Tuesday Reads: The Mad Ones

Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

Good Morning!!

Sixty years ago today On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s second novel was published. It was boosted by Gilbert Millstein’s rave review in The New York Times.

On the Road is the second novel by Jack Kerouac, and its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion (multiplied a millionfold by the speed and pound of communications).

This book requires exegesis and a detailing of background. It is possible that it will be condescended to by, or make uneasy, the neo-academicians and the ‘official’ avant-garde critics, and that it will be dealt with superficially elsewhere as merely ‘absorbing’ or ‘intriguing’ or ‘picaresque’ or any of a dozen convenient banalities, not excluding ‘off beat.’ But the fact is that On the Road is the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat,’ and whose principal avatar he is.

“Just as, more than any other novel of the Twenties, The Sun Also Rises came to be regarded as the testament of the ‘Lost Generation,’ so it seems certain that On the Road will come to be known as that of the ‘Beat Generation.’ There is, otherwise, no similarity between the two: technically and philosophically, Hemingway and Kerouac are, at the very least, a depression and a world war apart….

The ‘Beat Generation’ was born disillusioned; it takes for granted the imminence of war, the barrenness of politics and the hostility of the rest of society. It is not even impressed by (although it never pretends to scorn) material well-being (as distinguished from materialism). It does not know what refuge it is seeking, but it is seeking.

Click on the link to read the rest at the Literary Hub.

Allen Ginsberg with Jack Kerouac

I first read On the Road in 1969 when I was anticipating a cross country trip from Boston to San Francisco in a second-hand van. Years later, I went back to college in Kerouac’s birthplace of Lowell, Massachusetts.

I majored in psychology, but I also took several courses in political science. I did a major research project on Kerouac and his roots in the French Canadian community in Lowell and another psychological study of Kerouac’s literary references to his brother Gerard, who died at age 9 when Jack was only 4.

I also spent years working with the Kerouac community in Lowell, helping to plan the yearly Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival. I’ve read nearly every published word that Kerouac wrote, including his letters and poetry. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read his work, but this morning I’ve been enjoying looking back at those joyous years of discovery in Lowell. I think I’m still one of the “mad ones,” and I’m OK with that.

Earlier this summer The Washington Post published a five-part series on the Beat Generation. Read it here if you’re interested. You can also check out this piece at The Independent: ‘On the Road’ at 60: How Jack Kerouac’s drug-infused prose became a classic of 20th-century literature.

After that trip down memory lane I hate the thought of writing about today’s news, but I’ll d.o it anyway.

The Washington Post: Irma intensifies to an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 5 hurricane on its track toward the U.S.

Hurricane Irma strengthened overnight to a dangerous Category 5 as it barrels toward the Greater Antilles and Southern Florida. It’s likely that Hurricane Irma will affect the U.S. coast — potentially making a direct landfall — this weekend.

Tuesday morning, NOAA Hurricane Hunters found the storm’s maximum wind speeds are 175 mph. It now ranks among the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasts suggest it will reach southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico this weekend.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for portions of the Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico.

Clockwise from far right, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, the painter Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac and the musician David Amram.

The National Hurricane Center called Hurricane Irma an “extremely dangerous” storm on Tuesday morning. “Preparations should be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area,” the forecasters wrote in their 8 a.m. update. Devastating winds, a major storm surge and flash floods are all likely in the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico in the next 48 hours.

Over the weekend, the forecast track for this potentially devastating hurricane shifted south and west. It seems likely now that the storm will affect or strike the U.S. coast early next week, although meteorologists don’t know exactly where. Florida and the Gulf Coast continue to be at risk. The East Coast, including the Carolinas and the Delmarva Peninsula, are also potential candidates for landfall — or, at the very least, heavy rain, strong winds and coastal flooding.

Trump took the cowardly route to end DACA–Obama’s Dreamers program–sending Jeff Sessions out this morning to make the announcement.

NBC News: Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted.

President Donald Trump’s Justice Department announced Tuesday it would wind down DACA, putting in place a phased termination plan that would give Congress a six-month window to pass legislation that could eventually save the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country.

Under the plan announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration will stop considering new applications for legal status dated after Tuesday, but will allow any DACA recipients with a permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year renewal.

Sessions repeatedly referred to DACA as “unconstitutional” and said “the policy is vulnerable to…legal and constitutional challenges.”

“It is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the constitutional order is upheld,” Sessions said in explaining his rationale. “Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional executive overreach of authority by the executive branch.”

The decision could affect as many as 800,000 Dreamers who have signed up for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, since its 2012 inception. Immigrant rights advocates have said 200,000 more have sought DACA status since Trump became president.

Here’s what Jennifer Rubin had to say about this at the Washington Post yesterday: Ending DACA would be Trump’s most evil act.

Some in the media take seriously the notion that he is “conflicted” or “wrestling” with the decision [to end DACA], as though Trump were engaged in a great moral debate. That would be a first for Trump, who counts only winners and losers, never bothering with moral principles or democratic norms. The debate, if there is one, is over whether to disappoint his rabid anti-immigrant base or to, as is his inclination, double down on a losing hand.

The instantaneous backlash on social media Sunday night was a preview of the floodgates of anger that Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would open. Both Democrats and Republicans have urged him not to end the program; about 70 percent of voters in most polls favor keeping the program. Trump, who likes to think of himself as someone with “heart,” may yet decide to reverse course. If he does not, let’s get a few things straight.

First, let’s not think Trump — who invites cops to abuse suspects, who thinks ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio was “doing his job” when denying others their constitutional rights and who issued the Muslim ban — cares about the Constitution (any of the “twelve” articles). Trump says, “We love the dreamers. … We think the dreamers are terrific.” But in fact he loves the applause he derives from his cultist followers more than anything. Otherwise he’d go to the mat to defend the dreamers and secure their legal status.

Anyone who believes Trump is “conflicted” about this is a fool. He loves hurting people–and the more vulnerable those people are the more he enjoys their suffering.

Ben Smith at Buzzfeed: Why Does Trump Always Shoot The Hostages?

President Trump, cornered, weakened, and apparently unable to get his hands on the usual levers of presidential powers, has adopted pretty much the worst possible strategy for someone trying to wield the power of the most powerful job in the world: He’s shooting the hostages.

Trump can’t seem to get the hard stuff associated with the presidency done. He hasn’t been able to mount a legislative agenda or give federal employees (besides ICE agents and the occasional EPA regulator) the foggiest idea of what he wants them to do. Congress is beyond his control and doesn’t fear him: It slapped him in the face on Russia, and when his allies “burned the ships” to pass a health care bill, his confused conquistadors didn’t make it out.

Kerouac near the end in St. Petersberg FL,with his mother

His remaining political leverage has come largely from the policies left to him as hostages by President Barack Obama: the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, most of all, DACA and the nearly 800,000 sympathetic young Americans it allows to live normal, and sometimes extraordinary, lives.

Trump’s decision to simply kill those Obama-era acts, rather than to even attempt to use them as political leverage, helps explain the surprising weakness of his presidency. It’s far from the only way he’s frittered away his power. But if you are playing a weak political hand, hostages can be a source of enormous power. In the extreme case, it’s why we’re worried about Kim Jong Un. When you threaten to destroy something your political opponents desperately want to preserve, even your enemies will do a deal.

Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened? comes out a week from today. I preordered it and I can’t wait to read it. People were quoting parts of it on Twitter yesterday.

CNN: New Clinton book blasts Sanders for ‘lasting damage’ in 2016 race.

Hillary Clinton casts Bernie Sanders as an unrealistic over-promiser in her new book, according to excerpts posted by a group of Clinton supporters.

She said that his attacks against her during the primary caused “lasting damage” and paved the way for “(Donald) Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

Clinton, in a book that will be released September 12 entitled “What Happened,” said Sanders “had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character” because the two Democrats “agreed on so much.”

“She says a lot in this book, and some of it is going to surprise people. People should buy it, read it, and consider what she constructively lays out. It’s a great read,” a Clinton aide said, asking not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the book.

Clinton’s decision to step back into the spotlight with the book will likely be met with wide praise from many in the Democratic Party, including some of the millions of Democrats who backed her over Trump. But it also could tear at wounds that are still open between the wing of the party Sanders animated and those who backed Clinton.

Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following?