THE SCROLL

“That isn’t writing; it’s typing.”
Truman Capote, on the three week composition of On The Road.

When Kerouac sat down to write On The Road, he stuck eight mammoth sheets of paper into his typewriter, taping them together as he went. Legend has it that he dropped the completed scroll, all one hundred and twenty feet of it, onto his publisher’s desk when he was done. Legend has it that was it.

Now the whole world unfurls on an ever-expanding block of text three-and-a-half inches wide. What Kerouac sold, with the idea of the roll, was the illusion of immediacy. A line running straight into Kerouac’s drug-addled, caffeinated head. A direct experience.

Never mind that he lived with his mother, drank nothing stronger than tea while composing the roll, and worked on On the Road for years before and after the its composing. He hid behind the curtain and sold the first genuine illusion of immediacy, an advertised hot-link to his head.

Never mind that most blogs, too, are penned in similarly unassuming positions. In basements, backyards by the sprinkler, and blue-lit rooms. By regular people latched onto an obsession or need. Posting carefully composed images and ideas of their personality—their thoughts too, sure, their “happenings”—but groomed in just such a way. To suggest that the image seen is the natural person. The natural person responding in the immediate way that they would.

Spell-checked. Planned and worked out all day, but posted with a time-stamp in that same ever-expanding roll, the suggestion of endless—the immediate inside-head—the careful composing read as straight, unadulterated thought by those who need the mutual buying in, the sharing of illusions.

Kerouac said that many people who met him in person, or who tracked him down looking to drink, found him, at best, disappointing. My guess is that conceit applies to most of us in the puffed-up blogosphere as well. How can you live up to the frozen images, posted in succession (over multicellular, energetical-ameoba background), posed in mid-air? How can you beat the head-scrambling heart-racing prose that you pen, alone, head-point pop-gun? How can you live up to the endlessly witty, unknowable snarkster who posts three lines of text (falling apart upon inspection), each word establishing its own trend?

4 Comments

  1. I often find myself making an effort to live up to some person, whether its the person people tell others about, or the person who was 1 2 3 4 5 years ago, or any other person. I’ve lost track of who I was on this date at this time and what I said. Sometimes, seriously, someone will say ‘be like who you were’. I’ve heard that, and I have no clue how the fuck to respond because who was I?

    Anyway I’d love to write something excellent like that, at least then I’d have a primer.

  2. I think it has to do with insecurity. Like that chat comic you posted, it’s true. I never did that online, but I know I’ve been like that in the past in real life, especially in high school. It’s not even like it was conscious or anything, I just tend to do that naturally I guess. It’s not really good. If you do it too long I think you break and get stuck in that for long periods without even realising.

    Sometimes people say I seem older or that I’ve changed too much or they’re… weirded out by the change, but it’s not that often probably mainly because I don’t really associate with the people who would say that. Honestly if you’re different that’s a good thing, that probably means that you’re growing. It’s hard to pin down exactly who AHH FUCK I JUST SPILLED WATER EVERYWHERE, WHO KNOWS WHAT WE ARE ANYWAY ALSO READ FIFTH BUSINESS BY ROBERTSON DAVIES (SERIOUSLY)

  3. I second Fifth Business!! But yes, people are dynamic, and always changing, and should be changing. And sometimes we’re different people depending on our environment, and that doesn’t mean we have an inauthentic self. It’s just all a part of who we are. WE ARE A BUNDLE OF CONTRADICTIONS, ALL OF US. And if you’re not, then I worry about the unidimensional layer that is your mind.

  4. It’s true. Also sometimes I wonder if I react to other personalities more just because I am good at empathising with other people? In terms of I can and usually do imagine what it’s like to be the people that I’m talking to.

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