when I get to be so pure you won’t be able to bear the thought of my death on a starry night (right now I’ve nothing to do with the stars, I’ve lied so far) it will be when I’ll have come to know & tell the truth (all of it in every conceivable mask) & yet digress from that to my lyric-alto knowing of this land, this huge complicated inland sea they call America . . .

For Kerouac, this would be “a ‘deep form’ bringing together of two ultimate & at-present-conflicting streaks in me.” The dialectic of “truth” (what literally “happened”) and “lyric-alto knowing” (subjective elaborations, even digressions, that would function as obbligatos to the narrative in the way a jazz player complements the vocalist’s presentation of a song’s lyrics) parallels what he terms, in his introductory note to Excerpts from Visions of Cody in 1959, “just a horizontal account of travels” (implicitly the 1951 scroll On the Road) and “a vertical, metaphysical study.”

I wanted to put my hand to an enormous paean [Visions of Cody] which would unite my vision of America with words spilled out in the modern spontaneous method. Instead of just a horizontal account of travels on the road, I wanted a vertical, metaphysical study of Cody’s character and its relationship to the general “America.”9

This formulation suggests that Kerouac’s dissatisfaction with the scroll Road in the letter to Holmes is that it seemed too simply “horizontal”—an account that “telled all” but failed to develop the richness of implication (the “vertical” and “metaphysical”). Kerouac’s desire for a way to write that would simultaneously record the Page 101 →“horizontal” and perform the “vertical, metaphysical” is what drove him, first, to attempt what Latham termed “repair parts,” then on to the more radical experiments that became Visions of Cody. His dilemma at this point was twofold. He had yet to find a way to write that would document “truth (all of it in every conceivable mask)” yet also support creative flights of lyric-alto knowing. Yet to revert to the mode of The Town and the City or the On the Road attempts preceding the scroll would be to revert to approaches he’d already found wanting. And in any case, making On the Road more creative and less raw would make it even harder to publish. In the letter to Holmes, he admits he “partially and maybe wholeheartedly agree[s]” with the criticisms of Ginsberg and the others of On the Road as typed from the scroll, but adds, “They want straight narrow easy roads.” To add lyric-alto digressions would make On the Road a fuller record of his responses to the multiple dimensions of what happened but even less straight and easy—and less publishable. Kerouac’s letter to Holmes suggests that Kerouac initially hoped to address this dilemma by adjusting content and structure, not by adding in lyric-alto knowing.10 He proposes deleting the scenes from Parts One and Two in which Sal travels by himself rather than with Dean (and using them in a “future extensive novel”). He would, then, he explains, complete On the Road with “insertions” that would “plumb Neal’s depths”—a strategy that would have placed Dean clearly at the book’s center and underscored Sal’s role as observer and narrator by reducing his role as a character in the action.11 The usual view that usual Kerouac simply typed up his experiences suggests he lacked the ability to plan such structural changes, much less assess their implications, but “All the reading” he reports he’d been doing shows that he was quite engaged with literature and literary issues. He lists Lawrence, Dickinson, Yeats, Whitman, Faulkner, Perse, Blake, and Flaubert (praising “parts” of Madame Bovary as “excellent”). He also lists (surprisingly) “Henry James’ Ambassadors,” which (not surprisingly) he finds “utterly worthless, without exaggeration,” and notes that he had been reading “many prefaces.” While he does not specify that these were James’s prefaces gathered in The Art of Fiction, the placement of “many prefaces” in the list suggests that’s the case. James’s prefaces explore the interplay of point of view, tone, style, and structure, and Kerouac’s apparent awareness of James’s analysis of these matters (perhaps another dimension of “writ[ing] according to what they told me at Columbia University”) suggests he was aware Page 102 →enough of such matters as point of view to have understood that his scenario for revising On the Road sketched in the letter to Holmes would have moved the book even closer to being a traditional realistic novel, a study of Neal/Dean, which would probably have made the novel more acceptable to Giroux. It would have simplified the task of documenting the road’s literal truth but made it even more difficult to “digress from that to my lyric-alto knowing of [. . .] America.”

In the letter to Holmes, Kerouac notes that he had already begun writing insertions for On the Road, but his admission that “the only real way” to “plumb” Cassady would involve “surrounding him with the perfect imaginary intense characters like the Imbecile, The Walking Saint & Pictorial Review Jackson” suggests that these inserts were more horizontal than vertical, more raw than creative, more truth in the documentary sense than lyricalto knowing. One reason for holding back from “plumb[ing]” Cassady through “perfect imaginary” figures, even though the letter shows him wanting to do so, is that it would bring the speaker’s subjectivity to the fore, which would conflict, to some degree, with the strategy of cutting the scenes from Parts One and Two. In any case, his sense that “This can be done later—a ‘perfect’ Neal” suggests he was already thinking ahead toward what would become Visions of Cody and that he was thinking of the insertions he was actually working on as a way to resolve the problem of how much On the Road was Sal’s story and how much Dean’s rather than a way to add lyric-alto digressions. Such cuts and insertions, at least as Kerouac thought about them in July 1951, would have widened the shoulder of the road and filled some potholes, but they would not have transformed On the Road from a novel of what happened into a “big ‘creative’ construction” with lyric-alto knowing. Perhaps most importantly, the July 14 letter shows that Kerouac at this point believed that the scroll Road had not achieved the simultaneity of horizontal and vertical, even as it shows that he had not yet fully diagnosed the problem or formulated a solution. While he clearly wanted to make On the Road more creative and less raw, he just as clearly wanted to make it more publishable. But any recasting that would give fuller play to his renewed sense of “creative soul” would make the book less publishable. Moreover, he wanted to move on to new work rather than deal with the dilemma of how and whether to revise the scroll Road. In the scroll he had hit on the strategy of talking through a surrogate of himself and using the typewriter Page 103 →as a recording device, recasting the role of the narrator and converting writing to typetalking. But in the scroll, he was still using a potentially radical approach to voice and writing to perform a relatively conventional novel—to present “just a horizontal account of travels on the road” (as he put it, implicitly referring to On the Road, in the introduction to Excerpts from Visions of Cody). In the conventional novel the full range and intimacy of the writer’s own voice isn’t possible, in part because what would be said would be too digressive, too unconcerned with what Latham termed “continuous narrative.” The mid-century norms for the novel—at least as Kerouac understood them in the summer of 1951—could not accommodate “digress[ions]” of lyric-alto knowing. Implicit in Kerouac’s July 14 letter to Holmes is a sense that he hadn’t gone far enough in On the Road. But Giroux’s rejection of the book, as well as Ginsberg’s, Everitt’s, and Carr’s criticisms, suggested he’d already gone too far. This is, I suggest, the initial context for what Kerouac was and was not doing with the insertions that Latham terms “repair parts.” In so far as he hoped to repair the car of On the Road to make it more publishable, he was actually looking to add material that would have made the novel more conventional, because what he wanted to do, to commit to lyric-alto knowing, would make the novel less conventional and less publishable. This conflict between repairing On the Road for publication and driving off into lyric-alto knowing threads through Kerouac’s fall 1951 work journal and leads to his decision to put the April 1951 Road up on blocks and to develop instead what became Visions of Cody. The first entry (written on August 28 while he was in the VA hospital with phlebitis) shows, for instance, that he considered abandoning the scroll Road to make yet another attempt at On the Road as a relatively conventional novel.

So I worked out second big ‘labour’ of my writing-work-life: the Victor Duchamp On the Road epic, which I’ll start as soon as I get home, using tried & proven system of Town & City—the ‘daily heap,’ belief, in fact reverence, humility, much solitude, walking, and now more health measures (less coffee, more tea; alcohol only before dinner, if any.) And a world-view backbone to the structure of the fiction. These Tolstoyan feelings . . . I welcome them back after almost 3 years floundering in ‘hipness’ and dissolution and indecision and ambiguity.

Page 104 →

The same entry shows that he had also been considering a potboiler, to have been titled Hip, as a way to make money to support himself while he worked on the projects that actually mattered to him, then realized he had neither the heart nor will to do so.

To make a living, though, money for rent, food, money for future needs. First, in here, I tried writing a potboiler; I said to myself “Like Faulkner I’ll write a goodnatured watered-down monogram of my style, like Sanctuary, and make a living”; I’d call it “Hip”; but I don’t have the heart for it. It may sound vain, but the act of writing seems holy to me, so much so I can’t even be a ‘hack’ in secret; I can’t put a beginning and an end onto something, which never started and never will end. Holy . . . sacred . . . to use the written word in honor of life, in defense of life against the forces of death and despair, to make old men lift their hearts a bit and women think (or cry), and young men pause before it’s too late for realizing to do them any good—why use the word for cheap illiterate vulgar fools who buy books in the mass to titillate their empty beings between vices and hypocrisies.

The problem of what to do with the scroll On the Road is behind both comments. In the August 30 entry he writes:

“On the Road” as I wrote it this last spring is still an existing work of 150,000 words that I ought to do something with—cut out, put in, sell. But again. . . . that word OUGHT. I’m being consumed by an ecstatic sense of doubt; no greater joy than perfect doubt and all those masks.

Threaded with these strategies for resolving On the Road (or veering off to write Dr. Sax, which he considers in several entries and would have been almost entirely creative and vertical in the way he was then thinking about it) are reflections that trace Kerouac’s search for a way to write without literary pretense (the too-raw), so that the writing would be truth (all of it in every conceivable mask), yet include the lyric-alto knowing of his subjective responses to the multiple aspects of truth. The fall 1951 work journal shows that Kerouac saw himself as having three options. One would be to focus on writing as a way to make a living and continue to revise On the Road for the marketplace. This might address his problem of how to support himself (even though The Town and the City Page 105 →had largely failed in this regard), but it would mean turning away from “us[ing] the written word in honor of life” and becoming—in actuality rather than ironically, as he’d put the matter in his October 6, 1950, letter to Cassady—a “redoubtable hack.” A second option would be to commit to self-discovery and self-expression in order to explore the interiority of rushing tremendousness and lyric-alto knowing, but this would mean giving up on publishing with a major house like Harcourt, Brace and would leave him broke and dependent on his mother for a place to live and food to eat. Moreover, the entries suggest that writing as if only privately and for himself was finally too solipsistic for Kerouac; it was to invite the despair of Melville writing on in isolation after the failure of MobyDick to find an audience, and it was, as well, to turn away from the example of Whitman and his hope to speak to and for the democratic you. The third option was to divide his time between writing for commercial publication and writing for self-discovery and self-expression. This offered a way to earn money yet remain committed to soulwork. But it left his two senses of what he was trying to achieve as a writer still in conflict. The journal shows Kerouac alternating between exhorting himself to shape On the Road into a commercial novel (spinning out scenarios for doing so), wanting to renounce writing for commercial publication once and for all (considering scenarios that would make On the Road even less publishable than it was), and trying to convince himself he should try to do both. Most crucially, though, the journal entries offer glimpses of the experiments that led to Visions of Cody—experiments that relate more to working out how writing might become self-discovery and selfreflection than they do to enhancing On the Road for commercial publication. That Visions of Cody remained

unpublished for more than twenty years after its completion shows that Kerouac had good reason to worry about the risk these experiments represented. Kerouac’s discussions of writing in the fall 1951 journal focus on three overlapping matters: One is how to free writing from the formal constraints dictated by the figure of the mysterious reader in order to write as if engaging an actual other, the figure of YOU, as he termed it in his October 6, 1950, letter to Cassady. Another is how to understand the differences between writing and speaking as modes of language and find a way to write in which writing would function more as speech functions. Third is how to write so that writing can be a matter of performing rather than composing. Visions Page 106 →of Cody presents Kerouac’s responses to these questions. As such, it completes the reimagining of writing and fiction initiated, but only partly realized, in On the Road. Kerouac’s development of what he initially termed “sketching,” then later labeled Spontaneous Prose (in his summary of the approach, “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”) is one key to understanding Visions of Cody. In the October 16 entry, Kerouac writes, “‘Make sketches, like painters,’ says Ed White; and this afternoon I did, of old diner and old B Movie on Sutphin Blvd” (versions of these sketches appear in part 1 of Visions of Cody, as do versions of the other sketches he mentions in the journal entries).12 And the October 26 entry underscores the importance of sketching. In it Kerouac notes that he has, that day, typed up some 1,800 words of his “main ms.” (the October 18 entry indicates that this main ms. was a version of On the Road that would have started with the scene in Visions of Cody where Cody propositions Tom Watson to teach him pool, followed by “the footballpassing scene in the Denver dusk”13). He then adds,

but wrote much more than that and much better in my scribbled secret notebooks that had better become my real work or I’m a failure—I am not satisfied with those 1800 words—the notebook sketches are greatest I’ve ever done . . . tonight I dashed off a sketch about the Bowery which is completely without sentence form and is better than the greatest of my sentences except the “heartbreaking loss” one but only because IT was something special.

Kerouac’s pleasure in sketching derives from the way it eliminated the need to subordinate lyric-alto knowing to the narrative level in what he here terms his main ms. In sketching, the writer focuses fully on what is being sketched, ignoring the horizontal dimension of narrative. Perceiving the scene and responding imaginatively to it become a single action. Writing is both the medium for recording this process and the means of enacting it, as the writer moves (as Kerouac put it in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”) from the “jewel-center” of the moment of interest out through associations triggered by the jewel-center. In sketching, the writer does not compose a representation of the scene; instead, the writer performs his attention to the scene through the details as he records them in writing. The sketch that results is literally a recording of the process of the writer engaging the scene. Instead of the writing (the result of the activity of writing) being an object that transcends the time (and Page 107 →timing) of its making so that the only dimension of time for it as written object is the historical time of its later production and circulation as printed commodity, the writing that comprises the sketch functions as a recording of the performance of its making. In conventional writing, writing is the product, the result, of having been written. In sketching, writing is both the process of writing and the record(ing) of this process. As such, sketched writing preserves the elapsing time of its making; the sketch continues to occur as the process of its writing, because it records the sequence of the writer noticing, engaging, and elaborating what is being sketched. The sketch functions less as a representation (a composed object made of writing) and more as a performance (the writing as the medium that records the process of attention). Moreover, in the process of sketching neither the sketcher’s initial subjectivity nor the objectivity of what is sketched are fixed points of perspective or stable categories. The sketcher and scene are simultaneously present to each other, and the sketcher, in enacting the scene, is in turn enacted by perceiving and projecting the scene onto the page.

Kerouac’s old diner sketch, which the October 16 journal entry indicates is from his first day of sketching, illustrates the process. Written in pencil in a small notebook it reads as follows.


There’s nothing like the old lunchcart that has the oldfashioned railroad car ceiling and sliding doors— the board where bread is cut is worn down fine as if with bread dust and a plane; the icebox is a huge brownwood thing with old fashioned pull-out handles, windows, tile walls, full of lovely pans of eggs, butter pats, piles of bacon—old lunchcarts always have a dish of sliced raw onions ready Page 108 → to go on hamburgs— Grill is ancient & dark & emits an odor which is really succulent, like you would expect from the black hide of an old ham or an old pastrami beef—The

lunchcart has stools with smooth, slickwood tops— There are wooden drawers for where you find the long loaves of sandwich bread—The countermen: either Greeks or have big red drink noses [page break] Coffee is served in white porcelain mugs—sometimes brown & cracked—An old pot with a halfinch of black fat sits on the grill, with a wire fryer (also caked) sitting in it, ready for french fries— melted fat is kept warm in an old small white [white porcelain] [as if inserted after next line was written, then erased] coffee pot,—A zinc siding behind the grill gleams from the brush of rags over fat stains—The cash register has a wooden drawer as old as the wood of a rolltop desk— Page 109 →

The newest things are the steam cabinet, the aluminum coffee urns, the floor fans—But the marble counter is ancient, cracked, marked, carved, & under it is the old wood counter of late 20’s, early 30’s, which had come to look like the bottoms of old courtroom benches only with knifemarks & scars & something suggesting decades of delicious greasy food. Ah!14

The sketch both presents an actual old diner and doesn’t. The specific scene becomes an occasion for the sketcher to engage the resonance the scene has for him through the details. The diner is ordinary, yet oddly positioned in time and social space. The performance juxtaposes the old and worn with the new(er) (“aluminum coffee urns,” etc.) and balances a delight in food that seems rooted in childhood memories with an adult awareness of economics and class (“The countermen: either Greeks or have big red drink noses”). The sketcher’s immersion in the scene (his subjectivity as opposed to his documentary awareness or objective distance from the details) is evident in the interplay of precise observation and metaphorical extension (“the board where bread is cut is worn down fine as if with bread dust”), and this immersion explains a modifier like lovely in “full of lovely pans of eggs, butter pats, piles of bacon.” The modifier here does not add to the precision of what is being observed; rather, it registers the sketcher’s reaction—that is, Kerouac is not here aiming at imagism and failing—and the interplay of tonalities are as much the action of the passage as the observing of details (as such, “lovely” has more to do with “sliced raw” than with “pans of eggs”). The emotional participation (the delight in food, the sense of being an outsider, the sense of things worn and discarded, including the people in the scene, and the sketcher’s sense that he is both linked to and severed from Page 110 →them) builds to, and gives impact to, the sketch’s final gesture—“something suggesting decades of delicious greasy food. Ah!”—which is, appropriately, an emotional action rather than a recognition or claim or climactic image. Sketching offered Kerouac a way to foreground his lyric-alto knowing stake in his material. In sketching, interacting with the scene being sketched as it is being sketched is what matters. Sketching is not a relating of the known; it is discovering one’s response to the material in the moment of writing. It is a tactic for using an actual scene (and eventually, as Kerouac pushed his sketching further, a remembered scene or imagined one) to initiate

the interiority of rushing tremendousness, then using the conceit that one is simply sketching (without concern for the mysterious reader or a surrogate YOU and without concern for structuring a novel, a fiction) to allow I, through the mediation of the eye, to use the occasion to talk to, and onto, the notebook page as one sees, responds, and discovers the range of one’s response to what is being sketched. In sketching, lyric-alto knowing is “tell[ing] the truth (all of it in every conceivable mask)” rather than a digress(ion), and this is at least partly the case because sketching, as Kerouac first conceived it, had no relationship to the goal of writing a book. For the sketching writer the mysterious reader does not exist; the sketcher is in dialogue with himself. As such, sketching is a self-reflexive performance, the eye of the I (and I of the eye) engaging and speaking the material to the ear of the I as if the perceiving self is in dialogue with the responding and imagining self—a loop that needn’t include a mysterious reader. Kerouac’s comments on sketching in the fall 1951 journal and his sketches from October and November 1951 make it clear that he never thought of them as insertions for On the Road, and the journal shows that he initially did not think sketching could be used to write fiction. Sketches were, as he put it in the October 26 entry, like a painter’s informal “street sketches in pencil,” done for his own satisfaction and separate from what he terms, in the entry, as his “main ms.,” which he apparently sees as equivalent to the painter’s “canvas oil job,” done partly for art’s sake but also to fulfill the expectations of others (whether the market, a specific patron, or the preferences of a specific gallery). The question becomes, then, how Kerouac managed to reconceive sketching so that it could be a method for Fiction and books, not simply a private exercise. The key to sketching’s importance for Kerouac as he developed Visions of Cody was not simply its informality, or entirely its lack of concern with Page 111 →the audience so that the sketcher could focus on the material being sketched, or solely the discovery that ordinary things could become the jewel-center for a spiral of associations. These mattered, but what mattered more is that sketching, driven by the writer’s engagement with his material at, and for, the moment of sketching is performance. In composing a fictional system, in using writing to compose a written object in the conventional sense, the writer erases his explicit stake in what is being written (the writer is implicitly the source of the fictional counters and structures but the art of fiction in the Jamesian sense is, in part, to screen this from the reader). In sketching, the sketcher’s presence in the process is explicitly and overtly central to the sketch because the sketch records the sketcher’s evolving stake in the material. That is, the sketch, enacts the seeing of what is being sketched; it also enacts the engaging of what is being sketched (“greasy food. Ah!”). Kerouac’s initial frustrations with the scroll On the Road—that it “telled all” but lacked lyric-alto knowing—and his uncertainty over what to do with it during the summer and early fall of 1951 suggest that he still believed that On the Road needed to be converted more fully into a composed fictional system and had not yet recognized the possibility that performing writing could be a viable method for writing for readers rather than only a way to write for himself. The October and November 1951 sketches were one factor in Kerouac setting aside the goal of reworking On the Road as derived from the scroll and committing instead to what we now know as Visions of Cody. The fall 1951 journal documents two others, which Kerouac initially explored separately from sketching but later blended with it as he conceptualized the wild form of Visions of Cody. What these factors and sketching share is that all three derive from Kerouac’s growing sense that the kind of Fiction he wanted to write needed not only to derive from performance, but be performance, and that writing should be a recording medium rather than a compositional medium. Kerouac identifies one factor in the October 8 journal entry—“a great discovery of my life.” The occasion was hearing the jazz alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, then early in his career, play at Birdland. Kerouac characterizes Konitz’s ideas as “more white . . . more metaphysical” than the “Master” Charlie Parker. In Konitz, Kerouac senses someone who is compositionally aware (as if “some Buxtehudian scholar of the dank gloomy cathedrals practicing and practicing endlessly in the bosom of the great formal school in which he is not only an apprentice but a startling innovator”), yet also “in the first flush of his wild, undisciplined, crazily creative artistic youth.” For Page 112 →Kerouac, the discovery occurs as Konitz plays “I’ll Remember April” as he’d “never heard it conceived and as he [Konitz] never played again last night.” For Kerouac, who believed he was “listening to a fellow who’s doing exactly what I am . . . but an alto,” Konitz

foresaw the tune straight through, took complete command of it, let measures of it carry it along on its own impetus while he busied himself within it with his own conception of it—a conception so profoundly interior that only the keenest ear could tell what he was doing, and this didn’t mean David Diamond [the American composer who was a friend of Kerouac’s and was apparently with him at Birdland that evening], it meant Cecil Payne [the baritone sax player who was playing with Konitz that evening and who, Kerouac notes, listens to the solo in “in amazement”] (and me) (and others in the club)—beautiful, sad, long phrases, in fact long sentences that leave you hanging in wonder what’s going on and suddenly he reveals the solution and when he does, with the same vast foresight that he brings to a tune you now understand it with vast hindsight—a hindsight you wouldn’t have gotten without his foresight, and a hindsight that at last gives you the complete university education in the harmonic structure of ‘I[‘ll] Remember April,’ a beautiful and American structure to boot. And at a moment of his saddest, seemingly lost note which became found in the conclusion of the “sentence” I suddenly realized “He is doing exactly what I’m doing with a sentence like ‘hints of heartbreaking loss that filtered in with chinks of October daylight from the street’ and here I’ve been worried all along that people wouldn’t understand this new work of mine because next to Daphne du Maurier it is almost completely unintelligible (for instance)!—does LEE KONITZ worry about VAUGHAN MONROE? Let the dead and the dumb bury the dead and the dumb!

Significantly, Kerouac believes that Diamond, a noted composer, does not understand what Konitz is doing, while Payne, an improvising jazz musician, does. This suggests that Konitz’s ability to improvise is what excites Kerouac. But what matters more is that Konitz, in playing the tune, goes beyond the dichotomy of composing and improvising, precisely because he knows the song’s structure and harmonic system (a “complete university education” in it) so well that he can use the tune not as something to express (performing the composition), nor as something to elaborate by generating variations (improvising from the composed elements), but as a means to engage and enact his own interiority. In the performance, as Kerouac perceivesPage 113 → it, Konitz plays himself through the music rather than playing the music through himself and thereby manages something more existentially real than the composition he draws on and deeper than improvisatory elaboration. Moreover, through engaging his material with such depth of knowledge and belief in his artistic power, Konitz is able to enact, not merely to comment on, “rushing interiority” so that some in the club “could tell what he was doing” and respond. Kerouac finds in Konitz’s “I’ll Remember April” a validation of writing as process and performance and an alternative to writing solipsistically for one’s self (the danger in sketching as he first practiced it) or writing to meet the expectations of the mysterious reader (which threatens to reduce expression into product). The other option is to write for the few, like himself and Payne, who are able to hear and to not worry that people like Diamond (and Giroux) will fail to hear, in part because their formal, academic training makes it difficult for them to realize that what matters is not the materials of the art but how the artist, engaging the materials, enacts “a conception so profoundly interior that only the keenest ear could tell.”

Do musicians and hip people and intelligent people run to hear Vaughan Monroe when they want to find out what’s the latest development in American jazz or American music?—No, they run to hear Lee Konitz. Does Lee Konitz make a living playing these loomings of the monastic school for his peers and confrères?—no, he makes his living some other way [ . . . .] Does Konitz try to tone down his imagination to make his music more understandable to the masses?—he’s not playing for the masses, he’s playing for musicians and listeners in the great up-going formal school, and he knows, as much as Bach or Beethoven knew, that the masses or at least masses of listeners would catch up and listen in the future and find their souls transformed, as his is, thereby: just as James Joyce knew that his ULYSSES was but a prophetic image of styles of the soul to come, not a puzzle or any of that nonsense. Does Lee Konitz listen to the advice of well-meaning friends who say “It’s all in the heart,

play with your heart, when you do that you can even play with—well not Vaughan Monroe but say Woody Herman—and it’ll be great!”—No, Lee Konitz prefers to play alone, which is the same thing as playing with Tristano, that is, interior music, the unspeakable visions of the individual (again) rather than tone down his mad vision in the name of “heart” or “great” or whatever shibboleths his well-meaning friends have; or like John Holmes & Giroux telling me where my greatest power lies, whether they say “heart” or “simple” (dig that?—a simple heart!) Page 114 →when all the time I have an unspeakable, mad & beauteous vision for which I need mind more than heart (but not much more) to bring it out and nothing “simple” about it at all; like people in Ireland telling James Joyce to concentrate on Irish Naturalism, or in America telling Wolfe to concentrate on the “really fine & worthwhile stories like you see in Good Housekeeping,” or so on endlessly and now, talking about myself, the point half disappears—In any case my great decision I noted down in pencil in the gloom of Birdland at 2 A.M.—“Now—BLOW AS DEEP AS YOU WANT TO BLOW.”

For Kerouac, Konitz’s “I’ll Remember April” performance transcends the dichotomy of cool and raw, studied and intuitive, composed and improvised. It points to the possibilities of performing his stake in his material without regard for the expectations of the mysterious reader,15 thereby validating performance as a method, and offering a basis for rejecting the advice of Holmes and Giroux that he simplify On the Road. While Kerouac’s comment in the October 13 work journal entry—“now what am I going to do about that Lee Konitz business!”—underscores the importance of hearing Konitz, it also shows that he was initially unsure how to adapt his sense of Konitz’s approach for his writing. For one thing, blowing “DEEP” in a nightclub for those able to hear is a different matter than writing “DEEP” at one’s desk as if performing for future (absent) readers one hopes will eventually hear the writing by reading it. More crucially, writing and performing music are not quite parallel. The more precise analogy to writing would be writing music, not performing it. Both writing in writing and writing music involve notating in visual symbols, and these two procedures can each function in two ways. They can function as transcription systems (visual encoding used to create approximate representations of actual sounds); and they can each function as expressive systems in their own right, in which the writing and the music is processed visually—that is, by reading (highly literate musicians such as composers and conductors can read a score and mentally hear the composed elements without having to hear them played; this level of literacy is much more common among those who read writing). Both writing in writing and writing music not only enable the planful construction that we term composing, they encourage it. The more direct parallel to what Kerouac believes Konitz manages in his Birdland performance would be between playing music and playing language, since both involve performing for and to YOU—and such performingPage 115 → in language is usually more a matter of speaking than writing. If Konitz’s performance authorized Kerouac to “BLOW AS DEEP AS YOU WANT TO BLOW,” it did not offer a way to recast writing as a medium so that he could play in writing as an improvisational musician would rather than compose as a composer (such as Diamond) would. Kerouac’s attempt to sort this out in the October 13 entry echoes his sense, in his June 18, 1948, journal entry, that he might be able to “preserv[e] the big rushing tremendousness in me and in all poets” by “spill[ing]” his “visions into a [wire-recorder] microphone” (WW, 95). The entry begins,

Jerry Newman said I would be great if I wrote like I talked [. . .] (not only Jerry but Carl Sandburg said that to me—in effect, that is, for Sandburg said ‘Sometimes you get literary, otherwise you’re all right, just don’t be literary, there’s no need for it, don’t worry about it, ha ha ha hee hee hee!’ and he laughed and put his arm around me, real eccentrically (!)—s’ fact.

The juxtaposition of to write “like I talked” and not “be literary” suggests that Kerouac is here considering that

writing as he “talked” might free him from writing in a self-consciously literary manner, and a comment later in the entry also suggests that this would involve shifting from writing as composing to writing as performance.

It’s recording and explaining the visions and memories that rush across my brain, in narrative or otherwise logically connected sections—such as dissertative— . . . what I had during a long happy walk. If I had a portable tape-recorder everything would be okay . . . just walk & talk.

Kerouac would not fully resolve the implications of wanting to write as he talked until the “Imitation of the Tape” section of Visions of Cody sometime early in 1952 (see the next chapter), but the October 13 entry shows him beginning to recognize that talking is a closer equivalent to Konitz’s practice than writing, and this seems to drive the desperation at the end of the entry, as he reacts to the risks of turning away from writing fiction of the sort that an editor like Giroux might accept for publication.

For the life and death of me I can’t write ON THE ROAD . . . and I have to, I have to, or I’ll just die off for God’s sake. To hell with it—I’m going to write something else [. . . .] but enough rules & childish talk. I am going to go on with Page 116 →what I started Sept. 16—God help me—the objective Dean ROAD—— He’s killing me!—Good Christ and the trouble is there’s nobody can help me or give advice!—how much longer. No I won’t do the objective Dean ROAD.

That the On the Road in this entry is the “objective Dean ROAD” suggests that Kerouac is referring to his ongoing dilemma of what to do with the scroll Road, and if so, working to develop it would be to turn away from the direction represented by Konitz’s “I’ll Remember April” and from the possibility of writing as “I talked.” This dilemma over whether to complete On the Road as a relatively conventional novel or to “BLOW AS DEEP” as he wanted was the immediate context for Kerouac’s initial sketches. In the October 16 entry, where he announces sketching, he adds, “Well by God I resumed writing today!” While the obvious analogy for sketching is visual art, not music, the simultaneity of the desire to perform in language á la Konitz, to practice writing as a mode of talking, and to sketch are three facets of a single impulse—to reconceptualize writing and fiction in the image of speaking so that writing would operate as a medium for recording performance rather than a notational system for composing. This underscores the importance of Kerouac’s distinction between a painter’s “street sketches in pencil” and “his canvas oil job.” The “canvas oil job” is not only a matter of working to satisfy market norms but also producing something through deliberate construction. It is compositional; it is akin to writing in the usual sense of the term. The “street sketches in pencil” are, however, not only less formal and generated quickly in the direct presence of what is being sketched, they are performance and more akin to talking. They are a process where the sketcher talks to—and with—himself through the material that occasions the sketch as he performs that material onto paper. This is, also, to suggest that for Kerouac sketching was equivalent to Konitz’s “I’ll Remember April” in the way the external structure—in this case a scene rather than a composed song—enables the sketching writer to perform his own interiority through the scene. Sketching is full, unconstrained attention to its occasion; it is “BLOW[ing] AS DEEP” as one wants without concern for convention, market, or mysterious reader. Two days after the first sketches, Kerouac announces, “I tell you today, Oct. 18, 1951, ON THE ROAD* took off from the ground.”16 The entry shows that he was still thinking of this version as essentially a fictional narrative

Page 117 →(perhaps even what Latham terms continuous narrative) and had yet to realize how experimental (and lacking in conventional narrative) the Cody version of On the Road would become. Moreover, the October 26 entry shows that he was still thinking of the sketches as something separate from Visions of Cody, even though they would become its opening section. Still, the way Kerouac characterizes this new attempt reflects the impact of Konitz’s “I’ll Remember April” performance, the exhortation of Newman to write as he talked, and the sense of writing as performance implicit in sketching.

Wrote the great initial Dean Pomeray speech to Tom Watson & the football-passing scene in the Denver dusk & “great riot of October joy”—a tremendous afternoon of writing. My new method is ACTING OUT what I write . . . SPEAKING OUT . . . (alone in the house)—and now of course don’t need wire recorder no more!!—thank God—17

While Kerouac stops short of characterizing writing as a system for recording speech, in his “new method,” ACTING (imaginatively participating in the scene) occasions performing the scene as SPEAKING, which eliminates the need for a wire or tape recorder. Writing, it seems, is a medium for recording ACTING and SPEAKING rather than a system for composing. That Kerouac capitalizes “ACTING OUT” and “SPEAKING OUT” but not “write” also suggests that ACTING and SPEAKING are the actual creating, while writing, recording them, is subordinate. Kerouac’s comments in this entry mark a further shift in his sense of narrative. Instead of narrative being primarily the use of fictional counters to present the horizontal of what happened, or could have, narrative becomes something to be enacted—to be performed and recorded rather than composed. Acting here is parallel to Method acting (in the October 26 entry, Kerouac notes, “Mr. Stanislavski’s advice. . . love the art in yourself”); the performing of narrative becomes inner discovery—or at least draws on what one finds in probing the self. This suggests that Kerouac, in the foot-ball scene, is not simply composing a representation of the action. Instead, he is intertwining the imagined October moment with the actual October of writing it, and intertwining these in turn with memories of playing foot-ball (the boyhood camaraderie and dusks that were part of those experiences). ACTING OUT the scene merges these frames into a single frame—the SPEAKING OUT of what one recovers, projects, and transforms Page 118 →through ACTING OUT, which is stored in and as writing. In this new method, the exteriority of narrative action and the interiority of subjective engagement are becoming facets of a single process and the binary of “telled all” and lyric-alto knowing partly resolved. If sketching is in some sense purely lyric-alto knowing without regard for narrative, this new method for narrative (which Kerouac marks as the point of origin for Visions of Cody in the October 18 entry) paves the way for him to subsume narrative and digression, horizontal and vertical, into a single process—one which casts the writer as a performer rather than a composer. In this new method, the scene being narrated becomes both the occasion and the impetus for what Kerouac terms, in describing Konitz’s performance, “interior music, the unspeakable visions of the individual.” The elements of the situation and the action to occur become the equivalent of the song’s structure and harmonic system. The result is a performance of the self, but not in a directly autobiographical sense—as the scene in Visions of Cody that immediately follows the “football-passing scene in the Denver dusk” illustrates. Cody and “the other fellows (Tom Watson, Slim Buckle, Earl Johnson)” (VC, 71) come across “A whole bunch of sad and curious people and half morose” who are “kick[ing] around the weeds in the ordinary city debris of a field off East Colfax Avenue, Denver, October 1942, with semi-disgruntled expression that said ‘There’s something here anyway’” (VC, 70). The catalogue that follows derives from one of the October 1951 sketches from a notebook (the pages approximately 2.5 by 6 inches) Kerouac later labeled “Visions of Cody” but originally titled:

ON THE ROAD OCT. 1951 A Modern Novel

Following a brief note about drinking and the figure of the “Shroudy Stranger,” Kerouac notes:

Now Blow as deep as You want to blow

The sketch, in pencil and two pages long, follows this exhortation:

Page 119 → Crap in Weeds Old map, Cashmere soap paper, bottom glass of a broken bottle, old used-out flashlight battery, leaf, torn small pages of news- (saw ad, [ ? ] it[?] off) paper, nameless cardboards, nameless mats of hay, light bulb cardboards, old Spearmint gum wrapper, ice cream box cover, old paper bag, weeds with little bunched lavender shoots & Rousseaulike but October rusted leaves– old cellophane—old bus transfer ticket, the

strange corrugated cardboard from egg crates, a rock, pieces of brown beerbottle glass, old Philip Morris flattened pack—the roots of weeds just described one purple borscht color & leave the matted filthy earth like tormented dog cocks leave the sac—sticks– coffee container– & an empty pint bottle of 4-Star brand California sherry drunk by the brakeman on a night when things were less grim.18

Page 120 → In typing this sketch for Visions of Cody Kerouac ran the phrases (at least partly imposed by the narrowness of the notebook pages) as prose but preserved the original wording in almost all details (the most significant adjustment is to the final two lines, where “drunk by the brakeman on a / night when things were less grim” becomes “drunk by an old wino of the road when things were less grim.”) The notebook version of the catalogue, which Kerouac apparently “sketched” while observing the actual scene, establishes this as Kerouac’s experience, not Cassady’s somehow reported to Kerouac or something Kerouac invented for Cody. The notebook establishes that the scene occurred in New York in October 1951, not Denver in October 1942. The significance of this for Kerouac’s new method becomes clearer in the context of the October 13 work journal entry where he mentions Jerry Newman advising him to write like he “talked.” After lamenting, “If I had a portable tape-recorder everything would be okay . . . just walk and talk,” he adds the following.

Tonight I came upon a crowd in a field, with a cop in the middle, and a bloody hunk of human flesh

in the weeds, apparently a miscarried baby dumped there, with a readleaf tree nearby framing a blue dusk moon. How strange—And wild little pickanninies screaming with glee, uncontrollably happy, outside a hardware store on Sutphin blvd.—The things I know don’t last long anymore. They jump out of my head, I drink too much now . . . For the life and death of me I can’t write ON THE ROAD . . . and I have to, I have to, or I’ll just die off for God’s sake.

In Visions of Cody, the catalogue of “Crap in weeds” leads immediately to “What actually had happened a miscarriage was discovered by some children in the field” (VC, 70), and this triggers a meditation on sexuality and mortality, which concludes, “Thus Cody ponders. Whatever he says (in the tragic dusk of this field, bareheaded), he says nothing now—” (VC, 71).19 The scene with the miscarriage is probably not the same scene as “Crap in Weeds.” The latter seems a daytime scene, and it’s unlikely that Kerouac would have pulled out his notebook to catalogue the “Crap” as he stood in a crowd confronted with “a miscarried baby dumped there.” The scene in Visions of Cody is, then, an amalgam of moments, not a single moment. Moreover, Kerouac casts the material as Cody’s experience, not his own (as if Jack in narrating the scene is retelling something Cody has told him). In a sense Kerouac is merely doing what all fiction writers do: drawing on their Page 121 →own experience to construct what they write for their characters. But the way Kerouac uses the details of the “Crap in Weeds” sketch to intensify the reader’s, and his own, awareness of the actual setting for the miscarried fetus (details probably not visible in the dark) drives a meditation that, while ostensibly Cody’s interior musings, is actually Kerouac exploring his reactions through the mediation of his character. In the scene, Kerouac does not use his own experiences to create Cody; he creates Cody (out of his impressions of Cassady, bits of Cassady’s history, and himself) to engage his own experience through Cody, much as Konitz (as Kerouac understood it) had engaged and performed his interiority through “I’ll Remember April.” In this scene, Cody and his buddies encountering the milling crowd are the material to be performed, and Kerouac performs his own interiority through the externalized figure of Cody. Precisely when Kerouac wrote (i.e., performed in writing) the scene where Cody and his football buddies encounter the miscarriage is unclear, but the November 14 journal entry offers a further gloss on how he probably wrote it. The entry begins with Kerouac noting that he’s “on the verge of some kind of crazy discovery” that will either “make me great” or mark the failure of the experiments he’d been attempting since the scroll.

The system of writing I use when sketching is tranced fixation upon an object before me, “dreaming on it” expresses it exactly; now I’m about to try the most dangerous experiment of my life, the same tranced unconscious fixation upon the object which will now be the successive chronological visions of Neal, in other words, I’ll decide ahead of time generally where he’s at, with who, what doing, and dream on it. As in the sketches, as in all portraitures, present tense.

Kerouac, here, sets himself the task of writing Fiction by sketching. That is, he proposes erasing the distinction between sketching (something done for himself) and main ms. (something done for the reader), which is to say that he proposes writing narrative as a series of performances, something he’d been edging toward from the initial experiments in trying to write his confession through writing letters to Cassady in late December 1950. That Kerouac recognized how much sketching narrative would further compromise publishing his work is clear in his final comment before he breaks off the entry to commence the experiment: “It’s 4 A.M. in the morning and I am about to try the experiment and I’m scared.” Page 122 →

The continuation of the entry, after the experiment, does not identify the scene Kerouac had just written but records his reaction.

IT WORKED—but I would have written it in huge letters if I was positive it would work when the time comes for dialog, for voices of others. Generally speaking, it works, and I can report here, as if I was an inventor at his peak, that I’ve gone still another greater step beyond the fruits of the hospital discoveries . . . and I knew this was so, because I couldn’t sleep the night I first realized it, Oct. 25, the day I wrote the Bowery sketch from memory [see VC, 6–8, for the passage Kerouac probably refers to here], realizing that I was in myself revolutionizing writing by removing literary & that curious “literary-grammatical” inhibition from its moment of inception, removing most of all, of course, the obstacles that came from my own personal stupidity which is still with me but temporarily under control.

Even though Kerouac admits that he is not yet sure how to use this approach for dialogue between figures within the fiction (as opposed to his own implicit dialogue with the fiction), he clearly believes he has just demonstrated that it is possible to sketch narrative by performing it rather than compose it. This not only reduces the conflict between his desire to sketch and his need to work on his main ms., it also alters what he can address in the main ms. In the aforementioned passage, the phrase “temporarily under control” is followed by “(And someday must tell the strangest tale of tonight’s discovery which is actually going to influence my entire life and yet I’m not excited and why should I be—the scatalogical block I had, the fear of ‘soiling’ bound notebooks no matter how small.).” Whether or not this means that the sketched scene is the one where Cody comes upon the crowd and the miscarriage in the weeds, the strategy Kerouac has found provided a way to remove obstacles (whether the expected rhetoric of literary fiction, conventional grammar, or “personal stupidity”) and makes possible the passage where he meditates, through Cody, on the “miscarried whatnot.”

But now: what a forlorn thing it is and frightening that the nameless soul (the thing created by the terribleness of a womb which when it does halfway work or even complete work takes the melted marble of a man’s sperm which is a kind of acceptable substance, say in a bottle, and transforms it by means of the work of some heinous secret egg into a large bulky piece of decayable meat–) that this nameless little would-have-been lay, spilling out of that grocer’s bag, grocer’s Page 123 →wrapping, under a tree that by dry Autumn had been turned almost the same shade of red, turned thus instead of by wet and secret wombs—Girls are frightening when you see them under these circumstances because there seems to be a kind of insistence on their part to look you in the eye to find out that personal thing about you which is probably the thing that you expect and burn and kill to find in them when you think of penetrating their thighs—that secret wetness of the woman is as unknown to you as your eyes are to her when they’re confronted by a miscarried whatnot in a field under dark and mortal skies—Thus Cody ponders. Whatever he says (in the tragic dusk of this field, bareheaded), he says nothing now—(VC, 71)

While this passage seemingly justifies Latham’s claim that Visions of Cody is “bits and pieces,” not “a continuous narrative,” what it actually illustrates is how imagined and recalled bits of narrative generate reflective responses and how these responses in turn elicit further bits of imagined and recalled narrative. That is, the scene enacts the horizontal and the vertical in tandem, so that lyric-alto knowing is integral to the fiction rather than outside it or opposed to it. While Visions of Cody lacks a single arc of action, a conventional plot, its bits are interrelated, not disconnected pieces.

By mid-November, Kerouac had, the journal entries show, committed fully to sketching as the method for writing works of fiction (not just independent pieces for himself). They also show that he had determined to write a sketched version of On the Road (i.e., Visions of Cody) but was still worried that this would undercut his ability to publish his work and earn money from it. In the November 15 entry, he asserts, “From now on when I say ‘write’ I therefore mean ‘sketch,’” but two days later he was debating whether to finish what he terms the “Dean road first” (i.e., finish reworking the April scroll) or to “go to sea.” The pairing suggests that he saw revising the scroll at this point as, in part, a way to make enough money to be able to focus on writing Visions of Cody.

Goddamit I want to use the Proustian method of recollection and amazement but as I go along in life, not after, so therefore why don’t I allow myself to write about Neal and using his real name in my own private scribble book for my own joy!—doesn’t my own work & joy belong to me any more? IF I DON’T DO THIS, I LIE—Tonite’s “work” consisted of nothing but expositions about “Dean” for the “reader” [squiggled line, then a sentence in French, with Kerouac’s Page 124 →translation in square brackets following: Here’s what I wrote—“Of course Dean immediately conned the whole gang, Bill Johnson who was the central golden boy before him, Al Buckle the real pillar . . .”—what mincing camping crap]—and I have a real tragic actual Neal in my thoughts all the time that I repress for this kind of coal, here I am with a real mind & won’t use it. If I can’t begin tonight I simply never will—that’s all. The real, the real, afraid of the real—Oh Jesus forgive me—Teach me to write “for your own future reference”—If I were in Istanbul tonight wouldn’t it be best to fill an entire notebook with the things that I see in front of me, & with my visions of what I see plus whatever haunted hangup was underway (say my relation to ship or whatnot) instead of . . . some dumb story or other. The story is the echo chamber of my own brain maybe . . . let me tell the story of right now for instance . . . but not now . . . but if I do, completely, I might get to Neal via the honest way. Oh help me!–

Six days later, Kerouac wrote a long letter to Cassady (incorporated into Visions of Cody as the conclusion of part 1) announcing that he was coming to San Francisco. When Kerouac left for San Francisco, where he lived with Neal Cassady for the rest of the winter and through the spring of 1952, he already had, the work journal shows, initial drafts of all or nearly all of the sketches and scenes later organized into parts 1 and 2 of Visions of Cody. The pool-hall scene, apparently written on September 18, that opens part 2 (VC, 47–56), seems the earliest of the pieces and is probably the only one drafted for possible use as insertion for the scroll Road. The rest of parts 1 and 2 dates from early October through late November, some of it initially generated as notebook sketches that Kerouac later sequenced and adapted as he put the book together (presumably in spring 1952 while in San Francisco living with Cassady); some of it narrative bits about Cody’s boyhood in Denver drawn from the main ms. that was, for a time, to replace the April 1951 scroll; and some of it sketches and sketched narrative written after Kerouac determined that he would combine the initial sketches with scenes done for the main ms., then use sketching to write the rest of the Cody version of On the Road. Kerouac’s uncertainty about what to do with the scroll On the Road and the newly written material as he made the trip west to San Francisco was, clearly, partly economic. It was also, in spite of the breakthrough sketching represented, still partly conceptual as well. How to invent “dialog, for voices of others” in sketching was, as he recognized in the November 14 entry, one Page 125 →challenge, since this seemed to require considering the eventual (mysterious) reader in a way that sketching a physical scene or memory need not. As such, dialogue seemed to require composing, not performance. The other challenge was how to organize the individual sketched performances into the larger whole of a book, a work of Fiction. Selecting and arranging sketches, like composing dialogue, required thinking of how design would function for the reader. Kerouac’s sense that the “what happened next” should derive from the writer’s engagement in the material (not the reader’s expectation) is implicit in the first of two journal entries for November 15: “The secret of ‘what happened next’ is not a narrative secret but

merely what the teller genuinely hung-uply wants to explain & unfold next about the subject he’s on, whether it’s action or a turd.” The November 16 entry shows his sense that he could not use plot action to structure what he was attempting in Visions of Cody.

Made important decision about the Neal book [i.e., the Visions of Cody version of On the Road]—no false action, just visions of what I know he did, NO TIME, NO CHRONOLOGY, composing willynilly, as Holmes says, a book surpassing the problem of time by itself being full of the roar of Time (not his words.)—

To erase “TIME” to replace it with “Time” might seem oxymoronic. However, Kerouac is recognizing a crucial implication of his sketching (i.e., Spontaneous Prose) aesthetic: That conventional plotting (constructed sequences of action) represents time for the reader and that represented time cannot be actual time, because in such an approach neither writer nor reader engage actual time (i.e., the elapsing of diachronic time, which Kittler terms “data flow”). The written work is a systematized structure of words, but its relationship to actual, elapsing time, is structural and symbolic rather than a direct correspondence between the act of writing as time (time within and through the writing) and the act of reading (as a process in time). Represented time cannot be actual time for either the writer or reader because neither is acting within it.20 As such, represented time is disconnected not only from the actual unfolding of time that the plot purports to enact (but only represents) but also from the actual unfolding of the time of the composing (both in the sense of when and in the sense of how long). From one aesthetic perspective (the typical critical perspective?), represented time is, thus, doubly redeemed—saved from the mere actuality of its production and raised above the mere actuality of events Page 126 →within the flow of actual time. From Kerouac’s perspective, as he discovered his way into the Cody version of On the Road, represented or constructed time was, instead, doubly false. To sketch, the sketching writer had to operate within time and enact it, and the writing of the sketch had to record that process directly, not convert it to a symbolic system. Rather than represent time (i.e., replace it), sketching records time (the timing and elapsing of time during the performance of its making) in and through writing. To erase the constructed TIME of CHRONOLOGY (either invented or recalled from events) requires performing within time rather than composing time, so that the sketch can operate as if actual time. This, in turn, places the sketching writer, the sketch as a recording of its sketching, and the reader of/listener to the sketch within “the roar of Time.” In this entry, Kerouac recognizes that his experiments of the fall involve a different sense of what writing should be than the scroll On the Road. He also recognizes a key unsolved problem: how to combine sketched performances (each relatively brief and rooted in the sketcher’s immediate interest in the material, not the sketch’s later function in the set that would be the book) into a work of Fiction without falsifying the performance by replacing the actuality of time with a structure symbolizing time. In the journal’s last entry Kerouac clearly committed to adapting sketching to create a new On the Road (i.e., Visions of Cody) that would be the “roar of Time.”

Something that you feel will find its own form. That’s all there is to it. So, after a 1½ mile walk, I started on the redbrick wall behind the neons to prove this & begin my-life-alone-in-America: I’m lost, but my work is found. Last night there was a face in my window, saying “Write what you want.” I thought it was Faulkner, I think it was really Dr. Sax. I’m going to write over 3000 words a day like this and see what I have at Xmas. So the growing peace, and the most beautiful visions of life that began three months ago & which were great enough for a Remembrance 10,000,000 words long, the peace has led to mind filled with work and a soul fortified with the knowledge of the inevitability of loss—and so goodbye sweet journal, adieu calm book, may the best

hearts find you.

Whatever the hesitations, shifts in terms, second thoughts, and temporary changes in direction it contains, Kerouac’s fall 1951 work journal establishes that he developed sketching out of his dissatisfaction with the April 1951 Page 127 →scroll version of On the Road, that he initially thought of sketching as a practice separate from the fiction he was trying to write and the problem of what to do with On the Road, but that he then committed himself as the fall went on—partly in response to what he took to be Konitz’s approach in performing “I’ll Remember April,” partly in response to the advice from Newman that he write like he talked, and partly from his experiments with sketching—to working out a mode of fiction in which he would generate the material for the book by performing in writing (sketching) rather than composing in writing. But if this final entry indicates what Kerouac wanted Cody to be, it also suggests he had yet to determine how to make it happen. His challenge was not simply to find a way to write so that the writing would function for the reader as action in time rather than an object outside of time, but how to plan such writing and organize it for an extended work of Fiction without falsifying the process. In the initial sketches from fall 1951, as contextualized by his fall 1951 work journal and the other manuscript material from the period, sketching provided a procedure for writing but not a procedure for constructing sketches into an extended work of Fiction. It pointed toward a work of fiction that would be soulwork but did not offer a route for getting there. Sketching resolved the problem of the mysterious reader for individual sketches, but the mysterious reader was still a problem when it came to organizing a book. The material Kerouac gathered as part 3 of Visions of Cody and the way he, in the spring of 1952, wove together the Visions of Cody typescript, reflect the writerly road he discovered as he extended the logic of sketching into the more comprehensive practice of Spontaneous Prose across the early months of 1952.

Page 128 →

CHAPTER 5 “Dead Eye Dick Black Dan” a work journal for December 1951 through early May 1952, as he evolved his fall experiments into Visions of Cody, its whereabouts are unknown. But he later recalled that he wrote Visions of Cody, IF KEROUAC KEPT

from October, 1951 to May, 1952, beginning in Long Island and then in Cassady’s attic in San Francisco. I had a bed there. That was the best place I ever wrote in. It rained every day, and I had wine, marijuana, and once in a while his wife would sneak in. I wrote it mostly by hand, some typed on Neal’s typewriter. (Bib, 33)

Several letters also suggest the outline for his work in these crucial months.1 And the nature of the material in part 3 and details of the typescript (the repaginating of some sections, for instance), suggest how he extended sketching into Spontaneous Prose, adapted it for narrative while preserving the performative “roar of Time,” and thereby achieved his goal of writing not just “novels” but “Fiction” and “soulwork.” In Visions of Cody Kerouac explores his relationship to Cassady as a way of developing what he termed “a vertical, metaphysical study of Cody’s character and its relationship to the general ‘America.’”2 That he was living with Cassady as he wrote part 3 (70 percent) of the book and determining how to fit its pieces together is, clearly, important for this thematic agenda. Of even greater importance—for how his writing developed in these months—is that Cassady had a tape recorder, then still rare outside of professional studios.3 Although Kerouac had had some experience with tape recording through Jerry Newman,4 his stay with Cassady enabled him to use the tape recorder for experiments he couldn’t attempt in Newman’s studio,Page 129 → where his access to the equipment was necessarily intermittent and probably monitored by Newman. Clearly, the long section that opens part 3 of Visions of Cody, “Frisco: The Tape,” required access to the recorder. What is less clear is that experimenting with the tape recorder altered Kerouac’s sense of sketching, which in turn helped him resolve his relationship to “the mysterious reader,” helped him recast writing in the image of speaking, and helped him determine how to sketch an extended narrative. Although Kerouac never repeated the experiment of “Frisco: The Tape,” it led to the brief, but pivotal section, “Imitation of the Tape,” where Kerouac extends sketching into Spontaneous Prose and establishes the understanding of writing as a medium that would inform his work for the rest of his career.5 “Frisco: The Tape” is puzzling on several counts. Visions of Cody’s longest section, it dominates the book’s center, yet little happens. Moreover, it seems to have nothing to do with sketching.6 The five nights of transcribed conversations between Jack and Cody (and occasionally others from their circle) are flat and diffuse. The marijuana the two smoke adds to the meandering lack of focus typical of casual conversation, and Kerouac seems to have done nothing to edit the material to reduce redundancy or private references. One could argue that the transcriptions establish a baseline for measuring the various visions of Cody that precede and follow, offering a documentary glimpse of Kerouac and Cassady as they actually were.7 Viewed this way, the transcriptions are akin to cinema verité (tape verité, if you will). Instead of the narrator’s subjectivity controlling the material (or the subjectivity of the writer operating behind the mask of the narrator), the objectivity of the machine controls—or rather, becomes—the presentation. The recorder has no stake in what is said; it records whatever is in its mechanical presence. It is as if Kerouac ceases being a writer. The machine has no aesthetic agenda, even as it “writes” (records) the scene. Kerouac’s labeling of where each night’s dialogue begins and ends and the brief notes marking gaps (caused by the tape running out and such, not, presumably, by selecting and discarding) contribute to the sense that the transcriptions transparently document what was said on these evenings rather than

having been written up for literary effect. In spite of this, the transcriptions matter for Kerouac’s development as a writer. The experience of transcribing the tapes, then trying to incorporate the transcriptions into a work of Fiction, sharpened, it seems, his awareness of the differences between speaking and writing as modes of language. This Page 130 →in turn helped him realize that he couldn’t, as Newman had urged, write as he talked, which both deepened and altered his sense of the conflict in his desire to avoid the demands of the mysterious reader and to write, instead, as if speaking to the figure of YOU. This, in turn, altered his sense of the dialectic of performance and composition, thus altering his sense of Spontaneous Prose. Kerouac’s interest in recording speaking, then writing from what he had taped is evident as early as his June 17, 1948, journal entry (see chapter 2) where he imagines “spill[ing]” the “rushing tremendousness” of his “visions” into a “wire-recorder” microphone, then shaping the material into books that would be “soulwork” rather than only “novels” (WW, 95). By the fall of 1951 (if not earlier) he had begun dabbling with tape recording. In the September 27 entry of the fall 1951 journal he writes,

invade store of Jerry Newman and go in backroom and start on gin and Jerry plays my recording of my chapters on jazz in On the Road and it is on street loudspeaker, my own writings, my own lonely voice, saying, “it was a warm mad night in San Francisco in 1929 [sic] and me and Neal . . . etc.”8

Later in the entry, he notes meeting the poet Maxwell Bodenheim at a bar and “persuad[ing]” Newman to record him:

so off we fly the 3 of us back to record store where Bodenheim sits in small cubicle saying “I began writing poetry in Chicago in 1902. . . . etc.” and me sitting on the floor with beer and Jerry with earphones, then Bodenheim reads his poems, then he passes out awhile, and I call Allen, who comes, Bodenheim wakes up, more talk, more recording, then as I sit on floor looking him straight in the eye Allen Ginsberg recites in a hollow and crazed subterranean river night voice the epic Shroudy Stranger lines. . . . . and Newman is bored and wants to call it quits, so I stagger off with Allen and the old poet.

Kerouac is describing two different things here: One is using the recorder to produce a voiced representation of an already composed piece of writing (Kerouac reading jazz scenes from On the Road; Bodenheim and Ginsberg reciting their poems). The other is using the recorder to capture acts of speaking without the speaking having first been converted into, and fixed as, writing (Bodenheim reminiscing about his career as a poet). In taping a writer voicing something written, the machine creates an Page 131 →aural supplement to an already composed work. In taping a performance occurring in and as speech, performance and work are the same thing—and if one later transcribes this recording into writing, the written version, not the recording, is the supplement. The tape recorder enables the writer (functioning as an artful speaker, actually, rather than writer) to preserve verbal performance—its actual duration, tones, and inflections—directly and fully because there is no need to encode the aural action in (static) visual characters, which necessarily mute, alter, and even erase various aural features (most fundamentally, the way performing unfolds in actual time). As such, the recorder emphasizes the difference between performing in language (based in speech) and composing in language (based in writing). And these two modes imply a third: the editing of recorded pieces of performance into a composed or distilled composite.9

That Newman was recording jazz performances—both in clubs and in the studio—to produce recordings to be copied and sold to listeners who could play the stored performances multiple times in places and at times entirely unrelated to the actual performance would not have been lost on Kerouac. This adds significance to the way he links writing, talking, and Konitz in his October 13 journal entry.

Jerry Newman said I would be great if I wrote like I talked—now what am I going to do about that Lee Konitz business!

Newman here is not encouraging Kerouac to write in imitation of his talk(ing) (to pattern his writing style on his speaking) but is instead pushing him to think of performing speech as the creative action with writing simply a recording mechanism. That is, for Newman, speaking itself is the medium of language (an expressive system); writing is simply a storage device, just as taping is a means to store music. As Newman seems to imagine it, Kerouac performing in speech could (at least potentially) be equivalent to a jazz musician inventing as he plays. Viewed this way, speech is equivalent to music (both are sound operating in time), and writing is equivalent to musical notation (both are spatial, atemporal encodings that visually represent sound). At the least Newman’s comment suggests that language and writing are not synonymous: writing figures as a transcription system (not an expressive medium). Performance is the primary creative product—the materiality and algorithms of storage and transmission are secondary. From here it is a short step to the idea that literature could (should?) be performedPage 132 → speaking and the possibility that limiting writing’s role to being a transcription code or bypassing it completely by committing speech directly to tape could free fiction from the constraining conventions of “Henry James novelist.” A passage from late in part 2 of Visions of Cody suggests that Kerouac may have hoped to use Cassady’s tape recorder as a substitute medium for writing in order to address “that Lee Konitz business.” As Jack waits, hoping to get a berth on a ship (to earn money so he can write without worrying about whether his writing is commercially marketable), he is, he says, “amazed by the fact that I’m a man and have the right to work for a living and spend my money as I see fit” (VC, 98). This seemingly banal recognition signifies for Jack not only that he has the right to earn and spend but that this would entitle him to write without regard for publication. Rather than have writing be how he “work[s] for a living,” he imagines permitting himself to write for self-exploration and self-expression.10 In this passage, the doubled freedom to be a man and to write as he pleases is also implicitly the freedom to talk: “I’m going to talk about these things with guys but the main thing I suppose will be this lifelong monologue which is begun in my mind—lifelong complete contemplation—what else on earth do I really know” (VC, 99). That is, Jack imagines “really involv[ing] myself as a man on the other level of man-to-man communication” (VC, 99), yet he also imagines talking to himself as a mode of writing or as something that might replace writing:

Last night in the West End Bar was mad, (I can’t think fast enough) (do need a recorder, will buy one at once when the Adams hits New York next March then I could keep the most complete record in the world which in itself could be divided into twenty massive and pretty interesting volumes of tapes describing activities everywhere and excitements and thoughts of mad valuable me and it would really have a shape but a crazy big shape yet just as logical as a novel by Proust because I do keep harkening back though I might be nervous on the mike and even tell too much). (VC, 99)

In this passage Jack imagines generating his work not by writing but by talking—an extended monologue to be typed up for others to read. Instead of writing for readers, Duluoz/Kerouac will talk to himself, and the result will be a work “just as logical as a novel by Proust.” Here, as in the scheme of writing letters to Cassady for Cassady

to compile and publish, Kerouac Page 133 →imagines a way to generate language that would evade the gaze of the mysterious reader as a function of conventional fiction yet ultimately matter for readers because it would reveal “mad valuable me.” For Kerouac, to write fiction that would observe his era’s conventions would falsify and constrain his subjectivity, but to ignore the mysterious reader and write without regard for the norms for fiction would make his work overly private, even solipsistic. Going to sea to be a blue-collar worker, functions in this context both economically and psychologically. It would free Jack to write for himself without regard for readers and editors and also reconnect him to the world of working men, making him once again a “guy.” But indulging in an ongoing monologue of complete contemplation would leave the identities of writer and guy discrete and disconnected. It would allow for monologue, an expression from and to the self, but not dialogue, the self engaging others. It did not offer a basis or strategy for resolving the crucial problem: how writing as self-expression was to become writing directed to readers as literature. In imagining “volumes of tape” as his work Jack seems both to recognize and not recognize that speaking and writing are different media and that speaking (the medium learned unreflectively as a child rather than consciously, even institutionally) can better merge with the “rush” of “visions and memories” and keep pace with them. The sequence of imagining, then formulating in writing, then inscribing onto the page, is at the least too cumbersome to preserve the “rush across my brain.” The tape recorder would, Kerouac imagines, free the mind because the machine itself would preserve one’s “talk” for later access without having to stop to write things down. Kerouac seems to imagine talking, taping, and composing as three aspects of a single process—a process in which language is performed, then preserved in writing, then edited. Whether Kerouac tried to write by walking and talking (discarding the results) or abandoned the notion without trying it is unclear. Nothing in Visions of Cody indicates that he actually used Cassady’s recorder for taping rushing tremendousness or lifelong monologue, or that he tried sketching on tape (rather than in writing).11 In “Frisco: The Tape,” he did, though, record himself as a guy in dialogue with other guys—not as a witness to guys talking or a rememberer or a celebrator of guys talking. Indeed, the purpose of taping the dialogues with Cassady seems to have been to avoid monologue (to avoid having to imagine, remember, and/or celebrate) in Page 134 →order to be able to participate directly and unselfconsciously in dialogue. The transcriptions show that this was only partly possible. Kerouac’s sense that the tape recorder could enable him to write by talking and thereby resolve the split between language as the interactive behavior of speaking and language as the compositional medium of writing seems, at first glance, plausible. The recorder, by storing the happening of sound onto the unspooling tape (rather than converting it into visual marks on a page) preserves the vocal texture, pitch, and inflection of talking as it unfolds diachronically. It also eliminates the need to stop the talking to write things down. But the tape’s transparency is illusory. It captures an aural image of those who are speaking as they attempt to express their interiority for and to each other (much as a camera captures a visual image of the behavior of the figures within sight of the lens). But the tape can neither know nor capture the interiority that impels the speaking it records; it can only record what the speakers enact in and through their speaking. “Frisco: The Tape” shows that the recorder cannot record the interiority of the imagining mind in its rushing tremendousness. It can only capture the externality of speakers performing to and for each other or the externality of speakers performing to and for the machine. This suggests why Kerouac seems not to have used the tape recorder to attempt to generate “pretty interesting volumes of tapes describing activities everywhere and excitements and thoughts of mad valuable me.” For Jack Duluoz (in Visions of Cody) or Kerouac to do this would require talking to the machine—a very different matter than generating an internal monologue in response to an actual or imagined stimulus or talking to and with others. In speaking aloud to the machine, the machine is not simply a recording device; it is an inhibiting presence.12 It is not YOU but the absence of YOU and (actually) an it. The machine can tape what one might say but it offers no occasion to say at all. To perform, there must be an occasion to perform and someone to perform to and for. The tape recorder, as a machine, provides neither.

For Kerouac, the tape recorder’s apparent failure to support writing by talking comes in part from the difference between the way analogue sound recording works as a medium for preserving and transmitting music and the way it works for language. With music, the musician is always a performer—whether playing from a Beethoven score or improvising on the changes to Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” or sitting on the porch elaborating a folk tune. For the classical musician, the composed (and notated) text is Page 135 →material to be performed. For folk and jazz musicians there may be no text or the relationship to the text may be indirect, since the elements to be performed (motifs, routines, procedures) exist in the mind and shape performance. But whether the musician works from a text (as in classical music) or elaborates a repertoire of procedures in response to the occasion for performing (as in folk music and jazz), these different practices of music exist for the listener as and through performance. Prior to analogue recording, performances could not be captured and stored for later access. A performance could be remembered (as an impression of the whole more than a catalogue of its specific features and gestures), and the generalized memory, a simplified approximation of the motifs and structure, of a performance could, belatedly, be notated or used to compose a new work from the performance elements. In neither case, could the performance (or the work, which in this case is synonymous either with the performance tradition as a whole or the specific performance) be recalled or replayed in toto. With the development of analogue recording, however, performance itself could be preserved; indeed, recorded performance could function (as in jazz) as a kind of collaborative composition in which the performance (not the material from which it partly derives) is the actual work.13 Newman’s suggestion that Kerouac write as he talked and Kerouac’s desire to write by recording his inner monologue as he walked and talked might have given him what he wanted if writing and music were fully parallel. The mysterious reader is, again, the crux of the matter. When Dizzy Gillespie played in the 52nd Street jazz clubs in the 1940s, he performed for actual listeners. When he recorded in a studio, he performed for his image of these listeners. The studio performance might be briefer, and might be somewhat tamer without the audience reacting and exhorting, but even in the studio, Gillespie was performing for a known (though physically absent) audience. For Gillespie, because jazz foregrounds performance not composition, there is no mysterious listener. The absent listener for whom one recorded is an image of the actual listener for whom one played. In recording, he was playing for listeners he understood not just in the abstract but concretely and pragmatically. To generate an inner monologue by walking and talking is a different matter. Internal monologue is not directed to an other (a listener, reader, or even an abstraction of the reader). It is directed to the self. Such inner speech is not performative, because the self is necessarily the audience, and as soon as one imagines that the internal monologue is to be spoken to, or Page 136 →written for, an external, absent you, this prospective figure becomes as much an abstract function as the mysterious reader, a figure that cannot actually be engaged or (as in music) performed for without an inhibiting self-consciousness, precisely because the internal monologue is the self engaging the self without regard for structure or what the listener/reader would need for the musings to be comprehensible. While internal monologue is (clearly) not composition, neither is it performance; it is not even akin to the informal performance of talking with another person. In actual talking, the listener elicits one’s speaking and responds to it. To talk as if to a listener who will be a reader via the tape recorder merely displaces the dilemma of the reader as an inhibiting absence, because the reader can still only be projected as overhearing the monologue rather than participating in dialogue as an actual listener. If this helps explain why Kerouac did not use the tape recorder to compose Visions of Cody (or even a section of it) by recording inner monologue as he walked and talked, it then also suggests the nature of the limitation he confronted in “Frisco: The Tape.” To the extent that Jack and Cody experience their interactions as performance for an absent other who will read/ listen to the transcripts (rather than each other as they are talking), they have to inflect their comments for this unknown figure. Their speaking is performance but performance for the machine. Because there is no occasion for them to perform in talk for an actual audience, as the jazz musician plays for an actual audience in clubs, they lack a sense of the absent listener as an actual audience.14 “Frisco: The Tape” should, it seems, present the real Cody (i.e., Cassady). But it doesn’t. While the procedure of recording and transcribing reduces Kerouac’s mediating presence and authorial subjectivity, the objectivity that results is the machine’s objectivity. There are several reasons for this. For one, as the transcribed exchanges document, Jack and Cody are often aware of the recorder; they talk for it rather than interacting naturally or

spontaneously with each other—Jack because he wants to lead Cody to talk about specific matters so he can use the comments for the book he is writing; Cody because his awareness of this manipulation makes him selfconscious, at times saying less than he otherwise would, at others performing to fulfill Jack’s expectations rather than speaking to Jack. A mouse in a lab maze in is not a mouse in a field. That the Jack of the transcripts (and presumably Kerouac at the time) at points asks questions specifically to have Cassady’s Page 137 →taped (and as if spontaneous, unmediated) response for later review and use underscores that the tapes do not present Jack and Cody as they actually are (were) on a typical evening. That Jack at points actually shares transcribed bits from previous tapings with Cody, then questions Cody about his presumably unmediated response in the original exchange further problematizes the process. Jack and Cody are subjects in Kerouac’s experiment, and they are observers of the experiment, and they are observers of themselves within the experiment. Writing must be shaped for the reader (even if the reader is defined as the self rather than an other). Writing is not directly the reflection that generates it; it is, instead, a product of this reflection. In the transcriptions, Kerouac attempts to finesse this by forcing Jack and Cody to be each other’s reader, constituting themselves through their speech, then reacting to the writing (transcription) made from it. But Jack and Cody cannot simultaneously engage each other in the present and enact themselves for the future (absent) reader Jack also wants to address. The process of recording and transcribing prevents Jack and Cody from enacting a shared intrapersonal or social dynamic that would reduce self-awareness by making them hyper-aware of self and other, alienating them from each other, from the present moment of dialogue, and even from their own subjectivity. As a result, the transcriptions reveal the way the recording and transcribing disrupts inter-subjectivity, distorts their relationship, and subverts their ability to speak to and for each other. Even if Kerouac had not manipulated the occasion, the transcriptions would still not provide transparent access to Jack and Cody. While the tape captures the sound of their speaking and preserves the pace and duration of elapsing time, the transcriptions are not sound. Transcribed speech is not speech—nor is it writing.15 In the transcriptions alphabetic characters represent sound and store it for later retrieval (by eye, not ear). This conversion from sound to sight necessarily alters some features of the original and erases others. Writing can hint at pitch, tempo, vocal texture, pauses, physical gestures, and the dramatic interplay of voices in real time, but it cannot fully transmit vocal inflection. The way speech relates to time is also necessarily distorted and partially erased. The writing (i.e., letters operating as words) creates an illusion of diachronic time but not its actuality. In reading, we interpret the passing of time for the speaking figures, but time as the eye derives it from the patterned code on the surface of the page and time as the ear hears it (i.e., time passing diachronically) are not the same thing. Page 138 → Speaking (as aural process) and writing (as a constructed, and typically revised and distilled, sets of visual elements) both function as language but do so differently. Speaking is inherently interactive and behavioral; one participates directly with others who are temporally present and typically physically present as well. Speaking is necessarily simultaneously an expressive system and a behavioral process, which is to say a language. Writing can also be an expressive system in and of itself. As I write this, I assume that you, the you reading it will, not process the letters as imaged sound but treat them as a visual units that needn’t be voiced. The you I imagine will read this writing, not hear it, and will make distinctions (to/too/two, there/ their, are/our, Mary/marry/merry/merrie) that are aurally equivalent and do so without thinking about it. As you, you will even process visual combinations that do not represent sound (lol, which would not cue loll but might evoke el-oh-el) without vocalizing them. Writing and speaking differ in a second way. Speech can be used to vocalize writing but not to imitate it or store it.16 Writing can be used to construct an imitation of speaking and to store the imitation, and writing can function without directly referencing or evoking speech. That is, writing can be an expressive system (a language), and it can be a system for representing speech, in which case speaking (not writing) is the expressive system (i.e., speaking is language).17 While speaking is always necessarily language, writing can be either directly itself language (operating visually without necessarily engaging speaking), or it can be a representation of language (stored speech). In “Frisco: The Tape,” writing is a system for representing and recording speaking rather than an

expressive system; writing functions actually as a kind of technology to rerecord what the tape recorder has already taped. Were Kerouac working today, Visions of Cody might have become a hybrid digital work (On the Road has, for instance, recently been repurposed as an iPad app) using sound files instead of transcriptions. This would alter the dynamic of “Frisco: The Tape” by preserving the temporal dimension of the conversations. But even so, listening to the tapes would still not be to participate in the dialogue. The sound files would still represent speaking rather than be actual speaking. For the recordings to function as speaking, the reader/listener would have to be a participant in the recorded exchanges, or the writer would have to speak to the listener. This seemingly minor distinction reflects a crucial aspect of Kerouac’s dilemma as a writer. Speaking is inherently interactive; the speaker gestures Page 139 →in language to the listener who responds (even if only silently in hearing). Writing (at least writing fiction and books rather than letters) is, instead, an individual behavior. Or rather, writing is the act of constructing a unit of writing for circulation to others at some future point when the writer will be temporally absent and in a context where the writer will be physically absent. In speaking, the social dimension is immediate, both temporally and spatially, and the social dimension—the interactivity in actual time—functions directly in the speaking. In writing, the social dimension, the reader reading, is hypothetical. In speaking, the social dynamic is actual—an integral feature of language as the speaker and listener collaborate. In writing, the social dimension (functioning as part of the writer’s context and an element in the writer’s sense of occasion) shapes language indirectly. In speaking, language is directed to a specific you. In writing, language is inscribed on the page to fulfill the expectations of an absent, imagined other (the problematic mysterious reader).18 Whatever Kerouac thought about the relative success or failure of “Frisco: The Tape,” he never repeated the experiment, in part, I suggest, because it widened rather than lessened the gap between speaking and writing as modes of language. For most writers of literature this gap matters little. They understand themselves as writers not speakers, understand what they are doing as writing, and typically view writing, not speaking, as the paradigm for language. Hemingway, for instance, had an acute ear for spoken inflections and how to evoke them in writing to signal aspects of his characters’ nationality, social class, and even psychological features, but for Hemingway the aural was raw material to be refined in composing and deployed within the fictional system. He had no interest in writing as if his writing was somehow an oral exchange with the reader imagined in some sense as a listener (as if present and potentially able to interact). The brief sections between the short stories in In Our Time (designated as chapters) illustrate this. Spoken nuance matters in these units, but what interests Hemingway is how such nuance functions as written texture. In spite of his deft handling of aural material, he has no interest, either as the I of the writer or the narrator, in casting the reader as a you. In these pieces writing as compositional craft subsumes speaking to it. Writing represents speech; it does not imitate the activity of speaking. Hemingway values the aural as a stylistic feature of writing. He is not concerned with the rhetoric of the oral as it might relate to the writer’s relationship to—or separation from—the reader. Page 140 → In Hemingway’s writerly aesthetic, composed units of writing (some of which represent the action of speaking) function as elements within the composed system of the fiction. The fictional system operates as if complete in itself without referring back to the writer (who produced it) or the future reader (who will, the writer assumes) engage the completed, as if independent and as if closed, system of the text. Conversely, in Kerouac’s sketching aesthetic, the goal is to foreground the writer’s own participation in the material and for the writing (the writer writing) simultaneously to enact that engagement not only for the reader but as if the reader is temporally present, which is to say as if the reader is a specific other to whom the writer is talking rather than a generic other for whom the writer is writing. In this approach, as in speaking, the language is action more than object and remains entangled backward to its source and forward to its point of reception. Instead of a textual object, with its seeming closure, we have a textual action, with its seeming lack of closure. Hemingway’s strategy, in spite of its artfulness, was not an option for Kerouac as he searched for how to use

sketching for an extended work of fiction rather than only for brief, sketched units. For Hemingway, the written code and composing in writing were so closely aligned as to be one and the same; for Kerouac, the written code was potentially something that could be used in several ways: for writing in Hemingway’s sense of the medium but also for speaking—in visual form—as if to a listener. But, to compound Kerouac’s difficulties, the medium of writing is an inherently problematic mechanism for recording speaking (as opposed to representing speech). Sound operates in time; writing operates in space (as the visual elements of the alphabetic code in a spatial field defined by the page). The medium of writing shifts language from an action to a thing, makes language a matter of the eye rather than the ear, and decouples language (as speaking) from time, committing it, instead (as Ong has noted) to space.19 To use writing to record speaking (as opposed to using it to compose representations of speech), one necessarily sacrifices at least some of the temporality of what has been spoken, and writing cannot fully represent (which is to say encode and store) rhythmic inflection, pitch, tone, and the like. Skillful representations of voice in writing such as Twain’s in Huck Finn do not so much record the voice of the character as use writing to evoke an illusion of recording.20 For someone like Hemingway, deeply committed to writing’s compositional possibilities, these limitations mattered little. For Kerouac, though, these limitations were central to his dissatisfaction with “writ[ing] according to what they told me at Columbia University” and an Page 141 →impetus for the experiment of the scroll Road and the experiments that evolved into Visions of Cody. In “Frisco: The Tape” Kerouac seems to be testing the expressive (and literary) possibilities of presenting transcribed spoken exchanges. In the section, writing is a system for notating what has been recorded. The taped dialogues between Jack and Cody (and occasionally others) are converted to writing to create a record of what the figures being taped said. Restricting writing this way should, it seems, eliminate the mysterious reader and solve the problem of how to perform, rather than compose, “dialog.” And the process should, it seems, make it possible for the page to present the full (and actual) responsiveness of the characters to each other in time. Perhaps most importantly, the experiment should have offered Kerouac a way to base his writing on speaking. But restricting writing to being a recording system (a transcriptional code) not only means foregoing the intensifications of writing as a medium, it also abstracts the fullness of speech as an expressive system (a distinct mode of language), even as it gives it visual form as writing (enabling storage and reproduction). The failure of the transcriptions to capture Jack and Cody fully and without distortion coupled with the apparent failure of the tape recorder to enable Kerouac to write by walking and talking suggest the dilemma he faced as he searched for a mode for Visions of Cody. In “Frisco: The Tape,” he does manage to make transcriptive writing function as if within actual time, but the transcriptions also reveal that using writing to store and transmit actual speaking compromises the richness of speech (which is partly its behavioral complexity and immediacy) and also sacrifices the subtlety and depth of literary writing. Transcription erases much of the density of speech, precludes much of the density of writing, and replaces both with an abstraction. Even tape recording offers only an image of speaking, not its reality. Speaking is interactive: self with other; self with self, but the presence of the tape recorder pushes the interactivity toward self with machine. It is natural to engage another in speech and natural to perform for another in speech. It is not natural to engage or perform for the machine. The brief coda to “Frisco: The Tape,” the only part of the transcriptions without Jack and Cody, underscores the falsity of talking for the machine. The final exchange between Jack and Cody is followed by an italicized note:

(long silence, Jack is gone, tape ends on a radio blues singing Ba-by . . .) (VC, 246)

Page 142 → as if the “tape” physically runs out at “Ba-by” (the hyphen signaling the singer’s inflection). The transcription should, it seems, end when the tape “ends.” Yet it continues for another page, presenting a revival preacher and congregation. The note introducing this passage is not italicized and in a larger font than the note concluding the



The interaction of the preacher and his congregation builds to the preacher’s final exulting “I HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERD!” (VC, 247). That the transcription continues after the tape seemingly ends suggests that the revival meeting could be spliced in from another source, another time, and this seems the case. The revival scene derives from a handwritten scrap, as if Kerouac wrote it from the memory of hearing revival meetings on the radio rather than transcribing it from a specific taped occasion. If so, he may have written the scene in imitation of the transcriptions and placed it as an implicit commentary on them, since it stands in clear, and seemingly ironic, contrast to the exchanges between Jack and Cody. The preacher and congregation talk to and with each other, sharing a sense of community and engaged fully in the present even as they celebrate a faith that offers an eternity beyond time. The revival meeting participants are unself-conscious about either a future reader or listener. In “Frisco: The Tape” Kerouac substitutes transcribed speech for composed writing but fails to achieve the richness of expression he had achieved in the relatively conventional writing of The Town and the City. The tapes reveal the thinness of actual dialogue when taken out of the experiential frame in which it occurs, and they reveal the extent to which Jack and Cody, in performing for the recorder instead of each other, exist outside the communitas of the preacher and his congregation. And in the tapes, Jack as participant and narrator (surrogate) ends up alienated not only from Cody (Cassady) but also YOU and the mysterious reader. The seeming reality of we for the revival congregation becomes, thus, particularly damning. Restricting writing to being only a notational system for recording an approximation of speaking sacrifices the expressive possibilities of writing itself. “Frisco: The Tape” demonstrates that simply writing down actual talking yields neither the fullness of speaking nor the fullness of writing.21 * * * Page 143 → Although the title of “Imitation of the Tape” seems to characterize the section as a further elaboration of the project of “Frisco: The Tape” using alternate means, the “Imitation” functions as a reaction against “Frisco: The Tape” and corrective to it, in which Kerouac responds to the failure of transcribing recorded speaking to resolve either the problem of the mysterious reader or the differences between speaking and writing as expressive systems. In “Frisco: The Tape,” Kerouac attempted not simply to write as he talked (as Newman had urged him to do), but attempted the more radical step of making actual talking be the writing, which reduced speech to emptied traces and reduced writing to a notational system, diminishing both speaking and writing as modes of language. In “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac turns away from attempting to foreground speaking as an expressive system by marginalizing writing as an expressive system and, instead, foregrounds writing itself—both as mechanism and expressive field. If “Frisco: The Tape” tests how actual speaking stored as writing can be used aesthetically, then “Imitation of the Tape” instead tests whether—and how—writing can be practiced as if it is a kind of speaking, operating diachronically in time and functioning with something akin to the behavioral immediacy and interactivity of a speaker speaking to and with a listener. In “Imitation of the Tape” Kerouac teases out differences between spoken action and written creation and develops an approach that blends the two and exploits the gap between them. Doing so, he establishes a more flexible version of sketching, one that can support dialogue as well as description and narrative. But most importantly, in “Imitation of the Tape” he moves beyond the binary of speaking as performative and writing as compositional to a practice where the medium of writing itself becomes

performative. The first line of type in “Imitation of the Tape” signals the shift from language as speaking in “Frisco: The Tape” to the focus on language as writing.

COMPOSITION . . . . . . . . . by Jackie Duluoz . . . . . 6-B (VC, 249)

This heading illustrates a key difference between writing as itself a medium of language and writing as a mechanism for transcribing speaking: writing as writing operates visually, not aurally. If “COMPOSITION” were representing (i.e., transcribing) spoken action (sound), the capitals would convey volume; we would hear COMPOSITION as shouted. But there is no way to say or hear the word that conveys the function of placing it in all Page 144 →caps, because the typography is operating visually, not aurally. The word is a label, and its imagined placement—at the head of Jackie’s theme, set off from the body of the text to follow—and the use of all caps require visual processing. The unit “6-B” is also a label. Similarly, in this line—more precisely, this bar of typing converted into a bar of type for reproduction in print—spacing also operates visually rather than temporally. The spaces before and after “by Jackie Duluoz” are not pauses, as they would be if the visual units were representing speaking; they chunk the information into its categorical identity (i.e., COMPOSITION), its agency (Jackie Duluoz as writer), and its institutional context (Jackie as student in an unspecified school). The point of this overly elaborate reading is to emphasize things we usually process without noticing in order to suggest the difference in medium between “Frisco: The Tape” and “Imitation of the Tape” and the differences in how we see and hear writing in each. The three labels that initiate “Imitation of the Tape” use writing directly as a conceptual system that has no necessary relationship to speaking or even sound. The mechanism of writing here does not present speech; it presents writing. And writing here operates visually (i.e., the letters are systematized marks on the space of the page); we can vocalize COMPOSITION, but that isn’t a matter of recovering the speech stored as written transcription. Rather it’s a matter of reading writing aloud (a quite different matter than either speaking itself or vocalizing writing that’s been written to be read aloud). Unlike “Frisco: The Tape,” which treats writing as a system for encoding and representing (transcribing) the sounds of spoken actions in visual characters rather than an expressive action in its own right, “Imitation of the Tape” treats the writing system itself as expressive and by exploiting the space of the page, punctuation, and the like creates an illusion of writing (as language) operating in actual time (in a manner resembling speaking), as well as operating in space. The shift from fore-grounding speaking in “Frisco: The Tape” to foregrounding writing in “Imitation of the Tape” involves not only reimagining such matters as how the eye and ear relate to the written marks on the page but also involves a shift in how the writer relates to the act of writing, which is to say, how the writer relates to his or her own creative process and thereby also to the reader. Because of its mechanical nature, the tape itself in “Frisco: The Tape” (either as magnetically stored signals or as transcriptions typed from them) cannot operate with selfawareness, intention, or Page 145 →irony. The machine—whatever it might filter out or distort in the recording process—can only operate as a machine; it does not choose its mechanical limitations and is, thus, inherently neutral, and, to that extent, objective. That the tapes themselves can’t be, for instance, ironic does not preclude the writer editing and placing them into the larger whole of the work so that they function ironically within that structure, but in that case the irony stems from the writer’s compositional gesture played against the structure rather than from the material itself.22 When writing functions itself as an expressive system (rather than a recording system), the writing itself can express complexity of tone and awareness. In writing, the writer is attempting to engage the reader (rather than a listener other than the reader), and the reader is attempting to participate in the action of the writing. While writer and reader do not interact directly with each other, they each interact directly with the writing—the writer in composing, the reader in reading. Another key difference between using writing to transcribe actual speaking and using it to compose speech to

perform for a reader is the way point of view functions, and this is not only evident in the opening of “Imitation of the Tape” but seems in part its point. Jackie’s 6-B theme begins as follows.

“Now up yonder in Suskahooty,” said Dead Eye Dick—no, I exaggerate, his name was Black Dan—“up yonder in Saskahoty,” said Dead Eye Dick Black Dan, “we used to catch suckers every day on Main Street down by the bank, you know the one with the red bricks, that I was standin in front of when—but you introduced (ain’t that right?) me to them two suckers from Edmonton or somethin—yeh, that’s right (just when you said that you reminded me—” This was in Muscadoodle, Wyo., many years ago, had a circus there, we was makin the line from around Ogallala, Nebraska, clear to the Willamette Valley—my old lady got sawdust on her dress in Ohio that year—shucks and god-damn, I’m gonna go to Charleston, West Virginia Saturday night, or jump in the river, one.” But no, wait in here, don’t you know I’m serious? you think I’m?—damn you, you made, you make, the most, m—I guess—but now wait a minute, till I l—but no I’ll jump on in, I meant to say, w—about whatever—well, I swear, I swow– (VC, 249-50)

The writing here plays on oral pronunciation. The italics in “god-damn” inflect the second syllable so that we are asked to hear, not (as with COMPOSITION)Page 146 → simply see. The mixing of absurd place names (Muscadoodle) with actual ones (Ogallala) valued for their sound more than their referentiality similarly plays to the ear, not the eye, as do such playful echoes as Suskahooty and Saskahoty (with Saskatchawan lurking in the mind’s ear, if not its eye). But there is no single figure in this passage speaking to an auditor, nor is there a character that the author has constructed who speaks as if to the reader. Jackie Duluoz, unlike, say, Huck Finn, is a writer (presented by a writer writing), not a speaker (presented by a writer writing). This underscores the fictiveness of the passage. We are neither invited nor allowed, as in Huck Finn, to read as if Huck is real, is speaking, and as if his reactions to his experiences matter. Instead, there is a writer (Jackie) within the text, not behind it as its source, playing variations on spoken elements for his own, it seems, amusement, and perhaps for the amusement of his reader (who is also, though unspecified, within the text). The writing plays on—and plays from—features of speech but without being speaking. There is no sense of an I attempting to interact as if directly with a YOU. The last bit of the first paragraph, “I’m gonna go to Charleston, West Virginia Saturday night, or jump in the river, one,” is a case in point. In “Frisco: The Tape,” Cody calls Jack’s attention to this particular use of “one” as a feature of a regional dialect and expounds upon it.23 Here, though, “one” is writing representing speech rather than writing functioning as a record of speaking. In “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac draws on what the taping experiment revealed about how people collaborate through the exchange of language, uses spoken features to call attention to the constructedness of writing, then plays that constructedness for comic effect. In actual speaking, it is always clear who (at least physically) is speaking and who is listening. In the opening of “Imitation of the Tape,” who speaks through the writing is neither clear nor fixed. Initially, it seems that the passage is going to present (in a conventional omniscient third-person voice presumably constructed by the figure of schoolboy Jackie, who Kerouac, as author, has invented) a scene where Dead Eye Dick tells a story to an unspecified auditor who is present with him within the fictional frame (“‘Now up yonder in Suskahooty,’ said Dead Eye Dick”). But the next phrase (“–no, I exaggerate, his name was Black Dan—‘up yonder in Saskahoty,’ said Dead Eye Dick Black Dan,”) disrupts this expectation. It shifts the narration to first person, even though this I isn’t actually speaking a story but is, instead, writing it. In the passage the implied I of the actual writer (Kerouac) is both hiddenPage 147 → behind and revealed by the explicit (and constructed) writer, “Jackie,” who corrects his composition by adding to his mistake instead of erasing it to create the expected revision of “Now up yonder in Saskahoty, said Black Dan.” Writing, unlike speech, allows looping back to correct mistakes to create a consistent surface—a feature of writing writers are expected to use. Jackie’s refusal or failure to do so is, in one sense, much like speech. One cannot unsay what’s

been said, only supplement it. But the way the character’s initial name of Dead Eye Dick and corrected name of Black Dan become Dead Eye Dick Black Dan suggests that Kerouac here is not enacting an I who is speaking and who might correct himself as he moves forward but is instead an I who is writing—writing in terms of one convention, then violating the convention, then burlesquing the violation by gestures such as the compound Dead Eye Dick Black Dan, which would, typically, occur neither in writing (where the replaced name would simply be erased and end up, so far as the reader might know, never having existed) nor speech, where Dead Eye Dick would give way to Black Dan (as in “Dead Eye Dick; no, now I recall; his name was Black Dan. Black Dan went out one day and saddled his horse . . .”). The move simultaneously foregrounds the material as writing (rather than speaking converted into writing), and it foregrounds the mechanism and process of the writing. In this passage, we attend to the action of it being composed rather than reflecting on what has been composed. The passage is, literally, writing-as-the-producing-of-writing instead of writing as the producing of text. In this passage, Kerouac not only preserves what seemingly should be discarded but makes this refusal part of the point by exaggerating his transgressing of the norms for composing in writing. He uses writing here to reveal the process of writing and its nature as a medium rather than to record the result of writing, which is also to say that he casts writing as a continuous action—a performance unfolding in time. He is not writing as if writing is a recursive activity: a matter of generating material, then reworking that material into the final composition. What matters in this passage is not the object constructed by refining the writing into a written object but the action of writing, each imaginative gesture triggering another gesture—the starts, stops, veers, and breaks resembling the discontinuities of speaking as documented by the tape recorder in the previous section. In part, the sense of play comes from its absurdity, exaggeration, and discontinuities. But it also comes from the way the passage exploits the differences between writing as an expressive system for constructing units of writing Page 148 →and speaking as expressive interaction between a figure generating the language (implicitly I) and a receiving and potentially responding figure (implicitly a you). Dick/Dan does not speak the bits of speech attributed to him to another character. They do not operate as dialogue within the fiction. Instead, the bits are invented by Jackie of 6-B, who writes them as if the reader is present as he is writing rather than a figure who will later read what he has composed. In one sense, the passage simply enacts Jackie’s failure to control the conventions for dialogue in fiction. But Jackie is a pose of Jack Duluoz, who is able to control these conventions, and Duluoz, in turn, a pose or mask or surrogate for Kerouac. And the simultaneous presence of these frames dramatizes the arbitrariness of the conventions themselves. By posing as Duluoz playing at being Jackie trying to construct Dead Eye Dick Black Dan, Kerouac disrupts the fictional conventions, implying their arbitrariness and using them both to enact the literary and to subvert it.24 In spite of the element of burlesque, the parallel to Lee Konitz performing himself through “I’ll Remember April” is worth noting. Kerouac, here, is neither composing writing in the traditional sense nor simply generating improvised variations. He is, instead, enacting himself at the moment of writing by playfully mangling the conventional moves of a boy’s cowboy adventure story. But what is also significant is that Kerouac, in “Imitation of the Tape,” is not performing in speech (i.e., he is not emulating Cassady’s ability to talk performatively, nor is he emulating Cassady’s confessional talkwriting in the Joan Anderson letter). Instead, he is performing in writing. Indeed, Kerouac here is emphasizing writing as a medium in a way that both calls attention to its differences from speaking yet gives writing something of speaking’s fluidity and immediacy. Rather than writing being used to record speech or writing being used to represent spoken acts of figures within the fiction, writing is being used both as itself the material for performing and as the medium for performing (and recording the performing). For writing to be the music rather than the notating of the music, writing has to be practiced as if it is a mode of speaking—yet with writing’s distinctive features as a medium preserved. This requires altering the way writing is generated, and it requires moving beyond both the binary of I/mysterious reader and of I/YOU. In the material gathered in parts 1 and 2 of Visions of Cody (the experiments detailed in the fall 1951 work journal) Kerouac had Page 149 →managed aspects of these shifts. In “Imitation of the Tape” he brings them fully together. “Frisco: The Tape,” by using writing to approximate the sound stored on the tape, asks that we hear the page.

“Imitation of the Tape” asks us to hear the page and to see the writing on its surface. The way the sound of Saskatchawan lurks behind Suskahooty and Saskahoty points to this doubleness of writing in “Imitation of the Tape.” The mock place names are sound play, and they evoke the clichéd old-timer mangling place names for effect, but because the old-timer is not established as the speaker of the passage or as a speaker within it and because the ostensible writer (Jackie Duluoz) is not an old-timer (and thus not a plausible source of these words as speech), the words function as written, rather than spoken, play. The phrase “Muscadoodle, Wyo.” a few lines later reflects this. Muscadoodle functions in the same way as Suskahooty and Saskahoty. But Wyo. can be processed either visually (as an abbreviation for Wyoming) or aurally (as Why-Oh). Reading visually (i.e., conventionally) we limit the letters to being a visual alternative for Wyoming, but the passage’s aurality inclines us to hear these letters—“Why-Oh.” Kerouac is playing here with the way writing can function either as a visual code that need not be treated as sound or as visual notation of sound. In the passage he hybridizes these two so that the misalignments between speaking as language and writing as language function as play. The need to see and hear the page in “Imitation of the Tape” is also evident in Kerouac’s use of spacing to call attention to the action of typing (i.e., the action of writing).

It’s so cold in Suskahooty that you can’t see across the river; northern Canada, y’know; (I spied a young lady in yon, yon, yon) WmRnHearst didn’t have as m–

Nobody digs my dog like I my dog dig

But of course I don’t have to go through all that, well t–when we’re bloody well finished or shall I wait for the early morning fog when equestriennes clad only in skin fighting tideropes . . . I have seen the rp, the proud ladies of the Hore Show, Horse Show, I have seen, but I have seen, typing is a goof


I had conceived of Art Rodrigue in this fashion; Art Rodrigue the first baseman for the Philadelphia Pontiacs; but don’t explain any further; he was just like Al Robert, but Portuguese of course and so invested with that particular raw power they showed on sundrowsed porches of mid Moody afternoon, sometimes with guitars with which they imitated American and Western kicks but were really, as only Saroyan knows, hung on, or hung behind, their own great homeland kicks. Same with the Canadians . . . the guitar for them was a sign of—but wait, I was on the Portuguese, and Art Rodrigue; for some reason too, this Art Rodrigue was to be exactly, to look exactly, infinitely perfectly like Al Robert, the same big tanned seriousness, like the last firstbaseman I saw, the last ballgame I saw, so beat am I, was a Class D league game down in Kinston, North Carolina and where, true to God by Gawrsh, like I say, the first baseman, H. W. Mercer, was tall and tanned and morose and serious and mooning for Hollywood, that is, to eventually become a movie actor, like say, Gene

Bearden of the ideal minor league ballplayers of the movies and even of Ring Anderson by Gawrsh, you know, Ring Anderson, who wrote the Magnificent Andersons. Well by God, Art Rodrigue was going to look exactly like Skippy Al Robert. (VC, 255)

The initial lines (indented and lowercase) record Jack (as both Duluoz and Kerouac) looking for imaginative traction, and failing to come up with a motif to elaborate. He tries coopting Jackie’s coinage of Suskahooty, but the “young lady” ends up “in yon” instead of “yonder. He fails to imagine what “WmRnHearst” might not have as “m[uch]” as. The play of digging the dog and the dog digging is, seemingly, a way to continue to type rather than to stop and restart; it maintains the activity of performing, even though it does not forward the performance (much as an improviser might blow a stock phrase, then move on). The next false start develops a bit more, seemingly because the Jack who is typing gives himself up more fully to the process. If Kerouac were composing, rather than performing, this passage, these false starts and veers would be excised. The reader would not see the typo “rp” as Jack starts typing “proud.” But the typos and digressions foreground Page 151 →the typing/writing as process (the act of writing) rather than constructed object (the written), in which the erasures, pauses, changes in direction, and reelaborations that were part of the composing would be invisible. The passage subordinates the written (the results of writing) to writing (the activity of performing writing), which casts the writing as something to be read as if it is being performed, much as we listen to a jazz recording as if it is being performed as we listen (even though it was recorded at an earlier point).25 And as with jazz, mistakes can be productive. Mistyping “Horse Show” as “Hore Show” adds a twist to the “proud ladies”—at least it does if we hear the mistyping (whore) as well as see it (Hore). That the “proud ladies” (who, in any case, exist more as typing, which in this context is also to say as writing, than fictional actors or representations) can be part of the “Hore Show” rather than “Horse Show” by virtue (as it were) of a mere keystroke emphasizes the arbitrariness of writing as code and mechanism. In speaking, one cannot drop a letter and change a meaning or implication: a “whore” is a “hore” is a “hoar,” whether or not the madam laughs at the orthographic play or gives a fig (leaf) about the differences between homonyms, homographs, and homophones. But in writing (at least if writer and reader work from the same conventions for spelling) a “whore” cannot be a “hoar” (nor could “hoar frost” be “whore frost”). In this mode of performing writing, writing as code and system has an unstable relationship to speech. It evokes speech but does not (as in “Frisco: The Tape”) directly represent it. In speaking, inflection changes implication, but the word being enacted doesn’t become a different word. In writing, especially writing by typing, changing a letter can change the word to something quite different—especially if one treats the letters as aurally and visually expressive. In treating writing as only a transcription of sound (“Frisco: The Tape”), a mistyped letter can only be an error. In treating typing as performance, a mistyped letter can occasion a new imaginative arc, a further riff. Or, as Kerouac puts it in this passage, “typing is a goof,” and the goofing can involve both visual and aural punning, which is why typing “goof” can elicit “FRANK GOFF,” which leads to the crux of the passage: the question of whether to “STAY ON ONE LEVEL KICK” (maintaining a consistent point of view and narrative line as one would in composing if one were “Henry James novelist”) or to “GOOF AND KICK ALONG,” which is to allow for shifts in perspective, digressions, and linguistic and narrative play. In the former, the writer uses writing to represent the results of discovery and invention. In the latter, the writer uses writing to perform (discover and invent) the fiction. Page 152 → In this passage, Art Rodrigue is a “GOOF” (“conceived of . . . in this fashion”). Rodrigue (a fictional figure on a fictional team) is Portuguese yet “Same with Canadians” (presumably as in French-Canadians) and has the “tanned seriousness” of the “firstbaseman I saw” play for the Class D team. The invented figure, Rodrigue, and the actual minor leaguer are also “exactly like Skippy Al Robert,” whose name (if given a French pronunciation)

evokes Al Skippy Roberge, a Lowell athlete a few years older than Kerouac, who played for the Boston Braves before serving in the army during World War II, and he in turn doubles Gene Bearden, a pitcher who starred briefly for the Cleveland Indians in the 1948 World Series in spite of his war injuries and who then had cameo appearances in two baseball-themed movies released in 1949. The process of displacement, doubling and overlapping—the performative goofing—is also apparent in “Ring Anderson,” seemingly a play on the writer Ring Lardner known for his stories involving baseball, and “the Magnificent Andersons,” seemingly a play on Booth Tarkington’s novel The Magnificent Ambersons, the basis of a 1949 Orson Welles film. And in the midst of this is Jack Duluoz/Kerouac (“so beat am I”) that he can only afford to attend Class D ballgames in the lowest of the low minors, by “God by Gawrsh.” And the way the goofing extends to the spacing of the units of writing on the page (the initial indented material evoking a typed page, the shift to flush left initiating a reflection on this unit of typing) suggests that Kerouac includes the materiality of the page itself as available for visual punning and part of the expressive system of performed writing. If Kerouac were writing fiction in the traditional sense, the raw material of actual experience (his memory of Skippy Roberge as a local hero starring in football, baseball, and basketball, who perhaps loses his chance at major league stardom because of the war and how this memory includes the failure of Kerouac’s own athletic career to give him identity and meaning in part because of how he responded to the war years, is juxtaposed against the Hollywood image as Bearden both authenticates the image yet is overwritten by it) should be converted into a representation, with the messiness of the actual material subsumed into the fictional figure—in this case, Rodrigue, who, as Portuguese, both functions as a type for French-Canadian and an erasure of it. However, by placing the “so beat am I” Jack at the center, Kerouac is able to treat the writing as a performance of the interplay of actual and fictional, in which the performer can engage the fictional figure from more than one perspective. Moreover, the performer’s relationship to the performance can, similarly, shift. “Jack” can both confess and lament his Page 153 →beatness (“true to God”) and mock it (“by gawrsh”), and both reactions can be fully legitimate within the performance, just as Skippy Roberge, Al Robert, Art Rodrigue, Gene Bearden, and H. W. Mercer can evoke different aspects of the American fantasy of being a star athlete, which is to say, different aspects of image and reality and self and other. If Lee Konitz expresses “a conception so profoundly interior” through “I’ll Remember April” (“a beautiful and American structure to boot”), Kerouac similarly expresses the interior in performing the possibilities of the figure of Art Rodrigue. In imagining Rodrigue, Kerouac as “Jack” makes the self the occasion for the sketch and uses the imagined and actual figures projected from the doubling of Rodrigue and Skippy Roberge (and their doubling of his own experience) less to reveal the self (in the sense of memoir or autobiography) and more to probe the self and use the self to probe and problematize the cultural and social contexts within which he exists. Although “Imitation of the Tape” is partly a goof, the section marks a significant development in Kerouac’s handling of writing as a medium. Instead of writing being an expressive system disconnected from the interactive behavior of speaking (a medium for composing) or writing being strictly a mechanism for recording speaking (as in “Frisco: The Tape”), writing functions as a hybrid medium operating visually and aurally and combining the temporal and the spatial. By reimagining writing as itself process rather than either a means for recording process or composing textual objects, Kerouac is able to perform writing as if it is the music rather than write (i.e., compose) as if writing is a system for notating music; which is to say that writing itself (as sound, as visual material, as denotation and connotation) becomes both material to express and an expressive medium rather than it being what one uses to encode, fix, and store what one seeks to represent. This shift not only alters Kerouac’s process of writing, it also alters his relationship to his material and to the mysterious reader, making it possible to use sketching not just to perform lyric-alto cadenzas but also to perform narration and dialogue within narration and, thereby, eliminating the conflict between the horizontal dimension of plot action and the vertical dimension of lyric-alto knowing. In “Imitation of the Tape” Kerouac enacts the mode of writing—and the fictional rhetoric—that he would use for the rest of his writing career. In “Imitation of the Tape” both the process of writing and the result of writing operate in time and as time. In speaking, language necessarily operates Page 154 →in and as time, and the temporal unfolding of what is said cannot be eliminated from the saying or the hearing. What takes a minute to say takes a minute to hear. In the

usual practice of writing, the time it takes to write something and the time it takes to read it have no direct or necessary correlation. What takes ten minutes, or ten days, to write, might take ten seconds to read. In “Imitation of the Tape,” however, the writing that the reader receives is the full process of the sketcher writing (not a product derived from the process). The writing on the page is the writing as it happened in time, and the reader, in reading it, participates in this unfolding. The sketching writer, like a jazz musician playing a solo, plays the chorus through, without going back to excise a passage or correct an error. Indeed, errors contribute to the reader’s sense of participating in the process of expression (just as a listener participates in the speaker’s process of expression, hems and haws, digressions, repetitions, and the like). Moreover, gestures that a composing writer would treat as errors and eliminate from the final product become for the performing writer occasions for further play and elaboration. In the usual practice of writing, of composing in writing, writing is recursive. The writer reviews and alters what has been written. In sketching, though, writing cannot be recursive, because stopping or backing up to alter would destroy both the illusion and the reality of the writing as something being performed, casting it instead as something having once been composed. Like a jazz musician taking a chorus, the sketching writer cannot walk off stage in the middle of playing, then walk back on and resume playing as if there has been no break. The sketching writer can respond to a mistake but not erase the mistake, and he or she can add choruses but not conflate them. Kerouac’s sense that the writing must operate as if happening in time (and create for the reader the sense that this is so) is, I suggest, why he claimed that Spontaneous Prose should not be revised.26 Sketching, as initiated in October 1951, and then as extended following the experiment of “Frisco: The Tape,” asks the reader to watch (as if hearing) the writer write. Because sketched writing unfolds in time, the figure generating the sketch has a different reality for the reader than the conventional writer has. If we were to listen to a recording of Konitz performing “I’ll Remember April” akin to the performance Kerouac describes in his fall 1951 work journal, we would, in one sense, attend to the music, but we would also attend to a specific person performing the music. Even though we would not be present in the club or studio, and even though it is unlikely that we would know Konitz except through his music, we would, as Kerouac did that evening,Page 155 → focus on Konitz elaborating his material, not on the sheet music. That is, we would listen to Konitz engage himself (partly for his own sake and partly for ours) through the composed materials and for that specific occasion, and we would respond not simply to his inventions but also to our sense of the emotions driving the inventions and thereby traced by them. In the performance Kerouac describes, Konitz performs both his material and himself. Similarly, in sketching, we are aware of Kerouac, in the guise of his performing identity, performing the writing that we read, and this is altogether different than the way we think of Hemingway’s relationship to his writing and the character of Jake in The Sun Also Rises or Nick in “Big Two-Hearted River.” Because Hemingway’s writing is composed, we savor what Hemingway has made from himself. Because Kerouac’s writing is performed, we engage the process of him enacting himself through his material, moment by moment, discovering dimensions of both himself and his material. Treating writing as a medium for performance that operates as if the performer’s participation in diachronic time is in synch with (or at least parallel to) the reader’s participation in diachronic time also has implications for how Kerouac moves beyond the dilemma of the mysterious reader. In the April 1951 scroll, Kerouac wrote (typetalked) as if addressing a specific you, whom he imagined through Joan Haverty’s interest in the story he was telling—a move that enabled him to perform the horizontal action of the events, to “telled all,” but constrained lyric-alto knowing. In the October and November 1951 sketches used in part 1 of Visions of Cody, he wrote as if the reader did not exist and he was in dialogue solely with his occasion and with himself—a move that freed him to perform the vertical action of lyric-alto knowing but not to narrate events directly. In the scene in part 2 where Cody and his pool-hall buddies encounter the miscarried fetus in the field, Kerouac manages to use the performative process of sketching to create narrative, and in this sequence, the horizontal action of the events and the lyric-alto reaction occur in relationship to each other, but for this to happen, Kerouac displaced his own stake in the material onto the fictional figure of Cody: the sketch is a dialogue with the self and its material, but the self’s stake in the material and participation in the performance is elided, which obscures its basis as performance. In the further development of sketching in “Imitation of the Tape” the self’s involvement in the sketched material and performance is placed openly at the center. The self enacts, discovers, and expresses itself partly by Page 156

→committing to digressions of lyric-alto knowing (which are actually performances of lyric-alto discovering) and partly by projecting, then openly interacting with, elements of narrative. As a result, narrative shifts from being a story already known (or already invented) prior to the writing that is to be presented (i.e., represented compositionally) to instead being something that emerges in performance as the self engages events and figures (some actual, some imagined)—much as the music in Konitz performing “I’ll Remember April” happens as Konitz engages his material. In this sense, the performing (sketching) writer is in dialogue with himself or herself and his or her material but also enacting this dialogue for the reader/listener, who offers the sketching writer an occasion to perform, thus becoming an enabling presence (an audience) rather than a disabling absence (mysterious reader). The importance of the listener/reader is apparent in the passage where Jack “conceive[s] of Art Rodrigue.” It begins with Jack as seemingly a conventional first-person narrator (yet burlesquing this move): “It’s so cold in Suskahooty that you can’t see.” The you here is not an audience (the reader/ listener treated as if real) but closer to one (a rhetorical position within the fictional system that the writer who invents the speaker is setting up). The next start at the performance—“WmRnHearst didn’t have as m–”—attempts an omniscient narrator, moving the reader even farther from the act of the writing, even as the abbreviation calls attention to the letters as visual code. The next attempt to start is more a digression, where the speaking writer addresses himself only—“Nobody digs my dog like I my dog dig”—as if the writing is entirely private play. In the next unit, Jack (as Kerouac and Duluoz), dismisses these attempts to invent something for an absent reader—“But of course I don’t have to go through all that, well t–”—and begins to engage the play within the actual time of writing (retaining typos such as “rp” and “Hore Show”), which leads (by way of the recognition of “GOOF”) to “I had conceived of Art Rodrigue in this fashion; Art Rodrigue the first baseman” and the layering of Rodrigue, Skippy Roberge, et al. In the novel as Kerouac had been told it should be written at Columbia University (the novel as James theorized it in The Art of Fiction), the writer’s point of view should be established clearly and rigorously maintained. Similarly, the reader’s position vis-à-vis the fictional system should be signaled clearly and maintained. And the writer’s process of writing should be subsumed into the composition. In the false starts and fragments leading to Art Rodrigue, the opposite occurs. The writer’s participation in the work is unmistakablyPage 157 → visible; the writer’s relationship to writing as a medium, to the material, and to the reader continually shifts; and the position of the reader is similarly in flux. These factors emphasize the way the text records the process of its writing rather than the result of having been written. Reading the passage, thus, requires attending to the process of its making as much as, or more than, attending to it as a completed textual object. Indeed, it might be said that the reader ceases to be a reader in the usual sense and becomes instead a person in the audience for whom the writer is performing. If so, then the reader ceases to be a single, fixed, yet unknowable position termed mysterious reader and becomes, instead, a partner in the writer’s performance. The way the series of false starts casts writing, in the multiple senses of generating language, developing narrative, and enacting lyric-alto knowing, as performance is implicit in the way Kerouac opens the final arc of this passage with “I had conceived of Art Rodrigue” rather than the more conventional “Art Rodrigue was the first baseman.” This positions Jack as recalling a narrative that he has invented in the past but is now reflecting on in the present as he is writing and which he can change in response to his current stake in the character. And as he performs in writing, he can move freely between recalling, modifying, and reacting to the narrative. The horizontal of “telled all” and lyric-alto knowing are equal, simultaneous performance possibilities. The passage enacts Jack engaging Art Rodrigue—and through Rodrigue and Skippy Robert (Skippy Roberge) engaging himself in his beat present reduced to Class D games and himself in the past as a promising athlete with Hollywood dreams that link him to Gene Bearden as wounded veteran, briefly major league hero, and even more briefly film actor. In the scene where Dean and his buddies encounter the miscarriage, Kerouac submerges himself into the single possibility of Dean; in this scene in “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac as both himself and Jack Duluoz projects himself through a series of counters, engaging them and himself through them. Rodrigue is an occasion to perform–with Jack explicitly at the narrative’s center as its source rather than screened behind it, performing for the reader as audience rather than composing for the mysterious reader. This seemingly slight distinction is crucial for how Kerouac’s ploy of writing as if writing occurs both for writer

and reader in actual time (as talking does) offered a way to include narrative in sketching and thereby recast the mysterious reader as you. If Kerouac were composing the story of Page 158 →Art Rodrigue, first baseman for the Philadelphia Pontiacs, whose buddy (or perhaps nemesis) is the catcher Frank Goff who is not a goof, then Al Robert, Skippy Roberge, Kerouac himself as a once-promising athlete, Kerouac/ Duluoz as “so beat am I,” Bearden, and H. W. Mercer would be raw material to mine for traits and details to assign to Rodrigue, and in the smelting of the fictionally composed Rodrigue they would be reduced to slag and discarded. If Kerouac were composing the story of Rodrigue he would also need to establish a consistent point of view to use in telling (which is actually writing, which is a matter of composing) the story. In performing from the figure of Art Rodrigue (occasioned by “FRANK GOFF,” occasioned by a goof), Kerouac depletes the story of both its constructed reality and its consistency of focus or perspective but offsets this loss with two gains. First, the story becomes a catalyst for performing an array of associational possibilities (lyric-alto knowing), which conventional narration and writing as composing would exclude. Second, the sketching (performing) writer’s fluid relationship to the material shifts the center of signification from the plot (the story elements) to the reflections and responses the plot elicits. In the aesthetic of “Henry James novelist,” point of view provides a fixed position the reader uses to discriminate nuance and implication within the novel’s material. In the soulwork of sketching, point of view is fluid rather than fixed. The performing writer responds to the material from multiple angles, and the writing enacts multiple angles. The perceiving/narrating I is in motion rather than a fixed point of perspective, which means that the position of the reader/listener is also fluid rather than fixed. In the Art Rodrigue passage, the positions Jack enacts as performing writer require the reader to shift position as well, freeing Kerouac from composing for the mysterious reader, so that he can vary tone freely, change perspective, and alter mode. Because the reader’s position and the writer’s position are both dynamic, the performing writer is free to “GOOF AND KICK ALONG,” and the performing reader is free to “GOOF AND KICK ALONG.” As such, the reader in Spontaneous Prose is an entirely different figure than the reader (mysterious reader) of “Henry James novelist.” In writing as composing, the reader is a position, a “fiction” (as Ong has put it), which is also to say that the reader is an absence to which the writing must be directed. In performing, the reader is an audience, an array of positions (including the self), and a presence. In composing, the object produced by writing is, in a sense, complete(d) whether read or not. Paradoxically, this also means that the text can only be validated and authenticated by the reader. In performing, Page 159 → the action of performing, enabled by the image of audience, is its own validation. Writing becomes interactivity, of self with self, self with the materiality of the writing on the page, self with known others (for Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg, Burroughs and others) and self with imagined others. In performing, the audience is the congregation, which the speaking writer can address as a collectivity, address individually, and to which and for which the speaking writer can also reflect and confess. In performing writing, the speaker exclaims “I SPEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAK!” and the voices of the audience offer back “I HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERD!” and this replaces the solitary claim of “I MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADE!” with the reader perhaps offering back a necessarily unheard “I REEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAD!” In “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac continues to write as if in dialogue with himself as in the initial sketches from the fall of 1951 but takes the further step of imagining himself (or projecting himself) as the listening reader to his own performing. Doing so, the writing I engages the reading I, which is also a reading you, and by writing as if in dialogue with himself, he is able both to externalize and perform the interiority of rushing tremendousness because he is not writing this interior action (composing a representation of it) but is, instead, engaging it through the dialogue of the projected I with the projected you. To invent Art Rodrigue and goof on the figure is to put in play (and probe) the failure of his athletic dreams, his ethnicity, and his conflicted relationship to his literary career and to popular culture. By being both I and you—the figure performing and the figure engaging the performer and performance—Kerouac frees himself to write with the same complexity of awareness, energy, motion, and volatility of tone that he achieved in his October 1950 letter to Cassady where he explores his reactions to the two radio broadcasts of the World Series game. The jumps and juxtapositions of the performances in “Imitation of the Tape” can seem random and arcane, as if the writing is indeed merely “GOOF[ing].” But the section, though elliptical and demanding, reveals Kerouac’s sense of writing’s instability as a medium because of its problematic relationship to speaking and to language. The sketched performances also show Kerouac recasting sketching, extending its range of allusion and tone, creating a

more complex relationship to his material, and regrounding it rhetorically so that the reader becomes an array of positions rather than the single, stationary figure of the mysterious reader. In these performances the reader becomes a kind of alter ego to the writing (i.e., performing) self Page 160 →and a compatriot complicit in his performative explorations (a you), as well as an adversary to be bested (the mysterious reader, an it). This sense of the reader is implicit in the Art Rodrigue passage. In it, narrative is something to be performed with the self’s stake in the material and the action of inventing it displayed for the reader rather than screened off or erased. Instead of the fiction’s characters operating as if independent from their invention or writing (as in conventional omniscient third person narration) or a fictional narrator telling the story and revealing his or her fictionalized stake in the actions the writer has invented for him or her (as with Huck in Huck Finn and Nick in The Great Gatsby), the writer is the narrator, and this figure (writer as narrator/narrator as writer) moves in and out of the fiction as he or she generates it and projects the reader’s possible reactions. In the novel as he’d been told to write it at Columbia University, the writer’s position and the reader’s position are fixed; the invented world of the fiction is dynamic. In sketching as Kerouac extends and complicates it in “Imitation of the Tape,” the writer’s position and reader’s position are both dynamic, and the dynamism of the invented world, the fiction, is compounded by the writer’s freedom to oscillate between the actual circumstances (personal, cultural, and literary) from which the fiction is being projected and the fictional dimension. Which is also to say that in sketching, as extended in “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac establishes an approach that can perform the interiority of rushing tremendousness, because he is no longer attempting to record this inner monologue directly nor attempting (retrospectively) to compose a representation of it but is instead reexperiencing it in performing it and reacting to it as he relates it to the reader. In this sense, “Imitation of the Tape” merely enacts the method of the October 1950 letter to Cassady where Kerouac reflects on the baseball announcers, but with two crucial differences: the I has become both the I who speaks and the I who writes literature, and the you has become not the actual you addressed in a letter but the more complex, volatile you of sketching. In “Imitation of the Tape,” Kerouac dismantles the writer’s usual authority over the written product, then reconstructs the authority on a different basis by foregrounding the performing of writing. He thereby alters both the writer’s and the reader’s relationship to the writing. Instead of each focusing on what is made from the writing (the written product), each focuses on the writer performing writing and recording it onto the page. The complexity of this relationship to the reader contributes to the volatility of tone and reflects, as well, the complexity of his relationship to his material. Page 161 →In the section Kerouac not only invokes his own experiences but also an array of nonliterary cultural material (comics, B movies, jazz) and literary texts and figures (Chekhov, Yeats, Keats, Joyce, Baudelaire, Wolfe, and Melville, among others), and because all of this is treated as equally valid material for performance, the personal, the nonliterary, and the literary become coequal elements in the set. It is easy to overlook the significance of the shift in Kerouac’s approach to writing “Imitation of the Tape” enacts, but the increased range and flexibility of sketching in it shape the final three sections of Visions of Cody: “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog,” the “visions” of Cody that follow, and the retelling of the road trips covered in Parts Two through Four of On the Road that end the novel. This shift also informs Kerouac’s reshaping of the material from the fall of 1951 into parts 1 and 2 as he compiled and structured the book as a whole. In “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog” Jack describes encountering a film crew filming a scene for a Betty Crawford movie. The details make it clear that Kerouac was not sketching the events as they occurred, but neither is he (in the usual sense) composing a representation of the scene after the fact. Instead, as he relates the scene to the reader, he is both recalling the events and his reactions at the time and mixing in his imaginative responses to the episode as he is narrating. He is discovering and extending the initial experience through the telling, and the telling is the actual process of the writing. In “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog,” Kerouac finally manages to make writing a kind of walking and talking, but the writing does not occur literally as he walks but instead as he rewalks in and through the writing, and the talking is not directly the language of his inner monologue (of rushing tremendousness) during the actual encounter but a matter of exploring those reactions as he talks to the reader (as if an actual other) and reacts to his reactions. The result is a scene that narrates the event’s horizontal dimension as Kerouac experienced it as it happened, while also performing the vertical dimension of lyric-alto knowing as he

reengages the experience in sketching it for himself through the multiple positions and functions of the reader as developed in “Imitation of the Tape.” In “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog” the rushing tremendousness of the original response to the filming of the scene twines with the rushing tremendousness of lyric-alto knowing, and both are in dialogue with the scene as literally seen as a single performance in which Kerouac probes the event’s reality (film crew, actress, passersbyPage 162 → on the street), the illusion of reality to be constructed in the final film, and the reality of this illusion for the eventual audience. These become for Jack occasions for improvisationally performing his own isolation, his imaginative responsiveness, and his process of writing.27 In sketching as Kerouac practices it in “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog” what matters is not the event’s objectivity or its status as representation, or even Jack’s own subjectivity. What matters is the interplay of objective and subjective as the writing I (Kerouac performing through his surrogate, Jack Duluoz) enacts that interplay in telling it to the reader as you and how that dialogue becomes further complicated by the cultural frames the scene evokes (mass art, the sociology of an upper-class urban neighborhood, etc.) and the personal frames (such as the difficulties between Jack and Cody that occasioned the walk in the first place) that contextualize the dialogue. Treating the writing I as a figure performing the intersection of the horizontal axis of what happened and the vertical axis of lyric-alto knowing in turn enables Kerouac (as Jack) to generate the visions of Cody that follow “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog,” including the scene where Jack imagines Cody encountering the Three Stooges, in which the interplay of the actual (Jack and Cody walking down the street) and the fantasy (Cody as a fourth Stooge engaging the other three as Jack watches as if within and outside the fantasy) enable Kerouac to perform his entanglement with Cassady and his projections of Cody with a virtuosity that erases the distinction between horizontal and vertical. In “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog” Kerouac applies the reformulated approach to sketching worked out in “Imitation of the Tape” to explore an event he has recently experienced. In the visions of Cody that follow “Joan Rawshanks in the Fog,” Kerouac uses this reformulated approach to sketch a series of lyric-alto performances that explore Jack’s imaginative stake in Cody with little overt attention to the horizontal. In the final section, where Jack retells the trips covered in Parts Two through Four of On the Road, Kerouac uses the reformulated approach to transform narrative itself into a kind of lyric-alto knowing, a vision, where the reader attends both to the events Jack describes and to his performative reinventing of the story and the history from which he derives it, much as Jack combines remembered details from walking with Cody with imagined details in the Three Stooges scene so that recall and imaginative projection become a single process (much as a jazz musician draws on the tune’s changes in elaborating a performance). In his July 14, 1951, letter to Holmes, where he laments that the Page 163 →scroll Road lacks lyric alto-knowing, Kerouac characterizes moments of lyric alto-knowing as digressions from the main business of the fiction—telling what happened. In the final section of Cody, Kerouac instead treats narrative itself as a matter of lyric alto-knowing, a further vision, a performance occurring in the present moment of the telling (i.e., sketching) rather than having occurred in the past. Kerouac’s final gestures in the section of visions that lead to (and introduce) the retelling of the On the Road trips strongly suggest that he was deliberately casting Jack as a performer, a teller, an inventor of story. First, Kerouac invokes James’s “The Beast in the Jungle”: “THINGS HAVE A DECEIVING LOOK OF PEACEFULNESS, THE BEAST is actually ready to leap,” then a few lines later inserts what he labels, “(an ABSTRACT drawing)” (VC, 336–37). The drawing, an apparently random squiggle, underscores Kerouac’s break from conventional representation. It breaks the illusion of the continuity and transparency by emphasizing the page as a surface on which the writer is marking. It may also function as a kind of Rorschach, a parody of the apparent randomness from which the story is drawn (and on which it is imposed) as the teller invents it in performing—and as such the abstract drawing may also be a figure of the “BEAST” threatening to leap. In the James story Kerouac is referencing here, the central character refuses to commit himself to any of the possibilities of experience surrounding him because he believes he has been chosen for some special fate and must remain perpetually ready for it, only to realize (as the “beast” of his own emptiness “leaps”) that he has, in waiting to live his life, failed to live it. For Jack, the “BEAST” threatens to leap if he fails to risk engaging his material and performing it as story. That is, he must perform the story if he is, as he puts it, to “put the quietus on the road.” To the extent that the James reference positions Jack as someone who is tempted to hold back and not act, performing the story becomes

a commitment to acting, and the way Jack then adds, “Kind King and Sir, my Lord, God, please direct me in this” (positioning himself as a singer of an epic tale, saluting the court and invoking the muse, before jumping in, in media res, to perform the epic) also suggests that Kerouac is imagining the narrating he is about to commence as an action, not the representation of action, and the section’s final sentence explicitly casts the narrating that is about to come as a series of performances, in which form, structure, and meaning will be discovered rather than already known: “The telling of the voyages again, for the very beginning; that is, immediately after this. The Voyages are told each in one Page 164 →breath, as is your own, to foreshadow that or this rearshadows that, one! ” (VC, 337) In “Imitation of the Tape” and the sections that follow it—“Joan Raw-shanks in the Fog,” the series of visions of Cody, and the retelling of the On the Road trips—Kerouac uses sketching as a protocol for performance. As a result, the reader’s focus is on how the performance moves and develops more than what is being sketched. In attending to what is being sketched, the reader is also engaging the sketching performer. As such, the emphasis in Visions of Cody becomes neither “Cody” (nor Cassady as his prototype) nor the “visions” Jack fashions from Cody but Jack “visioning” Cody, and this is a matter of Jack engaging the personal and cultural in order to perform himself through their interplay. This is implicitly the case in the scene where Cody and his buddies encounter the miscarried fetus, as well as throughout the projections of Cody’s childhood and adolescence that Jack creates in part 2. It is explicitly the case in the visions of Cody (as in the scene where Jack imagines Cody with the Three Stooges) and the retelling of the road trips that conclude the book. By treating Cody as material to be performed (rather than either an actual or invented figure to be presented), Kerouac casts Jack (and through Jack casts himself) as a participant not only in the “voyages” that he is “telling . . . again” but also as a participant through the retelling, which is to say that he positions Jack as a reflecting and experiencing consciousness and a performer. Read in context, the narrative section that closes the novel (recapitulating much of the scroll On the Road) is, then, less the story of Jack’s experiences on the road with Cody and more the story of Jack reimagining the material and performing it.28 How Kerouac handled the material from the fall of 1951 as he shaped parts 1 and 2 of the Visions of Cody typescript suggests he understood, at least intuitively, that Visions of Cody centers as much on Jack’s process of visioning as on the figure of Cody. In the October 18, 1951, entry of the fall work journal he notes, “Wrote the great initial Dean Pomeray speech to Tom Watson & the football-passing scene in the Denver dusk & ‘great riot of October Joy’—a tremendous afternoon of writing.” This unit opens part 2 of Visions of Cody. In this entry he also notes, “today, Oct. 18, 1951, ON THE ROAD took off from the ground”—later adding, “(VISIONS OF CODY. . . . later title).” The typescript shows that the pages for these two scenes, which initiate Cody’s history in the novel, were originally typed as pages 1–23. It also shows that the numbering for the pages for the set of Page 165 →sketches that open part 1 originally started (as typed) with 24. The original typed numbers on these pages have been crossed out and replaced in pencil, so that the poolhall and “foot-ball passing” scenes start on page 60 instead of page 1. That is, as Kerouac first integrated the fall material into the book, he used the most conventional section of narrative (material written as he was beginning to experiment with sketching scenes but before he’d begun using sketching for narrative) to open the book. In these scenes Jack figures only as the narrator, not a participant, as if Visions of Cody were to be Stories of Cody. Reversing the sections to open with the sketches frames the novel as Jack’s process of consciousness rather than a presentation of Cody’s history. In the opening sketches, Jack is not only wandering the city and sketching what he sees; his sketching is driven by his need to understand, and to try to resolve, his fascination with Cody (both at the psychological level and culturally). The reversing of the sections also, implicitly, casts Jack as an active figure in the narrative of Cody’s poolhall adolescence. Jack is not, in the conventional sense, narrating these scenes; he is projecting them, out of his need to understand and express himself through Cody that opens the book—and doing so using details from his own adolescence and bits he knows about Cody (in “Frisco: The Tape” Jack shows Cody this scene and asks him how well he has guessed at the history he’s projected for Cody). Kerouac’s reworking of the October and November 1951 sketches in part 1 as he constructed Visions of Cody also reflect the extent to which the book, as completed, is a visioning of Cody and how the book as a whole is informed by the breakthrough into the more flexible and far-ranging sense of sketching (anchored in the sense of writing

operating in time as if a mode of speaking) in “Imitation of the Tape.” The differences between the original notebook version of the “Old Diner” sketch and the version that opens Visions of Cody is a case in point. The fall 1951 work journal identifies this as one of the first two sketches Kerouac attempted. In the notebook, the sketch begins as follows.


There’s nothing like the old lunchcart that has the oldfashioned railroad car ceiling and sliding doors– Page 166 →the board where bread is cut is worn down fine as if with bread dust and a plane; the icebox is a huge brownwood thing29

As typed for Visions of Cody, the sketch begins instead:

This is an old diner like the ones Cody and his father ate in, long ago, with that oldfashioned railroad car ceiling and sliding doors—the board where bread is cut is worn down fine as if with bread dust and a plane; the icebox (“Say I got some nice homefries tonight Cody!”) is a huge brownwood thing. (VC, 3)

In the original, the focus is fully on what Kerouac notices about the “OLD DINER” as he sketches. As recast for Visions of Cody, the rhetoric is more complicated. The opening gesture of “This” treats the reader as if present (in space and time) with Jack as he calls attention to a specific “old diner.” Moreover, the diner becomes a trigger for imagining Cody as someone whose past includes experiences that match Jack’s own, so that the diner is not only “This” diner in the present but also like diners from Jack’s past and from Cody’s past as well, so that for Jack to recognize his own past in the diner is to recognize his connection to Cody, and this sense of connection leads to Jack turning his attention from the scene being sketched (addressed to the reader who is being directed to look in a certain way) to the interruption, “(‘Say I got some nice homefries tonight Cody!’),” where Cody is addressed as if he, too, is implicitly present, even as the parenthetical interruption marks him as absent. The other major adjustment to the original sketch is the brief paragraph added to the end.

The smell is always of boiling water mixed with beef, boiling beef, like the smell of the great kitchens of parochial boarding schools or old hospitals, the brown basement kitchens’ smell—the smell is curiously the hungriest in America—it is FOODY insteady of just spicy, or—it’s like dishwater soap

just washed a pan of hamburg—nameless—memoried—sincere—makes the guts of men curl in October. (VC, 4)

This coda is, in a sense, redundant. The original sketch builds to a clear ending: the original October 1951 opening (“There’s nothing like the old lunch-cart”)Page 167 → provokes “decades of delicious greasy food. Ah!” That is, the original sketch performs the discovery of delight in the diner in spite of (even because of) its ordinariness, how the new partly overlays the worn and old, and how the smells and taste of ordinary food combine to transcend these matters—“Ah!” In the original, the sketcher is participating fully in the scene, and the sketching was, it seems, a momentary respite from Kerouac’s dilemmas of finding a way to support himself and resolve On the Road. The sketch, though, has a different context in Visions of Cody. Explicitly, it is Jack’s performance as he mulls over his desire for, yet separation from, Cody (“Say Cody . . .”), and implicitly it is Kerouac’s performance as he constructs the late 1951 sketches into a section to precede the novel’s already completed final sections: “Frisco: The Tape,” “Imitation of the Tape,” the retelling of the Road trips. In this new context, the original ending, the “Ah!” of October 1951, elicits (for Jack, and presumably Kerouac as well) a further recognition of loss that complicates the brief moment of satisfaction in simple food and drives “makes the guts of men curl in October.” If “greasy food. Ah!” is the original rushing tremendousness, “makes the guts curl” is the further discovery as Jack reexperiences the original response in reperforming it for the you who listens in reading. The “OLD DINER” sketch, as reelaborated for part 1 is, in effect, a doubled performance. Its core remains what Kerouac experienced for himself in engaging the scene originally in sketching it as a separate piece, and this is reperformed and reframed as Kerouac shapes the original sketches into the Fiction’s opening section.30 If Visions of Cody were primarily Cody’s story and various visions of Cody, Kerouac should either, it seems, have omitted the part 1 sketches or have kept the pool hall and football scenes as the opening. But if the book is Jack’s visioning of Cody (as the material following “Imitation of the Tapes” suggests), then the sketches are the context for this visioning. They are the lyric-alto knowing informing the Fiction and impelled by it (just as they are performances that document the start of the writing experiments that evolve into the novel and which reflect, in their recasting, the completion of its imaginative and stylistic journey—beginning and end). Were Visions of Cody primarily Cody’s story, then Latham’s claim that it is leftovers from Kerouac’s work on On the Road and should be read “in bits and pieces as if it were a book of poetry” would have some validity. But even the sketches in part 1, the pieces most easily read as bits, are not, as reperformed for inclusion in part 1, independent units. To read them as such is to miss not only how they initiate the novel and relate to its design but also how Page 168 →they (as recast from the original notebook drafts specifically for the completed book) record Jack, as Kerouac’s surrogate, enacting the writer as performer and utilizing the sense of audience Kerouac developed by confronting the limitations of “Frisco: The Tape,” then resituating writing as a process within actual time in “Imitation of the Tape.” To read Visions of Cody as bits and pieces is to miss what Kerouac termed its “wild form.” More seriously, it is to miss that this wild form becomes the basis of his work following Visions of Cody even in his less overtly experimental work, such as The Dharma Bums. And it is to miss how truly radical Spontaneous Prose is as a conception of writing as a medium and as a way to generate writing. In the Spontaneous Prose of Visions of Cody and its wild form, Kerouac was aiming at nothing less than replacing the author as a composer of the written with the writer as a performer performing writing and thereby to subvert, even destroy, the conventions formulated, as it were, in the mysterious reader’s honor. In his November 16, 1951, work journal entry, Kerouac exclaims, “NO TIME, NO CHRONOLOGY, composing willy-nilly, as Holmes says, a book surpassing the problem of time by itself being full of the roar of Time (not his words).” As Kerouac progressed through the experiments he shaped into Visions of Cody, he came to recognize, I suggest, that the only way for his writing to “be full of the roar of Time” was to cast writing as a performance medium, not a medium for composing, so that writing could enact time directly (as speech does) yet also (by being the generating of visual marks storable on the page) record time (as speech cannot). To practice writing as

performance (as opposed to the composing of representations of performance), the writer as speaker had to be writing in response to his stake in the present moment and to be imagining the reader as both seeing and hearing this happen—that is, to project the reader as listening in the reader’s own present and as if present to the writing speaker. For this to be the case, writing had to be a matter of the performing writer engaging an array of responses and reacting in time to time. Writing had to record (and be a recording of) time rather than represent it. This is why Fiction in Spontaneous Prose is not the construction of a story as if what mattered is the reader’s appreciation of the implications the writer has constructed within, or even as, the story. Instead, Fiction in Spontaneous Prose is a telling, elicited in part by the writer’s desire to share rushing tremendousness and in part by the reader’s desire to hear the telling. In the fiction of “Henry James novelist,” the reader is a position the author constructs and controls. In the Page 169 →Fiction of Spontaneous Prose, the reader (projected as listener) is an enabling collaborator participating in the Fiction as it is being recollected and reimagined (which is to say, as it is being performed). For this to be the case, writing must operate in the image of speaking, and Jack (as enacting consciousness) must be at the center of the book. And for Jack to be at the center, the book must be the action of visioning rather than a gathering of visions—the visioning of Cody, which is also the visioning of Jack and through Jack’s visioning a lyric-alto performance of the listener’s shared participation in the problematic space and time that is Kerouac’s awareness of “America.” In On the Road Kerouac loosened compositional control and moved toward writing as performance by typetalking. In Visions of Cody he committed fully to writing as a mode of performance. Even more crucially, he pushed beyond trying to adapt writing so that it could imitate speech and speaking and instead began writing as if writing were a variety of speaking—an interactive behavior operating in time rather than a compositional process representing time. In Visions of Cody Kerouac replaced the single surrogacy of Sal in On the Road with a doubled surrogacy—Jack Duluoz (an I) performing for you (also a projection of I)—so that the writing becomes literally dialogic—the writing self projecting and performing in writing for the apprehension of the reading and responding self. Instead of trying to use writing as a medium for composing representations of the interiority of rushing tremendousness or trying to use it to record rushing tremendousness, Kerouac began, in Visions of Cody, to treat writing as a medium for performing rushing tremendousness. Spontaneous Prose has typically been understood as a new procedure for generating writing without concern for what writing might be as a medium, which is to say as if writing is a single, stable medium rather than an array of possible media resolving the dialectic of language as aural system and visual system in different ratios by how the doubled possibility of the alphabetic code can function (as itself language operating as a visual system or as a visual system encoding and evoking an aural system). If writing is understood, as it usually is, as a singular, unvarying medium, the difference between Kerouac’s procedure and Hemingway’s would be something like, Hemingway composed slowly and with deliberation, while Kerouac composed rapidly without deliberation. But Spontaneous Prose, as Kerouac came to practice it in developing Visions of Cody, is more than writing fast Page 170 →or writing without deliberation. It is a matter of reconceptualizing writing as a medium. In Spontaneous Prose the mechanism of writing functions differently than the mechanism of writing within the conventions of print literacy. In Kerouac’s work from Visions of Cody on, writing is a speech-like process rather than a system of visual counters deployed to construct meaning. In Spontaneous Prose, writing operates diachronically, so that the unfolding of time in reading and the unfolding of time in the writing of the writing are analogues of each other. In Spontaneous Prose, the performing writer speaks writing; writing is, thus, nonrecursive, and the forward momentum of performance in time is privileged over the spatial potential of composed writing. In Spontaneous Prose, the visual marks on the page are not signs arranged by composing; they are traces registering the action of writing. In Spontaneous Prose, most fundamentally, writing becomes a behavior that mimes speech and speaking. It is, that is, the mechanism of writing reconceptualized from its function within the paradigm of print literacy and re-created as a medium for performing secondary orality. Instead of writing being a visual system that subsumes and controls the aural, behavioral, and temporal process of speaking, writing becomes an extension of speaking, operating both visually and aurally, and in both domains operating within time rather than beyond or above it. In Visions of Cody, Spontaneous Prose is the speaking of writing and the textuality of secondary literacy. As such, it is a different textual mediation than writing enacting the textuality of primary literacy—especially the textuality of primary literacy as distilled and refined for and by modern print culture.

Once we recognize that the typetalking of On the Road is a decisive step toward Spontaneous Prose but not its realization, the importance of Visions of Cody for assessing Kerouac’s project as a writer becomes clear. Visions of Cody is, simply put, the ground from which the rest of his work develops. The various installments of what he termed the Duluoz Legend are not only instances of Spontaneous Prose but also experiments in the possibilities of Spontaneous Prose and investigations into the terms of consciousness within the cultural dynamics of secondary literacy.31 Once we recognize that Spontaneous Prose is an innovative mode of textuality, rather than an idiosyncratic procedure, we can begin to understand that it is a decisive break with the textuality of print literacy—a reconfiguring of writing as a medium so that writing can perform the secondary literacy that secondary orality both makes possible and calls for. As such, Kerouac’s project as a writer, especially in his more experimental work, is not only at the center of Page 171 →literary experiment in his era, rather than the periphery, it points to the way literary experiment in this era was not simply driven by a need to discover what literature could do and be in the decades following World War II but also by a need to reinvent writing as a medium so that writing as literature could continue to function in the rapidly evolving mediascape following the eclipse of the modernist textual paradigm.

Page 172 →

Epilogue The Textual Condition by situating what he terms “the textual condition” in relation to the “symbolic exchanges” that constitute “human culture.” JEROME MCGANN OPENS

Both the practice and study of human culture comprise a network of symbolic exchanges. Because human beings are not angels, these exchanges always involve material negotiations. Even in their most complex and advanced forms—when the negotiations are carried out as textual events—the intercourse that is being human is materially executed: as spoken texts or scripted forms. To participate in these exchanges is to have entered what I wish to call here “the textual condition.”1

McGann uses this definition to initiate a critique of “the modern hermeneutical tradition,” in which, he suggests, “texts are largely imagined as scenes of reading rather than scenes of writing.” The critical practices within this tradition, thus, fail to engage writing’s materiality and how a text’s physical features encode (or at least reflect) the social and economic conditions of its production and circulation, which frame its reception and are thus elements in how it generates meaning and functions culturally. To ignore the materiality of texts and their social dimension is to misconstrue how texts participate in the “symbolic exchanges” that are “the practice . . . of human culture.”2 To ignore the textual condition is to erase the interplay between the scenes of writing and reading, which is like believing the half of a telephone conversation one overhears is the full exchange. In a sense, it goes without saying that textual objects both occasion and mediate textual events (i.e., textual events involve acts of writing that have Page 173 →been published, are distributed in some manner, and are then accessed by readers, who interact with the written work, both as the writing itself and as the object that stores and transmits the writing, through various institutional frames and conventions). But McGann’s decision to base the textual condition on textual events rather than textual objects signals, I suggest, two complementary features of his project: overtly, he is challenging those operating within the “modern hermeneutical tradition” to acknowledge the sociological (and historically variable) dynamics of how the works constructed in writing that we consider literature circulate. He is also signaling the inadequacy of views of textuality that treat the literary work as a static, ideal, perfectible construct independent of its histories as cultural action. For McGann, a work and its physical manifestation as a text are neither a static monument nor a freestanding jungle gym of words (a linguistic code) on which the reader twirls and hangs as if the free play of recess is the whole of the school day. They are, instead, complex negotiations that function as sites of engagement and resistance. The case study offered in the preceding chapters has, I hope, suggested the value of attending to the textual condition. In one sense, it is an attempt to replace the usual view of Kerouac’s scene of writing (where the April 1951 scroll is central, all but independent of what came before it, and the measure of all that came after it) with an alternative view (in which the scroll builds from earlier experiments, then in turn leads to sketching and Spontaneous Prose and to Visions of Cody). But in another sense, the preceding chapters have partly misconstrued or misapplied McGann’s position. This discussion of Kerouac should, arguably, have focused on the usual understanding of his scene of writing: the process by which he, over several drafts, reworked the April 1951 scroll of On the Road; the factors that led Viking Press initially to accept it, then after some delay, actually publish it; the factors that drove their adjustments to Kerouac’s copy; their marketing strategy and how the initial reviews positioned the book; and how the book’s violations of the codes of containment in play in the late 1950s became its rhetorical occasion (even

though it was written in 1951, before those codes had crystalized and before the cultural and social apparatus had developed to support them). Such an examination of the scroll-derived On the Road and its reception would be highly productive. But this would cast Visions of Cody as a side dish, not an entrée, and Visions of Cody is too major an achievement, too crucial to Kerouac’s project as a writer (if not yet his reception), to be the after-dinner Jell-O to On the Road as a plate of pork Page 174 →chops. That On the Road has typically been the measure of Kerouac’s significance shouldn’t preclude our recognizing that Visions of Cody provides an occasion for a different dialogue between the scenes of writing and reading—one that offers additional significance to Kerouac and his work. Were this not the case, Typee would still be the central text in the Melville canon, followed by Omoo. Clearly, it is not McGann’s intention to restrict our consideration of writers and their work to the dialogue between the scenes of writing and reading that defined their initial, primary reception—however valuable (and even revelatory) recovering these dialogues can be. And his analyses are often—in startling, convincing, and highly productive ways—revisionary, precisely because he shows us how to attend to such forgotten dialogues, or to dialogues that could (and arguably should) have occurred but didn’t, or to dialogues that can occur because a work and its texts now operate in a different cultural matrix. The consideration of Kerouac’s wrestling with the mysterious reader in the previous chapters, then, can be seen as an alternate dialogue between the scenes of writing and reading that points toward possible future dialogues because the context has changed and changed in at least three ways: For one, Kerouac is no longer current. Reading On the Road as if it is the literary analogue of Brando sneering from his Harley in The Wild Bunch, threatening to tear down the wall of conformity protecting the American Way of suburbia against Communism takes an act of historical construction; we can recover the black-and-white (or should one say red and red-whiteblue) outlines of this dialogue, but we no longer participate in it directly. For another, Kerouac now hovers on the edge of the canon, even to be glimpsed in the most recent iteration of that most canonical of temples, The Norton Anthology of American Literature.3 Third, our relationship to language has changed in the sixty plus years since “Columbia University . . . told” Kerouac what fiction should be. Increasingly, we write even our grocery lists on our phones using what we quaintly term a keyboard, and only the old and gray among us have dealt with a typewriter’s tangled ribbon, a sticky key, or a misfed sheet of paper. Word processing makes all writing something to scroll—even as software algorithms kindly mark where pages would break should we print a hard copy (terminology that signals how much we now perceive the lettering temporarily on the screen derived from magnetic ones and zeroes as the actual writing and treat the inked lettering on the surface of the paper fed from the printer’s magazine as the secondary image). The ease and transparencyPage 175 → of swapping Word files and PDFs as e-mail attachments makes the once-upon-a-time practice of making carbon copies for distribution as old-fashioned as chopping wood or shoveling coal to feed the furnace. The texting of messages is having, I suggest, even more impact on our understanding of writing and its relationship to language. Not only do people younger than I am text on their phones, they do so by treating the visual marks of alphabetic writing not as characters that map the sound of syllables (syl = sill; la = lah; bles = buls) but as signs of words (omg! wtf?). No self-respecting texter would voice the letters LOL as loll but would know that the sounds el oh el could be used in conversation to evoke LOL and that that would function as “laugh out loud” while also performing one’s ironic awareness of texting as a medium and as a language practice. What started as a shorthand, a kind of visual punning, has become a distinct variation of alphabetic writing (functioning as a visual language) driven by and adapted to a specific technology and its culture of use. Whether or not these relatively casual comments (frm n ldstr who dn’t txt) correctly register the logic of how alphabetic characters are at times redeployed in texting (with letters functioning as representation of words and the phrases signified by the string of letters then converted into something akin to a word in which the alphabetic characters function visually as signs of the names of letters, each letter in turn standing for a word within the txt “word”), it is still clear that what was writing is now one system among several that involve different logics for what the alphabetic characters represent and how they represent. What was the medium of writing is now the media of writing. Moreover, texting functions as a kind of intermediate mode between speaking and writing—operating visually but functioning with some of the behavioral interactivity that characterizes speaking (the shift to e-mail and its logics and protocols

participated in this blurring but to a lesser extent). What Kerouac’s Columbia University professors understood as writing has become one practice among a set of practices; each to some degree a distinct medium. But just as such practices as texting, podcasting, and blogging (another vector where the seemingly clear binary between speaking and writing breaks down and reforms along different, functional, rhetorical and mediational lines) help us recognize that what writing was as a medium in 1950 is not what it is as media sixty years later, it is also possible to recognize that writing was already not simply a single or entirely stable medium in 1950 in spite of what Kerouac’s Columbia professors taught (or what he perceived them to teach) but was already functionally several possible Page 176 →media—one foregrounding alphabetic characters as visual elements in a visual language, one foregrounding alphabetic characters as indicators of aural elements to evoke language operating as speech.4 In non-texting alphabetic writing, sequences of letters (vowels and consonants) function as images of sound, and we learn to read by learning to recognize how shifts in letters imply shifts in sound and thus what word is signaled (cat is not bat, not hat nor fat or slat, and so on). As such, alphabetic characters and the rules for their sequencing visually represent the aural dimension of language (more accurately alphabetic writing understood this way creates a visual image that evokes approximations of the aural). Letters, though, can relate to the units we think of as words in two quite different ways: they can be marks indicating sound (c + a + t = the aural unit cat = slang for beatnik hipster—as in, “that bongo player is sure a real cat”) or they can function conceptually as visual sets one processes without converting the letters into sound in order to understand them (cat: slang for beatnik . . .). In the former, the visual cat cues an aural action (the saying, or at least the imagined hearing, of cat). In the latter, the visual system operates silently (we see cat and process it without needing to imagine saying or hearing it). As children, we first learn to hear the letters from the page and speak them aloud (“See Spot throw the ball. See Jane run. See Dick run. Run Jane. Run Dick. Run. Run. Run”). Then we learn to read silently. That is, we are taught to subordinate the capacity of alphabetic writing to store an analogue of aural action (i.e., writing as representing speech which is understood as language) to writing’s capacity to function directly and fully as a visual system (i.e., writing itself as language rather than a representation of speech as language).5 Using writing as a medium for composing (treating it as itself language) foregrounds the visual. The “cat” on the page is a visual unit that accrues meaning and inflection through its interaction with the other words (not letters) that are part of the passage where it occurs. The sound of c + a + t is an optional, secondary feature, a supplement. Such writing is made from words, not letters implying sounds (“The coffeehouse cat with the scraggly goatee plays the bongos, the kitty cats purring their cappuccinos, the dimmed spots, like Eddie Poe on the nod, staining the smoky shadows”). Speaking, though, is made of sounds; writing that stores speech (and speech-like actions) is made out of letters manipulated to register sound and give the transitory motion of the aural a stable (i.e., stored and transmittable)Page 177 → visual form. Words are present but as a product of the sounds the letters imply. While meaning is still partly through the interaction of the words, meaning also inheres in sound itself with the words and phrases evoking spoken inflections that operate (mean) as performative gestures (“Oowee! That caaat is sooo hip the cap’cino sippin’ kitties are lappin up his bip ‘n bop as he blohowowows his top. Maan!”). Clearly, writers manipulated orthography for aural effect before the mid-twentieth century. George Washington Harris’s Sut Lovingood sketches of the 1850s are a case in point. But for writers in this tradition and those influenced by it (such as Twain), writing is still primarily a visual system operating directly as language rather than a mechanism for storing speaking. Harris’s title for his 1867 collection illustrates this: Sut Lovingood. Yarns Spun by a “Nat’ral Born Durn’d Fool.” Warped and Wove for Public Wear. Here, the sets of letters that evoke colloquial speech are set off from, framed by, and subordinated to the conventionally spelled words. Moreover, the pun on “yarns” overwrites Sut’s “yarns” by implicitly subordinating his illiterate, unwriterly voice (his speaking) to Harris’s (and his narrator’s) writing. For Harris and the narrator, Sut’s yarns are raw material—the threads from which they weave (compose and structure) the cloth of the book. In the tales, the narrator, a quite formal gentleman who writes with precise attention to all the niceties of spelling and grammar as well as a seemingly polite concern for social decorum, introduces Sut’s colloquial voice, relays it to the reader, then retakes control at the end. As a result, the tales display—but frame and subordinate—Sut’s performative (as well as

illiterate and regionally and socially marginalized) immediacy. The warp and weave of the narrator’s compositional appropriation warp Sut’s performative yarn spinning, even as his yarning continually threatens to rip the fabric the narrator weaves to clothe Sut’s rawness and make it presentable. In Harris’s work, writing is language, not its representation (or a coding system for storing speaking). It is a medium for composing, and the composing can partly tame and contain (and frame for bemusement) the unconstrained oral exuberance of semicivilized, illiterate Sut. Writing as language in its own right, as a direct visual system, is ordinate; writing as a mechanism for storing the aural is subordinate (formally, culturally, politically, and socially). Like Harris and Twain, Kerouac clearly recognized that orthography can be gamed to imply speech sounds, but he sought to reverse the relationship between writing as a visual system (operating directly as language) and Page 178 →writing as a visual representation of speech (with speaking itself, not writing, being language). Where Harris and Twain treated writing as visual language for composing as primary and writing as represented spoken action encoded in letters as secondary, Kerouac—as he searched for a voice for On the Road, performed the typetalked solos of the April 1951 scroll, and explored Spontaneous Prose in Visions of Cody—sought to write as if language as speaking was primary. That is, he sought to write against the grain of a fundamental feature of writing: the way it, as Ong notes, transforms language from a process happening in time (for the speaker and listener) into a system operating in and from the space of the page: “It [writing] initiated what print and computers only continue, the reduction of dynamic sound to quiescent space, the separation of the word from the living present, where alone spoken words can exist.”6 In Kerouac’s experiments, we see an attempt to reverse “the reduction” that writing, according to Ong, “initiated.” The question is why. Several factors figure in Kerouac’s attempt to subvert the privileging of writing as language operating visually in space over language operating aurally and orally in time as speech. One was personal: his desire for writing to have something of the behavioral immediacy of oral storytelling, with its roots in the French-Canadian neighborhood of his youth and his sense of himself as a working-class man. Another factor was his desire to write in such a way that the nonliterary energy and presence of Cassady would not be minimized and contained (as Harris’s formal strategies and sense of writing as a medium minimize and contain—even in celebrating—Sut’s voice). Another was formal and rhetorical. To compose in writing (where writing is itself directly language) is necessarily to eliminate the direct I/you interaction of speaker and listener. The composing writer constructs an object of writing with which an absent, belated, and unknown reader (the mysterious reader) interacts by reading. The relationship of the writer as I to the reader as you is necessarily deferred, displaced, and mediated through the written object that separates them spatially and temporally, even as it joins them. These factors suggest some of why Kerouac might have sought ways to make his writing aural and performative rather than visual and compositional. But it is also important to recognize that the relationship of writing as a medium to language was, at mid-century, already being altered by new media of language—well before computerbased practices were a factor. Without analogue sound recording (especially tape recording) and broadcastPage 179 → media (especially radio), his experiments would plausibly have developed differently—perhaps more as a continuation or extension of the tradition of Harris, Twain, et al. rather than an inversion of it in which aural performance is primary rather than subordinated to writing as a visual system.7 What Ong terms secondary orality offers one way to contextualize Kerouac’s experiments with Spontaneous Prose. In Orality and Literacy—published in 1982, on the cusp of the proliferation of word processing, e-mail, blogs, texting, and the like—Ong proposes that “electronic technology,” by which he means “telephone, radio, television, and various kinds of sound tape” rather than computers, has “brought us into the age of ‘secondary orality’” (133). For Ong, we are, as readers of such books as his, “so literate that it is very difficult for us to conceive of an oral universe of communication or thought except as a variant of a literate universe” (2). Writing, especially when enhanced by print technologies, has the power to overwrite and erase (silence) our awareness of how speaking differs from writing and thus becomes our framework for understanding language. This is why, Ong suggests:

Our understanding of the differences between orality and literacy developed only in the electronic age [of radio and sound recording], not earlier. Contrasts between electronic media and print have sensitized us to the earlier contrast between writing and orality. (2-3)

What Ong terms electronic media give aural language some of the same powers writing earlier gave to language: storage, reproducibility, transmission across space and time, the capacity to be accessed by a mass audience. These media give speech the capacity to be a significant channel for cultural production, not merely for the give and take of the ordinary and private. By altering and extending speech and speaking, technologies such as radio and analogue sound recording can renew our awareness of language operating orally and aurally, which in turn creates at least the potential for reconsidering, as Ong notes, the similarities and differences between writing and speaking as media, as systems, and practices of language. For Ong, radio, television, and sound reproduction not only bring into view (and hearing) speaking and writing as different modes of language, they also generate, he suggests, a “secondary orality”—cultural practices which “depend on writing and print for [their] existence” (2–3), but which Page 180 →reach the audience as aural action rather than written object. A reader reads a short story; the audience listens to a radio dramatization of that story.

This new orality has striking resemblances to the old in its participatory mystique, its fostering of a communal sense, its concentration on the present moment, and even its use of formulas. . . . Like primary orality, secondary orality has generated a strong group sense, for listening to spoken words forms hearers into a group, a true audience, just as reading written or printed texts turns individuals in on themselves. . . . Unlike members of a primary oral culture, who are turned outward because they have had little occasion to turn inward, we are turned outward because we have turned inward. In a like vein, where primary orality promotes spontaneity because the analytic reflectiveness implemented by writing is unavailable, secondary orality promotes spontaneity because through analytic reflection we have decided that spontaneity is a good thing. (Ong, 133–34)

Ong here suggests that the dynamic of secondary orality overwrites (or rather “over-performs”) what Kerouac terms the mysterious reader with “a true audience,” and his sense that “secondary orality promotes spontaneity” further suggests why the secondary orality of radio and sound recording would have appealed to Kerouac.8 But Kerouac did not ever consider, it seems, becoming a radio performer of stories in the manner of, say, Jean Shepherd, and his forays into commercial sound recordings came well after he had written most of his best work and after On the Road’s publication made him a celebrity.9 For Kerouac, the challenge was to recast writing, not turn away from it, so that writing could provide, for both writer and reader, the “participatory mystique,” “spontaneity,” and “concentration on the present” of secondary orality. Adapting the typewriter into a kind of type recorder was one step. The fall 1951 sketching experiments were another, and the further elaboration of sketching into Spontaneous Prose through “Imitation of the Tape” and the shaping of Visions of Cody into a novel of “wild form” completed the process. Ong’s apprehension that the renewed prominence broadcast and recording media were giving to spoken language was generating a secondary orality helps locate Kerouac’s experiments, but Ong doesn’t account for how secondary orality might alter writing and literacy rather than simply compete or coexist with them. To be able to understand Kerouac’s experiments as an Page 181 →alteration of writing as a medium (an adaptation of secondary orality) rather than a rejection of writing, this becomes crucial. Here, the literacy hypothesis—with its focus on the differences between speaking and writing as media rather than their entanglement—is of limited use. To account for Kerouac’s recasting of writing, we need to consider how modern technologies of the voice led not only to a secondary orality but also opened the possibility of what might be termed “secondary literacy,” a literacy in which writing’s committing of language to space has been disrupted and complicated by the way modern

technologies of voice recommit language to time. In “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter,” Friedrich Kittler notes, as does Ong, that writing commits language to space. But in analyzing what he terms “mechanical media,” Kittler also considers how and why media such as sound recording destabilize writing’s commitment to space. Kittler’s interrogation of “the modern media landscape” helps clarify how Kerouac’s recasting of writing as a medium hovers between the modern and modernist paradigm of print literacy and the broadcasting and reproducing of vocal action that, in Ong’s account, open the domain of secondary orality. In Kittler’s view, prior to the development of such “mechanical media” as the phonograph in the late nineteenth century:

Texts and scores were Europe’s only means to store time. Both are based on writing; the time of this writing is symbolic (in Lacan’s terms). This time memorizes itself in terms of projections and retrievals—like a chain of chains. Nevertheless, whatever runs as time on a physical or (again in Lacan’s terms) real level, blindly and unpredictably, could by no means be encoded. Therefore all data flows, if they were real streams of data, had to pass through the defile of the signifier. Alphabetic monopoly, grammatology. (Kittler, 35)

Kittler, like Ong, notes that writing severs language’s direct participation in time. In writing, time is projected; what writing stores is not time itself (i.e., not the diachronic unfolding that Kittler terms “data flow”) but encoded projections and representations—atemporal units from which we construct representations of time as we read (i.e., decode). In writing, both time and the bodies that exist in time are “submitted to the regime of the symbolic” (38). For Kittler, the “real,” because it cannot be “encoded,” “necessarily slips through all the symbolic grids” (41), and the way writing converts “time” and the “data flow” into elements in “the grid of the symbolic” (41) helps explain how it functions for “alphabeticized individuals called ‘readers’” Page 182 →(39). So long as writing was “Europe’s only means to store time,” writing, especially literature, could function as “a surrogate of [otherwise] unstorable data flows” (and the illusion of their presence) and the “book” (especially in the earlier and midnineteenth century) “came to power and glory” (39). For Kittler, the development of “mechanical media” that could directly record and store aural and visual action without converting them into code both supplements writing as a medium and alters its nature. Such media are “not limited to the grid of the symbolic” precisely because they can directly “record and reproduce the temporal flow of acoustic and optical data” (34). For Kittler, the advent of typewriter, phonography, and filming of moving images constitute the “media revolution of 1880,” and the “technical differentiation of optics, acoustics, and writing” that these technologies created “exploded Gutenberg’s storage monopoly,” establishing “a clean division between matter and information, between the real and the symbolic” (46). Because of this:

In a standardized text, paper and body, writing and soul, fall apart. Typewriters do not store an individual [or the illusion of an individual, as writing derived from handwriting could do, in Kittler’s view, prior to mechanical media], their letters do not transmit a beyond which could be hallucinated by perfect alphabets as meaning [as earlier literature in the era of print could]. Everything which, since Edison’s two innovations, can be taken over by the technical media disappears out of the typescripts. The dream of a real, visible, or audible world arising from the words is over. The historical synchronicity of cinema, phonography, and typewriter separated the data flows of optics, acoustics, and writing and rendered them autonomous. The fact of this differentiation is not altered by the recent ability of electric or electronic [i.e. digital] media to bring them back together and combine them. (Kittler, 44; emphasis added)

The development of mechanical media in the late 1880s, for Kittler, shapes and in part creates the modern media landscape. Kittler’s analysis identifies a key, perhaps the key, to secondary orality: that phonography, radio, and film not only amplify speech and extend its reach but also preserve its temporal flow rather than converting that flow, as writing does, into elements governed by “the grid of the symbolic” (thereby erasing the actual flow of time). This difference between writing and mechanical media not only clarifies how writing operates as a medium it also Page 183 →helps explain how and why mechanical media might alter the way we experience writing as a medium. Writing is, in a sense, a single technology—a device for creating visual alternatives to language as the aural, and oral, behaviors of speaking. But how writers and readers understand writing’s operation as a medium can shift as the means for deploying writing change and as writing competes with other media. The new media of the late nineteenth century do not, as they take hold across the first half of the twentieth century, simply add channels for cultural productions and their transmission; they also alter writing as a medium of language (just as the development of writing altered the dynamic of speaking as a medium of language) and thereby, as well, alter the dynamic of literature.

In 1860, five years before Malling Hansen’s mechanical writing ball, this first typewriter that could be massproduced, [Gottfried] Keller’s Missbrauchte Liebesbriefe announced the illusion of poetry: love had only the impossible alternative either to “speak with black ink” or “to let the red blood speak.” When typing, filming, and taking photographs became three equal options, however, writing loses those aspects of a surrogate sensuality. Around 1880 poetry becomes literature. It is no longer the red blood of a Keller or the inner forms of a Hoffmann that have to be transmitted by standardized letters; it is a new and beautiful tautology of technicians. (Kittler, 44)

The typewriter underscores that deploying alphabetic combinations is a technology—a fundamentally different one from the process of speaking. Phonography and subsequent technologies such as radio preserve or extend speaking without subsuming the temporal flow into the symbolic grid of the written. Together, for Kittler, these developments destroy the illusion that writing (“black ink”) is an analogue to “red blood speak[ing].” The shift in writing’s valance that Kittler articulates positions Kerouac’s experimentation. The stylistic experiments that characterize Anglo-American modernism can be seen as reactions against the media revolution of 1880 and attempts to exploit its possibilities. If writing is not black ink speaking as if red blood, and if literature is time spatialized and not actual data flow revivified in reading, then how else can writing operate and what else can literature become once the advent of competing media have brought this into the open? Pound, Eliot, Stevens, H. D., Moore, Joyce, Stein, Williams, Loy, cummings, Hemingway, et al. respond variously to these questions. In Page 184 →each case, they work to open new possibilities for writing as writing by exploring, extending, and contesting the possibilities of the grid of the symbolic and, thereby, by committing more deeply and fully to it. Viewed in the context of Kittler’s model for a changing media landscape, modernist experimentation is in part driven by the collapse of the “dream of a real, visible, or audible world arising from the words” and is, in part, a search for an alternative dream of what literature could be and what it could do in order to matter, and for alternative intensities inhering in different kinds of abstraction that exploit the work as composed linguistic object operating within the grid of the symbolic. As such, modernism is both reactionary (an attempt to defend writing against competing media and how those media potentially reveal writing’s lack and thereby threaten “Alphabetic monopoly, grammatology”) and radical (an attempt to recast writing, at least literary writing, in order to replace the lost “dream of a real, visible, or audible world arising from the words” with a belief in the real inhering in the alchemized words of the text—the work not simply as textual object but textual body). The desire to recuperate writing’s power to be a dream of an audible world arising from the words underlies, I suggest, Kerouac’s responsiveness to writers (such as Melville and Twain) whose writing seems to enact what he terms “voice” in his October 6, 1950, letter to Cassady and to the modernist experimentation of Joyce.10 However, his personal investment in the oral and his responsiveness to the emerging modern media landscape meant that he

could neither write as if sound recordings and typewriters hadn’t come into existence (he could not pretend that his media landscape was the same as Melville’s), nor could he write as if (by committing to modernism’s heroic abstraction and experimentation) the “Alphabetic monopoly” could be resurrected by heeding the commandment to “Make it new.” For Kerouac the old testament of what came before 1880 could not be fulfilled simply by committing to the new testament of modernism and its faith in a tradition that ceases to be in or of the past because the past has been typologically recast and thereby fulfilled in a present in which past and present redeem each other. For Kerouac, the challenge was not to save writing from the threat of mechanical media. It was not to find a way to write as if “the differentiation of optics, acoustics, and writing” had not ended writing’s storage monopoly. It was instead to find a way to write so that writing (like sound recording and film) could directly enact and store the data flow, which is to say, so that Page 185 →writing could record time directly rather than freezing it within the grid of the symbolic. It was to develop a way to redeploy writing as a medium so that writing itself would record time directly rather than represent it symbolically and would thus function as (or rather as if) a mechanical medium. This, in turn, is to say that for Kerouac writing had to operate as if a mode of speaking (a secondary literacy) in parallel to (but not in imitation of) speaking, since speaking (as sound recording underscores) operates in time. If the media revolution of 1880 disrupted the “surrogate sensuality” that writing as literature had seemed to offer, Kerouac sought to recuperate writing’s sensuality and resurrect literature as “black ink” speaking—but not by regressing to a romantic faith in the authenticity of the writer’s written voice, nor by suppressing the self (whether unitary or fragmentary) and displacing its sensuality into the exquisitely crafted object of the text (as if the “Alphabetic monopoly” could be asserted and recovered simply by ignoring the presence of mechanical media) with all its exquisite plays of irony and absence. Instead, Kerouac sought to recuperate writing’s sensuality by reconnecting writing to the temporality of speaking so that “black ink” could speak. While this move does not solve the dilemma of the expressing self, it confesses, rather than obfuscates, it. Through the prolonged campaign to write On the Road, both as the scroll and as Visions of Cody, Kerouac came to understand that the media revolution of 1880 had, indeed, altered the media landscape. And he came to commit himself to reimagining what writing was as a medium by attempting to reconnect writing as optics to language as acoustics and thereby have writing (both as the action of producing it and as the product produced) function as data flow. Instead of writing being language committed to space (in Ong’s sense) or language transformed into the grid of the symbolic (in Kittler’s sense), writing (in Kerouac’s sense of it and the practice of Spontaneous Prose) was to be writing recommitted to time, which, indeed, was not writing as he’d been taught at Columbia. One value of Kittler’s model for understanding Kerouac’s experimentation is that it suggests why he could not simply achieve a speech-like immediacy in his writing by composing representations of spoken performances (as had Twain) or by using writing to record spoken performances (his own or Cassady’s) as he’d attempted in “Frisco: The Tape.” The former strategy still involved abstracting language from the data flow and encoding it within the spatialized grid of the symbolic. To subordinate speaking as language to writing as language (and thus cast writing as if it alone is fully Page 186 →language in its primary form) is to validate (actually, to register) only those aspects of speaking as language that writing can capture and convey. It is to destroy for the writer the possibility of practicing writing as performance and to require, instead, composing a representation of performance. Conversely to subordinate writing to speaking (transcription) reduces writing to being only a mechanical medium, a lesser version of the tape recorder—a machine for encoding and decoding the aural temporal data flow of language (speech and speaking). For writing (as a medium) to recover something like the power and the illusion of immediacy that it had prior to the media revolution of 1880, it would, Kerouac recognized or intuited, have to operate in time, as itself a data flow—not a representation of the data flow. Writing would have to be performance, not composition. It would have to be the actual voicing in and as writing of the writer engaged with the material in the present, and it would have to be performed not for the mysterious reader but simultaneously for the self and the singular and plural you of the audience. Instead of the composed sincerity of the conventional narrator (whose relationship to the writer composing the narrator is always at least partly ironic), the writing would need to enact (not encode and compose) the sincerity of the writer writing. Writing would need to be recommitted to time but not as a direct imitation of speech. The literacy of writing as a visio-

spatial (compositional) medium would have to be recast as the secondary literacy of writing as a temporal (performative) medium, operating both as itself data flow and as recording of data flow. Writing would not contain time (encoded symbolically and structurally) but would instead operate in time as the data flow of the writer performing in writing. If, indeed, Kerouac’s experimentation with sketching and Spontaneous Prose can be understood as a kind of secondary literacy, a complement to secondary orality, then what characterizes this secondary literacy is the reconfiguring of writing as a medium so that it, too, operates in and as time, and this shift both challenges and alters what Kittler characterizes as “the grid of the symbolic” entailed in writing without fully erasing it. If so, what comes to characterize Kerouac’s practice of writing across the development of Visions of Cody is, indeed, radical, but its radicalism is not the speed of typing that we associate with the April 1951 scroll. It is not a matter of using a new procedure for generating writing. It is instead a matter of altering how writing (as a medium) relates to time and the data flow, and it is a matter of practicing writing so that writing can be simultaneously performative (happening within and as the data flow) and yet, though secondarily so, Page 187 →compositional (performed with an awareness that the performance is being stored for reproduction and later retrieval). And in writing as secondary literacy, the medium of writing (the alphabetic characters) can be used to perform both visually and aurally and to make the various displacements between the two a further occasion for performance. In the secondary literacy of Spontaneous Prose, the shaping of writing is shared with the reader as a kind of performance (as it is most overtly in “Imitation of the Tape” and implicitly in the sections of Visions of Cody that Kerouac composed after it and in his reworking of the fall 1951 material into parts 1 and 2). Roland Barthes has, of course, pronounced the author’s death, and Kerouac, it might seem, missed the funeral or was so naïve that he failed to understand the implications of this symbolic event. But the author whose death Barthes celebrates is the function Kittler suggests the media revolution of 1880 revealed as illusion when it ended “the monopoly of writing” and with it “Alphabetic monopoly, grammatology” (35). Kerouac’s implicit awareness of the death of the Barthesian author is, I suggest, evident in his sense that this death also required the death of the mysterious reader and a refiguring of what the I is who writes and what the YOU is who listens to the I writing (instead of reading what the I has written). As such, Spontaneous Prose is not an unconventional method for generating the writing of modern print literacy. It is a recasting of writing as a medium that erases the author who produces written-object systems to recover the writer who, by recommitting language to time and writing within it, speaks in writing. This reimagining of writing assumes the death of the author and enacts the death of the mysterious reader in order to project the reader as the participating listener—a you. Seen in this context, we can begin to appreciate the extent of Kerouac’s ambitions and the depth of the experimentalism that drove him beyond On the Road to Visions of Cody. While the author may have died, the writer did not, and what Kerouac enacts (more, I should say, performs) in Visions of Cody and the primary thread of his fiction (Dr. Sax, The Subterraneans, and other installments of his legend of Duluoz) is the writer speaking writing. It will continue to be tempting to dismiss Kerouac’s practice as a naïve desire for presence and a failure to confront postmodernity, but to succumb to this temptation is to miss the significance of his strategy of rejecting the author yet affirming the writer and voice. It is to fail to engage either the terms of his implicit critique of writing as a medium or to recognize that his Page 188 →experiments, while not conducted under the sign of grammatology, were conducted under the sign of what might be termed (with apologies to Kittler) mediaology. To consider Kerouac’s experiments seriously is, I suggest, to consider that writing is not a single medium but an array of media derived from a single technology (the visual elements of writing and the protocols for their combining) that can enact different ratios of direct visual system and visual system representing sounds and gestures in sound. This, in turn, is to say that writing can be (as Vachek argues) in some contexts itself a language system operating in the visual domain and at times a representation of language operating aurally (i.e., as speech), and as Kerouac demonstrates writing can also function as a hybrid system in which the two primary modes of language, speaking and writing, can combine in different ratios and enact various rhetorics for the I who writes to the YOU who reads as if listening. And it is to recognize that this hybridity is necessarily historically inflected both by developments in the technology of writing such as print and by the development of competing media. This last point can be underscored by briefly counterposing Kerouac to Charles Olson. Olson, like Kerouac,

rejected academically validated rules for writing, and like Kerouac, he was committed to a poetics of open forms, what he termed Projective Verse. And for Olson, as for Kerouac, the typewriter is an important element in his thinking about the method of writing—so much so that some have suggested that Spontaneous Prose and Projective Verse are similar or related systems.11 However, while both are instances of what is often termed “organic form” and while they can each be seen as attempts to fashion a poetics of secondary literacy, they develop along quite different lines and resolve writing’s doubled potential to function as visual system and represented sound in almost opposite ways. In Spontaneous Prose, the writer performs by, in effect, speaking writing, and the written marks record this performative action. In Projective Verse, the writer, engaging the process of perception, composes perception as if it is spoken action, measuring it by syllable and breath and notating the results onto the space of the page. In Spontaneous Prose, the diachronic momentum of the performed writing is key. In Projective Verse, the synchronicity of the composed units within the spatial field of the page is key. In Spontaneous Prose, we hear the writing’s inflections and rhythms. In Projective Verse we see the relationship of the composed phrases. In Spontaneous Prose, writing functions as a kind of speaking. In Projective Verse, speech can function as units within the composition’s field. It might even be Page 189 →said that in Projective Verse, composing by field is a transcription of a transcription. Perceptual moments rendered as spoken action are converted to writing and these written units are then recomposed within the field. As such, Kerouac and Olson had distinctly different understandings of the typewriter. For Kerouac, it was a mechanism on and through which one could perform writing. For Olson, it was a mechanism that allowed precise measurings of written units and thereby enabled the writer to use the space of the page as a notational system—a notational system to notate what had already been written, which is, then, to say as a notational system by which the already notated (writing) is renotated. While Olson’s theory of Projective Verse and composition by field can be (and has been) construed in various (even conflicting) ways, what I hope this brief sketch suggests is that Spontaneous Prose and Projective Verse are not more or less similar approaches with different labels and terminology but are, instead, different responses (complementary in some ways, conflicting in others) to the dialectic of writing as a primary visual system (language) and writing as a secondary system for representing speaking (language) in visual form in a period (mid-twentieth century) of emerging secondary literacy. If so, what matters is how Projective Verse and Spontaneous Prose, considered in relationship to each other, offer productive ways to explore the emerging textuality of secondary literacy and, conversely, how considering the possibility that secondary literacy might involve a distinctively different range of possibilities than primary literacy, especially as pushed to its extreme in modernist experimentation, could provide formal and historical tools for engaging a range of experimental practices in the decades following World War II. In any case, if we are to understand how a figure supposedly so naïve and aesthetically regressive could help catalyze the quite different experiments of such Beat innovators as Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and be taken seriously beyond this circle by other canonized postmodern figures of the period such as Robert Creeley, we need to consider Kerouac not in terms of his failure to write as he believed he’d been taught at Columbia, nor in terms of the scroll experiment, but in terms of the actual process by which he developed the secondary literacy of Spontaneous Prose as he wrote Visions of Cody. In the brief quotation from Jerome McGann that opens this epilogue, McGann notes that “human culture” functions as “a network of symbolic exchanges”Page 190 → and emphasizes the need to attend to both the “scene of writing” and the “scene of reading” if we are to properly understand these “exchanges.” What McGann terms the “scene of writing,” though, might better be termed the “scene of the written”: the work (in writing) that circulates as a particular textual object. For McGann, the “symbolic exchanges” that must be accounted for happen as readers access a work by interacting with specific textual objects. Language enters the “textual condition” in being produced as a specific textual realization of a work with which specific readers engage under specific economic, social, and cultural conditions. In campaigning against “the modern hermeneutical tradition” and its tendency to treat “texts . . . as scenes of reading rather than scenes of writing,” McGann’s equating of the scene of writing and the scene of the written, while eliding the writing that led to the written, makes sense. Rhetorically and conceptually, emphasizing writing as product of writing rather than the process of writing also has the advantage

of avoiding that vexing morass of the unknowable, a writer’s intentions. Yet the written has to have been written. Writing is both process and product. John Bryant, in The Fluid Text, offers one productive way to unpack “the scene of writing” into its two elements: (1) the scene of the act and process of writing, and (2) the scene of the written as the resulting textual object. Bryant acknowledges:

If texts cohere, deconstruct, or reveal the imprint of ideology, they do so, according to current theory, because of the nature of signification or of a reader’s response or of a culture’s “political unconsciousness,” not through the conscious agency of an individual writer. It is, of course, a truism that we cannot retrieve the creative process, nor, according to the “intentional fallacy,” can we use some magically derived sense of an [sic] writer’s intentions as a validation of or substitute for an interpretation of a text.12

Bryant, here, treats the writer’s creative process as unknowable (certainly to the critic and probably, to some degree, to the writer as well). We have evidence for what a writer writes (the various notes, manuscripts, etc.), but we have no direct evidence for the private circumstances that informed the writing. This seemingly restricts our reflections to McGann’s explicit sense of the scene of writing (i.e., the scene of the written), but Bryant argues that we can, in fact, know something of, and critically engage, a writer’s revisions, in part because revisions are always changes made to what is already Page 191 →written. We can, he shows, infer a writer’s changing goals for what has been written by considering how specific revisions and revision patterns (textual “fluidities”) alter the work’s implications and its rhetorical situation.

[T]hese fluidities enable us to construct more fully the historical moment of the interpretations of an individual writer and a culture’s discourse. If we allow textual fluidity the critical validity it merits, then we are obliged to give renewed status to the writer. Thus, if we want to know how language works and how to historicize linguistic processes, we must inspect writers writing and revising as well as readers reading. (13)

Revisions offer a critical narrative. They record the writer’s changing negotiations with the culture’s discourse and its expressive and ideological possibilities. A writer’s original intentions remain unknowable, but revisions reveal the writer’s subsequent rethinkings about intentions. If McGann’s model offers the dialogue between the scene of reading and (as I’ve retermed it) the scene of the written, Bryant’s model offers a third scene, the scene of rewriting, which opens to consideration the writer’s dialogue with the written object he or she is constructing to parallel the reader’s dialogue with the written object. The example of Kerouac, though, suggests that we can come closer to the actual scene of writing than Bryant proposes. The key, I suggest, is that we consider not only the need to historicize linguistic actions per se but also the need to historicize media and mediation. As Kittler shows, writing is a different medium after the development of mechanical media than before, and this is but one moment in writing’s history as medium and mediation. For a writer to write, the writer necessarily has specific strategies (whether explicitly held or intuitively practiced) for negotiating the gap between language as speaking and language as writing, as well as the doubleness of the alphabetic writing system as direct visual code and the alphabetic system as a visual representation of the aural. These factors are necessarily further encultured and personalized by such matters as the relative status of writing and speaking in different periods and different communities and by how writing relates to other media.

To read Kerouac as a writer functioning in terms of secondary literacy is not to read him as if he were writing with the same understanding of writing as a medium as either Twain or James (whom he would have seen as antithetical)—and thereby failing. To read him in the context of his own Page 192 →view of language and writing as he developed them in response to the increasingly evident impact of the media revolution of 1880 and against the grain of those resisting that revolution (as if he should write as he’d been told at Columbia) is to be able to consider his achievement seriously. It is also to understand something of why he has continued to be read, in spite of the academy’s tendency to devalue his work, and why his work continues to seem current and even (in works like Visions of Cody and Dr. Sax) prescient. To read Kerouac this way is also to consider the possibility that textual media are historically inflected and at least in part rhetorically constituted. As McGann so convincingly demonstrates, we cannot focus on the scene of reading as if it were the whole of the telephone conversation. We need to consider, as well, the scenes—that of writing and the written—that are also fundamental to the textual conversation. What we need (to invoke a largely disappeared phenomenon) is a party line that allows what we can infer about the scene of writing (through an investigation of the writer’s sense of what might be termed the rhetoric of textual media), the scene of rewriting (through an investigation of textual fluidities), the scene of the written, and the scene of reading to each be full participants in the exchange that is writing, the written, and reading. More recently, many would have thought of this as a conference call. What those who actually inhabit today’s media landscape of omnipresent cell phones and who do indeed walk and talk as if to a machine (albeit a transmitting rather than recording machine) might call it, I don’t know. Nor do we yet know how contemporary technologies of language will factor into new conceptions of writing or new literary practices. Still, we can learn something of how the textuality of writing can vary and how and why this might matter by taking Kerouac’s innovations seriously and recognizing his pioneering exploration of new textual possibilities—the textuality of secondary literacy, the wild form of soulwork.

Page 193 →

NOTES Introduction 1. There have been a number of excellent critical studies focusing on Kerouac’s fiction. Book-length treatments include R. J. Ellis’s Liar! Liar! Jack Kerouac—Novelist; Warren French’s Jack Kerouac; Ben Giamo’s Kerouac, The Word and the Way; Nancy Grace’s Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination; Michael Hrebeniak’s Action Writing: Jack Kerouac’s Wild Form; James T. Jones’s Jack Kerouac’s Duluoz Legend; Omar Swartz’s The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac; Matt Theado’s Understanding Jack Kerouac; and Regina Weinreich’s Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose: A Study of the Fiction. John Tytell’s prescient 1976 study, Naked Angels: The Lives and Literature of the Beat Generation, includes important chapters on Kerouac, and Scott Donaldson’s On the Road: Text and Criticism, published in 1979 as part of the the Viking Critical Library, gathers important early critical essays, including George Dardess’s “The Delicate Dynamics of Friendship: A Reconsideration of Kerouac’s On the Road and Warren Tallman’s “Kerouac’s Sound.” Hilary Holladay’s and Robert Holton’s What’s Your Road, Man? Critical Essays on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road gathers recent research. 2. Fiona Paton’s “Style and Subversion: Kerouac and the Cultural Cold War” (PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University, 1999) provides an excellent historical and cultural analysis of Kerouac’s rejection of the positions of critics often referred to as the New York intellectuals, including Lionel Trilling, Dwight Macdonald, and Norman Podhoretz, and their rejection of Kerouac and the Beats. 3. Ong, Goody, Havelock, and those who have explored the “literacy hypothesis” have tended to focus on how the various historical transitions from orality to literacy help clarify the nature of writing as a mode of language. Investigations into how language itself originally developed as a human capacity have not, in general, been part of this research agenda, but work on this topic, though necessarily speculative, can complement considerations of the transitions from orality to literacy. The work of Merlin Donald, a cognitive psychologist, and the work of Jonathan H. Turner, a microsociologist,Page 194 → have, for instance, implications for understanding the nature of language which bear on how speech differs from writing. As such, their work and that of others considering cognition in an evolutionary context have implications for understanding the various ways writing can function in literature. 4. In The Power of the Written Tradition, Jack Goody reviews and updates the work he and others have done on the literacy hypothesis, as well as addressing various attacks. 5. The literacy hypothesis has, understandably, had its greatest impact in the study of verbal performance traditions in cultures without writing and in the study of written work from cultures in transition from, to use Ong’s terminology, “orality” to “literacy.” Milman Parry’s research into the composition and performance of the Homeric epics remains foundational work, as does the research he and Albert Lord initiated that evolved into Lord’s The Singer of Tales. John Miles Foley’s The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology offers a synopsis of this research tradition. 6. See “Men Talking in Bars,” in Tim Hunt, Kerouac’s Crooked Road. 7. Several pieces (“The There That’s There and Not There in the Writing of Writing: Textuality and Modern American Poetry” and “Showing vs. Telling: Toward a Rhetoric of the Page”) that explore this application of Vachek for considering poetry (including “In a Station of the Metro”) are posted at The distinction between “composing” and “performing,” which figures in these discussions of the page and in the study that follows is the focus of my piece, “The Muse Learns to Tape,” in Reimagining Textuality: Textual Studies in the Late Age of Print. 8. See Howard Cunnell’s edition of On the Road: The Original Scroll; Ann Charters’ edition of Jack Kerouac’s Selected Letters 1940–1956; and Douglas Brinkley’s Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947–1954.

Chapter 1

1. Warren Tallman’s “Kerouac’s Sound,” published originally in 1959 in the Tamarack Review, offers a detailed analysis of a passage from The Subterraneans that helps explain this quality of Kerouac’s prose. 2. Kerouac did not begin writing Spontaneous Prose until October 1951, well after the scroll draft of On the Road. For a recent discussion of this crucial point that draws on material in the Kerouac Archive of the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, see Ryan Ehmke’s “Unravelling the Scroll: A Fluid-Text Analysis of Kerouac’s Road.” 3. At the time I was able to read Kerouac’s letters to John Clellon Holmes, his letters to Ginsberg (at the Butler Library of Columbia University), and Kerouac’s work journal detailing his initial attempts at On the Road (at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas). 4. How much Kerouac reworked this material in the 1960s as he prepared Pic for publication and whether he added an ending to the 1950 fragment needs further research. 5. The manuscripts that comprise the Kerouac Archive of the Berg Collection of the Page 195 →New York Public Library have dramatically increased the material available for studying Kerouac’s development. These materials and the selections from them published in recent years in Douglas Brinkley’s Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac, 1947–1954; the volumes of Kerouac’s correspondence edited by Ann Charters; and Isaac Gewirtz’s study, Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac and On the Road, complicate and add specificity to this narrative but underscore that the scroll version of On the Road had an extensive prehistory as Kerouac sought to develop his material using established fictional modes. 6. Nothing More to Declare, 80. 7. Ehmke’s analysis of notebook and manuscript material in the Kerouac Archive strongly suggests that some passages in On the Road as published by Viking date from 1954 or later. These passages, some of them frequently celebrated in critical studies of the novel, are the ones, as Ehmke demonstrates, that reflect the aesthetic of Spontaneous Prose as Kerouac elaborated it in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” This underscores the problematic nature of the belief that the April 1951 scroll draft of On the Road is closer to Kerouac’s actual “spontaneity” than the 1957 Viking version. It does, if by spontaneous we mean what Kerouac initially drafted; it doesn’t if by spontaneous we mean Spontaneous Prose. See Ehmke’s “Unravelling the Scroll” for a full discussion of this issue. See Kerouac’s Crooked Road, 77–142, for a discussion of how the development of Spontaneous Prose relates to Kerouac’s initial work on what became Visions of Cody. 8. The relatively recent development of technologies for recording sound for later retrieval clearly complicates this situation but does not alter its original structural basis. 9. See Josef Vachek’s “Written Language and Printed Language,” in Written Language Revisited. 10. See Vachek’s “On the Linguistic Status of Written Utterances” and “The Primacy of Writing,” in Written Language Revisited. Speech-act theory, as initiated by J. L. Austin, further explored by John Searle, and applied to literary studies by Mary Louise Pratt and others, demonstrates the presence of spoken dynamics within our usual writing practices, but Kerouac’s apparent need, in developing Spontaneous Prose, to move beyond using writing to represent speech and instead to recast writing so that it functions as if speaking points, I suggest, to a limitation of speech-act theory. Writing can be used to represent “utterance” but writing is not “uttering.” To write, at least in the usual sense, is to construct a textual object for later retrieval under unspecified conditions at an unknown time. To speak is to interact directly with another. By drawing on aspects of oral rhetoric based in speaking’s interactivity, speech-act theory can account for some of the oddities of how writing works, but it does not fully confront the structural differences between speaking and writing as media. Both Ong and Kittler offer more productive ways of engaging these differences, which are precisely what matter for considering Spontaneous Prose. 11. For a suggestive parallel, see Ong’s discussion of “Learned Latin” in Orality and Literacy, 110–13. 12. While spelling is a minor feature of writing, Kerouac’s contrasting command of spelling in French and English is worth noting in this regard. Even when he was composingPage 196 → and typing in English at high speed—as he was in the April 1951 scroll—his spelling was highly accurate. Conversely, in Dr. Sax, which he wrote in pencil, the spelling in the passages in joual is idiosyncratic and somewhat phonetic. Because joual is basically an oral dialect of French, the conventions for spelling would be less fixed by written practice, and this is plausibly one factor. But Kerouac having learned—and knowing—joual primarily through the ear rather than the eye was plausibly also a factor. I would like to thank Professor

Hassan Melehy, who is doing important work on Kerouac as a Quebecois writer, for alerting me to this. Especially key in this regard is Kerouac’s September 8, 1950, letter to Yvonne le Maitre. Responding to her review of The Town and the City, he opens, “Excuse me for writing in English, when it would be so much better to address you in French; but I have no proficiency at all in my native language, and that is the lame truth” (SL, 227). Later in the letter he adds:

Because I cannot write my native language and have no native home anymore, and am amazed by that horrible homelessness all French-Canadians abroad in America have—well, well, I was moved. Someday, Madame, I shall write a French-Canadian novel, with the setting in New England, in French. It will be the simplest and the most rudimentary French [. . . .] All my knowledge rests in my “French-Canadianness” and nowhere else. The English language is a tool lately found . . . so late (I never spoke English before I was six or seven). At 21 I was still somewhat awkward and illiterate-sounding in my speech and writings. What a mixup. The reason I handle English words so easily is because it is not my own language. I refashion it to fit French images [. . . .] Isn’t it true that French-Canadians everywhere tend to hide their real sources. They can do it because they look Anglo-Saxon, when the Jews, the Italians, the others cannot . . . the other “minority” races. Believe me, I’ll never hide it again; as once I did, say in high school, when I first began “Englishizing myself ” to coin a term (Me—faire un Anglais). (SL, 228–29)

13. Passages from the 1957 Viking Press edition of On the Road are noted parenthetically, using the abbreviation OR-V; passages from On the Road: The Original Scroll, also noted parenthetically, are noted using the abbreviation OR-S. 14. Kerouac’s journal entry for Monday, January 19, 1948, suggests both that Cassady’s presence as a listening reader/reading listener was actually a factor in his being able to write, as he worked on The Town and the City, even as it also suggests that the later evocation of this presence and its significance in On the Road is at least partly fictionalized: “Strange to remember, now, Neal Cassady was around at that time and I kept on writing not to disappoint him” (WW, 45). 15. See Walter Ong’s oft-cited, “The Writer’s Audience is Always a Fiction,” PMLA 90, no. 1 (January 1975): 9–21. 16. Jerome McGann uses the term “scene of writing” in The Textual Condition (see specifically page 4). The use of the term here is an adaptation of McGann’s usage, a matter taken up in the epilogue.Page 197 → 17. This point is developed more fully in “Twice Upon a Road: The Scroll and Viking Versions of On the Road,” in Southern Illinois University Press’ reissue of Kerouac’s Crooked Road. See also “Hidden Roads: Improvisational Textuality and On the Road.” /textuality.pdf. 18. The essays Kerouac wrote for Elbert Lenrow while he was a student at the New School illustrate this. Some of this material was published in Lenrow’s essay, “Memoir: The Young Kerouac.” Narrative 2, no. 1 (1994): 65–86, which has now been expanded as Kerouac Ascending: Memorabilia of the Decade of On the Road (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010). See chapter 2 for a further discussion of this material. 19. That Kerouac grew up when radio was at its height as a mass medium and listened avidly as a boy to such series as The Shadow probably contributed to this fascination. These interests reflect his sensitivity to spoken performance, as do his descriptions of jazz performance, in which the musicians’ instrumental gestures are imagined through figures of speech and speaking. 20. See Jonathan H. Turner’s On the Origin of Human Emotions: A Sociological Inquiry into the Evolution of Human Affect. 21. See chapter 4, “Writing Restructures Consciousness,” of Orality and Literacy. 22. Orality and Literacy, 7. 23. “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter,” 41. This essay, published in Literature, Media, Information Systems: Essays, is also included, in an alternate translation, in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter.

24. See Pound’s essay, “Vorticism,” published originally in 1914, then included as chapter 11 of GaudierBrzeska: A Memoir. The implications of Pound’s comments for the textual issues being developed here are considered in “The There That’s There and Not There in the Writing of Writing: Textuality and Modern American Poetry,” available at 25. This is a central point in Kittler’s reflections on writing and media in Literature, Media, Information Systems and Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. See the epilogue for a further discussion of this point and Kittler’s position. 26. Orality and Literacy, 133–35. For Ong, it should be noted, “secondary orality” depends on writing. A radio drama, for example, entails a script, but while the actors may perform from a written page, this written page is invisible for the listener even as the medium of radio allows it to be audible. The radio drama is “composed” to be “performed.” The relationship between composition and performance is further blurred when videotape is used to record an improvisational sketch for broadcast. 27. Work journal titled “1951 / Journals / More Notes,” item 55.6, the Kerouac Archive, the Berg Collection, New York Public Library. 28. That jazz recordings may be edited by a “producer” from multiple takes to construct a “performance” that the performers did not actually perform as such complicates this issue, but it doesn’t change the way audio recording, especially once magnetic tape became available, made it possible to preserve actual performances and how this in turn altered the dialectical relationship between creating by performing and creating by composing.Page 198 → For a consideration of this as it relates, primarily, to popular music and, secondarily, to textual theory, see “The Muse Learns to Tape” in Reimagining Textuality.

Chapter 2 1. See Matt Theado’s “Revisions of Kerouac: The Long Strange Trip of the On the Road Typescripts.” Theado notes that the roll is eight long sheets (ranging from just under twelve feet to nearly sixteen feet in length). Kerouac typed continuously on each sheet, then joined the sheets together to create the 120-foot roll. 2. See Kerouac’s Crooked Road, 120–30. 3. Jack Kerouac: A Bibliography, 17. 4. The full text of this essay is included in Kerouac Ascending: Memorabilia of the Decade of On the Road, 32. See Kerouac’s Crooked Road, 88–89, for further comment on this essay. 5. For an account of Lenrow’s relationship to Kerouac, see Kerouac Ascending. 6. See also chapter 4. 7. Kerouac’s desire to escape empty formalism and have his writing reflect his engagement with his material at the moment of writing points toward what would, in the fall of 1951, become Spontaneous Prose. 8. See Kerouac’s March 29, 1949, letter to Ed White (SL, 185). 9. In this same entry, though, Kerouac also seems to regret that Giroux’s “splendid job of revision” has involved treating “the story” as “more important than the poetry.” 10. See John Clellon Holmes’s essay “The Great Rememberer” in Nothing More to Declare (especially pp. 77–78), in which he recalls Kerouac’s early efforts to develop On the Road. See also Isaac Gewirtz’s Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road, which includes excerpts from various preliminary attempts to the April 1951 On the Road. 11. This claim perhaps becomes more compelling if one imagines Kerouac writing, instead, to Ginsberg, in which case the play on Major Hoople would be replaced with something more overtly literary. 12. In “The Great Rememberer,” Holmes, recalling the versions of On the Road prior to the scroll, remembers Kerouac writing:

long, intricate Melvillian sentences that unwound adroitly through a dense maze of clauses; astonishing sentences that were obsessed with simultaneously depicting the crumb on the plate, the plate on the table, the table in the house, and the house in the world, but which (to him)

always got stalled in the traffic jam of their own rhetoric. To me, on the contrary, the writing was the acme of brilliance—cadenced, powerful, cresting toward an imminent beach, and I could never understand why it dissatisfied him so. (Nothing More to Declare, 78).

13. Kerouac’s sense here that his impulse to confess can never be completely innocent or fully natural or transparent may well have its analogue in Leo Percepied’s impulse to confess yet sense he is being deceitful in The Subterraneans.Page 199 → 14. Cassady’s Collected Letters includes the surviving material, pp. 244–55, and a helpful discussion of the letter’s textual history by Dave Moore, the volume’s editor. 15. Kerouac’s doubts about the scroll On the Road, which impelled the further experimentation that became Visions of Cody, suggests that the dichotomy between “Wolfe’s fiction” and “‘true-story novels’ . . . based on his direct experience” is neither as clear nor simple as Charters here suggests. See chapter 4. 16. Kerouac’s awareness of the epistolary novel and rejection of its conventions is evident in the January 8, 1950, letter to Cassady, when he writes:

But that particular night you were with Carolyn (his second wife, dear reader) and I was with LuAnne (go to hell, dear reader), and here’s what happened. (SL, 275)

17. The scene in On the Road where Dean responds as Sal writes a chapter of The Town and the City is the exception that proves the rule. Dean as the physically present reader stands in for the hypothetical and necessarily absent reader for whom Sal is writing. See chapter 1.

Chapter 3 1. Memory Babe, 343. 2. Memory Babe, 343. 3. Jack Kerouac: A Bibliography, 19. 4. Friedrich Kittler makes this point and sketches some of its implications in “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” (43–49) and further elaborates these matters in the chapter, “Typewriter,” that concludes Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. For a more detailed history of the typewriter and typewriting, see Darren Wershler-Henry’s The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, which includes a chapter, “On the (Royal) Road,” on Kerouac. Wershler-Henry suggests that the typewriter’s impact on Kerouac’s mode of writing stems in part from the speed of writing it supported and partly because it allowed “receptivity to a dictating voice (whether explicit or implicit) and the obviation of the need to check the copy.” (242) 5. See the epilogue for a further consideration of these points in the context of Kittler’s analysis. 6. Photocopy machines, word processing, and desktop publishing have altered this ecology. For Capote and Kerouac, the typewriter could be used to prepare copy for a printer to set in type but the typing itself could not be printed (i.e., reproduced in multiple copies for distribution and sale). 7. For a photographic reproduction of this list see Beatific Soul, 111. 8. The scroll manuscript of On the Road does include some minor corrections and edits: a few made as Kerouac typed/wrote the draft, a few added by hand after the drafting. 9. Quoted in Crooked Road, 111–12.Page 200 → 10. Originally issued in 1950 by Columbia Records as The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert (SL60), this material has been reissued several times on LP and CD, most recently as Live at Carnegie Hall: 1938 Complete (Columbia/Legacy 65143) with additional material from the original concert. 11. This information derives from the research of Dave Moore, which he kindly shared. 12. See “The Muse Learns to Tape” for a fuller elaboration of this point.

13. In his September 27, 1951, entry in the work journal he kept while working on parts 1 and 2 of Visions of Cody, Kerouac mentions Newman playing recordings he’d made of Kerouac reading from On the Road. See chapter 5 for a discussion of this entry. 14. In The Iron Whim, 244, Wershler-Henry quotes Norman Mailer “defend[ing] Capote” for his dismissal of Kerouac. For Mailer, Capote was “invoking ‘the difficulties of the literary craft in contrast to Mr. Kerouac’s undisciplined methods of work.’” In Mailer’s remarks “literary craft” is, it seems, synonymous with recursive composing and the antithesis of performing. 15. See also Tim Hunt, “Typetalking: Voice and Performance in On the Road.” 16. In Crooked Road, this was my understanding of Sal as a narrator. 17. Ginsberg wrote this letter in response to my query whether there had been, as Kerouac’s letters to him seemed to suggest, more than one version of On the Road. 18. See “Twice Upon a Road,” the preface to Southern Illinois University Press’ edition of Kerouac’s Crooked Road for a fuller discussion of this issue. 19. For an account of these typescripts, part of the Kerouac Archive, see Matt Theado’s “Revisions of Kerouac: The Long Strange Trip of the On the Road Typescripts,” in What’s Your Road, Man: Critical Essays on Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. 20. The whereabouts of the typescript of “The Mexican Girl” Kerouac prepared for the Paris Review is unknown; it may have been discarded once the piece was published. 21. See Theado’s “Revisions of Kerouac” for a history of the various typescripts Kerouac prepared starting with the April 1951 scroll. While some of the changes Kerouac made, such as reducing Denver D. Doll’s role in part 1 of the final typescript, were probably to allay Viking’s fear of a possible lawsuit, other adjustments, such as paring Dean’s and Sal’s stop in Detroit at the end of part 3, seem to reflect Kerouac’s shifting sense of the novel. 22. See John Bryant’s “Visions of Jack / Versions of Jack: Toward a Digital Fluid Text Edition of Kerouac.” ( pdf). Such an edition of the On the Road typescripts would, as Bryant suggests, immeasurably enrich our understanding of the novel and Kerouac’s creative process. See also Bryant’s The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen for a fuller account of the theory and methodology of the approach to On the Road he proposes. 23. See Theado, “Revisions of Kerouac.” 24. See Ehmke, “Unravelling the Scroll: A Fluid-Text Analysis of Kerouac’s Road.” 25. The On the Road typescript Viking used as setting copy (Kerouac Archive) shows that a copy editor made numerous adjustments to the copy, especially the punctuation, Page 201 →before the novel was set in type. The cumulative effect of this house styling was to compromise the pacing and rhythm of the prose and obscure, to some degree, the artistry. 26. The comparison of these two passages in Kerouac’s Crooked Road, unfortunately and mistakenly, treats the Visions of Cody passage as if it is the later of the two.

Chapter 4 1. Originally the New York Times Book Review, January 28, 1973. /home/kerouac- cody.html. 2. Kerouac’s work journal for the fall of 1951 makes this quite clear, especially the entry for October 18, which is discussed later. All quotations from this work journal are cited by the date of the entry. The journal is item 55.6 of the Jack Kerouac Archive, where it is listed as “Holograph notebook ‘1951 / Journals / More Notes.’ August 28, 1951—November 25, 1951.” 3. See discussion of this journal entry in chapter 2. 4. The late December 1950 and early January 1951 letters to Neal Cassady (see chapter 2), where Kerouac tried to generate material to be gathered into a book of “fiction” by writing confessional letters can also be seen as an attempt to subordinate composing to performing and as such function as a precursor to the scroll experiment. 5. Theado’s “Revisions of Kerouac,” previously noted, is the best account of the On the Road typescripts. 6. See Kerouac’s June 24, 1951, letter to Cassady (SL, 320).

7. In spite of some quite positive reviews of The Town and the City, the novel sold only modestly and failed to provide Kerouac with a livable income. 8. Kerouac to Holmes, July 14, 1951. Holmes quoted from this letter in Nothing More to Declare (p. 80). It is not included in Ann Charters’s edition of Kerouac’s letters but will, hopefully, be included in the edition of Kerouac’s and Holmes’s correspondence that is in preparation. 9. Excerpts from Visions of Cody (New York: New Directions, 1960). This note was not assigned a page number. 10. Although the Viking On the Road does include passages of what might be termed “lyric-alto knowing,” these passages were not included in the April 1951 scroll Road and were added after Kerouac had written Visions of Cody. See Ehmke’s “Unravelling the Scroll.” This point is also discussed in chapter 3. 11. This would have made On the Road more like The Great Gatsby, but making Sal more like Nick would have undercut what Kerouac had accomplished in the scroll version of Road. 12. See “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose” for Kerouac’s later codification of sketching as Spontaneous Prose. See also his May 18, 1952, letter to Ginsberg (SL, 355–57). Valuable discussions of Spontaneous Prose over the years include John Tytell’s chapter on Kerouac in Naked Angels; Regina Weinreich’s Kerouac’s Spontaneous Poetics; and Matt Theado’s Understanding Jack Kerouac. George Dardess’s excellent 1975 essay, Page 202 →“The Logic of Spontaneity: A Reconsideration of Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose Method,” is too often overlooked, perhaps because it is not a monograph, and Warren Tallman’s essay, “Kerouac’s Sound,” remains a prescient, forceful account of Kerouac’s style. These discussions typically develop along some combination of the following three lines: (1) contextualizing Spontaneous Prose historically by linking Kerouac to such precursors as Wordsworth, Emerson, and Yeats; (2) attempting to elaborate Kerouac’s provocative but idiosyncratic descriptions of how to perform Spontaneous Prose into a systematic aesthetic theory and orderly methodology; and (3) demonstrating that Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose writing is skillful and aesthetically rewarding. While valuable, these discussions do not address, at least directly, the possibility that Kerouac’s search for a new mode of writing, for what becomes Spontaneous Prose, was driven in part by his sense of the differences between speaking and writing as modes of language. This is perhaps one reason why discussions of Spontaneous Prose have typically emphasized Kerouac’s procedure for writing rather than focusing on his reconceptualizing of writing as a medium and his explorations of writing’s relationship to speaking and the dynamics of speaking. (For complementary discussions of Kerouac’s orality and its bearing on Spontaneous Prose see John Hrebeniak’s “Orality: ‘Mad to Talk,’” in his Action Writing: Jack Kerouac’s Wild Form, which focuses on the orally derived features of Kerouac’s style and, especially, Nancy Grace’s “The Creation Story: Duluoz and Company,” in her Jack Kerouac and the Literary Imagination. Grace’s study is particularly valuable for its account of how Kerouac’s desire for writing to be voiced, to be oral, is explicitly present even in his earliest apprentice writing and for connecting Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose to his spirituality as a way of demonstrating its centrality to understanding the Duluoz Legend.) 13. Visions of Cody, 47–70. 14. From item 30.1, “Holograph notebook ‘Visions of Cody’ / ‘Visions of Neal,’” dated October 1951, Jack Kerouac Archive. The breaks in the transcription reflect the margin of the notebook pages. George Dardess also discusses this sketch in “The Logic of Spontaneity,” 736–37. Dardess stresses that the sketcher’s eye “imposes no subordination on the objects it lovingly occupies,” so that the “worlds of mind and matter are viewed with an equal degree of fascination and delight,” which culminates “in the ‘release’ phase of ‘spontaneous prose.’” Dardess persuasively correlates the sketch to “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” but he perhaps doesn’t fully acknowledge the extent to which the I of the sketcher, what might be thought of as the sketcher’s situated subjectivity, complicates the work of the sketching “eye” so that the action of the sketch is not only perceptual but also social and psychological. The difference in emphasis between his reading and mine is also a matter of context. The occasion for Dardess’s analysis is the sketch, in revised and slightly extended form, as it appears as the opening passage of Visions of Cody rather than the scene as first sketched as a discrete piece in Kerouac’s notebook (see chapter 5). 15. Kerouac’s letter the next day, October 9, to Neal Cassady, underscores the impact of the Lee Konitz performance: he is, he reports, sending “3 now-typed-up-revised pages of my re-writing ROAD” that illustrate “my finally-at-last-found style & hope; Page 203 →since writing that I’ve come up with even greater complicated sentences & VISIONS—So from now on just call me Lee Konitz” (SL, 326–27).

16. When Kerouac reviewed this journal at some later date, he added an asterisk after “ON THE ROAD” and wrote at the bottom of the page “(*VISIONS OF CODY. . . . later title).” 17. Presumably pp. 57–70 of Visions of Cody as published. 18. Item 30.1, the Kerouac Archive. 19. For a discussion of how this scene interacts with the scenes that precede and follow it, see Kerouac’s Crooked Road, 148–54. 20. See Kittler’s “Gramophone, Typewriter, Film.” For a fuller discussion of how Kittler’s treatment of writing’s problematic relationship to time relates to Spontaneous Prose, see the epilogue.

Chapter 5 1. On May 17 Kerouac wrote Ginsberg that he had “Just sent On the Road [i.e., Visions of Cody] to Carl [Solomon]” at Ace Books (SL, 354). The next day he wrote Ginsberg to explain that adopting “Sketching” was why “On the Road [i.e., Visions of Cody] took its turn from conventional narrative survey of road trips etc. into a big multi-dimensional conscious and subconscious character invocation of Neal in his whirlwinds” (SL, 356). 2. Excerpts from Visions of Cody (New York: New Directions, 1960), n.p. 3. In his December 3, 1950, letter to Cassady, Kerouac writes, “Please don’t abandon tape-recorder” (SL, 238). 4. See chapters 3 and 4 for Kerouac’s relationship to Newman and how it perhaps figured in the April 1951 scroll experiment and the development of Spontaneous Prose. 5. For discussions of Kerouac’s experimenting with tape recording in part 3 of Visions of Cody see James Riley’s “‘I am a Recording Angel’: Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Cody and the Recording Process;” and John Shapcott’s “‘I Didn’t Punctuate It’: Locating the Tape and Text of Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Cody and Doctor Sax in a Culture of Spontaneous Improvisation.” Both Riley and Shapcott develop important points about Kerouac’s use of the tape recorder but underestimate, I believe, the extent to which Kerouac experienced writing and speaking as different, conflicting modes of language and how this shaped his approach to tape recording and its implications for Spontaneous Prose. 6. Shapcott argues it is “spontaneous,” but taping in “Frisco: The Tape” functions as an alternative to sketching and Spontaneous Prose rather than as a version of it. As with sketching, Kerouac’s use of the tape recorder can be seen as an attempt to finesse, and preferably avoid, composing. But sketching records the inner action of the self ’s attention to the outer; the tape records the self oriented outward to engage an other in dialogue. 7. In this discussion “Jack” indicates the book’s speaker; Kerouac indicates the writer. 8. In his October 9, 1951, letter to Cassady, Kerouac notes, “I already made a tape of jazz writing at Newman’s back room” (SL, 327).Page 204 → 9. See “The Muse Learns to Tape” for a fuller treatment of how analogue sound recording alters the dichotomy between performing and composing. 10. The conflict here echoes the conflict Kerouac was struggling to resolve in his July 14, 1951, letter to Holmes; see chapter 4. 11. The bulk of tape recorders in the early 1950s (and the need for a power outlet) would have made it, in any case, impractical to try to write by walking and talking. 12. Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape does present a solitary figure in dialogue with himself through his own taped monologues—much as Jack seems to imagine in Visions of Cody, but the play is not Beckett’s last tape but instead Beckett’s writing of tapes to be recorded from the script for use in the play and to which the actor speaks scripted lines in response. 13. See “The Muse Learns to Tape” for a discussion of this point. 14. Kerouac’s portrayal of jazz performers in On the Road reflects his awareness of the importance of the audience to the rhetoric of performance. The soloing musician who has “IT” is in dialogue with the materials of the tune, his interiority, the other musicians in the ensemble, and the audience. 15. This claim derives from Josef Vachek’s discussion of the difference between writing as a system of language and using such systems as the International Phonetic Alphabet to create a visual representation of

spoken sound in his article “Some Remarks on Writing and Phonetic Transcriptions,” in his Selected Writings in English and Linguistics. The discussion that follows is an attempt to develop the implications of his position for Kerouac’s experiments with taping, then transcribing, dialogue. 16. Perhaps, more properly, the claim should be that speech cannot store and circulate writing unless such speaking is a highly institutionalized discipline with the written work as its root. See Jack Goody’s “Memory in Oral Tradition,” in The Power of the Written Tradition, for a consideration of this point. 17. This claim is central to Vachek’s argument that speaking and writing are each fully language but differently so, in part because they operate through different channels and in part because they have different functions. Speaking lends itself to direct, socially inflected interaction, especially impromptu interactions. Writing better supports fixing concepts and information in precise and stable form. For Vachek, speaking and writing (under modern conditions of use) have become dichotomous. We share a social moment by talking; we compose a scientific treatise in writing. Vachek did not consider literature, and in part, this discussion is an attempt to suggest how this might be done and why it might be of value. For Vachek, writing’s capacity to evoke sound had become secondary to its capacity to deploy visual counters. For a poet, for example, how writing might function as both aural and visual language in different ratios (and whether, in a specific writing practice language as aural action is primary or whether it is secondary, a supplement or enhancement) becomes a matter worth considering. 18. The essay “Discourse in Life and Discourse in Art (Concerning Sociological Poetics),” published as Appendix I in V. N. Vološinov’sFreudianism: A Marxist Critique (but attributed by some to Mikhail Bakhtin) considers the way writing requires adjusting discourse to compensate for the listener’s absence.Page 205 → 19. See Orality and Literacy, 81. 20. See Richard Bridgman’s The Colloquial Style in American Literature for a discussion of how oral features have shaped American prose styles. His analyses of Twain and Hemingway are particularly deft and revealing, and I am indebted to his discussions. 21. This is also to say that writing and speaking are not simply different means to present a single thing, language, but rather that they are, as Vachek argues, functionally different systems that share certain elements but operate differently—as behavior, as rhetoric, etc. 22. One can, of course, speak ironically or with self-awareness or with indirection, but such inflections derive from the speaker’s relationship to an actual listener participating directly in the occasion of the speaking. A reader is necessarily a belated observer, not a participant in the speaking represented in fiction. Transcriptions of recorded speaking necessarily remove the reader even further from the actual rhetorical situation. 23. See Visions of Cody, 134. 24. Jackie’s attempts to elaborate Dead Eye Dick Black Dan can be usefully compared to Twain’s “The Jumping Frog of Calvaras County.” In Twain’s piece, the orally derived burlesquing is, as in Harris’s Sut Lovingood tales, framed by the introductory and concluding passages written from the perspective of the literate, uncomprehending observer. The humor is in the way the two registers of voice and writing (frame and center) collide: the formal voice controlling the presentation, the colloquial voice deconstructing the authority of the formal voice. In Kerouac’s performance of Jackie’s “COMPOSITION,” the registers of voice, writerly and oral, are interwoven; frame and center are a kind of Möbius strip, constructing and deconstructing each other in a burlesque of a burlesque that reveals speaking and writing as distinctly different media, distinctly different modalities of language. 25. For an illustration of typing functioning as a kind of speaking to a reader, see the elaboration of the typo “7” in Kerouac’s letter to Cassady that closes part 1 of Visions of Cody (VC, 38). 26. In the section “TIMING” in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” Kerouac specifies:

Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time—Shakespearean stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue—no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).

27. See Kerouac’s Crooked Road, 157–66, for a discussion of the structural implications of this scene for Visions of Cody. 28. In ancient epic, the bard performs the communal store of stories and lore, inflecting the material for the specific audience and occasion. In the tale Jack announces he will sing, the material is his personal history with Cody. But like Whitman, Kerouac risks believing that his experience can function representatively. In the unit “CENTER OF INTEREST” in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose,” he specifies (alluding to Whitman) “tap from yourself the song of yourself.” Kerouac’s immersion in Whitman, Melville,Page 206 → Twain, and Thoreau positioned him, I suggest, to believe that the democratic epic has to be the individual enacting the possibilities and costs of individualism. 29. See chapter 4 for the full text of the notebook draft of this sketch. 30. This weaving in and out of the original, unconnected sketches in Visions of Cody is particularly clear in the transition Kerouac creates by what he adds to the end of the second sketch and beginning of the third (the sketches of the Capricio B-Movie and the El Station at Third Avenue and 47th Street):

This is the bottom of the world, where little raggedy Codys dream, as rich men plan gleaming plastic auditoriums and soaring glass fronts on Park Avenue and the rich districts of Denver and the world. In the autumn of 1951 I began thinking of Cody Pomeray, thinking of Cody Pomeray. We had been great buddies on the road. I was in New York and I wanted to go to California and see him, but I had no money. (VC, 5)

31. In Visions of Cody Kerouac developed two complementary strategies for speaking writing, which he then drew on for the works of “Fiction” he termed The Legend of Duluoz. “Imitation of the Tape” exemplifies the more radical of these strategies: to speak writing to the self (as if in dialogue with the self) by casting, in effect, the page as “YOU” (i.e., the behavioral other to which the writing is spoken) and interacting with what is being recorded on the page. In this strategy (as the performing of Art Rodrigue illustrates), the writing self is also the reading self and the page enables (mediates) the dialogue. In the less radical alternative, the writer speaks writing as if to a listening “YOU”—in effect, speaking the writing as if to one’s intimates and thereby overwriting the absence of the mysterious reader with the imagined presence of a knowable, engaged audience. The retelling of the road trips in the final section of Visions of Cody illustrates this strategy, which can be seen as a further development of the typetalking of On the Road but without the speaking writer being restricted to the “horizontal” of what happens and freed to perform lyricalto knowing, so that the speaking writer’s performative stake in discovering through the performance of telling is as central as the actions being narrated. In some installments of the Duluoz Legend (The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, The Dharma Bums, and others), Kerouac emphasized the narrative potential of Spontaneous Prose. These books are typically read as if they are more or less traditional fiction. But if the logic of writing inherent in Spontaneous Prose is less obvious in these works than in “Imitation of the Tape,” reading them without regard for the nature of Spontaneous Prose can lead us to overlook how central the speaking writer’s stake is in the events being narrated. Even The Dharma Bums is as much a narrating of actions of consciousness generated by reflecting on events and figures as it is a narrating of the events themselves, and The Subterraneans, Tristessa, the “Desolation in Solitude” chapters of Desolation Angels, Big Sur, and others are even more fully performative narrations of actions of consciousness. We will better understand the differences and continuities among these more narratively inflected installments of the Duluoz Legend if we read Page 207 →them in terms of Spontaneous Prose as fully realized and practiced in the concluding narrative section of Visions of Cody rather than (as we have tended to do) as further iterations of the mode of On the Road. The importance of understanding the Kerouac canon through the Spontaneous Prose of Visions of Cody is even clearer for works that emphasize the strategy of “Imitation of the Tape,” and this is especially the case for Dr. Sax. Kerouac’s correspondence and work journals show that he had dabbled at writing Dr. Sax in

and around the attempts at On the Road that preceded the April 1951 scroll and again in the months following the scroll as he began the experiments that became Visions of Cody. His comments suggest that Dr. Sax, had he written it before completing Visions of Cody, would have been primarily a narrative of boyhood Lowell, focusing on young Jackie’s fantasy adventures. While this narrative dimension is still present in Dr. Sax as Kerouac actually wrote it in the months following Visions of Cody (while staying in Mexico City with William Burroughs), the narrative material is only one dimension, one occasion, for the series of performance that make up the book. The opening passage illustrates the relationship of the narrative material to the novel’s reflections and inventions—its lyric-alto knowing:

The other night I had a dream that I was sitting on the sidewalk on Moody Street, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Mass., with a pencil and paper in my hand saying to myself “Describe the wrinkly tar of this sidewalk, also the iron pickets of Textile Institute, or the doorway where Lousy and you and G.J.’s always sittin and dont stop to think of words when you do stop, just stop to think of the picture better—and let your mind off yourself in this work.”

The adult voice of the writer is here recalling a dream where he is as if back in a location from his childhood, and in the dream he has instructed himself to reengage, to reexperience, and to explore the scene, figures, and episodes associated with it. The goal is not to tell the story but to redream the child’s awareness through the triggering detail of “the wrinkly tar of this sidewalk” (a “this” the child perceived directly and a “this” which the adult voice reperceives in the act of recall). Implicitly, this casts the whole “narrative” as the adult’s recall, invention, and riffing. The novel is not young Jackie’s story but the record of the adult performing Jackie’s story through various memories, framing devices, and burlesques of pop culture media and conventions (comics, horror films, radio dramas). The complexity of awareness, the way in which the novel is often the writing speaker performing a performance of a further performance, is evident throughout Dr. Sax. This is quite evident, for instance, near the end of “Book Two,” subtitled “A Gloomy Bookmovie,” in which Kerouac shifts to describing young Jackie through the conventions of a film script as if he is imagining through the objectifying gaze of the camera lens but is nonetheless so drawn into the memories he is performing as scripting that he himself enters, physically, into the evoked and projected memory, as if collapsing the present into the past which is, actually, within the novel a kind of bringing the past fully into the present as currently happening.

Page 208 → The door opens quickly and out of the rain and in comes I, silent, swift, gliding in like The Shadow—sidling to the corner of the scene to watch, removing not coat nor budging, I’m already hung up on the scene’s awe. (DS, 96)

and as the script for the “Gloomy Bookmovie” ends the Kerouac who dreams the memory of his childhood self dreaming is simultaneously within the scene of the child’s dream and the child within the scene of the dream he is performing as he sketches outward from the “jewel-center” of the “wrinkly tar.” In the lyric-alto flights of Dr. Sax, as in Visions of Cody, the soloing writer, like a Charlie Parker or a Dizzy Gillespie, is not playing the melody but playing the notes (and from the notes) of the most extended harmonies related to the melody.

Epilogue 1. The Textual Condition, 3. 2. The Textual Condition, 3–4.

3. Volume E of The Norton Anthology of American Literature (8th edition) includes chapters 8–14 of Big Sur. Kerouac has become a figure like John Steinbeck, perceived in some sense as mattering, yet not quite canonical and not quite fitting the established literary historical narratives. 4. The discussion that follows of the differences between language as an aural medium (speaking) and visual medium (writing) is my attempt to formulate aspects of Josef Vachek’s work for literary analysis. Vachek’s argument that speaking and writing serve different functions and that they are, as a result, distinctly different practices of language is foundational for the approach I’ve tried to develop in this study. Because, I suggest, literary writers often try to blur or overcome or redraw the boundaries of the divide between speaking and writing, Vachek’s dichotomy must to some degree be rethought as a dialectic. His insight into the way alphabetic characters can function as representations (and thereby storage) of sound or as sets that become signs processed visually as an ensemble is a tool that can be used to understand how different writers enact different ratios of aural and visual based on different assumptions about the nature of writing as a medium. 5. See specifically Vachek’s “Written Language Seen from the Functionalist Angle” and “On the Problem of Written Language,” both in Written Language Revisited. 6. Orality and Literacy, 81 7. Kerouac’s responsiveness to film is also important in this regard. More generally, it is worth considering that our tendency to treat writing as a single medium across its history and different technical instantiations may need to be reconsidered. As a coding system, writing is the same whether inscribing it with a quill on parchment or generating it on a keyboard that converts keystrokes to digital strings presented as patterned pixels on a panel of LCDs that we perceive as letters. But the extent to which writers (and consumers of writing) perceive writing as the action of speaking (or as if speaking) in Page 209 →visual code or perceive it as a visual system operating directly as language can shift with technologies of production and reproduction (manuscript to print to computer) and in response to various historical and social factors. Writing may be a single mechanism, but historically and technologically it is as series of media, not a single medium. 8. Kerouac’s three LP recordings reading from his work, both solo and with accompaniment, have been reissued variously on CD, most comprehensively as The Kerouac Collection. The composer and jazz musician David Amram recounts his experiences performing with Kerouac in the years following On the Road’s publication in Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac. Most significantly, for this study, he describes (pp. 72-84) Kerouac improvising the narration for the experimental film, Pull My Daisy, based loosely on the third act of his play The Beat Generation. After the initial “one hundred percent ad-libbed” take of the narration for the twenty-eight-minute silent film, Kerouac initially refused to do a second. Asked why, Kerouac responded:

“Because I believe in the sanctity and the purity of natural thoughts freely flowing, like a Mozart sonata or Slim Gailliard singing a tale of woe in some lonely midwest bar. It’s what I spent my life trying to achieve as a writer. To get the first pure thoughts down on paper and I can never quite do it. Editors and critics still don’t understand what I’m doing. I’m speaking. What we just did was what I try so hard as an author to achieve.” “I understand all that, Jack,” said Alfred [Leslie]. “But you’ve never even seen the film before. How can you possibly think your first instinctive improvisation, as brilliant as it was, was the correct one?” Jack put his empty bottle of wine on the floor, sat straight up, and stared at Alfred. “Because I’m touched by the hand of God,” he said quietly. (76–77)

Kerouac did record a second take. The film as released uses, Amram reports, material from each of the takes.

9. Shepherd is best known for A Christmas Story, a film derived from several of his short stories, in turn derived from his on-air storytelling while a radio personality, primarily on WOR in New York City, where he worked from 1956 to 1977. 10. See chapter 2 for a discussion of this letter. 11. Michael Hrebeniak, in Action Writing: Jack Kerouac’s Wild Form, suggests that Kerouac is part of “the great postwar consciousness shift in America” and that his work “embodies this ‘projective’ gestalt, as named by Charles Olson” (1). Darren Wershler-Henry, in The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, also connects Kerouac to Olson, noting that both their “methodologies are clearly tied to typewriting” and that “Kerouac’s desire to produce a kind of proprioceptive writing evokes Charles Olson’s ‘Objectism’” (241). These affinities, while suggestive and productive in certain ways, should not, though, lead us to miss or ignore important differences between Kerouac and Olson. What they share is their prescient sensitivity to the dynamics of secondary Page 210 →literacy. What differentiates them is their quite different models for the interplay of speaking, writing, and the mechanism of the page. Olson and Kerouac may be the same coin but as heads and tails. As such, the affinities matter because of the differences and to elide these differences is to misconstrue each or to reduce one to a lesser version of the other. 12. The Fluid Text, 8.

Page 211 →

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INDEX Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain), 15, 29, 33, 46, 48, 74, 75, 140, 146, 160 Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain), 46 Allen, Mel, 43–45 Ambassadors, The (James), 39, 101 Art of Fiction, The (James), 19, 101, 156 Bach, Johann Sebastian, 113 Balzac, Honoré, 36 Barthes, Roland, 17, 187 Baudelaire, Charles, 161 Bearden, Gene, 150, 152, 153, 157, 158 “Beast in the Jungle, The” (James), 163 Beatific Soul (Gewirtz), 9 Beethoven, Ludwig van, 113 “Big Two-Hearted River” (Hemingway), 155 “Black and Tan Fantasy” (Ellington), 85 Blake, William, 101 Bodenheim, Maxwell, 130 “Body and Soul” (Hawkins), 79, 83 Bornstein, George, 6 Brando, Marlon, 174 Brooks, Cleanth, 31 Bryant, John, 6, 85, 190, 191 Buckley, Lord, 5, 26 Burroughs, William, 1, 14, 15, 159, 189 Capote, Truman, 13, 14, 31, 59, 65, 66, 68–70, 75, 92 Carr, Lucien, 99, 103 Cassady, Neal, 5, 9, 16, 21, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 34, 41–61, 63, 64, 66, 67, 70, 71, 75, 78, 80, 90, 99, 102, 105, 120, 121, 124 128, 129, 132, 133, 136, 142, 148, 159, 160, 162, 164, 178, 184, 185

Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, 36, 89, 98 Charters, Ann, 34, 38, 49, 50, 55, 56, 62, 80 Chekhov, Anton, 161 Clemens, Samuel) see Twain, Mark Coltrane, John, 79 Confidence Man, The (Melville), 39, 46 Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A (Twain), 46 Cowley, Malcolm, 83 Crawford, Betty, 161 Creeley, Robert, 189 cummings, e.e., 18, 183 Dardess, George, 2 Davis, Miles, 79 Derrida, Jacques, 4 Dharma Bums, The (Kerouac), 1, 13, 168 Diamond, David, 112, 113, 115 Dickens, Charles, 36, 98 Dickinson, Emily, 101 Doolittle, Hilda, see H.D. Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 36, 46, 50, 51, 60, 61, 89, 98 Dr. Sax (Kerouac), 13, 16, 20, 53, 78, 91, 104, 126, 187, 192 Dreiser, Theodore, 50 Page 216 → Eliot, T.S., 19, 28, 29, 97, 183 Ellington, Duke, 85 Esoteric Records, 68 “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose (Kerouac), 93, 106 Everitt, Rae, 99, 103 Faulkner, William, 101, 104, 126

Fiedler, Leslie, 74, 75 Fields, W.C., 5, 26 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 50, 62, 76–78 Flaubert, Gustave, 101 fluid text (Bryant), 85 Fluid Text, The (Bryant), 190, 191 Foucault, Michel, 4 Fox, Bill, 67 Gaillard, Slim, 26, 29 Gewirtz, Isaac, 9 Gillespie, Dizzy, 16, 67, 68, 135 Ginsberg, Allen, 1, 14–16, 25, 50, 80, 81, 83–85, 97, 99, 101, 103, 130, 159, 189 Giroux, Robert, 35, 37, 38, 51, 58, 92, 99, 102, 103, 113, 114, 115 Goodman, Benny, 67 Goody, Jack, 4, 10 Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Kittler), 7 “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter” (Kittler), 27, 181 Great Gatsby, The (Fitzgerald), 15, 62, 76–78, 160 Harrington, Alan, 50 Harris, George Washington, 177–79 Havelock, Eric, 4 Haverty, Joan, 62, 63, 64, 75, 80, 155 Hawkins, Coleman, 79, 83 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 46 H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), 183 Hemingway, Ernest, 19, 28, 35, 50, 139, 140, 155, 169, 183 Holiday, Billie, 78, 79, 84 Holmes, John Clellon, 1, 16, 32, 43, 44, 45, 50, 58, 66, 67, 98–103, 113, 114, 125, 162, 168 Huncke, Herbert, 26, 45

“I’ll Remember April” (Konitz), 112–14, 116, 117, 121, 127, 148, 153, 154, 156 “In a Station of the Metro” (Pound), 6, 28 In Our Time (Hemingway), 139 James, Henry, 13, 19, 35, 39, 46, 101, 111, 156, 163, 191 “Joan Anderson Letter” (Cassady), 21, 49–51, 53, 55–57, 60, 61, 63, 64, 67, 148 Joyce, James, 113, 114, 161, 183, 184 Keats, John, 161 Kelly, Gene, 43–45 Kerouac, Jack and the mysterious reader, 110, 113, 114, 116, 125, 127, 129, 130, 133, 135, 136, 139, 141–43, 148, 153, 155–60, 168, 174, 178, 180, 186, 187 and orality of Quebecois childhood, 5, 20, 21–26, 30 and sketching, 9, 19, 31, 106–11, 113, 116–18, 120, 133, 140, 143, 153–67, 173, 180, 186 and Spontaneous Prose, 2, 9, 14, 16, 19, 31, 33, 47, 56, 89–93, 99, 106, 125, 127–30, 154, 158, 168–70, 173, 178–80, 185–89 Kerouac’s Crooked Road (Hunt), 2, 14–16, 62 Kind of Blue (Davis), 79 Kittler, Friedrich, 7, 10, 27, 28, 32, 125, 181–88, 191 “Know-Nothing Bohemians, The” (Podhoretz), 8 Konitz, Lee, 111–18, 121, 127, 131, 132, 148, 153, 154, 155, 156 Lacan, Jacques, 4, 181 Lardner, Ring, 152 Latham, Aaron, 97, 98, 101, 103, 117, 123, 167 Lawrence, D.H., 101 Lenrow, Elbert, 36 literacy hypothesis, 4, 5, 10, 181 Look Homeward, Angel (Wolfe), 35 Love and Death in the American Novel (Fiedler), 75 Page 217 → Love Supreme, A (Coltrane), 79

“Lover Man” (Holiday), 84 Loy, Mina, 183 Madame Bovary (Flaubert), 101 Maggie Cassidy (Kerouac), 20 Magnificent Ambersons, The (Tarkington), 152 Major Hoople (comic strip character), 42, 43 McGann, Jerome J., 6, 10, 172–74, 189–92 Melville, Herman, 36, 37, 39, 46, 47, 50, 51, 53, 55, 60, 63 67, 85–89, 98, 105, 161, 174, 184 Method Acting (Stanislavski), 117 “Mexican Girl, The” (Kerouac), 83–85, 89, 93 “Minimization of Thomas Wolfe in His Own Time, The” (Kerouac), 35 Moby-Dick (Melville), 15, 85–89, 105 Monk, Thelonious, 67 Moore, Marianne, 183 New Criticism, 6 New School for Social Research, 26 Newman, Jerry, 67, 68, 115, 117, 120, 127–31, 135, 143 Nicosia, Gerald, 58, 62 “Notes from Underground” (Dostoevsky), 50 “October in the Railroad Earth” (Kerouac), 13 Olson, Charles, 88, 189 Omoo (Melville), 174 Ong, Walter, 4, 5, 9, 10, 25, 27, 28, 31, 140, 158, 178–81, 185 Orality and Literacy (Ong), 5, 31, 179 Our Boarding House (comic strip), 42 Pamela (Richardson), 52 Parker, Charlie, 16, 69, 79, 81, 111 Payne, Cecil, 112, 113 Perse, St. John, 101

Pic (Kerouac), 14, 15, 48, 49, 56, 61, 79 Pierre (Melville), 39 Podhoretz, Norman, 8, 25 Pollock, Jackson, 69 Powell, Bud, 79 Pound, Ezra, 6, 28, 97, 183 Projective Verse (Olson), 188, 189 Proust, Marcel, 89, 123, 132 Richardson, Samuel, 52 Roberge, Al, 152, 153, 156–58 Sandburg, Carl, 115 Sanctuary (Faulkner), 104 Satori in Paris (Kerouac), 20 Saussure, Ferdinand de, 10 Secondary Literacy, 10, 170, 181, 185–89, 191, 192 Secondary orality (Ong), 9, 31, 170, 179–82, 186 Shakespeare, William, 46, 48, 60, 89 Shepherd, Jean, 180 Shillingsburg, Peter, 6 Snyder, Gary, 13 Stanislavski, Constantin, 117 Stein, Gertrude, 183 Stevens, Wallace, 183 Subterraneans, The (Kerouac), 13, 91, 187 Sun Also Rises, The (Hemingway), 155 Sut Lovingood (Harris), 177 Tarkington, Booth, 152 Textual Condition, The (McGann), 172 Thoreau, Henry David, 1

Tolstoy, Leo, 103 Town and the City, The (Kerouac), 20, 23, 26, 34–38, 41, 42, 49, 66, 70, 88, 98–101, 103, 104, 142 “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (Eliot), 28 Trilling, Lionel, 25 Turner, Tina, 18 Twain, Mark (Samuel Clemens), 29, 36, 46, 47, 48, 53, 60, 62, 63, 98, 140, 177–79, 184, 185, 191 Typee (Melville), 174 Typetalking, 9, 71, 75, 79, 80, 83, 93, 98, 103, 169, 170 Page 218 → Ulysses (Joyce), 113 “Un Loco Poco” (Powell), 79 Vachek, Josef, 5, 6, 10, 188 Visions of Gerard (Kerouac), 20, 53 Waste Land, The (Eliot), 29, 97 Weinrich, Regina, 2 White, Ed, 106 Whitman, Walt, 18, 67, 74, 101, 105 Wild Bunch, The, 174 Williams, William Carlos, 183 Wolfe, Thomas, 35–39, 50, 98, 114, 161 Wyse, Seymour, 67 Yeats, William Butler, 101, 161 Young, Lester, 5, 26, 78, 79