Jessica Bu.


“That the only love can only be the first love, the only death the last, the only life within, and the only word… choked forever.”
Jack Kerouac, Maggie Cassady

What intrigued me the most about Jack Kerouac’s novel, Maggie Cassady, was the notion that one’s first love is the purest kind there is. In the quote above, Jack Dulouz prefaces the novel and the events to come by saying that in the end, what truly matter in life are the connections made between people. In this quotation, Dulouz speaks of the different variations of love and how he views them all. The “first love” represents the love form one’s parents when they are a child. This love is indeed the first, as it lays the foundation for important relationships in one’s life. The second segment of the quote deals with heartbreak. Unfortunately, love and relationships are never guaranteed, so one should understand the “death” that may often occur. Kerouac writes of “the life within” as one’s soul is the source of all interpersonal connections. When dealing with love, one should always remember their own self, for if you lose touch of yourself, love will ultimately suffer. The last part of the quotation speaks to the difficulty of expressing emotions such as love. The words seem to be “choked forever” since they can not even articulate such strong feelings. Throughout the novel, Dulouz struggles with the complexities of love and the confusion that it brings him. However, the complexities of love are balanced by his friendships with the other boys, for this is the purest love he has found. The sense of comradery and completely innocent, dispassionate love is crucial to Dulouz’s being. These friendships are the glue that holds people together. These are the connections that enable people to endure life’s many ups and downs.

The New Journalism approach that Tom Wolfe utilizes in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is an astounding style which engages and captivates any audience. Different from the typical form of journalism which simply reports on a subject, new journalism takes the practice a step further. The reporting is done from a 1st person perspective, as the journalist writes about the scene by being in the scene. Tom Wolfe truly writes in a manner which draws the reader into the scene as well. The notion of inter-subjectivity is a key component of Acid Test. The entire journey of Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters revolves around the idea of being together and having intense interpersonal relationships. Wolfe’s new journalism is a means of engaging the reader, so the “outsider” can just as easily follow on the trip. Wolfe does this in a variety of ways, all of which are crucial to the art of new journalism. Actual scenes are described intensely, as opposed to a simple narrative. The depth in which Wolfe writes allows one to re-create the scene, in a way restoring reality. Wolfe also uses complete dialogue, instead of bits and pieces of quotations, to draw the reader completely into the scene as if one were standing as a witness.
It is interesting to see the transformation that Wolfe’s writing undergoes as Acid Test progresses. Wolfe was intrigued by The Merry Pranksters and he was determined to effectively and accurately capture their very essence. In the beginning of the novel, Wolfe’s writing was rather composed and structural. But as Wolfe spent more time with Kesey and the Pranksters, his writing transformed – his narrative began to resemble the language of those around him. Keeping in mind that those around him were regularly on some form of psychedelic, the fragmentation that Wolfe began to write with captured the very nature and effects of acid; “And Sandy takes LSD and the lime :::::: light :::::: and the magical bower turns into … neon dust … pointillist particles for sure, now.” (53) Even though Wolfe’s writing was so in-tune with the tongue of the Pranksters, one should not mistake this for complete assimilation. It is merely a representation of the importance of the journey and their experience as a whole, which enables the integration of those within as well as those on the outside. It is this experience which Tom Wolfe so eloquently describes in this novel.

Jack Kerouac’s writing often seems rather random, as he jumps from topic to topic without much explanation. His words seem to be a collaboration of many different thoughts, all occurring at the exact same moment. However, it all makes sense after reading Kerouac’s personal list in the “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” Kerouac presents his idea of the utmost important ingredients to create the ultimate piece of writing. The idea behind spontaneous prose is to “reveal the inner life of the author when provoked by either the externals of the world or the memories of times past.” When a person allows him/herself to write effortlessly, the purest form is exposed. Perhaps the easiest way to understand Kerouac’s idea of spontaneous prose is through his analogy to jazz. Like a jazz musician engaging in improvisation, the method has “no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement” (PBR, 57). The spontaneous prose is released in one single breath, never lifting the pen from the paper. Kerouac calls for a clear stream of consciousness, which produces the most honest work. The one essential that impacted me the most, was the elimination of all inhibition. For me, this is the most challenging aspect of writing. My perfectionist ways hinder my ability to just write. I place too much pressure on myself to be “right,” instead of allowing my mind to fully exhaust a topic. Most of the time I am so concerned with whether what I write is good or bad, that the pleasure of writing is completely taken away. I wonder if everyone can write like Kerouac, or if spontaneous prose is something only some people inherently possess.

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