Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kerouac reference in a NY Times-reviewed book

In my on-going efforts to spare you daily Googling for Kerouac news, I bring you this NY Times book review of The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting. Click here for the article.

The review starts out:
Jack Kerouac said many things better than other writers have said them, and among those things, in "On the Road," is this: "I suddenly began to realize that everybody in America is a natural born thief."

Yes, I too would prefer they italicize book titles, but that is tangential.

The author, Dwight Garner, goes on to say:
Ms. [Rachel] Shteir shares, on a certain level, Kerouac’s abiding fondness for grifters and scammers and bandits, at least those of the stylish and relatively harmless kind. Kerouac had put his finger on one of America’s founding impulses. We stuffed the colonies into our breeches while England’s head was turned.

For those of you who have read my book (available here), this is not news. Several of the 100 Kerouactions discuss stealing. For example, Day 41 is titled, "On Stealing." In it, I say:
Sal Paradise (Kerouac) talks about stealing food from the cafeteria barracks where he served as a guard. His co-worker and shack-mate, Remi, justified it by saying, "Paradise, I have told you several times what President Truman said, we must cut down on the cost of living" (pp. 70-71).

Now I am not advocating breaking the law. But "helping oneself" to those things necessary for survival – food and clothing, for example – is not beyond the beat way. So if it’s a matter of survival – and realizing that stealing can have consequences you may not enjoy (e.g., like jail) – "on the road" and traveling light, you might think about a little pilfering. I recommend that it be from those who won’t miss it (like certain mega-corporations that weren’t in existence during Kerouac’s time).

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Devise a plan for survival on the road without any money.

Day 58, "On Possessions," also has some relevant advice:
When you’re traveling the beat way – for example, by hitchhiking or public transportation – you don’t need reading material because you can occupy your time “reading the American landscape.” If you do want a book, steal it. Then give it away. You don’t need possessions. You only think you do. Possessions are not needs. Possessions are strategies to meet needs. What needs of yours does the strategy of possessing things meet? Is there another strategy to meet those same needs? Think about it . . . .

In the meantime, pay attention to what you see out there in the great outdoors every day. You may find you don’t need any or as many possessions. Do you have to possess the mountain or the sunset to revel in it?

Suggested Kerouactivity:
List your top ten most prized possessions below. Give one of them away by the end of the month, no strings attached.

Or Day 68, "On Gasoline for Free":
There’s more than one way to score some gasoline for your road trip. One, of course, is to pick up hitchhikers in exchange for gas money (see Day 67). Another is to pump your tank full and drive off without paying. Now that was probably a lot easier to get away with back in Kerouac’s heyday, and certainly I am not recommending breaking the law or stealing. But it would be a very, very beat thing to do. Get my drift?

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Take a road trip. Do not fill up with gas first. Do not take any money or credit/debit cards. Just head out and keep going. Go go go until you run out of gas. Now figure out a way to get some gas. It will tap your beat ingenuity.

For 93 more Kerouactions, buy my book! Better yet, steal it.

P.S. Don't forget about "reverse shoplifting," wherein ignored self-published authors leave copies of their books on the shelves at big brick-and-mortar bookstores just to mess with the man. That's why there have been copies of The Beat Handbook spotted at Barnes & Nobles from Augusta, ME to Lowell, MA to Corning, NY to San Francisco, CA. Go ahead, arrest me. Please. Talk about free advertising.

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