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Monday, September 7, 2009

It's only words. But words are all I have: Kerouac's No 3

Try never get drunk outside yr own house

A quick googley and you get a million sites and blogs that cite this one. About the deepest comment I've found on it is a discussion on the shortened your as in yr being pre text messaging abbreviations. Heavy. Oh and there was a joke somewhere else about not yelling like you are drunk outside your house...especially at a cop. A bit better that one.

But nowhere does nobody have any real stuff to say about what the heck Kerouac means by this one, this is especially mystifying if we realise (as we should if we are reading this series of posts on his techniques for Modern Prose) that it's a piece of advice directed to writing and writers. Problem here is that there aren't many writers I've ever met, read, heard of, read about, who don't get drunk outside (and inside) their own houses. And I think this includes poor old Kerouac himself.

No, it's not as easy as that. It can't be. Let's see what a bit of free flowing thinking will do. Or should I say, let me type on for a bit and see what comes up. I got a clue last night when my partner said to me that it sounds like one of those Zen sayings, a Koan even. A good place to start, eh?

Read carefully the structure of the sentence if you will. It doesn't say Try never to get drunk outside yr own house, as you would expect if he meant 'Make an effort to not get drunk outside...'. It's as if he could be saying, try a thing called 'never get drunk' outside yr own house. It's like a concept of some kind, this never get drunk. Now, I see you roll your eyes: that makes no sense at all. And, sadly, you might be right.

Anyway, let's move on. Let's say it is an advice to try a concept, then Kerouac is saying try it outside yr house, as opposed to inside. Maybe it's something you've already tried inside your house; maybe it's something that you've never tried, but do it outside anyway.

So, this advice may not be about getting drunk, or rather not getting drunk. It is (perhaps) about some esoteric, mysterious (or is it mystical?) concept of never get drunk. And that, my dear readers out there in cyberspace, could mean anything.

Anyway, here are my two first thoughts when I read this tip of Jack's. Actually, I had three thoughts. The first was, I have no idea what this means. Then I thought, oh maybe he's left out the to (just as he shortened his your to yr ... simply shorthand Dr Watson) and it's a simple piece of advice about staying sober (as if we could give such advice by old Mr Kerouac any credence whatsoever). But, then I thought, no the 'missing' to just doesn't belong there. It didn't feel right.

And then I thought, it's advice to not go airing your dirty laundry in public. Meaning, I guess, stay cool, be objective, don't get involved with your 'subject' (as in you being a writer that is and all what happens being the potential subject for your writing), keep your mouth shut so you can hear what's going on. And on and on. Get the picture?

If you do, you're a better analyst of such things that I am. In the end I still have little idea what Kerouac means here. It could be, in the end, as simple as 'Don't get drunk in public, stay in control (you being a writer and all), get private kicks at home, keep the public ones on an even keel'.

Still, it does read nice don't you think? Try never get drunk outside yr own house. I like the shortened your. I like that there is no to (by the way, what part of speech is the missing to? Anyone? I looked it up but got muddled.

I was leafing through my (very much UNread) The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (by Kerouac of course), as I tried to puzzle my way through this thing. I came across something that I feel really fits with the occasion. Good advice for me. Good advice for you.
''When you've understood this scripture, throw it away. If you can't understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.''

I don't think it gets better than that. I pray that one day I can take that advice on board completely, totally and freely without reservation.

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