Not unlike Ondaatje’s *Running in the Family,* *A Blue Hand* renders biography into eloquent fragments that, when assembled, do not paint a complete pNot unlike Ondaatje’s *Running in the Family,* *A Blue Hand* renders biography into eloquent fragments that, when assembled, do not paint a complete picture but, rather, gesture at a range of possibilities and impressions. Baker's unwillingness to resolve echoes the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism--the very means of thinking and living that at once intrigued, befuddled, and eluded Allen Ginsberg (the western avatar in this saga) throughout his time in the subcontinent.
Perhaps the most significant element of *A Blue Hand* is that it gives a powerful and nuanced voice to some of the “minor characters”—as Joyce Johnson ironically dubbed herself and others—in the Beat saga who inspired, supported, and sacrificed (whether willingly or not) their own well-being and artistic ambitions so that those we now think of as the quintessential Beats could pursue their “calling” unhindered. Unlike so many other texts about the Beats, which focus solely on Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs, *A Blue Hand* chronicles the experiences of Hope Savage, Joanne Kyger, the Hungryalists and others, finally giving them due credit for their crucial positions in the Beat Generation. ...more
Matt Weiland, in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review (19 August 2007), sums up my sentiments toward *OtR* precisely:
"Twenty years ago, like so many slack 1Matt Weiland, in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review (19 August 2007), sums up my sentiments toward *OtR* precisely:
"Twenty years ago, like so many slack 17-year-olds before and since, I devoured “On the Road” and it devoured me. The pages of my copy were dog-eared, -nosed and -throated, and I was beholden to the book in ways I can’t quite believe now. Did I really go for midnight drives down by the ruined flour mills with the tape deck blaring Dexter Gordon? Did I really attend a high school costume dance dressed as Jack Kerouac? I know for sure — because proof exists — that the year I graduated I chose this bit of the novel’s last paragraph as my yearbook entry: “And nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old.” By the time I left for college, the book’s spell had begun to fade...Above all, “On the Road” matters for its music: its plaintive, restless hum. In it, Kerouac perfected a melancholy optimism and a yearning for solace a thousand times richer and subtler than the mournful sap that drips down from so many contemporary American films and novels. It’s the lovely ache in the writing of Sherwood Anderson and Arthur Miller, in the cracked voices of Jeff Tweedy and Paul Westerberg. This is the great, lasting appeal of “On the Road,” the reason it will continue to matter to readers for another half-century and more."
I do aim, in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary, to read the new edition, which is the original and unedited scroll that Kerouac churned out in just a few short weeks. ...more