Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?

Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?


Jack Kerouac – Catholicism and his mother – a strange guilt-ridden relationship?

Jack Kerouac is a hero of mine. Reading his books back in my formative years had a big impact on me. He invigorated me and altered my view of life. He revealed an alternative.

I was always intrigued with his relationship with his mother and his life as a Roman Catholic. It seemed to me that he was pulled in all directions and lived in two worlds. I always felt that it was this struggle between two opposing ideologies that drove him to drink and led to his early death.

Jack was brought up in a Roman Catholic background and lived with his mother. It was here, at his mother’s house, that he wrote most of his books. I can just picture him there in that homely environment, tap-tapping away on his old type-write while his mother sat in the other room and cooked him meals, ironed his shirts and looked after him. Not quite the image of the crazed rebel. Yet then he would go wild. He would go off for mad escapades with the characters that featured in his books – Ginsberg, Burroughs, Cassady and Corso. He was drawn to the crazier outsiders, those with the energy and lust for being on the edge. Like iron filing to the magnet of Cassady he was helpless. He saw the excitement and wanted it.

Jack went off to New York and hitched and drove across country To San Francisco, Denver and Mexico on mad adventures full of craziness, promiscuity, drugs, poetry, jazz and madness.

He was turned on by Cassady’s wildness and complete irresponsibility, by Ginsberg’s intensity and passion and Corso’s seeking. On car journeys, sometimes in stolen cars, across the States or to Mexico, dicing with death, driving like lunatics, high on pot or amphetamine, delving into wild Mexican brothels or black Jazz dives, always living life at speed, rapping through the night, pouring out poems, seeking nirvana on mountain tops, sartori in the dynamo of the celestial night and love in the eyes of a Mexican beauty, Jack found he was alive like never before.

But then, when the cheque (from his military service) ran out or the odd jobs dried up he endured the cold and hunger and then returned to his mother. I think he had had his fill.

Unlike the others he had a refuge. After the debauched days of crazy poetry, sex and jazz, there was the repentance and confessions.

I’m not sure what his Mum made of it?

Jack was a Buddhist Catholic with a guilt complex and an alcohol habit.

Jack was not so much a main character in what was going on in the mid fifties so much as a chronicler. Without him there wouldn’t have been a narrative. His stream of consciousness writing captured the rhythm of the poetry and jazz. It was as if he went along as an observer and watched the antics from afar, noting everything and meticulously recording it. His books were not so much novels as memoirs of the mad exploits of his outsider friends on their journeys of exploration and adventure as they reamed the seam of life and sought the answers in the void outside of society. He did partake but mainly he watched so that he could splurge it all back out in one great mammoth regurgitation.

When the sixties arrived it was interesting to see how it panned out. Ginsberg and Cassady embraced it whole-heartedly. Ginsberg teamed up with Dylan and got into the scene, Cassady became the driver for Ken Kesey and hung around with the Grateful Dead. Even Burroughs got into the Rock scene doing spoken word outpourings with the likes of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. It was Kerouac who remained aloof.

I remember the TV programme of William Buckley’s with a drunken Kerouac being set up by Buckley and ridiculed, and Kerouac rejecting any association with the sixties counter-culture despite Ed Sanders (of the Fugs), another participant, obviously idolising him, all he had done and his contribution to American culture. Jack was distraught at the very idea that he might have been in any way responsible for that sixties rebellion. Yet he was. By chronicling it so well and embracing the craziness he had unleashed an alternative vision.

I see Jack in the same way I see many of the Old Rock ‘n’ Rollers from the Deep South. They too were brought up in a highly religious environment. They were attracted to the Blues and R&B with its hard drinking, womanising and gambling. They were torn. Their upbringing and religious indoctrination pulled them one way and their desire for the wild life pulled them the other. You see it with Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. They would vacillate between wild excess and pious sobriety. It was this dichotomy that pushed them to excess. It was as if it became so pent up inside that when it came out they pushed it to the extreme. They thought that they were doing the devil’s work, they were damned, so it didn’t matter any more. They might as well be hung for a whole hog as a slice of bacon. Then they’d pull up short, repent and go to the other extreme.

For me American culture is like that; it’s extremes. There’s no going down the middle. If you’re bad you’re the meanest mother on the planet; if you’re good you’re apple pie and sweet as candy.

I think that vacillation in Kerouac was obvious and led to his alcohol problem. He was torn apart by it.

I would like to investigate his relationships with his mother and Catholicism more thoroughly. I think there was a lot going on there.


Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.

Jack Kerouac – What he meant to writing, life and the sixties.


Jack opened a door and let a new stream of light come flooding in. It swept the old dull formula away.

Before Jack there was a structure and form. Everything had its place. There were rules, procedures, format and sequence. It was staid. It was dull. It was controlled.

Jack opened a valve in his head and the steam of ideas, words and stories gushed forth in one long screaming roar.

Jack put his words into life as if he was playing a never-ending saxophone line. They wailed, parped and spouted out in uncontrolled frenzy. They streamed along in a great torrent that gathered you up and bore you along with it.

There were no rules. There was no formula. It was a raging waterfall that cascaded along with a madness, exuberance and all the spontaneity of now. It wasn’t so much telling a story as relating the moment, describing now.

And what a now!

It was a now teeming with desires, madness and a thirst for life that could not be contained, had no limits, and was bursting to explode out of the confines of the shackles society puts on us.

Jack was too alive to sit still, too wired. He had to let loose. He sought fellow freaks to travel, open up new horizons and explore possibilities; rapping endlessly as they delved the depths of possibility – ecstatic on discovery. Discovery of self, of possibility, for awe and wonder, to wrestle the demons, open up the senses, to let go; to give rein to all the sensations possible and experience life. There was sex, drugs, fast cars, laughs, kicks, craziness and exaggerated, heightened possibility. There was meaning, purpose and kicks to be screwed out of the drabness.

Jack was in awe of the emancipated black culture and its propensity to let its hair down; its sensuous sexuality, unloosed vitality and wondrous creativity. The black culture was rich and thriving where white culture was constrained and uptight. He wanted to be as loud, as natural and as in touch with his inner self and let all that bottled up energy out. In the black clubs with the black music it was GO GO GO GO GO – crazy man. There were no limits. You went for it.

Despite all the racism and poverty the black American culture had style, had class and knew how to let it hang out. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. They burned. They grasped every second and knew how to extract the kicks out of it. It was wild. It was real.

After Jack how could one go back to living an ordinary life? To writing manufactured stories? – To following an ordained pathway into a career, a home and a life of tedium. This was a plastic culture of concrete and control. It was as dead as the dodo.

Jack had defied the cosmos and sought satori in the majesty of being.

How could you mow the grass and catch the eight thirty to the office?

Without Jack could we have had that sweeping liberalism of the sixties that swept the dowdy conformism away? Or would we be living in our little boxes, locked up inside as repressed as the society that spawned us?

Jack was the great liberator. Once the door was open then was no holding back the current. The dam gave way. The sixties was the flood that Jack unleashed.

I was swept along in that tide. Who could deny the energy and excitement? The freedom?

Allen Ginsberg howled and Jack roared down the highways of life. They both opened minds.

Book Recommendation – A Beat Novel – Opher Goodwin – Goofin’ with the Cosmic Freaks

This was my attempt to write a kind of sixties On The Road. I think of it as my Beat novel.

Some of you might recognise the character I based the book on. It has all the craziness of the times an is a good read:

In the UK:

In the USA:

Thank you for supporting me and my writing!

The Beats and Hippies – some thoughts.

The Beats and the Hippies did not want to be part of any warmongering, elite-driven war such as the Vietnam war. They did not want the hypocrisy of a conservative society that espoused one thing and did another. They rejected the austerity, elitism, racism, destructiveness and false patriotism. They wanted something simpler, less damaging, more inclusive, more sincere and more meaningful. They saw the heart of America and the UK, with its lip-service to religion, its greed and selfishness, as an empty lie. It was rotten at heart, uptight and conformist and based on hierarchy and power. It was corrupt.
Corporate America sent its youth to war for economic gain. They made money out of blood.
The elite did not fight and most avoided sending their own sons into battle. They disproportionately sent the poor and coloured.
Church was a club. If Jesus had come back they would have murdered him.
The laws were flouted. Money talked. If you were rich you could get away with murder. If you were poor or black you got electrocuted.
There was no heart or substance. It was all cash and power.
The Hippies and Beats saw a better way of living. They were, and are, right.
Their legacy is in spiritualism, environmentalism and civil rights.
BTW – Jack Kerouac was an early leader of substance but was undermined by Catholic guilt and alcoholism and became a sad character who was confused, increasingly right-wing and ended up a drunken bum.

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan.

I’ve just finished reading Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan.

A surreal journey if ever there was one. He is the unheralded writer of the Beat Generation who went on into the 60s counterculture but never quite fitted anywhere. I find his quirky books a breath of fresh air.

This book is a series of vignettes that form pictures in the mind. They are elusive and unsettling, possessing an unreality quality and yet grounded in the everyday. Some of his metaphors were so strange they were somehow disturbing.

I enjoyed it. It leaves me wondering.

Richard Brautigan – Unsung Hero of the Beat Generation

Richard Brautigan was a giant among Beat writers. His delicate prose, full of strange ethereal humour and a delicate child-like touch was completely unique.

In the 50s he released poetry and did stand up poetry reading in San Francisco. Then when the 60s came around he extended his work into novels and worked with the Diggers.

But Richard was an unpredictable loner. He was never completely part of either scene.

He is most remembered for Trout Fishing in America but In Watermelon Sugar haunts me most.

He committed suicide in 1984.

A writer who deserves to be remembered and read.


Mez Mezzrow and Henry Miller – the precursors to the Beat Generation.

Jack Kerouac

The first time I read Jack Kerouac, when I was seventeen, I was completely blown away. He had created a whole new way of writing – this spontaneous, stream of consciousness flow of ideas, thoughts and observations written in a mad Bebop flow. I’d never read anything quite like it. It did not seem to have a plot. It just recorded life as it happened. And what a life. It was a life of the underground world, the sex, drugs and Jazz – the antithesis of the suburban life. It described the young kids wild for life, wild for truth, searching for meaning, for Sartori, in among the Jazz cellars of the Black city clubs and out on the road under those big skies. It burned with the passion of youth and its idealism; it’s lust for life.

On The Road created the Beat Generation with its poets like Ginsberg and its writers like Burroughs.

But the Beat Generation was in fact just an incarnation of the fifties. Back in the thirties other writers had done similar things.

I discovered:

Mez Mezzrow


Really The Blues – described the life of a white Jazz player who lived the life back in the thirties in the same black clubs. It was full of the same ingredients as Jack Kerouac.

Henry Miller


Henry got a reputation as a pornographer but he wasn’t. He was writing about his life in Paris back in the thirties. There was so much more than sex in that book. I remember thinking that one page in Capricorn was the best bit of writing I had ever read.

Henry wrote with that same zest about life. It had that flow and autobiographical honesty.


Jack Kerouac quote!

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Allen Ginsberg – America

This was not so much a poem as a dialogue with a country – a country with a personality. He addresses the injustices, the shallowness and paranoia as well as his own situation and relationship.

This was a poem written in the mid-50s in the anti-Russian paranoia following the 2nd World War. There was a great fear of communism. The world was in a mess and the fear of atomic war was claustrophobic.


Allen Ginsberg

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I’m sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I’m trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia.

I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.
I haven’t got a china man’s chance.
I’d better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
Twenty five thousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they’re all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our filling stations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Reality Dreams – My latest book – A weird psychedelic Sixties extravaganza.

This is an extract – just to show you how weird it is. It is not often that your main character starts the story as a sperm:-

This is Chapter 1.

He was dimly aware of his existence, irritated by a sense of incompleteness, feeling lonely and lost, as if the bulk of himself was missing.

He had very little sensation. He could neither see nor hear. He knew not that he lacked senses with which to probe his surroundings. He had no comprehension of senses or self. Yet sensations of a kind did filter through to his cloudy awareness. He felt safe and warm. He felt the touch of a caring companion. There was no need to worry. He knew he was a tiny cog in some huge machine. It did not concern him. He was cared for and maintained but ultimately he was of no importance. His loss would pass unnoticed.

He flexed his body and felt joy at the pent up power that he felt. Yet he was not yet free to move. He lay quietly and attended to the flow within himself – waiting.

All around him he could feel the presence of others. They pressed in on him from all sides; their thoughts were impinging, crude and inexpressive, like those of his own.

He was patient. He awaited his destiny.

As his awareness grew he developed a feeling of being apart from the millions he sensed pressing around him. His life was full of dreams in which he felt incomplete; he felt that there was a greater self to which he was only half. His other half, the half he sought, was not to be found among these similar beings that surrounded him. She was far away. The huge distance of their separation haunted him and aggravated his sense of incompleteness so that he was consumed with a desire to be united. He could not imagine her and wondered if she was able to conceive of him. He felt that they were separated in some colossal abstraction with an overpowering longing to be together. It dominated his life.

Yet there was nothing he could do but hang suspended. He waited, poised in the darkness of his existence with vague feelings that he and his companions were part of some greater consciousness, something huge and distant, which drained his own cognizance as if it were a mental flea gorging on his thoughts, amalgamating them into something more substantial.

A change came. There was a schism that left him feeling more alert, more awake. He had separated from that he had been and felt invigorated, purer, with more purpose. The energy coursed through him and he was filled with impatience. He could taste it in the currents around him. The potential to move welled up inside him and yet he felt restrained. Unfettered he would have sped through the fluids in which he floated, but he was moored, held back, still waiting to be released. His overriding desire was to locate his other half so that he could be complete. Nothing else mattered. It was the sole and overriding purpose. The tension within him was building. He was coiled like a spring.

Out there in the distance he knew his other half felt very much the same. She too was clearer and more alert, certain that fulfilment would be soon. She too had separated and was overcome with a sense of imminence. Yet her being was calmer and more controlled. Unlike him she could not move and had no desire to. Instead she produced subtle alluring chemistry that she scattered in the fluid around her. Patience was her game.

Her world was rocked by a huge convulsion. She was ejected, buffeted, shaken and spun madly before finally coming back to rest. She drifted lackadaisically on the currents, waiting and luring with her secreted messages, seeking that uniting where-in she might become one.

All of a sudden he was rapidly moved along in an overpowering current, to come to rest in a huge chamber, crammed together with millions of others like fish in a net, silently waiting, bewildered and yet excited. It felt as if his destiny had arrived.

It came! He was shot down tubes at huge speed. Chemicals and fluids were poured on him as he was helplessly propelled forwards in a tidal wave of blurred movement. He gave himself up to it as it boosted him onward, helpless in its terrible grip. Yet even as he was buffeted and pounded he could feel the chemicals bringing him to life, activating his latent energy and flooding his body with power. If he could only free himself from this irresistible torrent he knew he could move like never before.

Eventually it came to a halt. Yet he was not free. All around the fluid had vitrified to hold him in place. He was trapped. It seemed to last for eternity but then he could feel it melting him to free him from his prison and he was free. He flexed and raced in nascent delight, exhilarating in the freedom and giving full vent to the locked up power that had been held in check for so long.  He had been released. He was free to flex his body, to propel himself, to charge madly forward.

He became aware of a new sensation. Something from outside filtered through to him – a scent drifting on the currents of his new world, an alluring aroma that was the most exciting sensation he had ever experienced. He instinctively knew what it was. He recognised it immediately even though he had never encountered it before. It was his other half. They were now close. He could sense her. It was what he had dreamed of through those long lonely aeons of time that he had spent caged.

Yet he sensed that those around him had noticed too. They were equally agitated and eager. The waters were churned as they turned and swam. A terror consumed him as he gathered his determination and swam the currents with all the force at his command. He had to reach her first. He raced to beat his fellows and gather the spoils for himself. To fail would leave him without hope or purpose. He knew she waited for him. He had to reach her.

He swam until his body felt exhausted and yet he could not afford to stop. He had to prove himself the stronger. The scent was so strong now that it consumed his consciousness with a raging desire which drove him frantically on beyond the limits of his overstretched resources, yet he refused to lessen his pace. Around him others slowed and dropped behind, their energy consumed, but he pressed on. His determination drove him forward. The numbers around him lessened and that served to drive him on even faster. The scent was unbearable. He knew she was close. He could feel the euphoric presence of her like an overpowering drug.

He arrived and pressed up against the wall that kept him from her. All around him others were fighting to get through that wall all consumed by the same fervour. There was a mad surging melee. They were all releasing their chemicals to break down that barrier – and it was working. He could feel that barrier dissolve. He joined in, thrashing for all his might to force his way through the liquefying wall that separated him from his only hope. All around hundreds of thousands were doing the same as determined as himself. He was desperate. He had to prove himself the fittest and the best. He dashed himself against that last barricade and strove frantically with all his might. Nothing else mattered. He had to get through. He had to beat them. He had to prove himself the stronger.

He broke through into a world of peace. He had won the prize. Behind him the others could no longer enter and were doomed to thrash away in futility until overcome with exhaustion. Their wittering counted for nothing. He alone would be fulfilled.

He moved across to embrace, merge and become one; to live and grow.

There before him she slowly turned and welcomed him. He raced across for that most fulfilling embrace.

They became whole.