Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tragic Hair

Finished BIG SUR and started VANITY OF DULUOZ, which was given to me by Bill Boyle, and which starts out in a cranky-old-man-these-no-good-kids-these-days kind of tone. Kerouac pouts in the first paragraph of VANITY OF DULUOZ, "Insofar as nobody loves my dashes anyway, I'll use regular punctuation for the new illiterate generation." But it wasn't the punctuation that got me down about BIG SUR, or not only, though there were dashes aplenty. Yeah, that one went over my head, I guess, though it pepped up near the end with an elaborately gross nightmare or hallucination about Vulture People that was good and horrible to read on a stormy night, which I did. Duluoz spent most of BIG SUR wondering whether he was crazy or everyone else was crazy, a predicament not dissimilar to Oliver's in GREEN ACRES. Hey! It suddenly occurs to me that one of the narrator's central preoccupations in BIG SUR was country living vs. city life, a dialectic perhaps most eloquently explored in the GREEN ACRES theme song. I don't know, maybe it IS the punctuation, but VANITY OF DULUOZ is putting me in a better humor. Kerouac either pathetically or hilariously (or both) broods on tender grudges from when he was playing high school football: "I had to sit there and watch some of those bums prance and dance, one little leg sprain and there's heroic Pietryka making sure to remove his helmet when he was helped limping off the field so everybody could see his tragic hair waving in the autumn breeze." That seemed like a Barry Hannah sentence to me, with some of the same immediate, wounded poetry of sarcasm, not to mention the subject matter, and I remember talking to somebody a while back about whether or not Barry was influenced by Kerouac, but I don't remember the person or the answer.