What can I say? As much as I love Kerouac for all that he has meant for literature and counter culture, this book was too experimental for me to enjoy. And I love experimentation! It helps keep literature fresh, interesting, and evolving. Even so, I thought that The Visions of Cody needed more structure...because there was practically none. There was no story. No narrative. No plot. No development of character. It wasn't about ANYTHING.
The first section felt like a collection of unrelated creative writing exercises---What do you see right now? Describe it. That type of exercise. So we get descriptions of city streets, strangers, cafes, diners, brick buildings, and glowing neon signs. This is the stuff that inspires Kerouac in its raw form. But great artists take that raw material and shape it into something tangible. This is where craft comes in. The ability to perfect one's craft is what separates the good artists from the bad ones.
Then we get a 150 pg transcript of a series of conversations between Jack, Neal, and friends. It didn't bother me that they were drunk, stoned, and high on benzies. It bothered me that they were incoherent ramblings. It was impossible to follow without references. There was no context other than the little the reader knows about their lives. I thought it was a cool idea, but I found it very frustrating instead. The most I could get out of it is that they were getting fucked up talking about old times when they were getting fucked up. Following this is an "imitation of the tape" which was even more confusing and incoherent. Truthfully, by this point I had lost patience, skimmed through the rest, and gave up.
Besides the incoherent ranting and disjointed musings, I found myself reacting to Jack and Neal's reckless lifestyle---mainly the drug abuse. I lost some of the romanticism that I attributed to the beats. Jack died of alcoholism in his 40's. Neal died in his 40's as well, most likely because of drugs. I read a quote in which Neal was giving advice to a 19 year old kid: "Twenty years of fast living – there's just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I have done." As I find myself growing older and maturing the concept of BALANCE is becoming extremely important to me. Listen, I think it's healthy to experiment with drugs and open new doors of perception, to live life passionately and intensely, to question authority and reject many of the social norms in our society that seem to trap people and suffocate their spirit. But once you get to a certain level of awareness, you cannot evolve further doing the same shit all the time. Sooner or later, that behavior becomes self destructive, and it's important to find healthy alternatives to continue to evolve mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.