studies of Dylan Thomas. Like Kerouac,nThomas killed himself with the bottlenbecause he was unable to resolve thenhurts and conflicts of his youth. In Onnthe Road, Kerouac unwittingly revealsnthis dilemma, “The one thing that wenyearn for in our living days, that makesnus sigh and groan and undergo sweetnnauseas of all kinds, is the remembrancenof some lost bliss that was probablynexperienced in the womb and can onlynbe reproduced (though we hate to admitnit) in death.” Failing to resolve such annissue, there can be little hope for a future,nor for an art that affirms, not denies,nthe realities of the humanncondition.nAt first writing provides some meansnof relief for Kerouac, but increasinglynit becomes a desperate howl calling fornthe death that will be the only releasenfrom the pain that existence has alwaysnprovided for him. His writing at thisnpoint has the potential to seduce usnby offering us false solutions to the problemsnof living, especially in times ofninstability and cultural fragmentation.nWe should, however, take a differentnstance and recognize that at least thenwriting can force us to come to termsnwith the complexities of existence. Althoughnlost himself, Kerouac does putnhis finger on the key issue of our livesnin a bureaucratic technocracy: How donwe re-establish our own individual initiative.-^nHow do we regain responsibilitynfor ourselves.”nXhe literary generation that Kerouacnhelped bind together included namesnthat still receive homage from thenunderground counterculture: AllennGinsberg, William Burroughs, LawrencenFerlinghetti, Gary Snyder, PhilipnWhalen, and Gregory Corso. Unbridledninspiration, not disciplined dedication,nseemed to be their password. Looselyn’grouped under the “beat” label, thenactual story of the commercial canningnof the Beat Generation is a remarkablencase study of how the dominant liberalnculture can twist potentially legitimatenprotests for autonomy into the newestnconforming fad.nBy coining the term “beat” Kerouacnhad obviously set the stage for ambiguousninterpretations. What he intendednto encapsulate in “beat” was the sensenof being in touch with one’s originalnsources, of fulfilling one’s own aspirationsn0X1 one’s own terms, independentnof the baggage and protocol of consumerism.nThe intuitive life-force rhythmsnthat made up black jazz provided thenBeats with their key image, while reinforcingnthe mystique of improvisationnand spontaneity. The raw energy, thenrough edge of honesty cut loose by thisnartistic credo, which became indistinguishablenfrom a frenetic lifestyle, isndistinctly highlighted by Kerouac’snthumbnail sketch of George Shearing,nbefore and after: “Shearing smiled; henrocked. Shearing rose from the piano,ndripping with sweat; these were hisngreat 1949 days before he became coolnand commercial.”nNaturally enough the Beat credonposed a substantial threat to the literarynintellectuals already concerned with thendissolution of the stable values that supportedntheir hierarchically ordered versionnof society. The new critics, the falsenvalues of scientism bearing down uponnthem, had come to a curious impasse.nBy turning poems into aesthetic objectsnthey were, as McNally relates, suggestingnthat “the study of art was superiornto its practice.” Art dominated by thenacademy was elitist art. “As a workingclassnCanuck, Jack didn’t emulate thenWASP values these high priests of culturencertified.” Thus when Kerouac’snwriting began to be published, the officialnreception was icy at best. His vitalitynwas grudgingly acknowledged, but this,ntoo, was finally discredited because thenmessage could not be seriously entertained,nnor the shapelessness easilynpardoned.nWhat follows Jack’s bursting innocentlynon the professional literary scenenis one of the early instances of medianlionizing, the voguish rush to definenand become part of a new sensibilitynbefore it gets thrown on the trash heapnnnof yesterday. And here was a sensibilitynthat appeared to cast off the chains ofnsocial responsibility. Unfortunately,nJack’s talent with words had never beenntransformed into a permanent craft. Hisnstream-of-consciousness style was literallynthe result of marathon bouts of creativity,nwords flowing onto his sacrednscrolls, the continuous rolls of papernspeeding through his typewriter, rathernthan of deliberate daily discipline. Thusnhe was vulnerable to criticism and rejection,nand as the liquor washed overnhim, the writer disappeared, replacednby a fearful public self, part truculentnshowman, part spoiled child. The reigningncritical chiefs had extracted theirnrevenge from an upstart who dared, likenWalt Whitman before him, to suggestnthat the natural, untutored voice mightnagain sing songs to the people. Yetnwithout the secure roots of youth to sustainnit, the unrestrained articulatenessnwhich Jack so valued had dissolved paradoxicallyninto the cold sweat of inarticulateness.nBut the final ignominy to be visitednupon Kerouac’s talent was the inversionnof the term “beat” and of the artisticnrenaissance Kerouac had intended bynthe concept. Marketed through the slicknefforts of the media mongers, “beat” innthe popular imagination became synonymousnwith “beatnik.” Kerouac’s restlessnjourney in praise of language and primarynexperience ended by beingnportrayed as the inarticulate, fingersnappingnsocial dropout, perhaps bestnidentified in the public mind with thenineffectual, and thus harmless, MaynardnG. Krebs, costar of the Dobie Gillisnshow.nThe writings of the Beats, of course,npainted a brash, solipsistic reality completelynat odds with the everyday lifenof the mainstream society. This playednconveniently into the hands of thosenwho would discredit them, especiallynbecause of their experimentationnwith hard drugs, their seeming disregardnfor any stable work ethic, and theirnopen disrespect for all pronouncementsnof the academy. How easy it was to mis-nM M M H M B B ^ S OnJanuary/February 1980n