“It was pure in my heart”

This post celebrating Jack Kerouac’s hotness on UMW Blogs thrust me into a rabbit hole that it has taken me several hours to crawl out from. Back when I was an undergraduate at UCLA and worked at the great Audio Visual Services on that campus we delivered the VHS tapes, Laser Discs, and even a few DVDs to classes (along with the equipment to play them). One Laser Disc that came through AVS that I “borrowed” for a while was the 1985 documentary Kerouac, the Movie (a sweet surprise, the entire documentary is available freely on YouTube here).

The documentary is an interesting attempt to recreate the biography of Kerouac through his novels, and I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of Kerouac or want to learn more about the Beats. It’s narrated by Peter Coyote, and it features William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg, as well as a wide range of people from Kerouac’s life. One of the scenes that seemed to get burnt into my memory was a 1968 interview he did about the Hippies on William Buckley Jr.’s television show Firing Line. Kerouac was bombed, what’s more he was insufferable: correcting other guests’ pronunciation of words; interrupting them with childish sounds and taunts; while generally dismissing everything they say out-of-hand. In other words, he’s a jackass. Broken down, far too old for his age (he was only 46 at the time) and just a year away from his untimely death. You can see the premature age from pain all over his face, seeing him in this interview is not unlike watching a train wreck. All that said, there is a single moment of beauty in which you can see, at least for a moment, a relic of the idealism that drove him there. When Buckley asks if the hippies had somehow polluted the purity of the Beat movement with their ideology, Kerouac responds “it was pure in my heart.” Amen. Embedded below is the full Firing Line episode which has the special treat of also featuring Ed Sanders). The Open Culture blog linked to excerpts from this interview back in 2009, and it is nice to see the whole thing has been uploaded to YouTUbe back in May.

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