Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Quick Word... On The Jack Kerouac Challenge

I'm standing outside a friend's house and the rain is beating down on the deck above me. There's the sound of Lady Gaga pounding in the room upstairs, and I have just stepped out for a temporary breather from the horrible noise. The screen door crashes shut and an old guy in glasses who's had a bit too much to drink stands on the deck next to me. He's struggling with a lighter to get his cigarette going, and asks for a hand. The lighters out of fluid though, so i'm no help, and he starts cursing before giving up altogether and instead asking me all about myself, and afterwards, what I'd like to do after I finish Uni. I tell him I'd like to be a writer.

He coughs into his hand, a sharp violent cough. Probably not a bad thing he skipped the cigarette.
"Ah! You mean like Jack Kerouac!"
I sigh. Not because I don't mean like Jack Kerouac, not because I don't like Jack Kerouac. But because of all the authors in all the world, he chose Jack Kerouac.

If you're anything like me, chances are you've been cursed. I remember earlier this year when I was the production of Macbeth I was in was the last time I got cursed. Not a 'call it The Scottish Play!' kind of curse, but a curse in which the name Macbeth pops up everywhere. Macbeth was on TV. Macbeth turned out to be the name of someone's dog. Macbeth was rewritten as a children's book my work was holding a launch for. It was quite simply everywhere.

Now the curse is Jack Kerouac. Jack's curse began when a friend of mine at Uni mentioned that he had recently been reading the work of 'The Beat Generation' and found our latest book to read for class a bit harder to get into. A few weeks later I was helping out with the English Independent Studies at Launceston College, and a girl there was telling me there was a certain University she wanted to go to, because they had a unit on The Beats, and she loved Kerouac's work.

Then mere DAYS later, I was at the town library researching Homer's The Odyssey and the only book that came up on the computer as available was Jack Kerouac's Highway Odyssey: The Making of On The Road.

And then there I was, after 19 years of never hearing his name except once as a lyric in a Tim Minchin song, with a drunk old guy leaning back against the window of the patio, and telling me that On The Road was that greatest book he ever read. And I'm standing there wondering: Why? Why am I cursed by the works of Jack Kerouac?

So here's the deal. I'm proposing what I've affectionately titled The Jack Kerouac Challenge. In the next couple of weeks, I don't expect to hear anything about Jack Kerouac. Surely I have filled my quota now. If, in the next few weeks, two unconnected circumstances both reveal the name Jack Kerouac, I will accept my fate and hire out On The Road to read over my holidays. Note that I have to be under reasonable conviction that the person/instance has no connection with my blog. So don't think upon reading this, of walking up to me and going "Ha! Jack Kerouac!" It will not count.

So if fate would have me read Jack Kerouac, then Kerouac I will read. But if not, I will abandon the test and leave On The Road on the 'Maybe One Day When There Is Nothing Else To Read' shelf.

My twitter feed will be updated real-time with any Kerouac Challenge updates, and I will stop on here at the end of any days when he is mentioned, and keep you posted on any news.

Until then, it's on Kerouac, do your worst.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence. Right?

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