“Time is the purest and cheapest form of doom.” — Jack Kerouac
Apropos Kerouac, I think that there is nothing more important, more significant today, than reading his books and evaluate them without associating them with the “beat phenomenon.” Kerouac is an author too diverse and expansive, by far the best and the most influential of his generation, to merely continue to consider him “the king of the beats.” So, disregarding the “literary criticism” which continues to promote “beatness” instead of literary value, authenticity, and scope, this piece supports otherness, instead.
Kerouac established this otherness principally by writing one of the masterpieces of the twentieth century, entitled Visions Of Cody.
This peculiar book broadcasted the first signal, revealed the first trail of Kerouac upon his request for a conceptual equilibrium; mainly because its author did not scoff at the fear of the possibility, after completing the book, to arrive at the trailhead, at the point of his experimental departure. Kerouac gave all he had to this brilliant, tricky and challenging book.
Challenge was everything. Kerouac worked through a literary revelation with an ambiguous novel, where redemption and condemnation, clarity and obscurity, highlighted human complexion and intellectual abyss. With Visions Of Cody, Kerouac reached his creative death, that is, his artistic consummation (something that was unthinkable by writing important and valuable books like On the Road, Lonesome Traveler, Big Sur, Vanity Of Duluoz, etc.). He overthrew the “truth” of the literary material, of the expressional validity, by allowing himself to explore the enlightening of phenomena, in their own greatness, in their own limitations and so achieving a flight to the far ends of the potentiality of possibilities, of life and literature, and of existential suffering, equally.
What exactly do we mean when talking about spontaneous prose? What may be the maximum proximity between life and literary writing? What exactly is poetic prose? The answers to these are not few; yet, let’s spare this case from an attempt to add useless and unnecessary interpretations. Because, on the contrary, there are books which establish their own aesthetics, regardless the known restrictive arguments for or against this triad of symbolic questions above.
Visions Of Cody was written in 1951-1952 and eventually published twenty years later, in 1972, after Kerouac’s death. Like almost all the other books of the author, this one is also controversial for the mainstream critics (especially of the Marxist school which constitutes one of the most powerful establishments in the history of American letters, and abroad).
Kerouac’s devastated vision was not creatively consumed in anticipation of the death of modern civilization, nor in some steadfast predictions of its death. The corpse of civilization had already been putrefied. Society no longer had any spiritual significance beyond eschatology. That is, Visions Of Cody is an eschatological book. It is a wonderful, purely sarcastic and frank composition of contexts, characters, projections and rare assimilations, all of which sustain the ultimate song of Kerouac’s intellect, which was fulfilled by high spiritual concentration, being endlessly questioned and undefined from within.
With Visions Of Cody, Kerouac came to a complete break with his previous methodology, beginning to use recorded material, polyphonic disruptions, narrative noise, distortion and risky involvements with conceptual embodiments.
Kerouac, being a poet of a revelation raised from the cultural catacombs, expressed a series of ontological qualities of aesthetic and social experience, philosophical reflections on everyday life, while he witnessed the impossibility of an alternative future for humanity, while life appeared to be indissolubly incorporated into fraud and imitation. However, Kerouac used his heart muscles to break his ties with the social and spiritual life of modern America, of the modern cosmos in general.