Alexander Kr.


What ever happened to the great, reckless, and utterly inebriated author? Where has the grand American tradition of getting mercilessly sotted and sitting down and banging out whatever comes into one’s head gone? Why do we as a country no longer have any recluses living in remote locales, holed up with only a writing utensil and a copious amount of booze, churning out novels, essays, and short stories that could not be penned by anyone within a stone’s throw of sobriety, stopping only for a quick cruise around the countryside in a mind-bogglingly fast sports-car?
Perhaps what the country truly needs to perk up its stagnant cultural scene is a lane on every road (double-wide, well-lit, and, of course, padded on both sides) in which every man, woman and child with the capacity to write a coherent page of literature could traipse about to their liking after nights of brainstorming their next manuscript while drinking themselves into another dimension of time and space at their local bar, or preferably and more romantically, local pub.
And if one were to be so nit-picky as to point out the budgetary constraints that might be associated with said proposal, then perhaps all we need is a special type of driver’s license issued only to writers. When the inebriated writer is inevitably pulled over for reckless and borderline homicidal driving, he or she would present his license, and, instead of jail time, which so heavily taxes one’s creativity, the officer would issue an Author Under the Influence (AUI) citation, whereupon the offending writer would simply be locked in a room with a typewriter and ten reams of fresh paper. Release could be secured upon the completion of either two short stories, or, in especially heinous cases, a full novel.
It is all a question of trade-offs, as life usually ends up being. How would we rather live? In a country where we can rest assured knowing that we are safer at the expense of any semblance of anything decent to read? Or in a country where we can relax and enjoy volume after volume of great literature, but with the constant fear of being T-boned at 70 miles an hour by someone with a Blood Alcohol Content of 1.01? I’ll take death by Hunter Thompson over death by boredom any day of the week. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I’m only kidding….but…..hmmm…

Throughout the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the author Tom Wolfe joins the ranks of the Merry Pranksters in a theoretically observational role, but his writing in the book atests to the idea that he certainly came close to assimilating himself into the culture of Kesey’s disciples, and maybe even completely joined them on their trip. His writing is so intensely psychologically in tune with what the Pranksters were trying to convey that it is hard to believe that the reporting job he did was anything but a complete assimilation into their culture. His words are so kinetically charged and mind-wrackingly complex, yet simple and elegant at the same time. Wolfe accomplishes something that only Hunter S. Thompson has accomplished since then, and that is to accurately and positively (mostly) convey the ideas and the experiences of the drug culture and what was happening in their heads at this seminal moment in history. These people chronicaled by Wolfe were the originals of the generation that changed the world through one solid vibe, one movement of people thinking in a similar fashion, and Wolfe is brutally accurate in the book as to what the times must have been like. While reading the book, it truly feels as if the reader is alongside Kesey and his Pranksters, and that is an incredible feat.

From the first portion of Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums”, the most engaging aspect of Kerouac’s narrative is his focus on the nature of religion in the world of Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder, and conversely the role of nature in the religion in the book. The book has a very raw and adventurous feeling to it, and how Kerouac deals with the Buddhist beliefs and practices of the main characters in the book is on par with the desires of the Beat Generation as a whole to be part of such a mystical and whole experience. Thus far in the book, the character of Japhy Ryder seems to represent what appealed to the Buddhist wannabes of the Beat Generation, that mysticsm that follows Ryder around throughout the book, whether through his tellings of his tales of the Far East or his simplistic lifestyle. The character of Japhy Ryder speaks to the get-back-to-nature, wild, and primitive urge in all of us, and is for the other characters in the book a captivating figure that they all emulate in one way or another. Even Japhy’s name stands to illustrate the contrast between the mediocre following of Buddhist practices that Ray Smith attempts and the mystical aura that Ryder acheives through his practices. The name Japhy Ryder is an exotic and eccentric one in comparison with Ray Smith, and by naming the characters as so, Kerouac further draws the chasm between the success of the beliefs and practices of Smith and Ryder.

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