Monday, 24 February 2014


The pursuit of freedom is a common theme across all areas of the arts. I include science, literature, art, and music under the "arts" umbrella, because in their own ways they all pursue a deeper understanding of life and what it means to exist as an individual human with a mind and soul of it's own. 

Works such as On the Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac, Into the Wild by Christopher McCandless, and The Call of the Wild by Jack London, have influenced how I view the world around me, and my relationships with people in my life. I am instinctively drawn to the Beat Generation literature in particular, the members of which were a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, and the work of which centres around a rejection of received societal standards, innovations in style, experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities and explicit portrayals of the human condition. Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are perhaps the most heavily quoted of the crew, who almost all ended up congregating in San Francisco in the mid-50s. Since the peak of their creative output, elements of the expanding Beat movement were incorporated in the hippie and larger counterculture movements. 

“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” 
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 
     - Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Freedom seems to manifest itself in a multitude of different ways. One view, championed by McCandless, who indeed died on his "great Alaskan adventure", was that one had to reject modern society and our disgustingly materialist culture; however Kerouac's less radical rout of travelling in the hope of reaching a state of self discovery and euphoria through soul-to-soul understanding is much more interesting to me. The empty repetition of small talk has no place in this kind of freedom: freedom of expression and freedom of thought. Later in the 20th century Hunter S. Thompson's "Gonzo" fluidity of word and his arresting recounts of experimental drug usage in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas represents the latter of the areas in my opinion. Both he and Kerouac wrote with a flow and passionate drive which infects every word and certainly as a reader I felt transported into the mad rush of their lives. 

The small important details they both so beautifully pick out of the daily grind is another aspect of their writing that I have been contemplating: this process of selecting significance is what artists have to do every time they question their work or exhibit it in a gallery. The stunningly scripted French film Amelie is a perfect example of where the interest lies in the detail; the zooming in on otherwise passable moments.

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