Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The center of Saturday night in America

Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac, 1993, Penguin Books
If you ever need to source a Jack Kerouac quote (they show up unsourced on the Internet all the time) and need help, try the Jack Kerouac Group on Facebook. Today I read this lead sentence in a NY Times article:
Jack Kerouac once said that no one, not the biggest drinker, fighter or lover, could find the center of Saturday night in America.
I love that, and it sure sounds like Jack. But, of course, the article (click here to read it) didn't provide a citation. I had no idea where to start looking in order to confirm that Jack said it or, if he did, where.

Enter the Facebook Jack Kerouac Group. I posted about this and, just like that, Dave Moore (moderator of the group), found the following in Visions of Cody on p. 57:
. . . no guy whether he was a big drinker, big fighter or big cocksman could ever find the center of Saturday night in America . . .
I checked my copy, and, sure enough, there it is on p. 57 (my version is Penguin, 1993).

Dave pointed out that this quote almost certainly influenced Tom Waits' song, "The Heart of Saturday Night" (click here to listen).

So, Jack said something pretty much like what the NY Times reported. They just didn't have the balls to print "cocksman."

Here's more from Visions of Cody for context:
Cody sat there, stunned with personal excitement as whole groups of them shouted across the smoke to other fellows in a tremendous general anticipation of the rapidly approaching almost unbearably important Saturday night in just a few hours, right after supper when there would be long preparations before the mirror and then a sharped-up city-wide invasion of bars (which already at this moment had begun to roar from old afternoon drinkers who'd swallowed their bar egos long ago), thousands of young men of Denver hurrying from their homes with arrogant clack and tie-adjustments towards the brilliant center in an invasion haunted by sorrow because no guy whether he was a big drinker, big fighter or big cocksman could ever find the center of Saturday night in America, though the undone collar and the dumb stance on empty streetcorners on Sunday dawn was easy to find and in fact fifteen-year-old Cody could have best told them about it . . . (Kerouac, 1993, p. 57).

That is the best description of certain Saturday nights in my long-ago past that I've ever read. If you haven't read Visions of Cody, what are you waiting for? Go go go, man, and dig the ride!


Kerouac, J. (1993). Visions of cody. London: Penguin Books.

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

Definitely linked to Tom Waits, as you say, any biography of Waits covers his interest in (and inspiration by) the Beats and that sense of searching for the wide-open possibilities of Saturday nights in towns and cities across America. Beautiful!