I’m getting more confident and angrier each time

Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ journal, 1948-49
The Estate of Stella Kerouac

From the age of fourteen Jack Kerouac could often be found carrying a spiral notebook in which to record his thoughts, frustrations, and aspirations. When he wrote the following journal entry in September of 1948, Kerouac was twenty-six and his first novel, The Town and the City, was yet to find a publisher—but he was undeterred. Fuelled by a potent mix of confidence and indignation, he was determined to see his work in print and viewed the publishing industry’s gatekeepers not merely as obstacles but as adversaries, standing between him and an audience he believed would appreciate his work. Two years later, The Town and the City was published to moderate success. It would be another seven years until he achieved widespread acclaim with the publication of On the Road, a work that would define a generation.

The Diary Entry

THURSDAY SEPT. 9 — Got form-rejection card from MacMillan’s. I’m getting more confident and angrier each time something like this happens, because I know “The Town and the City” is a great book in its own awkward way. And I’m going to sell it. They won’t fool me with their editors who want to skimp everything down to the shallow formulas of this age. How many “forgotten-in-one-month” books must they publish before they realize what they’re doing? Just like the movies, and like countless cheap goods that are used up as fast as they’re produced, they turn out these cheap ‘topical’ or ‘human-interest-small-village-in-Mexico-representing-the-human-undying-spirit stories’ by the week, or books by celebrities, or ‘angry’ novels full of sex and violence. I’m ready for any battle there is, against anybody, in defense of this excellent book I have written, which comes from the heart and from the brain – it being only incidental, in a significant sense, that it should come from my heart and brain, – and even if I have to go off and starve on the road I won’t give up the notion that I should make a living from this book: because I’m convinced that people themselves will like it whenever the wall of publishers and critics and editors is torn down. It is they, by Christ, who are my enemies, not “obscurity” or “poverty” or anything like that. It is they, the talking class (trying to rationalize itself out of a base materialism) who are the enemy of the people of this country. It is they who build New Yorks and Hollywoods, and flood our radios with inanity, and our papers and magazines with sterilized ideas … I mean the great “Upper White Collar” class, the Commuters, the Whatnot, the people with snotty ‘progressive’ daughter six years old and sons who call their fathers ‘daddy.’ By God, I guess maybe I ought to go back to Canada. But I won’t – I’d much rather make the rounds with that baseball bat. Tonight I finished and typed the final chapter. Last sentence of the novel: “There were whoops and greetings and kisses, and then everybody had supper in the kitchen.” Do you mean that the folks of this country won’t like this last chapter? – or would it be better if I said, “everybody had dinner in the dining room.” But the work is finished.

Further Reading

Jack Kerouac’s numerous journals are held in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library along with his letters, manuscripts, and notebooks. A selection can be seen, albeit in thumbnail only, on its website. In 2004, seven years-worth were edited by Douglas Brinkley and published by Viking Books with the title Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954.


Excerpt from WINDBLOWN WORLD: THE JOURNALS OF JACK KEROUAC 1947-1954 by Jack Kerouac, edited by Douglas Brinkley, copyright © 2004 by The Estate of Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin
Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

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