Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 21 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Life Arts    H4'ed 9/24/12

Jack Kerouac and William James: Give Them the Mad Ones

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   6 comments
Message Steven Doloff

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

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

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

Steven Doloff Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

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...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

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

Will Power: How Shakespeare can Save America This November

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

Jack Kerouac and William James: Give Them the Mad Ones

"V" is for Virus

Generation "D" Is Not Movin' Out

Yankee Doodle Losers

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend