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Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac

Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were friends whose experiences figure in each other's works. They both made their mutual friend Neal Cassady central to their most famous works -- Ginsberg's poem Howl and Kerouac's novel On the Road. The similarities between the two writers' concerns, interests, and language are also numerous. Both of them seem to be mapping the same territory with maps highlighted by bursts of the poetry and poetic prose that the two have in common: the saxophones and bop, the drugs and drinking, the sex and the travel, the nights, the madness, and the endless conversations. Despite all these similarities, however, they produced two very different works. Ultimately Ginsberg's work is about reaching inside himself. Self-knowledge, no matter how disturbing, sad, or horrifying, is what he is after. Kerouac and his character Sal remain unknown. The novel never seems like a means of getting outside himself and taking an objective look nor a way of getting inside himself. His terrific pace and rushing energy are like a flight away from himself. On the Road reads like the account of a man who believes that as long as he keeps pointing and saying "Look over there, at him," he will manage to escape notice. With Kerouac the piling up of incidents is fascinating but it eventually wears on the reader just as it wore on Sal/Jack. "All that again?" poor, sick Sal eventually asks Dean Moriarty (302). With Ginsberg the horror builds and its effect is cumulative. The intensifying advance of the beautiful-horrible imagery in Part I has its resolution in the poignant, prayer-like outburst of Part III.

While Kerouac observes countless people throughout the course of the staggering journeys back and forth across the continent, he never seems to have a clue as to what motivates them. There is no sign of a reason for anything anyone does. He mistakes this for a hip attitude toward life. Just as Dean is constantly being ama...

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Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 17:23, April 19, 2019, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1692444.html