Kerouac's most radical experiment in language and storytelling is Visions of Cody, an "enormous paean" to that singular and influential figure Neal Cassady. A fusion of radical improvisation, bold reportate, and oracular voice, it is his ultimate version of the On the Road story. 2 cassettes. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (23)
On The Road- Redux
The first three paragraphs are taken from a previous review about Jack Kerouac and his leading role in establishing the literary ethos of the "beat" generation. Those comments aptly apply in reviewing "Visions Of Cody" as well:
"As I have explained in another entry in this space in reviewing the DVD of "The Life And Times Of Allen Ginsberg", recently I have been in a "beat" generation literary frame of mind. I mentioned there, as well, and I think it helps to set the mood for commenting on Jack Kerouac's seminal `travelogue', "On The Road", that it all started last summer when I happened to be in Lowell, Massachusetts on some personal business. Although I have more than a few old time connections with that now worn out mill town I had not been there for some time. While walking in the downtown area I found myself crossing a small park adjacent to the site of a well-known mill museum and restored textile factory space.
Needless to say, at least for any reader with a sense of literary history, at that park I found some very interesting memorial stones inscribed with excerpts from a number of his better known works dedicated to Lowell's "bad boy", the "king of the 1950s beat writers, Jack Kerouac. And, just as naturally, when one thinks of Kerouac then Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady and a whole ragtag assortment of poets, hangers-on, groupies and genuine madmen and madwomen come to mind.They all show up, one way or another (under fictional names of course), in this book.So that is why we today are under the sign of "On The Road".
To appreciate Kerouac and understand his mad drive for adventure and to write about it, speedily but precisely, you have to start with "On The Road". There have been a fair number of `searches' for the meaning of the American experience starting, I believe, with Whitman. However, each generation that takes on that task needs a spokesperson and Jack Kerouac, in the literary realm at least, filled that bill not only for his own generation that came of age in the immediate post World War II era, but mine as well that came of age in the 1960s (and, perhaps, later generations but I can only speculate on that idea here)."
That said, "Visions Of Cody" is an extension of that "On The Road" story line that made Kerouac famous, although "Visions" is more diffuse and much more concerned with literary imaginary than with the storyline developed in the earlier Kerouac/Paradise narrative. Here Jack as Dulouz and Neal Cassady as Cody Pomeray do more running around on the road, partying, reflecting on the nature of the universe, partying, speculating on the nature ofthe American experience, partying and... well, you get the drift. In some places the descriptive language is stronger than "On The Road", reflecting Kerouac's greater ease with his spontaneous writing style in the early 1950s when this was written (although not widely published until after his death.).
Additionally, included here is a long series of taped interviews between Jack and Neal over several days and, presumably, while both were on a running drug "high". These tapes reflect very nicely the very existential nature of 1950s "beat", or at least one interpretation of that term. They produce all the madness, genius, gaffs, gaps, whimsy and pure foolishness that come from an extended drug experience. Despite all reports to the contrary not everything observed until the "influence" comes out pure literary gold, and that is true here as well. But there is a lot of good stuff nevertheless, although here it could have been cut in half and we still would have go that "beat" beat.
This is a review of the audio version of Visions of Cody
read by Graham Parker.
Alan Ginsberg thought that Visions of Cody was Jack's best book but whether we agree with him or not, Visions is a long and often tedious free association jazz riff manuscript about Jack and Neal Cassady and friends that can be difficult for some to "get into."I agree with the previous reviewers who advise the reader to have a few drinks, put on some jazz and, if you get bored, read it out loud.The rhythms of post World War II American English will come alive.
Graham Parker does it for us with his reading.First of all, the reading is abridged into two cassettes and it helps to pare down this enormous, meandering manuscript to its high points.Second, Parker provides the music and the poetry with his magnificently expressive reading and added music.You might be put off, at first, by his English accent but I think you will be won over with his extraordinary vocal rendition of the essentials of Visions of Cody.
How To Read The Tape Transcripts...
Yes, at first I thought the tape transcripts were just a lot of useless padding to fill out Jack's book. Boy, was I wrong! Here's how to read them:
1. Get a couple of Charley Parker albums (Bird and Diz will do nicely.)
2. Procure a jug of red wine and a joint.
3. Put on Bird, pour a glass of wine, and just relax with the music for a while.
4. Take a few tokes. Drink more wine. Get a nice mellow buzz.
5. NOW, begin reading the tape transcripts, and voila! You are invited to the party!
You will be sitting there with Cassidy and Kerouac, digging the flow of music and conversation and experiencing a new comprehension of their friends, wives and lovers. The gossip, the stories, the subtle oneupmanship between them is a delicious fly-on-the wall experience. By recreating the set and setting of these long ago conversations, you will experience an intimacy that is uncanny. I've done this a few times and was amazed at the greater understanding I had of these two complicated men. I read and re-read the transcripts with delight and was sorry there wasn't more of them.
This is surely what Kerouac intended. It's like the modern day extras and behind the scenes specials you get on movie DVDs. I mourn their passing more than ever and the fact that there doesn't appear to be anyone out there to take their place.
Ever wonder why Hollywood depictions of the Beats are laughable failures? HERE'S why.
From the old Remington Rand direct to you...
I don't even know what to say about this book other than anyone who pretends to like this nonsense deserves to read it. Truman Capote's quote about Kerouac's writing, "That it's not writing, it's typing," probably sums up the matter better than anything I can say.What disappoints me I suppose is that I really want to like Kerouac - I love the idea of him, though I can't say I care much for his typing.
Spontaneous Autonomy Or Muddled Proustian?
Allan Ginsberg wrote in August 1972: "Some of Kerouac's writings of '52, particularly his Visions of Cody, are some of the most brilliant texts written about the psychedelic experience, especially the description of him and Neal Cassidy on Peyote." AND From October 26, 1974, Ginsberg writes of himself, which he learned from Kerouac: What I mean by "polish the mind," in that you actually do get an increasing awareness either through meditative or poetry which is another yoga, of the actual stuff, cita. And then it becomes a matter of being a very faithful secretary. You can't get everything, so you get as much as you can so you have something solid to work with. In other words, you're not doing something arbitrary, romantic, babble, bullsh*t, you're actually dealing with your mind stuff just like a painter's working with an actual landscape. Solid in the sense that it's real, it's objective, it isn't even your subjectivity any more, you're just objectively watching something move. So there's no long any question of egotism or self-expression or personal expression. All those theoretical things are like nonpracticing questions. But if you're actually practicing there's a real thing to work with, which is your thought-forms."
"Chogyam Trungpa's principle of "First thought, best thought." That was kerouac's basic principle for his spontaneous writing, for the same Buddhist reasons of practical inquiry into the operation of the mind. Both Kerouac and Trungpa realized, and teach, a very simple thing, which is that the first way that you flash on a thing is the unselfconscious, naked, real first-mind way, which is totally private and odd, eccentric to you, but is so direct that anybody can understand it."
At first, this book was way too muddled to be of much use for myself, not receiving much out of the book and feeling that I have invested way too much time for the read, but I think that's because I've been reading it as a novel like "On The Road," and this is more poetry or jazz style spontaneous prose. Actually, this book is from flashing mental thoughts that are suddenly inspired within the self. This book is not some preplanned novel and storyline and not at all the robotic, mechanical mindset of the propogandized America and therefore represents a breakthrough in American thinking, thinking for the autonomous self.
I think if this book were given the publisher to publish before "On The Road" they would have agreed here on such being garbled and overly Proustian in attempt of remembrance. However, to the person looking for poetry or verbal prose over a story, and in this we have a jazz type expression of bebop in words and that makes this book a major change from the herd mentality of the masses. Hey, this is the beat rhythmic language, not Melville or Dostoevsky, but Proust and Celine.
Now to be fair, there are some good descriptions and well written feelings through out the book, but not in volume. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a Beat Hipster I would like to think, a Nietzschian, a mystical, philosophical seeker into spiritual, psychedelic and karmic realms, but maybe not the existential, Benzedine type. This book is largely garbled ramblings?? Or is just too poetic for me? I can appreciate the long "bird" Parker-like jazz of the spontaneous sentence styles, the overly descriptive emphasis on observable flashes of insight, but this story has no story line, ok-it's poetry or electic prose. So it's verbal dynamics in avant garde, not a novel then, and I guess I'm failing to fully appreciate it.
When Kerouac gets Celine-ian he works very well, but when he enters his Proustian attempt at daily observations, he becomes cloudy in tangent ramblings of private memories, non-relating to his current observations that are over detailed and nonsensical in the first place. His dope-riddled conversations and past remembrances enter back doorways in winding pathways of the red neon lights.
Now Ginsberg's introduction to the book, that I found both enjoyable and very understandable. Allen Ginsberg in a November 26th 1968 interview, from the book, Spontaneous Mind, page 132, writes on Robert Creeley and Kerouac's style of writing:
"Creeley was talking about how his writing was determined by the typewriter, neurasthenias of his habit; mine is determined by the physical circumstances of writing, i.e., literally that. And I got that actually from Kerouac, who was that simple and straight about it. If he had a short notebook he wrote little ditties and if he had a long . . . a big typewriter page, he wrote big long sentences like Proust."
I think this agrees with Visions of Cody, in consisting of either short "ditties" or "long sentences like Proust," all depending on the writing pad Kerouac was using at the time of writing. To me this makes a whole lot of sense in the arbitrary, elusive and haphazard style of this book.
What appears to me as the Kerouac trademark: a jazz styled prose of spontaneous expression from the "real," non-conditioned, non-image-to-portray self, an existential life of despair in fast paced living with the rush of jazz, drink, sex, travel, under the literary and scholarly ideals of avant garde sophistication, adventure, desires, seeking new discoveries, walking places one never has been before, risk taking and traveling, all so under this empty void of utter lonely existence, devoid of substantial meanings of foundational holds and securities, walking in the desert not knowing when water will appear and if it does, if this water will sustain life or poison it. So there's this emptiness, this sadness of it all in the modern man and woman, both subterranean and beatnik.
Remember-able observances in my mind: Kerouac's staring up at a man in an apartment building watching and writing and suddenly the light goes off! He saw him!; a description of a church that failed all gothic tests into the modern brown brick suburban model of tackiness with the stupidest shrubbery to boot; Cody's (Cassidy's) hobo father walking the train tracks looking for a fix; Cody's pool hustling and challenged football playing from a jump out of the car, left on the side of the road.
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