Archives For January 2011

Haruki Murakami on Jack Kerouac

From the 2001 novel, Sputnik Sweetheart:

“The first time Sumire met Miu, she talked to her about Jack Kerouac’s novels. Sumire was absolutely nuts about Kerouac. She always had her Literary Idol of the Month, and at that point it happened to be the out-of-fashion Kerouac. She carried a dog-eared copy of On The Road or Lonesome Traveler stuck in her coat pocket, thumbing through it every chance she got. Whenever she ran across lines she liked, she’d mark them in pencil and commit them to memory like they were the Holy Writ. Her favorite lines were from the fire lookout section of Lonesome Traveler. Kerouac spent three lonely months in a cabin on top of a high mountain, working as a fire lookout.

Sumire especially like this part: “No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even border solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.” “Don’t you just love it?” she said. “Every day you stand on top of a mountain, make a three hundred sixty degree sweep, checking to see if there are any fires. And that’s it. You’re done for the day. The rest of the time you can read, write, whatever you want. At night scruffy bears hang around your cabin. That’s the life! Compared with that, studying literature in college is like chomping down on the bitter end of a cucumber.” “OK,” I said, “but someday you’ll have to come down off the mountain.”

As usual, my practical, humdrum opinions didn’t faze her. Sumire want to be like a character in a Kerouac novel, wild, cool, dissolute. She’d stand around, hands shoved deep in her coat pockets, her hair an uncombed mess, staring vacantly at the sky through her black, plastic-frame Dizzy Gillespie glasses, which, she wore despite her twenty-twenty vision. She was invariably decked out in an oversize herring-bone coat from a secondhand store and a pair of rough work boots. (And had, I’m certain) she had been able to grow a beard, she would have.”

One Space or Two?

Prior to the advent of the typewriter, convention said that one space should be inserted after a period and not two. During the reign of those clunky machines and their odd spaced type, two-spacing become customary. Unfortunately, even with the rise of the computer and intelligent publishing software, two-spacers are still in the majority.

Of course, one-spacing is, like all publishing standards and writing customs, a matter of consensus and fashion. There is no grand reason for it to be set as some writing law. There is no right way to write.

Publishers, though, need rules to help them publish magazines and books that are easy on the eye, and in this respect two-spacing proves problematic. Text with two-spaces following the period looks silly in print. There are too many large gaps. Of course, that’s yet another opinion. Some people also say that capitalization ruins a body of text, that literature looks better entirely in lower case. Some also say that quotation marks are unnecessary.

The Beat Generation existed during the reign of the typewriter. They were two-spacers, whereas their pen-wielding predecessors were one-spacers. The Beats were not much for convention, though. They were famous for, if nothing else, breaking the rules. So why should a supposedly Beat magazine care for custom and convention?

Here at Beatdom we have fewer rules than most, and we give our contributors more time than perhaps it is wise to do. We have a slim set of rules for submission, and yet they are rarely followed. This is understandable, since most writers will scour the internet for publications and simply fire off form letters. That’s the way it goes, and to dismiss every error-ridden, ill-formatted submission is to potentially miss a truly great piece of writing.

On our submission page, though, it states that writers should NOT use two-spaces after a period. This is because it looks bad in print and costs our editor(s) countless hours of their precious time in an extremely boring task. It is, of course, the job of the editor to make text presentable, but it is infuriating when so many writers ignore explicit instruction.

But this post is not meant to be a lecture, nor even an addition to the submission guidelines. Beatdom has stated its opinion on this contentious issue and would like to know more of what its readers think.