Monday, January 24, 2022

Beneath notice: Frank & Kerouac

One of my cherished books is Looking In, published in 2009 in conjunction with a major retrospective of Robert Frank's work at the National Gallery of Art. I've been dipping in and out of Jack Kerouac lately for the first time in many years, and opened this book again to be reminded that Lucy Sante (then identifying as Luc Sante) had written a typically terrific piece about Frank and Kerouac's working relationship.
[On The Road] is a saga of Western exploration long after the end of the frontier, a tramp narrative for the automobile age, a search for authenticity in the deadening atmosphere of postwar consumer-society retrenchment, a literary analogue to the long-breath solos of jazz saxophone players in the heroic period of bebop, the founding myth of a high-speed traveling bohemia. And it stood for a refusal of intellectual cynicism and a conscious embrace of wonder at the very aspects of American life that were supposed to lie beneath notice at the time: the filling stations and bus stops and fleabag hotels and jukeboxes and diners and dented cars and industrial landscapes. This aspect in particular intersects with what Frank saw and recorded in The Americans.

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