Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm about halfway into the Selected letters of Jack Kerouac, 1940-1956. I'm currently reading his long, confessional letters to Neal Cassady. A couple of things: Kerouac was a bright guy; even the letters he wrote at age 20 are impressive. I try to think of what I possibly could have written in a letter at that age. Not much. He was also a dreamer. He's constantly telling Cassady of his plans for the future, that they should work together on a ship going around the world, they should move to Mexico or they should live on a farm.

Reading these letters or the letters of Hemingway and Bukowski, Facebook suddenly seems like the silliest thing in the world. Will there one day be Collected e-mails, or Collected Facebook postings? If Facebook had existed then, back in the fifties, would the letters of Kerouac and Cassady be lost, never written? If Facebook broke down one day, I don't think people would automatically start writing each other long letters, but I can't help but think that something is lost when not written down on paper.


  1. The collected letters of Hunter Thompson are really good to if you like Hunter Thompson. Regarding long letters, I make it a point to write very long emails to the people that I correspond with. Usually several thousand words, so that they know I cared enough to spend a little time on them. This has proved to be one of the most fulfilling parts of my life, when I can read a long email from a friend and writing them back an even longer one. However, something is lost when its not on paper I agree. But email is just to damn convenient not to use. I've had a few friendships that seemed to never really take hold when we where physically together with other friends but when we started writing each other we became very close.

  2. The trouble with emails and facebook is it is all too fast, you don't have time to sit down and think out long responses or everything is so fast that everyone already knows what is happening leaving nothing to talk about.
    Sometimes I contemplate writing letters to myself just so nothing is lost.
    I enjoy Bukowski and have been meaning to try Kerouac.
    Have you seen Howl? It is an excellent film about the beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his poem of the same name.

  3. I'm afraid I've read nothing by Hunter Thompson. I don't know if the film Howl got to France, but I guess it's out on DVD soon. I'd be interested in seeing it. It's with that James Franco guy, right?
    Facebook seems to fit a conversational approach, "I saw a funny thing when I got my coffee this morning", but there's no reason why e-mails can't be as long and rewarding as letters. But one day the machine crashes and then they are lost forever.

  4. Thompson is good, but honestly a bit overrated, Johnny Depp has referred to him as a Mark Twain and he was never Mark Twain, not by a long shot. But Fear and Loathing is worth checking out, as are some of his early articles and his book about the Hells Angels. Becoming a living legend was the worst thing that ever happened to his writing, all his best work was behind him by the early '80s. But, his letters are good. I have not read any Kerouac letter yet, I might have to pick that up, I've got a book og William Burroughs letters, I find it really interesting.
    RE: emails getting lost. I back up all my emails of any substance by copy/pasting them into a Google Doc, so I can access if my computer crashes. I've been meaning to print them out and past them into a notebook but I've yet to do that. I have an email back and forth from a few years ago that took place over a few months that is pratically novel length. It is so much more fulfilling to write a long, detailed, email/letter. Its really something that Facebook, Twitter etc can never capture.

  5. Hah, I was thinking about "Collected Facebook Comments" recently too. After books like "shit my dad says" or "look at that fucking hipster" it sounds almost reasonable.

  6. Yes it's the one with James Franco, he plays Ginsberg. I don't think it had an official release over here but an independent cinema near me was showing it last week.
    Also I didn't mean there can't be long emails but people often exchange them back and forth so often you dry up the discussion pretty quickly or at least I find that to be the case.
    I also agree that facebook is useful for sharing jokes and links with people but a Collected Facebook Comments would be terrible, some things are really best left on the internet.

  7. Howl has just been released across europe, I am going to see it today.
    Burroughs letters make excellent reading, a very intelligent man, as does Last Words, a collection of his diary entries from his last days, I don't know if the last entry in the book is truly his last entry but either way he totally nailed it.

  8. Thompson was a god. read Fear and Loathing but follow it up with Curse of Lono. it's sort of a follow up to the Loathing book but 20 years later in Hawaii with Brilliant Brilliant full color illustrations by Steadman

  9. just read Dr Sax by Kerouac. he has such colourful and vivid recollections of some of the most mudane things, things made fantastical in his retelling of them