If you’re a Kerouac fan, (or even if you’ve never heard of Kerouac), you’re going to want to have Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947 – 1954 on your bookshelf and refer to it often. I use large index cards for bookmarks so that I can jot down favorite lines as I read – I filled three large index cards (front and back) with quotes from Windblown World.
Part 1 of Windblown World is Jack’s journals during [a portion of] the time he wrote his first novel, The Town and The City, (the journals published in Windblown World being from 1947 – 1948). Part 2 is his journals as he wrote what is arguably his most famous novel, On the Road.
#1 important reason to read: Learn (and relate to) how a writer grows in his craft
The most fascinating aspect of these journals is that you can sense how Kerouac grows as a writer, from the time he started [the novel] to the time he finished it. He shares how he discovers the way characters interact with one another, why certain scenes that he’s spent days and days working on are going to have to be cut, why a particular scene will need to be moved, etc., etc.
I wish I could tell Jack how much I appreciate his taking the time to write down his process, and his feelings about it, as he wrote The Town and The City, and I know I’m not the first writer to have that very sentiment. You can feel the way Jack grows, not only as a writer, but also as a person, a man who insists upon self-examination, almost neurotically, which he admits to often. I’m sure many psychologists have thoroughly examined Windblown World, looking for “what made Kerouac tick”. [The book] would make a terrific study for psychology students, I believe, but I fear those who study his words with a clinical eye, rather than a sympathetic heart, would translate Jack’s words the direct opposite of the way he intended to come across. In other words, only an artist – or maybe those who’ve lived with an artist – can truly appreciate the meaning behind those words. That’s not to say the reader alone, (as opposed to the reader who is also a writer), won’t appreciate Windblown World. On the contrary, I’m sure they would cherish it just as deeply; they just may not read certain phrases as “profoundly” as a writer would.
For example, here’s one “writerly” quote that I, (and I’m sure all writers), can relate to:
“It’s a lot of bull about the artists – having all the leisure time in the world to ‘work’. Work is involved with time; you can’t waste time building a house at leisure or you’ll never move in.”
When I read that line, I wanted so badly to show it to my husband and say, “See! This is why I need time to write every day, there’s a reason I need a scheduled time to write.” But he would’ve only looked at me askance and said, “Who’s Jack Kerouac?” Yes, my husband is a John Grisham, Tom Clancy kind of man, (not that there’s anything wrong with Grisham or Clancy, I just mean that he occasionally reads today’s well-knowns, and never reads classics).
#2 important reason to read: Boost your self-confidence as a writer
I’ve loved Kerouac since I discovered him, (way too late in life) – he had such a vivid, emotional way with words. But to read his journey of writing, and the hope/anguish that surrounds that life, is a great comfort, and more. For anyone who is writing with the intention of being “recognized as ‘a writer’”, Part 1 of Windblown World is probably the most insightful and hopeful work you’ll ever read. For Kerouac not only tells us of his struggle to be published, but also, (and here’s where I believe this is one of the most important works a writer can read), also of the loneliness, the madness, the fear of going insane, the exuberant joy of surpassing a daily writing goal, etc., that gives us writers hope that there is light at the end of that kaleidoscopic tunnel, and that the light is bright and worth fighting for. It’s the RECOGNITION of like feelings that makes Windblown World more than worth the time devoted to reading it thoughtfully.
Some of my favorite quotes from Windblown World:
“Words, Words, Words – and what are blank pages for?” This one is going on my inspiration board.
“And this is the way a novel gets written, in ignorance, fear, sorrow, madness, and a kind of psychotic happiness that serves as an incubator for the wonders being born.”
“Writing is an explosion of interest, it is not something that gets done one by one gravely, and the explosions of interest arrest themselves with a crafty expectant grin.”
“…all deep novels could very well be entitled simply “people” – because that’s all they’re about. But an author chooses a theme, a title, and pretends knowingly, with the knowing understanding of his deep reaches, that the theme is really a theme apart from people.”
“It’s not the words that count, but the rush of what is said.”
Hear what I mean? Feel what I mean? Have you read Windblown World? What did you think of it? Do you like Kerouac’s work, or are you of the [boisterous] minority who believe he couldn’t write? I’m anxious to hear what you think.