Sunday, November 13, 2005

"I get the willies when I see closed doors."

The title is the opening line of Joseph Heller's novel, Something Happened.

"If you understand the first line ... you understand the whole novel. Not that the rest of the novel is redundant, but that the first line is the original kiss between true lovers. The whole affair contained in the original kiss, the novel an elegant playing out of the implications contained in the first line."

I stole that idea or rather was influenced by it, for "First lines, best lines."


The best writing (and, unfortunately, the worst) usually begins with "I."

But, I've been thinking. A lot lately. So, bear with this "I." It was this post and Bankston's latest that put me over the edge.

My single, greatest influence wrote these words about Kerouac.

"Kerouac is your grandfather, caught in a wine-laden moment, Tokayed, railman's cap thrown back, slouching on the fender of a brown Dodge convertible, its top ripped, six inches long and held together with grey masking tape ... So, the irony on irony. The writer who wrote the best and most about memory died forgotten. A quirk, a historical accident, who knows, and more importantly, who cares, and Kerouac was rescued from the remainder table, pulled back on to the shelves, and thus you have a precious gift, your grandfather back telling stories of the road, and World War II, and madness, and beautiful exotic women in San Francisco and Mexico City. Your grandfather, caught in time, stripped of all the repetition and bigotry, telling only one simple story, elegant in its simplicity, of how it was to be and hope and die in mid-century America ... Such the sweet power of fiction."

After a dinner, still at the table, I asked this greatest influence, who he would rather be. The billy-of-any-ball character in life who inspires a novel (Neal Cassady's Dean Moriarty in "On The Road") or the one (Jack Kerouac) who writes about it.

He reacted as if I'd asked him what's better, living or dying?

"The writer, of course."


Life's greatest influences are the ones we know intimately. The ones we see laughing during an episode of Saved By the Bell before pulling out a yellow legal pad to work in a quote by little-known, but great Canadian writer Morley Callaghan (the writer/boxer who knocked out Hemingway in the famous match where Fitzgerald was distracted, did not ring the bell, let the round go until Hemingway was on his back).

So with that, I leave you with more words about Kerouac from my single, greatest influence.

"I'm still not sure why a young woman or man would want to be like a man so sorrowful, so misunderstood, and so dead, but if you must, be kind, be gentle, write much and read more. Or take [Allen] Ginsberg's advice and 'Be kind to yourself, Harry, it is only one and perishable of many on the planet.'"

And, of course, I agree.


At 7:49 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Okay, I'll bite---Mom? Dad? Scout Master?

Beautiful quotations, BTW. You made me feel all ham-fisted and shit.

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's someone like bob dylan...the references to single greatest influence seem too coy...that's my guess....nice to see you back, triple j.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have known that influence--all I can say is you did it well. He smiles.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger tj1972 said...

So nice to have you posting again. Really great quotes ... I only wish I knew that influence well.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger princessmalin said...

super-lovely & very evident that wisdom and sage insight passes from one generation to the next.


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