Lonely Victory

As it’s now Dec. 19, 1954, the end of this pivotal year is near — and I am at the lowest beatest ebb of my life, trapped by the police, ‘retained in dismal places,’ scorned and ‘cheated’ by my friends (plagiarists), misunderstood by my family, meanwhile mutilating myself (burning hands, benzedrine, smoking, goofballs), also full of alcoholic sorrow and dragged down by the obligations of others, considered a criminal and insane and a sinner and an imbecile, myself self-disappointed & endlessly sad because I’m not doing what I knew should be done a whole year ago when the Buddha’s printed words showed me the path….
–Jack Kerouac’s journal entry for this day in 1954

In her recently published Kerouac biography, The Voice Is All, Joyce Johnson relies heavily upon the author’s journals, manuscripts, and correspondence to track his determined, often chaotic pursuit of his craft. She describes his accomplishment as a writer’s “lonely victory.” “I’m lost,” writes Kerouac in one journal entry, “but my work is found.”

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.