It would take all day and night to explain how I feel about Kerouac and his book Visions of Cody. I read this book for the first time during a very dificult time in life–and really the Dharma Bums was the first book of Kerouac I ever experienced even though critics consider it the lesser novel in comparison to On the Road. I’m not about to go on about those times here when I first picked up these books, but I can write that the legend or romanticized version of Neal Cassady is something I am more and more obsessed with. And my thoughts on Kerouac and this book go way past admiration or scholarship–the study of form or prose models which I feel is so important for the writer. But I connected with Kerouac in a way I’ve not connected with many living writers. Including my beloved Salinger and Crane.
Perhaps I feel like Kerouac at the end of On the Road and it is as simple as ‘I think of Dean Moriarty.’ Because I do think of Dean Moriarity and Cody much more than I think of Neal Cassady. In fact from Carolyn Cassady’s books Neal was a horrible role model and was perhaps a horrible person not quite living up to the persona developed by Kerouac. But I love the character Kerouac builds in the work much more than the person I research.
And as I sit and write this I think of the last time I spoke with Lolo–my unofficial obsession in fictive spaces. So perhaps I am in love with the fictionalized Lolo the way I have always been taught to love my characters. The love that is needed to follow them and create their lives in prose and narrative.
For example, here is an example of the care and eye that Kerouac has for Cassady from Visions of Cody that is my thoughts tonight: ‘Oh life, who is that? There are some young men you look at who seem completely safe, maybe just because of a Scandanavian ski sweater, angelic, saved; on a Cody Pomeray it immediately becomes a dirty stolen sweater worn in wild sweat.’
I think of this quote as I write about Lolo and his blue worn t-shirt and his sunglasses and cigarettes in the torn pocket over his big heart. How hard I try to get the detail right so people can see the Lolo I have seen and experienced. Like Tracy Daugherty writes–I want the readers to experience the character alive in the fictive space as they would the real person. I think of the love I have for Lolo and Ricardo and people gone from my immediate life who live on in fictive spaces. Who live on in the old neighborhood of my head. I get to meet them there and love them in a way the real world won’t allow me to.
But also I think Lolo and Cassady as real mean and not the fictionalized characters have so much in common. They are both legitimate psychopaths as Norman Mailer I think wrote about. They both capture the illigitimate and the failure to create a understandable life for themselves and those around but also they represent a wildness and an enviable lack of respect for authority and order that I feel is healthy in moderation. I think this because Cassady like Lolo did try and better himself at one time. The failure or toughness that comes from excessive failure caught up with them and perhaps that is what I fear and what I obsess over.