Sunday, August 01, 2010

Jack Kerouac on "Genius"




Is it Jack Kerouac who wrote "But it ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it."? It seems so from this post from Maria Schneider's blog. The man who was known as a genius seems succinct on the question of genius. The operative word here is "genius" and the discussion is on what makes a genius, is it an imitation of another's style? Is it congenital? Is it acquired as Jack claims it is?

Well genius, in my humble-bumble (for am not I a bumbler?) opinion, in anything – writing, acting, directing, painting – arises from the way you do your art, the way you present your art, which is derived from the way you think. This again is from the great writer and poet himself, Jack Kerouac:

"Writers are made, for anybody who isn't illiterate can write; but geniuses of the writer art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born. Let's examine the word "genius." It doesn't mean screwiness or eccentricity or excessive "talent." It is derived from the Latin word gignere (to beget) and a genius is simply a person who originates something never known before. Nobody but Melville could have written Moby Dick, not even Whitman or Shakespeare. Nobody but Whitman could have conceived, originated and written Leaves of Grass; Whitman was born to write a Leaves of Grass and Melville was born to write a Moby Dick. "It ain't whatcha do," Sy Oliver and James Young said, "it's the way atcha do it." Five thousand writing class students who study "required reading" can put their hand to the legend of Faustus but only one Marlowe was born to do it the way he did."

Here's what this Wikipedia article has to say of Jack:

"His fame would come as an unmanageable surge that would ultimately be his undoing. Kerouac's novel is often described as the defining work of the post-World War II Beat Generation and Kerouac came to be called "the king of the beat generation," a term that he never felt comfortable with. He once observed, "I'm not a beatnik, I'm a Catholic.""

So the beat poet and beatnik wasn't exactly one. He was Catholic.

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