Beauty is a Form of Genius

On The Road reads quickly, much as it were lived, or I imagine it was lived (how much of it is real and how much of it is fictionalized?  I can never remember, and it’s not the sort of thing I want to look up.  Would ruin everything for me).  The words practically trip over one another, crowding each other in an attempt to get your attention first, and keep it longest.  Oh, it’s poetic, and beautiful to make me sigh out loud in places, but it’s the rough poetry of a drunken English major waxing poetic on a barstool, not the smooth rippling rhythm of Fitzgerald.  In many ways, the sheer exuberance of the words makes it hard to take it the story – i.e. the plotline, as it were – itself.  He – Kerouac, Paradise, whoever – is tripping over himself with excitement to tell you about what has happened and what he has seen because it’s gotten him so riled up.  In most places, his excitement comes through more clearly than the scene he is describing – there are some pages or passages I have to read 2, 4, 10 times before I understand what happened or why.  That should probably bother me in an author, but it almost makes the story better because it means I get to experience the beauty in those pages that many more times.  It’s my privilege to read his words more than once, and I feel thankful to Kerouac that he’s so enthusiastic that I have to do so.  For me, that’s the beauty of On The Road – not only is Kerouac gifted enough to choose the right, most beautiful words and turns of phrase, but he’s so clearly excited about what he’s describing – and, as a bonus, but in another way, most importantly – he’s thrilled that he gets to describe it at all.  I love, possibly above all things, beauty in writing.  I worship it the way Basil in The Picture of Dorian Grey worships visual beauty.  It is part of why I hate my own writing so much – I see no beauty or elegance in the way I write, simply practical and workaday phrases that do what they must.  Fitzgerald, and Wilde, and Whitman, and yes, of course, Kerouac, all have a flair to their writing that I admire, and wish I could emulate.  I see something extra in Kerouac, though, and that is a deep seated modesty and thrill that someone is allowing him to do what he is doing – write.  The others may have had the same thrill – my fantasy dinner party hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, I’ll report back – but none of them have it so clearly reflected in their writing.  For me, as a reader who is also a writer, it makes Kerouac more accessable, more real, as an author and a person, and it makes me feel closer to his work.  


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