I think of your mother
And all the tears she cried
She would cry for none other
Than her little boy lost in a little world that hated
And that dared to drag him down
Her little boy courageous...
Natalie Merchant and Robert Buck of the rock group "10,000 Maniacs" wrote those lyrics in the 1980's, at least 20 years after I read On the Road for the first time. Kerouac is on my mind because I just finished reading his novel Desolation Angels which was written just prior to the publication of On the Road which made him famous.
Desolation Angels never achieved the popularity of On the Road and represents the flip side of the earlier novel as Angels is as dark and downbeat as Road is life-affirming. In it Kerouac has already begun to dislike the Beat Generation which he more than anyone was responsible for creating. I think he detected a faddish insincerity about those who saw themselves as following the Bohemian footprints of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso and his other friends, and the movement declined into a "postured, actually secretly rigid coolness soon to become a fad up to the mass of middle class youth." The depression of Desolation Angels is probably fueled by Kerouac's growing alcoholism which contributed to his death before he reached 50.
He lived most of his later years with his mother who he pictures with love in this book and is why Merchant and Buck's lyrics above came into my mind. Kerouac was a courageous man of almost saintly sensitivity, an athlete good enough to be offered a college football scholarship, a heterosexual whose two closest friends were gay. Most importantly to me, he was a great writer. I'm not surprised his books are still read half a century later, and I believe they will still be read a half century from now.