for my structure & style writing assignment, i recalled an episode from a few months ago, added and deleted a few details, changed around the names, and called it my short story. but it’s still too close to what really happened that i’m too afraid to show people who i know. i remember reading jack kerouac’s Vanity of Duluoz right before i came to Columbia and romanticizing about the similarities we (Jack Kerouac/Jack Duluoz) shared – same height, same accomplishments (high school football and track), and same aspirations (journalism, romance). kerouac never really seemed to write much imaginative fiction — he basically told stories the way he experienced them.
i remember reading Maggie Cassidy and thinking about how i could write a similar story about my bittersweet high school memories (the book was actually given to me by an ex-girlfriend who wrote inside – “hope you’ll write a story about me one day”). and it’s interesting to note that On the Road was basically a ten-day binge writing effort by Kerouac after a trippy cross-country road trip with his buddies. the editor changed around the names, but everything else was basically the way it happened.
can we really say that he was a good writer if the core substance was merely a recollection of his experiences? something tells me yes – that it’s not so much about what’s imagined versus what’s pulled from actual experience, but what’s important is the way a story is told and feelings conveyed by the author’s string of words. kerouac definitely found a voice, and that’s probably why his novels, these disguised autobiographies, can be considered important fiction as well.
kerouac died tragically at 47, having had too much to drink. it’s 5am and i could surely use a beer. i do feel a bit better about my story, though.