SOME FACT WE BOTH ENTERTAINED

When someone winks at me I take this as perhaps being a serious invocation to memory of some fact we both entertained, and still do entertain, in living; and living has no limit. Therefore the wink may be a hint of several centuries old between us, or older, with the intention of communicating to me something I have forgotten due to sheer prurience and inability to understand or be straight.

– Kerouac, Windblown World (October, 1949 journal)

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4 thoughts on “SOME FACT WE BOTH ENTERTAINED

  1. Jeff says:

    Is this quote from something more about communication than memory?

    • Interesting question, as always, Jeff. This is the paragraph above the quote:

      “There is simply no connection between men and time. Men are only involved in space and place. My father for instance is no further from me now than New Hampshire, first; and the progress of his corrosion, second; and his position among the whirlings, lastly. I admit that his existence haunts me. He cannot be dead. Nor Sebastian [Sampas]. I believe that I am communicating with them without really knowing it, and also communicating my own selves of pre-birth and possible pre-existence.”

      This whole section is from Fall 1949, when Kerouac was in the beginning stages of working on “On the Road.” From what I’ve read so far, his journals collected in “Windblown World” reflect a variety of angles, but they mostly boil down to two approaches: daily records of things done, people seen, and words written (keeping track of writing projects); and more ambitious spiritual searching, musing, and questioning, sometimes within the context of his writing projects but more often not. This passage is definitely from the latter approach, but it seems that as time goes on and his style develops in the journals, these two approaches grow indistinguishable.

      Overall I would say Kerouac deals with memory throughout his work. Not only did memory influence so much of his well-known published writing, but in the journals there is the definite sense of him being haunted: by his father’s and brother’s deaths, by his religious background and spiritual searching, by the geographical spread of his friends and family, by his desire for a certain level of success and the discipline that would require – all of that is filtered through memory. At the same time it is clear both through these journals and through his published narratives that communication was a primary, occasionally almost desperate concern – the need and desire to connect more than a blunt will to force his words and ideas on the world. I guess with this particular section, the use of memory and the concern with communication come together: communication with the dead, the idea of a transcendent/ancient collective memory…

      • Jeff says:

        > there is the definite sense of him being haunted: by his father’s and brother’s deaths, by his religious background and spiritual searching, by the geographical spread of his friends and family, by his desire for a certain level of success and the discipline that would require – all of that is filtered through memory.

        And these things that haunted him seem to be losses. Would the ‘communication with the dead’ be a way to recoup those losses? If so, it would seem that communication to the level of a wink suggests that every gesture (to Kerouac at least) could be caught up in a struggle.

        • Yes I’d agree with that, but I think the emphasis is on memory and communication rather than on winking-as-gesture. This passage with the wink kind of comes out of nowhere in the journal entry – it fits with the other ideas being explored, but the winking/gesture is a passing, rather random note, written out and then dropped. I wouldn’t say Kerouac was interested in gesture in the ways that Benjamin describes for Kafka, for instance. But at the same time he pays such immense attention to his sensory intake in his narrative work: always describing various scenes, street details, outfits, and especially movement in a very visual and visceral way.

          So I think a line can be drawn between this content example, amidst the more abstract spiritual searching that marks this time period in the journal, and the more pulsating, detail-heavy, plot driven content of his narrative work. Within that connection, I would say that the winking is gesture in the sense that it is movement – just another example of the type of movement that drives his narrative work and his attention to detail, like when he describes people “cutting down the street” or jazz musicians playing live.

          And so could it be that movement becomes the struggle and the struggle becomes movement? This seems to be a primordial theme of his work: movement, the struggle to keep moving, the struggle to stop. Movement as struggle parallels communication as struggle, too.

          Do you like Kerouac’s books, Jeff?

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