Kerouac's racism, sexism and homophobia

Discussion in 'Beat and Hippie Books' started by The_Moroccan_Raccoon, May 23, 2008.

  1. The_Moroccan_Raccoon

    The_Moroccan_Raccoon Senior Member

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    Throughout his work, Kerouac has made many racist, sexist and homophobic comments. I loved almost everything I've read by him, but some of his thoughts really make me think less of him.
    Near the end of Satori in Paris, he writes some anti-Semitic stuff about a man he meets who he suspected was Jewish. Kerouac wrote about the man's horns. I loved the book until that point, but that ruined the whole book for me.

    Perhaps it's arguable (but not justified) that Jack was homophobic because he was guilty about his own homosexual feelings, especially because he was Catholic. And maybe his sexist attitude was normal at the time, though it's still wrong. But I don't see how racism could possibly be something for him to hide behind like homophobia.
    Being a Jewish bisexual, I kind of feel like he's saying these things about myself. Although he was good friends with Allen Ginsberg, a gay Jew...

    What are your thoughts?

    I'd also be really interested to hear a feminist perspective about Kerouac...
     
  2. rainbowedskylover

    rainbowedskylover Senior Member

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    at soem point last week, I read a manifesto on how sex is generally portrayed in a very sexist way. the writer used a scene from kerouacs on the road as a main example to portray what she protested against.

    all i can say is that to me literature does not always has to be politically correct, it would become kind of boring. so, to me it doesn't decrease the joy of reading kerouac. and lets face, writers aren't enlightened, not even bohemian-like ones like kerouac.

    it is always good if an artist decides he or she wants to use his/her talents to make this world a better place and it can lead to very beautiful and inspiring works of art, but other artists don't always do that and that does not have to make their art less of value
     
  3. The Scribe

    The Scribe Member

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    I have read Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The novel did not appeal to me, but I did not notice derogatory statements about women, blacks, Jews, or gays. If these exist I would like for them to be quoted.
     
  4. Lady of the Freaks

    Lady of the Freaks Senior Member

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    interesting...i'll have to have another look cuz i read kerouac so long ago i don't remember the details. it would be interesting to learn that my younger self overlooked such things.
     
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  5. TomDijon

    TomDijon Member

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    yes, i second that. Does anyone actually have a quote they could use to base this on? I mean, how is he sexist/racist etc... seemed to me that he wrote about different races with solidity (never read Satori in paris though)
     
  6. The_Moroccan_Raccoon

    The_Moroccan_Raccoon Senior Member

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    Satori in Paris (pages 96-97):
    At first I wonder "Is he Jewish? pretending to be a French aristocrat?" because something about him looks Jewish at first, I mean the particular racial type you sometimes see, pure skinny Semitic, the serpentine forhead, or shall we say aquiline, and that long nose, and funny hidden Devil's Horns where his baldness starts at the sides, and surely under that blanket he must have long thin feet (unlike my short gat peasant's feet) that he must waddle to the side gazotsky style, i.e., stuck out and walking on heels instead of front soles. [...] still studying his face to see if he was Jewish, but no, his nose was as gleeful as a razor, his blue eyes languid, his Devil's Horns out-and-out, his feet out of sight

    On the Road (page 45)
    There were plenty of queers. Several times I went to San Fran with my gun and when a queer approached me in a bar John I took out the gun and said, "Eh? Eh? What's that you say?" He bolted.

    There's two examples...
     
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  7. GoingHome

    GoingHome Further Within

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    Eh, that last one was pretty blatant but the first just seemed 'racial' not specifically saying one race was better than another...whatever.

    You don't have to agree 100% with everything an author writes in order to gain some knowledge from them. Sometimes you gain more from reading work you specifically disagree with. It causes you to cease flowing along with the narrator and stop every so ofter to really think about what is being said and dissecting the book and the authors meaning.

    Plus, you can still enjoy the other 90% of what he says.
    Or enjoy his earlier less conservative works.

    I've noticed a similar sort of thing with Ken Kesey and I still enjoy his work immensely.
     
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  8. BlazingDervish

    BlazingDervish Banned

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    I felt sexism in Dharma Bums. All the men seem to be out sauntering towards enlightenment and the few women mentioned seemed to be lead-on by these men. There was some wording in the way Japhy explains how he got his 'girlfriend' to do orgy stuff by telling her that she was a bodhisvatta. Even the main character is weary of this role at first and then Japhy goes on to rationalize it - but he never pulled it off well enough for me to buy that they were doing anything but using the women they came across for physical pleasure.

    "...but when I heard her say Bodhisattava I realized she wanted to be a big Buddhist like Japhy and being a girl the only way she could express it was this way [group sex] which had its traditional roots in yabyum cermony of Tibetan Buddidm, so everything was fine."

    Now whether that's Kerouac's own sexism and beliefs coming through or just how that character saw things ('cause that character did have his share of flaws in action and opinion), who knows. Ultimately authour's intent means little but I've found most books of that era have traces of sexism that probably would have seen as liberal for the day and age the book was written in. And it's certainly not a big enough of a deal that I couldn't enjoy the read.
     
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  9. dollydagger

    dollydagger Needle to the Groove

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    I think one must take in consideration the times he was a part of and how Kerouac was a product of those times. With that in mind, I think you guys are reading way too much into it. For instance, the "Devil's Horns" of the man's balding pattern? We've all seen people with it. Kerouac could have used that description for any man of any race.

    And as for the sexism part, those women were just as sexually liberated as the men. Like the girl in the yabyum ceremony in Dharma Bums. She was all about it. Or at least thats how I read into it.
     
  10. The_Moroccan_Raccoon

    The_Moroccan_Raccoon Senior Member

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    Well, I think it might be a little bit racist to say that Jews have horns...

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Lady of the Freaks

    Lady of the Freaks Senior Member

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    considering i was raised by a blatant flaming ethnocentric sexist racist nutcase, i probably hardly noticed those references when i read kerouac as a young woman. besides, like someone said...if a character is doing the talking that wouldn't necessarily mean the author was expressing his own personal beliefs through that character. besides, it's not like he wrote a holy book or that i'm living by its tenets. and everyone is a product of their times to some extent. it's unavoidable. so i dunno...what are you saying...that no one should read kerouac cuz he was a sexist racist?
     
  12. The_Moroccan_Raccoon

    The_Moroccan_Raccoon Senior Member

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    I don't have a message...I'm just bringing up the issue because I think it's interesting to discuss. I wouldn't bother making this thread if I didn't think Kerouac was worth reading. I have deep respect for him. It's not like I live by his teachings or see him as a holy man, but his books have definitely had a significant influence on my life.

    He probably said/did some of these things when he was far too drunk to control himself. In this case, every word he wrote was his own personal thoughts.

    It may be true that those women were as sexually liberated as the men, but I don't know if Kerouac saw it
     
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  13. EarthChildOfPeace

    EarthChildOfPeace Member

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    I think horns just means the little balding area that first starts to recede on the sides, making the face look slightly vampirish. ? Maybe?
     
  14. eyesthatlie

    eyesthatlie Member

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    anti-semitism isn't racism.

    but anyway, it's the character's point of view. these books are ficticious, i wouldn't make too much of it.
     
  15. The_Moroccan_Raccoon

    The_Moroccan_Raccoon Senior Member

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    That's not the point.
     
  16. dollydagger

    dollydagger Needle to the Groove

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    yes it is.
     
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  17. L.A.Matthews

    L.A.Matthews Senior Member

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    Yes it is.

    God, your perception of racism must be incredibly warped if you think anti-semitism isn't a form racism.

    As for Kerouac:

    Of course he was racist, sexist, homophobic, blah-blah-blah. His parents were firm Nazi sympathizers during the war and keen Hitler supporters. He wasn't the 'bohemian' people make him out to be; even he knew that. He was just a person hoisted onto a pedestal and worshipped as an object of the times by middle-class snotty kids. His reclusive stage was due to the very fandom that created him -- which he explains in the beginnings of Big Sur.

    You didn't know Kerouac, and Kerouac isn't your friend. His opinions transcend to his writings; the writings shouldn't transcend to your opinions.

    Kerouac was nothing more than an influential writer and as with many writers probably doesn't deserve the credit he's given for his literature, only for his inspiration to others. After all, you can't put credit on an individual’s creativity. Don't you agree?
     
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  18. memo

    memo Member

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    My feelings exactly.

    Kerouac spoke very highly of and admired Walt Whitman, a well known homosexual/bisexual. In some of Kerouac's writing he seems to empathize with Whitman's homosexuality.

    "I am not a prophet, I am, like Whitman, a lover. Whitman, that glorious American! Barbellion, who will go with you, anywhere, any time, any fashion, for nothing, for everything. Come, I will go with thee, said Whitman: Whitman, the underrated, the forgotten, the laughed-at, the homosexual, the lover of life. How shall I sing? I shall sing: I shall record the misery, observe on it, and point out how to abolish it."

    pg. 119-120
    Jack Kerouac - Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
     
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  19. ishikabe

    ishikabe Member

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    You're just "playing their game" when it comes to: Is this racist/dividing/etc?

    That does nothing but bring up bad feelings in everyone even if nothing was sad.

    Quit watching so much TV and news.
     
  20. drumminmama

    drumminmama Super Moderator Lifetime Supporter

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    It's a typical Xtain smear on Jews to say we have horns...like the Xtian devil.
    Goes along with blood libel (look it up).
     

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