My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Best part about this book:
The sections where Kerouac talks his writing style. There are two selection/chapters that cover this “spontaneous prose”: “The Essentials of Spontaneous Prose” and “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose.” Both are kind of checklists; but how-to lists might be more accurate. Interesting, downright fascinating…though I’m not 100% sure what to do with stuff like #14 in “Belief”: “Like Proust, be an old teahead of time.” But I can certainly get behind #29: “You’re a Genius all the time.” (I tell myself this everyday. Heehee.)
And speaking of genius — the essay “Are Writers Made or Born?” is AWESOME. Basically he separates the idea of great talents (what he refers to as interpreters…like a great violinist is not Mozart, for example, even though he/she plays well) and geniuses — the Mozarts — are people who create something new that hasn’t been seen before. Worth reading even if you read nothing else in this collection.
Other stuff that was pretty good:
His arguments for Beat and what it is. His definitions are meant to clarify a lot of the philosophy of the Beat movement. I don’t know if they clarify too much…but I think I caught a few details that I didn’t know before. Probably one of his most interesting observations in “On the Beats” is “The dope thing will die out. That was a fad, like bathtub gin.”
The stuff you have to wade through:
Sports. While he makes some really great arguments for why baseball strategy (walking the best hitters, etc.) makes for dull games and players who don’t know how to swing for the fences…for the most part the sports sections are dull. The games and seasons he writes about are long gone, and the immediacy of a sports article doesn’t reverberate through the ages like we would like. Even for a writer like Kerouac.