Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954

Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954


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Selections from Jack Kerouac’s journals of the late 1940s and early 1950s – the raw material for what became his classic novel On the Road
September 5, 2017, marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of On the Road

Jack Kerouac is best known through the image he put forth in his autobiographical novels. Yet it is only his private journals, in which he set down the raw material of his life and thinking, that reveal to us the real Kerouac. In Windblown World, distinguished Americanist Douglas Brinkley has gathered a selection of journal entries from the most pivotal period of Kerouac’s life, 1947 to 1954. Here is Kerouac as a hungry young writer finishing his first novel while forging crucial friendships with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Neal Cassady. Truly a self-portrait of the artist as a young man, this unique and indispensable volume is sure to become an integral element of the Beat oeuvre.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143036067
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/04/2006
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

Read an Excerpt

The Windblown World

The Journals Of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954
By Jack Kerouac Douglas Brinkley

Viking Adult

ISBN: 0-670-03341-3

Chapter One


The Town and the City

The Town and the City Worklogs

These meticulous logs of Kerouac's progress on his first novel, The Town and the City, filled most of two journals, running from June 1947 to September 1948, when Kerouac completed the manuscript. They begin with Kerouac's summer "mood log." In November 1947, he begins his "winter writing log," which catalogues his progress on The Town and the City. Other than a brief portion written in North Carolina, this was all written in New York while Kerouac was living with his mother in the small walk-up apartment above a drugstore at 94-10 Cross Bay Boulevard in the nondescript working-class town of Ozone Park, Queens. Leo Kerouac died in the same apartment in 1946. It had two small bedrooms, a kitchen in which Kerouac wrote each night, and a sitting room with a piano.

The first journal itself measures about 7H by 8H inches. The cover has "1947-1948" written at the top, with "NOTES" in bubble lettering below it and "JOURNALS" below that. In the bottom right is:

John Kerouac 1947 N.Y. June-December

The second journal these logs were pulled from, like the previous one, measures about 7H by 8H inches. On the cover "FURTHER NOTES" is written in block lettering, and below it is written "Well, this is the Forest of Arden." In the bottom-right corner is the following:

J Kerouac 1947-48 N.Y.C. JUNE 16-'47-

Just made one of those great grim decisions of one's life-not to present my manuscript of "T & C" to any publisher until I've completed it, all 380,000-odd words of it. This means seven months of ascetic gloom and labor-although doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now. I think I will get this immense work done much sooner this way, to face up to it and finish it. Past two years has been work done in a preliminary mood, a mood of beginning and not completing. To complete anything is a horror, an insult to life, but the work of life needs to get done, and art is work-what work!! I've read my manuscript for the first time and I find it a veritable Niagara of a novel. This pleases me and moves me, but it's sorrowful to know that this is not the age for such art. This is an excluding age in art-the leaver-outer [F. Scott] Fitzgeralds prevail in the public imagination over the putter-inner [Thomas] Wolfes. But so what. All I want from this book is a living, enough money to make a living, buy a farm and some land, work it, write some more, travel a little, and so-on. But enough of this. The next seven(TEEN) months are joyless to view-but there is as much joy in these things, there is more joy, than in flitting around as I've done since early May, when I completed a 100,000-word section (Mood Log). I might as well learn now what it is to see things as they are-and the truth is, nobody cares how I fare in these writings. So I must fare in the grimmest, most efficient way there is, alone, unbidden, diligently again, always. The future has a glorious woman for me, and my own children, I'm certain of that-I must come up to them and meet them a man with things accomplished. I don't care to be one of those frustrated fathers. Behind me there must be some stupendous deed done-this is the way to marry, the way to prepare for greater deeds and work. So then-10-DAY MOOD LOG, JUNE 16-26 '47

JUNE 15 (SUNDAY)-I find it almost impossible to get underway again: my mind seems blank and disinterested in these fictions. I give up after 500-words of a preliminary nature.

MONDAY 16-Feeling just as hopeless-feeling that I may not, after all, be able to complete anything. But I write 2000-words pertaining to the chapter, and things begin to break, or crumble & seethe.

TUESDAY 17-Reluctance! Reluctance always! We hate original work, we human beings. Wrote 1800-words pertaining. I'm back in these regions of fumbling dark uncertain creation, but it's my one and only world, and I'll do the best I can. What would be the best medium for earnest thoughts if not a novel-earnest thoughts refined, as from crude one, into earnest motives-and the unconscious intuitive drift of great theme-thoughts rushing. I often think a notebook is better-but no, a novel, the very tale of earnestness and life-meaning, is the best thing. ("It will be better for you."-Mohammed)

WEDNESDAY 18-A great physical lassitude and physical melancholy. I eat a big meal at 1 A.M. and walk two miles and do some writing-1800-words. Something's wrong-I keep saying, "Why do I have to write this?" It would be far better if I were asking myself-"Why do I want to write this?" That's the greatest writing, the unconscious. Someday I'll learn, someday I'll learn. I've got to do this now, though-how best to do it, that's the problem. A monstrous job, but alright if I can only believe in its sure real progress. I wish I could write from the point of view of one hero instead of giving everyone in the story his due value-this makes me confused, many times disgusted. After all, I'm human, I have my beliefs. I put nonsense in the mouths of characters I don't like, and this is tedious, discouraging, disgusting. Why doesn't God appear to tell me I'm on the right track? What foolishness!

THURSDAY 19-Read Tolstoy's moral essays and I writhed and wrestled to the conclusion that morality, moral concept, is a form of melancholy. Not for me, not for me! Moral behaviour, yes, but no concepts whatever. There is a lugubrious senility in morality which is devoid of real life. Let's just say-the substance of things is good, its form is good too until the form dries up, and then anyway, being bad, useless, outworn, the substance marches off and leaves the form-husk there. All very general. I concluded that Dostoevsky's wisdom is the highest wisdom in the world, because it is not only Christ's wisdom, but a Karamazov Christ of lusts and glees. Let's have a morality that does not exclude sheer life-loving! Poor Tolstoy, anguished because he started rich and profligate-yet when a Count retires to the peasants, it's really of some account to the world (pun intended.) Tolstoy must have been self-conscious of his moral importance in the eyes of the world. But Dostoevsky, Shakespeare-their morality grows in the earth, is hidden there and brooding. Dostoevsky never had to retire to morality, he was always it, and everything else also. (Today's busy thoughts.) Wrote 2000-words, walked at night, saw a terrible auto crackup, but nobody killed.

FRIDAY 20-Things going smoothly again in my soul. Back to the humility and decency of writing-life. A Galloway friend visited me in the afternoon; but wrote again at night. It occurs to me that one of the gutsiest, greatest ideas a writer can have is that he writes about someone merely "to show what kind of a mad character he is." This idea has to be understood in the American sense. My Galloway friend wants specific conclusions from literary art, I agree with him, and I think nothing is more specific about a person than the tone and substance of his personality, his being, the fury and feel and look of it. To show "what a mad character" Francis is, I wrote a sketch of someone else in such a way as you may or may not like this someone else, but you see that Francis definitely does not like him. And what is the purpose of these arts and devices?-what is the point of Francis' dislike of someone else?-specifically, that's the kind of character he is, that's what he does. This would take too long to explain-at least, this is my mood tonight, a good one, and I got to writing at 1 A.M. and wrote on final draft of this week's 8000-words.

SATURDAY 21-Day off. Went out in N.Y.

SUNDAY 22-Another thought that helps a writer as he works along-let him write his novel "the way he'd like to see a novel written." This helps a great deal freeing you from the fetters of self-doubt and the kind of self-mistrust that leads to over-revision, too much calculation, preoccupation with "what others would think." Look at your own work and say, "This is a novel after my own heart!" Because that's what it is anyway, and that's the point-it's worry that must be eliminated for the sake of individual force. In spite of all this insouciant advice, I myself advanced slowly today, but not poorly, working on the final draft of the chapter. I'm a little rusty. Oh and what a whole lot of bunk I could write this morning about my fear that I can't write, I'm ignorant and worst of all, I'm an idiot trying to achieve something I can't possibly do. It's in the will, in the heart! To hell with these rotten doubts. I defy them and spit on them. Merde!

MONDAY 23-Wrote in the afternoon for several hours, went into N.Y. on business of a minor sort, and came back at night and wrote some more. A day of intense feelings, described elsewhere, a day of great rending thoughts that twist one back to face sudden realities heretofore avoided-and there you are, facing them, like looking into the sun, blinking, admitting the truth. Well, a very dramatic way of growing up, and of describing it. The details of it?-a fraction of those thoughts on paper and I would have enough thematic material to write ten epic American novels (maybe a couple of Siamese novels thrown in.) If the ordinary men, the men who work and keep their silence, by which fact they are not ordinary after all-if, then, the general run of men, were to write down all their thoughts or a fraction of them, what a universe of literatures we'd have! And I struggle with these pencil-marks and scribblings.

TUESDAY 24-Wrote on the final draft. Chapter will be 10,000-wds. long now.

WEDNESDAY 25-Wrote. Am reading the New Testament, really for the first time.

THURSDAY 26-Wrote on final draft, working slowly. Went to N.Y. to complete plans for going to sea this summer-I need to make a living. Can I go about in camel's hair, and leathern gird, and subsist on locust and wild honey?-(I probably could, with practice, but what of my wife, children, and mother? But Jesus would teach them to look only to God, too.) Still and all, if Jesus were sitting here at my desk tonight, looking out the window at all these people laughing and happy because the great summer vacation is beginning, perhaps he would smile, and thank his Father. I don't know. People must "live," and yet I know Jesus has the only answer. If I ever reconcile true Christianity with American life, I will do so by remembering my father Leo [Kerouac], a man who knew both of these things. This only breaks a little ground on the subject. I must see-

FRIDAY 27-Completed the work, and placed it in the main manuscript, where it is as a grain of sand on a beach. And what is this beach? Only time will tell-I only know I should do it, I do it. 8,000-words in chapt. + 7,000-words in notebook? 15,000 Now that's all-there is nothing further to say on the subject of my work, which I have created myself, and whose face I do not know. What it is, what will come of it, I repeat, I don't know. It will be there-that's all one can be certain of-it will be there, it will abide and be there, and there's nothing to say. This is darkness and yet this is also light-This is life and work. Don't laugh, this is what it is.

Work of this kind is like a human being: What is it, whence does it come, where is it going, and why, and when, and who will know it? Work like this is something alive, and full of unknowables, and it abides even as you do not know what it is.

So I console myself, saying, do not ask me what this book is, whence it came, why it came and for what purpose, do not point out its imperfections, gaucheries, crudenesses-rather, you might just as well say to me, looking at me in the eyes:-"What are you, whence came you, why, and for what crude imperfect purpose?"-


the flashing exhilirated maddening discoveries and truths of youth, the ones that turn young men into visionary demons and make them unhappy and happier than ever all at once-the truths later dropped with the condescension of "maturity"-these truths come back in true maturity, maturity being nothing less than disciplined earnestness-these truths will come back to all true men, who make of them no fiery invidious "flag of youth" any more, but make of them what they can-here:-for example-If a boy finds that idealism is the highest virtue of man and holds this idea up like a flag in the greedy self-centered world, if a boy once does this, and even names and numbers the idealisms, but later discovers that there is also a practical world-why, he will still later discover that the idealistic Jesus-soul is the only soul!

The life's gone out of it-out of anything which has artificially built itself outward from the substantial essence of itself-let's make this clear-a town is more essential, more substantial, more living than a great Rome city, the great Rome city has deviated from the original purpose of a town, a place for people to live in, and become a city, a place for people not to live in, a place for people to hide from life, the earth, the meanings of family and soul and labour-let's make this clear-the life's gone out of it-out of anything which has run astray ("Lead us not into temptation"), anything which has lost itself in cant, artificiality, self-deceit and irrelevent horror, above all, in glittering triviality.

The earth will always be the same-only cities and history will change, even nations will change, governments and governors will go, the things made by men's hands will go, buildings will always crumble-only the earth will remain the same, there will always be men on the earth in the morning, there will always be the things made by God's hand-and all this history of cities and congresses now will go, all modern history is only a glittering Babylon smoking under the sun, delaying the day when men again will have to return to the earth, to the earth of life and God-

-Go ask the Central-American Indian who lives on the green earth that has grown on Mayan rooftops-

James Joyce did say-"History is a nightmare from which I am not yet awake." But he is awake now, as sure as sunlight.

We live in the world we see, but we only believe in the world we do not see.


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Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
psuedosmart on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was not very familiar with Kerouac at all before I read this book. Everyone has at least some idea of who he was supposed to be, but these journals definitely give one an intimate portrait of the writer. For all of his acclaim as the revolutionary of the beat generation, he truly seems to have wanted nothing more than to raise a family and have a normal life. His obsession America and American cities goes beyond patriotism, almost to the level of a romantic love for everything American. This is worth your timed. If your not a die-hard Kerouac fan, this book might convert you.
Pitoucat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kerouac began keeping journals in 1936, and continued for the rest of his life. The journals survive and editor Brinkley, writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 1998, promised us publication of "a multi-volume edition." Now it seems that all we will be getting is this 370-page book, covering only some of the material from the years 1947 to 1950, and with just a few pages from 1954 thrown in as extra.The parts that have been selected for inclusion are apparently aimed at demonstrating the development of Kerouac's first two major works, The Town & the City, and On the Road. Strange, then, that nothing from Kerouac's 1948-49 journal of work on the latter book is included, although some of it did appear as a taster in the extracts Brinkley selected for publication in The Atlantic Monthly in 1998. That must surely be one of the most relevant journals for those interested in the development of On the Road and its omission here is a mystery. (Note: Although not in the hardback edition, Kerouac's On the Road journal has been added as a "postscript" to the later paperback edition of this book.) Other journal extracts published in Atlantic, and also in the New Yorker in 1998, are missing from the published book.In his introduction, it seems to me that Brinkley places far too much emphasis on demolishing the "myth" that On the Road was frantically written in three weeks in April 1951, claiming that Kerouac had begun it much earlier. This may be news to Brinkley, but I'm sure that most Kerouac readers are already aware of that fact. They will have known it since Tim Hunt pointed out that Kerouac began working on the book in 1948, attempting at least five different versions over the next four years. Hunt published this information, with extracts from the earlier attempts, in his PhD thesis in 1975, and in his book, Kerouac's Crooked Road, in 1981.There's no doubt that Kerouac DID write the version that eventually became the published On the Road in a three-week burst on a scroll of paper in April 1951. However, examination of the scroll reveals that it differs somewhat from the published version, with the insertion of material from his journals being added LATER, at a more leisurely pace, when Kerouac retyped it onto separate pages.What we have in this volume makes fascinating reading, of course, and offers a little more insight into Kerouac's mind, and his working practices. Brinkley admits to editing the journals heavily in places, and also to mixing together parts from different journals, with no clear indication of the individual sources. The result of this can only be confusion.This book has been six years in the making. I imagine that all Kerouac scholars and enthusiasts who have been waiting patiently for its appearance will need a copy, and will find the contents valuable. However, I do believe that an important opportunity has been missed to make this the truly outstanding work it could have been.
ironicqueery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent collection of Jack Kerouac's journals written during the writing of his first novels, Town and Country and On the Road. Most of the focus is on the journal entries during the writing of Town and Country. It's very interesting to read about the methods and thoughts of Kerouac during this period. His journal entries are long and detailed. It's amazing to think of how much time he spent writing between the novels and his journals. The journals that cover his early planning of On the Road are more a collection of ideas as opposed to what went on during the writing of the novel. Kerouac's thoughts are more ambiguous and unorganized in this portion of the collection, but reveal the early influence of Allen Ginsberg and Bhuddism on Kerouac.While extensive, coming in at 422 pages, the Kerouac journals are a great way to gain more insight into the life and writing of Jack Kerouac. The compilation of journals could have perhaps been organized a bit better by the editor, however, this collection is great for aspiring writers along with those interested in Kerouac and the Beats.