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Holmes and Kerouac: the legendary conversation.

Posted to WritersAndGenres




This is Holmes's account of his conversation with Jack in November 1948:

Jack Kerouac and I used to sit up most of the night with quarts of beer in ,y apartment on Lexington Avenue, talking about all these things. Though he knew much more about them than I did, I think I was more concerned with isolating the common element in them. He would tell hour-long stories about the "wild kids" he had seen everywhere in his travels since the war - all the junkies, musicians, collegian sailors, con men, teen-age Raskolnikovs, parking-lot hipsters, and their rootless, willing girls; stories that excited and disturbed me with feelings of imminence, stories rich and chaotic with life’s improvisations; stories that seemed to be describing a new sort of stance toward reality, behind which a new sort of consciousness lay; stories that struck me just as Gorki’s tales must have struck young Russians in the nineties.
I responded instinctively to these stories. I seemed to know (without knowing) the youthful thirst, the restless exhuberance, the quality of search that pulsed in [these stories]. I felt it myself. Everyone I knew felt it in one way or another - that bottled eagerness for talk, for joy, for excitement, for sensation, for new truths. Whatever the reason, everyone my age had a look of impatience and expectation in his eyes that bespoke ungiven love, unrealised ecstasy and the presence of buried worlds within.
I kept goading Jack to characterise this new attitude, and one evening as he described the way the young hipsters of Times Square walked down the street - watchful, cat-like, inquisitive, close to the buildings, in the street but not of it - I interrupted him to say that I thought we all walked like that, but what was the peculiar quality of mind behind it?
"It’s a sort of furtiveness," he said, "like we were a generation of furtives. You know, with an inner knowledge there’s no use flaunting on that level, the level of the ‘public,’ a kind of beatness - I mean, being right down to it, to ourselves, because we all really know where we are - and a weariness with all the forms, all the conventions of the world.. It’s something like that. So I guess you could say we’re a beat generation," and he laughed a conspiratorial, the-Shadow-knows kind of laugh at his own words and at the look on my face.