Society Bleeds Geniuses

Edie Parker reveals in her memoir that she had “spoken with Celine [Young] and she told me he tried to seduce her, but she wasn’t having any of it.” This was in October 1944, with Edie in Detroit and Lucien Carr in jail and Kerouac hopelessly in love with Celine. He appealed to Ginsberg to help seduce her. When she demurred, Kerouac’s attack on her was vicious, labeling her a “simpering school girl” willing to “vomit to drink the blood of a poet.” His true motives exposed, Kerouac poisoned the well further by sullying his writing with a smattering of self-absorbed venting.

Society bleeds geniuses” Kerouac wrote into Ginsberg’s journal. Both were attempting to abide by Nietzsche’s mantra, that Art was the “complement and consummation of existence.” It was a time of deep and wide reading. Kerouac’s self-absorption had him watching from the window at the busy street below. The traffic of time and tide, of the great rivers of humanity passing like water beneath a bridge. He marked up texts, scribbling marginalia into the pages directly, or into one of his notebooks.

Who was he in the eyes of others?

He asked Ginsberg:

Kerouac: You must think, just by spending an evening with me, by the perpetual gloominess on my face, that I am the most unhappy bastard of the weight-of-the-world type you ever saw.

Ginsberg: (as usual, searching his mind for a feasible contradiction) No! As long as you wear that expression—it means you are most happy.

A flurry of literature swept through their hands courtesy of Burroughs: Kafka’s The Castle; Moby Dick; Oswald Spengler’s two-volume The Decline of the West; a French volume of Jean Cocteau’s Opium; and Crime and the Human Mind by David Abrahamsen which informed that a capacity for “criminalistic tendencies” exists in all humans. Even with the fullest knowledge of one’s psychology, one cannot signal or reveal the depths of sociopathic behavior.

On his own, Kerouac read Andre Gide, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, D.H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka, Denton Welch (inspiring the prose he was writing at this time with Burroughs), Blaise Pascal (“Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.“), Baudelaire, and Rimbaud. Hiding from Edie gave him freedom, though he struggled in self-imposed starvation. But sometimes he missed her.

As Kerouac sought to attain art in its most undiluted form, the ramifications of ignoring his wife and only focusing on himself was apparent to his immediate circle: Joan Haverty, Burroughs, Hal Chase, John Kingsland, Ginsberg, Celine Young. They were his other family, a group of like-minded compatriots actively discussing art, literature and life.

Celine asked him: “Do you think you’ll ever find another woman who understands you as well as Edie?


In his January 1945 journal, he wrote: “Edie all right.

And so he prepared a new start for themselves. Only the previous month at Christmas, Kerouac sensed a primal force in their marriage, that he was in love and invited her back to his family for the holidays. But these were nebulous feelings at best. She came  and then returned to Detroit where she survived a car accident leaving her with fifty-four stitches in her face. When he went to Detroit to visit her on New Years Eve, he arrived to a purple wreath on her front door (traditionally a sign of the recently-deceased in Franco-American Lowell) and fainted on their doorstep. There he remained bedside, remorseful. When he returned home, he continued his other novel-in-progress, a collaboration with Burroughs about the Carr/Kammerer murder. Kerouac’s repeated absence distanced Edie from him. Kerouac for his part kept his head down in his work.


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