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The Subterraneans is one of Kerouac's most groundbreaking novels. He wrote it in three consecutive nights, sitting at his mother's kitchen table, fuelled by copious amounts of benzedrine - or speed, as we'd call it nowadays. It is a tortuous and deeply self-conscious account of a brief love affair Kerouac had, modelled after Dostyoevsky's "Notes from the Underground," and contains some of the most heartbreaking and beautiful prose Kerouac ever wrote. For anyone coming to this novel after reading On the Road or The Dharma Bums, they will be struck first by the unconventionality of the prose - a method Kerouac called "spontaneous prose," involving him sitting down and more-or-less literally writing whatever came into his mind in the form it came into his mind. Luckily for us, Kerouac had a lighting-fast mind that could turn any image into fully-formed wonderful prose, and if most of these sentences run on for a page or more and involve many convuled turns (which they do), then the book is all the more enjoyable because of it. One of Kerouac's best.
Jack Kerouac is best known for his groundbreaking novel 'On The Road' and for being hailed as the forefather of the 'Beat Generation'. They were a group of writers and artists working in the 1950's and including 'Howl's' author Allen Ginsberg and 'Naked Lunch' author William S. Burroughs. The group embraced an outlook of non-conformity to the stuffy ideals of the era and wrote about finding a sense of spiritual freedom in the newly developing modern world. Kerouac's style of writing was itself bucking the trend, going against the norm - he composed what he called 'spontaneous prose'. By this he meant that his work was never edited and was exactly the words his mind had thought of first, unchanged from dreaming mind to paper. Many scholars say 'The Subterraneans' is the best example of Kerouac's method.
It is a slimline novel, which is why it is nearly always published alongside the short fictional story 'Pic'. This flamingo copy has a preface by Henry Miller who declares: "Let the poets speak" and describes how Allen Ginsberg referred to his friend as a "suffering prose saint".
The novel describes a love affair with a woman called Mardou and the days Kerouac spent on 'Heavenly Lane' with the down and outs of society.The style of writing is heart-breakingly beautiful and honest. Kerouac's sense of humour shines through too and really helps you connect with his persona. Kerouac's expereinces of always struggling to find spiritual contentment is painfully described. It has some breath-taking descriptions of the most ordinary everyday things in life - made heavenly by Kerouac's interest in them.
It is definately one of the important novels in Kerouac's career and everyone who has an interest in his work or that of the Beat Generation writers should read this. It is very inspirational and wise.
'Pic' is a short story written in the first person and in the "Negro dialect of the North Carolina farm country". It is done in Mark Twain style - think Huckleberry Finn. It is an ambitious work by Kerouac and reveals how talented he was and how he could produce non-autobiographical works too. It is a great study of the culture from the perspective of an admirer.
The Beat Generation always waxed lyrical about their achievements but Kerouac truly was the "gentle, intelligent suffering prose saint" and sage that Ginsberg claimed. Read his works and discover.
Published by Flamingo