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Kerouac vs Bukowski

By , Corvallis, OR
All my life, I’ve been under the impression that Kerouac and Bukowski are polar opposites- although admittedly, I never really got to know Kerouac personally, but I’ve known people like him, and known people that aren’t like him, and eventually you get a rough shadowy sort of idea- and I always thought that the two writers had nothing in common, Kerouac with his long, sweeping sentences that take up half a page, or two pages, or entire chapters that are admittedly only three pages long, careening about on one long sheet of typewriter paper until he finds the words to end the thought he began so many miles ago, with phrases that sometimes wrap all his ideas together like curled ribbon on a birthday present, but other times leave you with the impression that the ending does not exist at all, and that his words have simply extended off the page and continue forever somewhere you can’t quite see but can almost reach if you close your eyes, and try a little harder, and imagine like he would imagine, and channel his long dead Dean-esque ghost of Christmas past- and
Bukowski,
on the other hand,
with his
constant indentations,
emphasizing his
words and his
thoughts and
Oh God-
I used to be
so good at writing
just like him.
but now all this
God-awful Kerouac
with his flow and his
loquaciousness
has made breaking up my thoughts
just
that
much
harder.

Anyone who tries to mimic Kerouac
and then suddenly must
swerve
to Bukowski in left-field
understands that the transition
is like
shifting gears too suddenly
and hearing the gritty
grinding crunch
of your car breaking beneath you:
they would understand
how painful
the switch is
and how experiencing both authors
so close together
gives you a headache
identical
to the one you get
when you’ve crossed
your eyes
for too long,
and therefore,
how totally opposite
the two writers must be.

However.
Kerouac with his marathon ramblings and Bukowski with his succinct depression had conflicting views on indentation, but as I suddenly realized in a surprising flash of clarity that sliced through my more pedestrian thoughts like a scythe through a spider web, the two men have so very much in common- their names both contain two hard “k” sounds, and seem to me at least to be fairly difficult to spell- but phonetic differences are so shallow compared to the rest of the poetic world, and really, in this generation, students find it difficult to spell ninety-five percent of names and locations anyway, so how can that possibly be used as evidence, I don’t know, I apologize- and both men spent years working and sweating and starving to become famous- although I believe Bukowski ate significantly less than Kerouac, but the latter was a college student, which implies a lack of wealth and nourishment, so I don’t know- and once their work was published and fawned over and internationally acclaimed, both wrote dozens if not hundreds of pages denouncing their popularity and fame, complaining and drinking and sarcastically and bitterly criticizing those that had swooped in and placed them on their respective marble pedestals- how dare we appreciate the fruits that stemmed from their decades of labor and craft- and both men complained of the pressures of fame, Bukowski with the parties he ruined and Kerouac with the parties he never meant to start- and both created semi-fictional half-false personas so that when they left this world, both crazy and exhausted but with millions of words left in their frustrated corpses, Chinaski and Duluoz died with them, and kept them company in the afterlife they both questioned- and both spent most of their lives in a drunken stupor, as does any decent writer with the occasional paycheck, using liquor to ward off
the pressure
and the attention
of the millions of
fans and critics and
reporters and
hookers and
most of all
the constant
unendurable
loneliness
that followed both of them everywhere,
Kerouac to the woods
and Bukowski to the gutter,
and the god-awful feeling
that really
you are just
words on a page
and a body composed of dust
with no more meaning than
the garbage decaying outside
and Oh God,
you get so alone at times
that it just makes
sense.





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