Jack Kerouac's 1957 letter to Marlon Brando: "I'm praying that you'll buy On the Road and make a movie of it."


28 Responses to “Jack Kerouac's 1957 letter to Marlon Brando: "I'm praying that you'll buy On the Road and make a movie of it."”

  1. pretty sure this letter has been on boing boing before but jack kerouac always deserves an encore!

  2. taras says:

    Keroac always came across to me as a bit of a creep.. like James Boswell

  3. Samsa says:

    The more I read about Jack Kerouac, the less I like Jack Kerouac. Seriously, dude doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with Burroughs & Ginsberg.

    • CalgonMeStat says:

      Better to read than read about him.

      • querent says:

        Seconded.  The well may be poisoned, but somehow the water is pure.

        (More or less.)

        • blueelm says:

          Actually, I don’t agree. I always resented having to pretend not to have the opinion I do of what I read, and yes I do *get it* but that doesn’t mean that other problems aren’t more important to me.

          • duc chau says:

            Seconded. I see why On The Road was groundbreaking for it’s time and I’m glad it was written. But after drinking the water first, I then saw the well it came from and thought, “Oh! That’s why the water was so unpalatable.”

            IMO, many Classics get a bit of a free ride because they were a revelation for a particular time and a particular place. Seeing authors’ as real dorky/creepy/etc. people can sometimes help put texts in their place as works of art to be consumed rather than just important literary artifacts.

      • millie fink says:

        I read tons of Kerouac at one point, but now, meh. “That’s not writing, that’s typing” is a bit harsh, but not far off the mark.

        • CalgonMeStat says:

          Lonesome Traveler and On The Road are evergreen. Dharma Bums is solid. It falls off precipitously after that.

    • Blasphemy!

      The only thing one needs remember about Kerouac is this…..”anyway I wrote the book because we’re all gonna die”.

      It is true that Kerouac himself did not age well, but for me his words have only grown closer to my hear with each trip around the sun.

    • hungryjoe says:

      Burroughs was a self-indulgent misanthrope.  If we score Burroughs and Kerouac based on the number of victims they created, Burroughs wins by a landslide.  But if we score them by the number of other lives changed by their work, the opposite is true.

      Both of them made a big impression on a lot of adolescent boys, but…

  4. Mujokan says:

    Hmm, “rave on”, like the song I guess that was written about the same time.  Seems like that slang didn’t last much longer.

    Kerouac comes across as a flake, which is why I guess Marlon didn’t pick up on the pitch, but then he did do Candy 10 years later, so who knows…

  5. Peter Golanski says:

    Kerouac is best read by 15-20 year olds.  They get the most bang for the buck, what he was going for.  I have tried re-reading On the Road and others later in life.  No go.  Seems wanker-ish now.  Was revelatory then.  [shrugs]

    • dahlia says:

      completely.  when i read OTR in my late teens, i was blown away.  i read it again in my 30s and all i saw was a bunch of misogynistic assholes.  maybe the worm will turn and in my dotage it’ll read fresh again, i’ll wait and see.

  6. Bevatron Repairman says:

    With apologies to Truman Capote: That’s not cinematography, that’s filming.

  7. wizardru says:

    A months ago, I thought…”Hey, I’ve never read Kerouac.  He’s supposed to be pretty good, right?”  and then got an ebook of “On the Road” from the library.


    I guess I was expecting something more.  It’s not strictly speaking bad and I can see why it set the world on fire when it came out, but…well, it hasn’t aged well.  I gave up after about 100 pages of rambling, unfocused prose.  It was interesting to hear and read, but…I didn’t see why it’s endured so long, honestly.

  8. I’d have to agree with everyone saying that On the Road is best read in your teens.  Not to deny its extraordinary social significance to that period, but I think On the Road (and to a large extent Howl as well) speak to that time when you were dumb enough to think that you and your friends were awesome as hell, just because you drank/drugged a lot, and occasionally talked some deep Eastern shit into the early hours.  Kerouac himself became somewhat of a booze hound in the latter years, having the dubious honor of being the first person to give Tim Leary a bad trip, and (apparently) accusing revelers at a Merry Prankster party of being commies because they were using Old Glory as couch cover!  All credit to Neal Cassady, though – he remained a preternatural hipster right to the end.

    • MaxFiction says:

      Sadly, more than “somewhat of a booze hound.” He was a full-blown alcoholic and died of a hemorrhage brought on by excessive drink. Was in his 40s when he died; looked like he was in his 60s. Don’t drink and write!

  9. Brad Ackerman says:

    I haven’t actually read OtR yet, but Nick Mamatas certainly got a lot of mileage out of Kerouac in Move Under Ground.

  10. franko says:

    wow, i guess i didn’t get the memo that it’s cool to hate kerouac now.

  11. I loved Mamatas for his Patmos and Pink Elephants story.

  12. viadd says:

    Yet another a remake of a remake.  A couple of years ago Viggo Mortensen just wasn’t funny in the Bob Hope role, and Kodi Smit-McPhee has a lot of growing to do before he can step into Bing’s shoes.  What makes you think Hollywood’ll do better this time?

  13. ashypete says:

    Read just about all the Kerouac I could get my hands on at the right time… 15 to about 19. I never connected much with On the Road, despite plenty hitch hiking and loving the constant movement the book reflects. For me it was Dharma Bums (as Robert Thurman calls it, “the most accurate, poetic, expansive evocation of the heart of Buddhism available at the time”), Dr. Sax and the first half of Desolation Angels (the second half is too sad for me to read). I haven’t wanted to revisit any of that stuff but I found Wake Up in a discount bin and I found myself a willing participant in his streaming story of the Buddha (put through his prism of Catholicism and Indian Buddhism). I surprised myself how much I found I liked it, something I didn’t think I would. Heartfelt and exhilarating for me but YMMV.

    Is his oeuvre great literature? Probably not but man did he turn me onto some great writing which I’m still grateful for today.  Kerouac a creep? Maybe but there was a lot going on in there that drugs & alcohol don’t make any easier. If he was a creep then so was Ginsberg, Burroughs and Neal Cassady (what with their checkered histories). Kerouac a flake? Then what was Brando (even in ’57)? As for the rest of the Beats? Burroughs & Ginsberg left me cold though its hard to deny their talent. Gary Snyder, Ferlinghetti and Corso on the other hand… their stuff still blows me away.

    In full disclosure, like Kerouac, I’m of working class French Canadian stock and there is something in his work that I can’t quite explain that I connect with and frankly transcends my conscious mind touches me directly. The love of his oddball French Joual (which is my first language), his sometimes crippling shyness, his complicated & confused Catholic beliefs, his obsessive mother love, pining for the dead brother he never knew and his sad drunken death – all remind me of so many people I knew and of myself . When I see the pictures from the end of his life in his favourite chair his once handsome face a bloated mess, I see my alcoholic grandfather falling apart before he died.

    I can’t say that I always like the guy, but shit, he’s family.

  14. sean rawsthorne says:


  15. Thanks for the “Potrzebie”.  Haven’t seen one in years, except for the occasional reminder by потребность.

  16. Bhob says:

    Potrzebie did more on Kerouac and Cassady in 2007.  Click for  “Night Lights”.  http://potrzebie.blogspot.com/search?q=warp+of+wood

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