Friday, September 19, 2014

Ginsberg and Kerouac

Jack Kerouac talks about the vanishing American Hobo. He writes about the hobo before massive social services tries to take care of everyone and does not take into account personal choices. Kerouac maintains that Benjamin Franklin could be considered a bum because he walked the streets of Philadelphia with no money. John Muir could be considered a bum even though he is the father of conservation and played a major part in establishing national parks. Kerouac romanticizes the freedom of the open road. He talks about how noble the life a hobo lives. He even breaks down the categories of hoboes: forty niners, black hoboes, etc… The hobo is the only truly free man. Kerouac states that people cannot have privacy even in the primitive wilderness because there are always helicopters snooping around the woods. The proud American Hobo is being turned into a beggar who sleeps in the doorway and can’t go into the wilderness because “the woods are full of wardens.” (Kerouac) Hoboes are persecuted by cops who have nothing to do but harass bums.

I loved the poem “A Supermarket in California”. Ginsberg following Walt Whitman through a supermarket where fruit and produce gleam. He sees families, husbands, and children shopping. He also sees Lorca, a Spanish poet. The language is so smart and wry. “Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight” (Ginsberg 21-22). I guess I should mention the poem “Howl” but I felt that it was difficult to read because I didn’t understand the slang of the day. For example,” who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York?” (Ginsberg 21-22). I guess that he was strip search and got caught with weed in his pants.


  1. Sounds like you understood the slang pretty well actually. I too loved "A Supermarket...", it had that feeling of reading something and getting it stuck in your head, when something starts needling at you for better or worse. I had a similar feelings when I read 'Good Country People', it seemed to follow me around for the next week, I couldn't stop thinking an talking about it. It's much more pleasant to just "see" Whitman in the fruits and vegetables, to hear his words in the drudges of your day. I think writers and their work can offer us a kinship that continues even in the solitary and sometimes lonely parts of our day. Especially for Whitman to someone like Ginsberg; Whitman was gay as well - his writings and spirit of which hit a special cord with Ginsberg that stayed with him even through his less artistic ventures.

  2. I liked what you had to say about Kerouac's hobo essay. Especially the second line about social services and personal choice. Kerouac does seem to advocate for personal freedom of choice and to be able to live as one wants to. I wonder how he would feel about "Obama Care"?