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.”