Friday, January 25, 2013

Jack Kerouac was Catholic

"I believe in order, tenderness and piety. "

Edit: there's so much about celebrated literary figures confirming our religious feelings.  Many people find so much consolation in actors, punters, gangsters and so on who've changed their ways and admitted they were wrong.

One such figure is Jack Kerouac.  Bad Catholic, who especially likes to report on these sorts of stories about "cool" cultural icons, performed a fairly succinct and detailed summary of Kerouac's emotional and literary attachment to Catholicism. It was especially plain in how he named the beatnik movement as related to "beatific".

There's a great deal to poetic figures and part of their vocation to see and appreciate things with a wonder and conviction which is the polarity and polarization which makes their poetic work a religious experience.

An article in Culture Wars reads:

It may be hoped that Catholicism did more than keep Jack sane. He wrote his editor about "the result of praying to St. Mary to intercede for me to make me stop being a maniacal drunkard." Kerouac continued, "Ever since I instituted the little prayer, I've not been lushing. So far, every prayer addressed to the Holy Mother has been answered."28 He resumed his boyhood habit of praying to St. Thérèse and "the little lamby Jesus", and his diaries are filled with prayers (some for humility) and sketches of the crucified Christ. He never formally returned to the Church and the sacraments, but in the last decade of his life he often slipped into neighborhood churches to light a candle and pray. 
In 1969, the last year of his life, Jack and Gabrielle, and Jack's third wife, Stella, lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a retirement town, and Jack seemed retired, spending most of his time indoors, drinking Johnny Walker Red and reading National Review, the Bible, Pascal, and Voltaire. He was watching television the morning of October 20, eating tuna fish out of the can, sipping whiskey, and scribbling a note. There was a pain in his stomach. He made it to the bathroom in time to vomit a waterfall of blood. His liver, long cirrhotic, had finally hemorrhaged. The blood filled Jack's chest and welled up into his throat. 
He was rushed to St. Anthony's hospital. He remained unconscious while doctors operated on him and pumped thirty pints of blood into his body. He died an alcoholic's death, drowning in his own blood, at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. His body was taken back home for a high mass at St. Jean Baptiste Cathedral in Lowell, where Jack had served as an altar boy. The body in the coffin wore a sports coat and bow tie. The right hand held a rosary.

What is also of note, was his interview with William F. Buckley on the PBS show, Firing Line not long before he died, where he described his understanding, against the press and popular description, which was really more of a statement of Faith, "I believe in oder, tenderness and piety".  Indeed,  he was eager to attack the Communists like Ferlengetti and Ginsberg, from whom he disassociated himself from several times in the interview. Despite being terribly drunk, he has moments of clarity and makes one of the most sartlingly accurate description of the false prophets...

  Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

1 comment:

gracem said...

thank you....what a surprise!