Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite Save As Favorite View Article Stats
6 comments

Life Arts

Jack Kerouac and William James: Give Them the Mad Ones

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Well Said 2   Interesting 2   Must Read 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H4 9/24/12

opednews.com

Jack Kerouac and William James: Give Them the Mad Ones

     The long awaited film version of Jack Kerouac's celebrated novel On the Road (1957) is finally hitting movie screens around the world (and opening in the fall, here in the U.S.) after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival this past May. Kerouac himself, however, after 40 years, continues to bewilder his admirers for his rather rapid personal decline following his literary success, from ardent champion of artistic and spiritual revelry to prematurely middle-aged sourpuss, dying of alcoholism at the age of 47 in 1969.     

     Probably the most quoted passage in Kerouac's depiction of post-war American youth in kinetic pursuit of heady experience is the narrator's homage to the impassioned nature of his friends' lives:

          "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad

          to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who

          never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous

          yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle

          you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

     It may only be a coincidence, but this youthful paean to hyperenthusiasm associated with Kerouac and several others of the 1950's American "beat" writers oddly echoes the sentiment of another famous American in his twenties, writing some 85 years earlier in a different post-(civil)war era.

     William James, who established the American philosophical school of pragmatism upon the value of individual experience, wrote in 1865 (in a letter to his mother) of his admiration for his intellectual acquaintances in Cambridge Massachusetts:

          "the idea of the people swarming about as they do at home, killing themselves

          with thinking about things that have no connexion with their merely external

          circumstances, studying themselves into fevers, going mad about religion,

          philosophy, love, & sich, breathing perpetual heated gas & excitement, turning

          night into day, seems almost incredible and imaginary"

     Clearly, both Kerouac and James, at least during some parts of their much examined lives, were drawn to and excited by the fire they found in the impetuous American-style intellectual and aesthetic pursuits of their youthful peers.     

Next Page  1  |  2

 

Steven Doloff is a professor of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute in New York City. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, and The Chronicle of Higher (more...)
 
Add this Page to Facebook!   Submit to Twitter   Submit to Reddit   Submit to Stumble Upon   Pin It!   Fark It!   Tell A Friend
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The End Really Is Near...(but don't worry)

Generation "D" Is Not Movin' Out

Jack Kerouac and William James: Give Them the Mad Ones

The Apocalectric Blues

The American President Show

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
6 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

This may be why Kerouac and James continue to burn... by Steven Doloff on Monday, Sep 24, 2012 at 11:47:45 AM
Thank you for posting Prof. Doloff's insightful es... by Richard Gerber on Monday, Sep 24, 2012 at 8:06:23 PM
Souls evolve; societies (or civilizations) ri... by Ned Lud on Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012 at 7:23:42 AM
I never connected these two guys before. It's a fa... by Hannah Seeger on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012 at 6:59:49 PM
A very intersting and well written piece. Great sc... by issak hallak on Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 7:25:09 AM
William James and Jack Kerouac are not names I usu... by Phyllis Gail Doloff on Monday, Oct 1, 2012 at 9:53:17 AM