Jack Kerouac interview, 1968

Yes, we’ve all been influenced by movies. Malcolm Cowley incidentally mentioned this many times. He’s very perceptive sometimes: he mentioned that Doctor Sax continually mentions urine, and quite naturally it does because I had no other place to write it but on a closed toilet seat in a little tile toilet in Mexico City so as to get away from the guests inside the apartment. There, incidentally, is a style truly hallucinated, as I wrote it all on pot. No pun intended. Ho ho.


The part of Zen that’s influenced my writing is the Zen contained in the haiku, like I said, the three-line, seventeen-syllable poems written hundreds of years ago by guys like Bashō, Issa, Shiki, and there’ve been recent masters. A sentence that’s short and sweet with a sudden jump of thought in it is a kind of haiku, and there’s a lot of freedom and fun in surprising yourself with that, let the mind willy-nilly jump from the branch to the bird.


I know a lot of stories about Buddha, but I don’t know exactly what he said every time. But I know what he said about the guy who spit at him. He said, “Since I can’t use your abuse you may have it back.” He was great. [Kerouac plays piano. Drinks are served.]


Oh the Beat generation was just a phrase I used in the 1951 written manuscript of On the Road to describe guys like Moriarty who run around the country in cars looking for odd jobs, girlfriends, kicks. It was thereafter picked up by West Coast Leftist groups and turned into a meaning like “Beat mutiny” and “Beat insurrection” and all that nonsense; they just wanted some youth movement to grab on to for their own political and social purposes. I had nothing to do with any of that. I was a football player, a scholarship college student, a merchant seaman, a railroad brakeman on road freights, a script synopsizer, a secretary … And Moriarty-Cassady was an actual cowboy on Dave Uhl’s ranch in New Raymer, Colorado … What kind of beatnik is that?

🔗 Jack Kerouac, Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 41

🗃,, @cote