This piece brought together a lot of 2018 strands for me: “Debunking the Caricature of Jack Kerouac the Nihilist.” The piece basically affirms what I taught last month at my Theology on Tap presentation: Jack Kerouac, godfather of the 1960s, was a spiritual writer and serious Catholic. According to the article, Kerouac was a Buddhist for only three years (something I didn’t know, even though I’ve read a lot about Kerouac).
Excerpt: “Underlying all of this as Kerouac’s spiritual bedrock was his Catholic upbringing in Lowell, Massachusetts among working-class French Canadian immigrants. Kerouac described himself as a ‘strange solitary Catholic mystic’ whose ecstatic vision of life was the direct result of an eschatology of the end of time. What he longed for was contact with the heavenly eternity overlaying and occasionally penetrating our anodyne perceptions of time. ‘Life is a dream already over,’ he said.”
The article is a book review of a new book by Robert Inchausti, Hard to be a Saint in the City: The Spiritual Vision of the Beats. Weirdly, Inchausti’s Subversive Orthodoxy caught my eye on my bookshelf last weekend. I thought to myself, “Hmmmm, I forgot I had that book. I should give it another look.” I had forgotten, despite my underlining, that he dedicated a small section of the book to Kerouac.
But what I found most bizarre about the article: It was published in The American Conservative and it was written by Scott Beauchamp, who has a book coming out soon from the Marxist publishing house, Zero Books. Zero Books is run by Doug Lain, the man I called “the good Marxist” in this December 2017 post. So, the good Marxist is publishing a book by a frequent TAC contributor . . . albeit a writer who publishes in a lot of venues and a writer who is well-versed in literature and the Beatniks in general. I can’t say I know enough about Beauchamp yet, but I know enough to start following his Twitter feed, which reveals that he has an interest in Catholic and literary things.