Homage to Kerouac

When I started travelling and writing fiction in my late teens and early twenties, I was heavily influenced by the American Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac, whose semi-autobiographical novels I devoured during that period of my life.

RLF logo So when the Royal Literary Fund commissioned me to write an article on the theme of “life changing literature” I took less than a nanosecond to choose Kerouac’s seminal work, On the Road, as my subject. The piece, recorded as a podcast, is one of a series of articles by novelists, poets, dramatists and non-fiction writers which have been uploaded in audio format on to the RLF’s website, on the themes of “letter to my younger self”, “how I write” and, of course, “life changing literature”.

All of the contributors are current or former Fellows of the RLF’s scheme to place writers-in-residence in universities across the country to help students develop their academic writing skills. (I did my two-year stint at Leeds Trinity University from 2008-10.)

Here is the opening of my piece on Kerouac:

On the Road cover“He wore a Godspell T-shirt, purple jeans and a ponytail. Australian. I don’t recall his name or what we talked about in the parched hours at the roadside as we hitched through Queensland. Probably one of those backpacker dialogues that seems hugely profound but which, in fact, is mostly bollocks.

I was 24, four months into a round-the-world trip; I had a copy of On the Road in my pack. By nightfall we were stranded in a place called Tully. We had no tents, there was no accommodation to be found, no buses, trains, or cash for a taxi. A car pulled up with four young guys inside.

They invited us to a party. My fellow hitch-hiker asked if we could crash there afterwards and they said sure, no problem. He looked at me. I shook my head. I was thinking: robbery, violence, death. So I stayed put and Godspell guy went with them.”

To hear the entire podcast, which is just under four minutes long, or to listen to any of the other authors’ recordings, please click on this link to the Vox section of the RLF’s website.

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