Kerouac's racism, sexism and homophobia

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

  1. Quite

    Quite Member

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    Oh goodness! Jack Kerouac must have not taken many Anthropology classes in college, but "Jew" is certainly not a race.

    On the Road bored me straight into the doldrums, in any case.
     
  2. TheSystemOrange

    TheSystemOrange Member

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    In Big Sur Jack writes about a trip him and his pals took to a mud bath where it was full of naked men, some who were gay. He explained how he and his friend were the only ones who were afraid to get naked. He explained how this was because of him being raised Catholic. Then that same night he explained how he got turned on by a sex dream he had about two gay sailors making love.
     
  3. Sunburst

    Sunburst Fairy

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    I have a quote I found online written by a Buddhist monk, sorry for the length but I think it applies-

    "Having found a teacher like Ajahn Chah, I remember wanting him to be perfect. I’d think, ‘Oh, he’s a marvellous teacher - marvellous!’ But then he might do something that would upset me and I’d think, ‘I don’t want him to do anything that upsets me because I like to think of him as being marvellous.’ That was like saying, ‘Ajahn Chah, be marvellous for me all the time. Don’t ever do anything that will put any kind of negative thought into my mind.’ So even when you find somebody that you really respect and love, there’s still the suffering of attachment. Inevitably, they will do or say something that you’re not going to like or approve of, causing you some kind of doubt - and you’ll suffer."

    Not going all Buddhist on anyone but it really seems relative to this. The thing is, a great writer can be a great writer and we can admire his skill or his life or whatever, but we can't expect all of his views and opinions to match our own. Just because he was a "beat writer" doesn't mean he had to be all about equality and openness. His writing style doesn't mean he has to be a certain kind of person. Ignoring that this was in the days where almost everyone was racist, sexist and homophobic, maybe he was just a jerk when it came to this kind of thing. Does that mean his differing views makes him a bad person or his books unenjoyable? Every now and then in Dharma Bums he made comments that irked me a little or that could be taken in offense, but I still loved that book so much!

    I guess my point is, we can't expect people we love or admire to be perfect for us and have the opinions we want them to.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. kmarie820

    kmarie820 Member

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    Personally, Jack is my all time favorite author. I think that since it was in the 50's ofcourse people had racism back then. But I would never call him a racisit. He writes beautifully and has such a wonderful outlook on life that nothing could really stop me from reading it. I guess it's good to analize what you're reading from time to time, and if you feel offended by it...then maybe it's best not to continue. Although, he's great and some literature will have controversy.
     
  5. metalgypsy

    metalgypsy Member

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    I'd say that even the best writers were products of their time period.
     
  6. kmarie820

    kmarie820 Member

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    Agreed.
     
  7. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Not even close.

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    Absolutely true, especially for someone who spent significant time in eastern North Carolina back then (Rocky Mount, to be precise). It would be a waste to allow these outdated cultural influences to obscure the meaningful, insightful portions of his work.
     
  8. kerouaconacid

    kerouaconacid Member

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    what a great topic! even though kerouac is probably my favorite writer of all time, homophobia, anti-semitism, and racism all exist in his work.

    i can't speak to the anti-semetic/racist aspect, but i agree the homophobia was most likely because he was ashamed of his own homoerotic feelings. he did sleep with cassady and ginseberg, after all (as noted in carolyn cassady's book, off the road).
     
  9. isoisidorus

    isoisidorus Member

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    haahaha(ha)ha
    has anyone encountered anything along these lines (sexism, racism) in the writings of Allen Ginsberg? After all, he is in N-A-M-B-L-A.
    and that makes him rather progressive (to say the least).
     
  10. dirtydog

    dirtydog Banned

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    I'm reading On The Road. Kerouac makes passing references to homosexuals, but doesn't seem to pass judgement on them. He simply describes them as part of the landscape he encounters. The overall scenes he describes are overwhelmingly heterosexual. This is not a Burroughs or a Ginsberg. He is probably being very avant garde in mentioning the unmentionable at all -- we're talking 1947-1949 here, not the year 2010 when screaming drag queens run riot at the American Music Awards and get paid for it.

    Someone in the "On the Road" thread feels that characters correspond to real people as follows:
    Carlo Marx is Allen Ginsberg.
    Dean Moriarty is Neal Cassady.
    Bull Lee is William Burroughs.
    Sal Paradise is Jack Kerouac.
    If that is true, it's interesting that the fictional characters Marx and Bull are not described as homosexuals, whereas Ginsberg and Burroughs were homosexual and apparently very open about it.

    Was the character Sal Paradise sexist? Definitely, and so was Moriarty. So what? That's the way a lot of guys are. Deal with it.
     
  11. sunberry and buttons

    sunberry and buttons Member

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    i agree- i was thinking that-
    i dont think he was all that descriminatory- i didnt pick it up from on the road or dharma bums- but i would have to read more of his works to figure it out- i think pretty much every piece of literature before the the 50's had less than politically correct representation on gays, women and ethnic peoples. i dont think though that he actually had an issue with them at all- this what i gather though- but id like to research it more- :) any excuse to pick up one of his books really- interesting topic :)
     
  12. Meliai

    Meliai Banned

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    I don't think he was homophobic at all. Gingsberg was one of his closest friends and he was gay. And Neal Cassady was bisexual. Actually, the original scroll, which is now available in book form and i would highly recommend it, goes a little more in depth about their homosexuality. Maybe any hint of homophobia comes from the 1950s editing and not the author himself?

    I didn't notice any anti-semitism, but i cant comfirm or deny that..i'll have to read the book again.

    Sexism was definitely present in On the Road, I agree. With the exception of Keroauc's mexican chica that he fell in love with, all the other women in the book were treated as sexual objects and nothing more. Reading this from a my point of view as a 25 year old millineum generation feminist, it bothered me a little. I would have preferred for the women to play more of a three dimensional role in the book. But the book was written in the 1950s, when men were raised to believe that women belonged to two classes: respectable ladies with marriage potential, or girls that men had fun with but didn't respect and wouldn't marry.

    The thing that bothered me most about this book, and i'm surprised no one has mentioned it, is the blatant pedophilia. I cant cite any specific instances because its been a couple of years since i've read the book in full, but I do remember many instances of Neal Cassady's character desiring very young girls. If I remember correctly, one of the girls was their friend's daughter, and she was only like 9, and it described cassady thinking she was the prettiest thing he's ever seen, and not in a cute kid kind of way, but more of a sexual way. I admire the hell out of the entire beat generation, but i've always stopped short of putting neal cassady on a pedestal because he was definitely portrayed as a pedophile in this book.
     
  13. Kumaji

    Kumaji Member

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    Kerouac was lame as a writer and a traveler...I tried reading on the road but fell asleep after a page...try reading bowles, sartre, isabelle eberhardt, pound, bukowski, those were writers...kerouac struck a note with ---...lets put it this way - he was a grandmomma's boy, plain and simple.

    i let ginsberg kiss me on the lips in front of city lights once. kissed him back. makes me a twink? hardly...he was a great writer and a cool man and gave the world burrough's naked lunch. bill certainly could not have done it laying in a pool of vomit, alcohol and excrement every night in tangier from the codeinetta and whatever else he could shoot, swallow or smoke...

    fuck the road, take off into the jungle, into the desert and leave your credit cards at home...try having a sack. jack never had one, thats for sure...

    and as for the presumed anti-semitic bits...jews have been hated, despised, loved, mistrusted, and admired for thousands of years who should jk be any different...today everything is racist, bigoted and foolish to the point people cant even open their mouths. Or form an opinion that hasn't been processed through group thought at wellesley or some other PC constricting school.

    jeezuz fucking christ i need an 8 ball..
    kerouac was a bore, why is he still even being considered?

    every generations great writers are always those influenced by ALL the generations past and their own at the moment they are writing...the others are driveling fools like jk. jk was tolerated amongst the beats. capitalist publishers made him a legend... pwah!:eek: - like J.D. Salinger...laughable.

    sorry to rant but come on...
     
  14. Meliai

    Meliai Banned

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    If you only read a page, how can you state your opinion with such certainly? I would never make claims or form strong opinions about an author i've never even read.
     
  15. Kumaji

    Kumaji Member

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    i read through the whole book... after a page, i realized he had nothing to offer but tried anyway to give him the benefit of a doubt...dont be so literal... lol.

    i look for writers who can write a novel within a paragraph...not take a whole book to say little about nothing...gertrude stein once told my mentor to find out where everyone else was going, and go somewhere else.

    his bios have never impressed me...i have worked with and for many of the beats...and have work out in the public eye to back that up.

    my own opinion is there were far better writers not being discussed...more real writers...kerouac was boring to me...american typique...when he went to morocco he left as quick as he could...felt uncomfortable, out of his element.
    i am the type when i hear english being spoken whilst in a foreign land... i turn and go in the opposite direction - to put myself to an internal test and avoid the known.

    if he speaks to you, then lucky you.
     
  16. scratcho

    scratcho Lifetime Supporter Lifetime Supporter

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    I guess Tom Sawyer could be offensive also,but worth reading.
     
  17. slothropstarot

    slothropstarot Guest

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    You know, you'll probably have a lot more fun with the arts, and everything, if you don't judge something over half a century old by modern standards. Most artists have something disagreeable in their private lives, but it's irrelevant.
     
  18. dirtydog

    dirtydog Banned

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    Wikipedia tells me that NAMBLA stands for North American Man Boy Love Association. Just what is progressive about that?

    I don't recall Ginsberg being very vocal about his Jewish heritage, except maybe it made him more defensive than might otherwise be the case. As for racism, there is an element of admiration for Negro culture typical of beats -- not that I knew that many personally. Being gay (if that is the correct word) was a big part of his make-up, but it didn't stop him from being creative.
     
  19. dirtydog

    dirtydog Banned

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    What else are they good for?
     
  20. wishful sinful

    wishful sinful Member

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    Sal in On the Road IS Kerouac, though. And he's not outstandingly nice to the women he's with throughout the course of the novel.
     

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