Friday, October 16, 1981

"Private, rambling, cynical . . ."

I was up early, the walk to school sunny and clear except for the odd smudges of cirrus, and where the trees cast long shadows there was white, glittery frost. I met Evelyn and walked in with her, deliberately missed assembly, and sat and talked to Claire.

Another typical day. After History period 3 we were all given pieces of card and told we had to make paper hats for a ‘tea-party’ that Hirst had organised period 5, and as we all sat there amid paper, tissue and scissors I realised suddenly how childish and how pointless all of it was. But I still indulged in it. At the tea-party itself, the English group played games and the girls acted silly and I felt so stupid.

After school I was goalkeeper for ‘Woodrow’s Wanderers,' a 5-a-side soccer team. We played 'Spuds,' a fourth/fifth yr side and got whipped 6-0. Two of the shots went right through my legs.

I’ve just heard that Moshe Dayan is dead.

The other day I read what Marcus Cunliffe said about Kerouac in The Literature Of the U.S.: “The collective narcissism of the Kerouac circle is ultimately boring and trivial . . . as with cookery, the product is consumed daily, leaving behind only a faint aroma . . .” He also argues that, “spontaneity . . . militates against serious literary achievement . . . garrulous and inarticulate – private, rambling, cynical – sentimental.” His condemnation is really sweeping and he concludes that, “To go on scolding Beat writing for more than a few lines is to exaggerate its importance.”

This annoyed me but to a certain extent I agree, because On The Road is nothing more than a crowded stream of impressions about Sal Paradise’s trips across the USA, which does leave an “aroma” rather than a definite image or idea. But if Kerouac is expressing an attitude which was just becoming widespread among American youth in the late ‘forties-early ‘fifties then it is important, if only for sociologists. That is the best way I can think to say it, but I don’t really know enough about anything!

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