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Thanks, Jack Kerouac

November 26, 2009 |  6:01 am

Kerouacwithcassady

On this day of thanks, I'd like to say thank you for an American writer I still treasure. Oh, you can complain about his romanticism, about his self-destructive alcoholism, about his inability to get beyond his initial massive success with "On the Road." But as much as the pilgrims and the codifiers of American holidays, Jack Kerouac showed us America in a way that would change our understanding of it forever.

Yes, "On the Road" isn't perfect. It is peppered with misogynist potholes, founders for long stretches, and is stuck in an adolescent mind-set.

But it also bursts with energy; it practically bounces off the page. It's a reminder that when Kerouac imagined something grand and unnameable and just out of reach, he could be electrifying. Imagine hanging out with him, back then, him and his friends like Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, who could entice you into almost any adventure just with the draw of their enthusiasm.

Back then, they didn't have karaoke. But somehow in the late 1950s, Kerouac found himself in front of a microphone, and people nearby were taping. Some of those recordings were with Steve Allen, others recorded live with an unknown band, but all soon went missing. Then in 1999, rediscovered acetates were turned into the CD "Jack Kerouac Reads On the Road." Sure, he reads a chunk of his novel -- but more important, on a few tracks, Kerouac sings.

And today, for Thanksgiving, won't you celebrate an unusual feast of our nation's cultural heritage: author Jack Kerouac sings "Ain't We Got Fun" to a very jazzy musical accompaniment. And happy Thanksgiving -- hope you've got lots of fun, too.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

File photo of Jack Kerouac, right, with friend Neal Cassady.

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