A Radio Reminder

My husband and son are reading Jack Kerouac. “On the Road“, “Town and the City” “The Dharma Bums“, and other lesser known works of the author are spread about the house and offer insight into a time that predates both Jonathan and his dad.

Jack Kerouac, born into a French-Canadian immigrant family from Quebec, is a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, a city 45 minutes from Boston. The city of Lowell has always been home to immigrants. In the late 1800’s to early 1900’s it was French-Canadians who had come from Quebec to work in textile mills. Now the landscape is Cambodians, Horn of Africa refugees, and many from different countries in Latin America. It’s a world of difference bound together by place and worthy of a blog post of its own.

Last night we listened to a reading by Jack Kerouac recorded in 1958. The reading was at Brandeis University where Kerouac and others were invited to speak about the “Beat Generation“. It was a remarkable evening. We sat on the couch and just listened. There was no music, nor were there pictures, to go along with the reading. It was just the reading, our ears, and our thoughts while listening. I couldn’t believe how quiet and peaceful it was. Even our cats sat beside us, affected by the peace and nostalgia of a time and reading that took place before our birth.

Periodically I realize how much noise fills my life, and with the noise it’s hard to hear the voices that matter. Last night was such a time. I could have sat on the couch for hours, just listening. I didn’t have the luxury of hours. Bread was baking in the oven, towels were sitting in the washing machine waiting to be put into the dryer, and other tasks yelled out “Me next! Do me! I’ve been waiting” like the noise of a room full of school children waiting for ice cream. But in the bit of time we spent as a family, gathered around the “21st century radio” called the computer, listening to an author read a poetic piece, the noise was significantly absent. I felt an envy for the pre-television and computer generations and wondered what it would be like if daily, instead of rushing to our own worlds after dinner, we gathered around and listened to a radio reading. There is something more imaginative about radio. The listener is not spoon fed an image, or viewpoint, but can process in a different way than television and computer allow. There isn’t the same clamor for attention.

I put noise into my life that doesn’t have to be there. I complain about how complicated life gets, not realizing that I am part of the complication. Jack Kerouac, as heard from a recording years after his death, gave me a chance to re-think that noise and complication and for a few minutes, just rest.

10 thoughts on “A Radio Reminder

  1. Thank you Marilyn, it is a timely reminder that I need to make a conscious decision to take myself apart from the noise and busyness every now and then and refresh my soul, even if it is just sitting on the back deck in the beautiful sunshine in peace and quiet for a few minutes. It is also equally important that I teach my children the value of doing the same because their world is more cluttered with technology and being busy than mine is.


  2. when mike was in grad school we used to have friends — two couples — who’d come over (was it once a week? can’t remember) and bring something to read to everyone that we’d enjoyed….i miss those evenings….


    1. How fun! I always think of expat living as spending much more time connecting than many do in the US – although with increased technology – maybe not? What do you think Marty?


  3. Did his dad write, “In the Wild” and “Into thin air”…I’ve never read THOSE books but I’m reading a book called, “Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of Violent Faith” by a Kerouac…I think it’s John, but the book isn’t right next to me, so not for sure…


  4. It sounds blissfully relaxing. i remember listening on car journeys to Cold Comfort Farm being read – the best memory was the silence followed by collective hysteria as we laughed at Seth’s chest heaving like bubbling porridge in a pot.


  5. Interesting that Kerouac, expert on and part of the ‘beat generation’, a rebel in his time, nowadays has us waxing nostalgic and quoting scripture! This is not criticism, I too am a Kerouac fan, just an observation of how quickly societal norms change.


    1. It’s so true Bruce – interesting. It is interesting looking back on some rebels, and seeing their lives as such a journey of searching for truth. I have no idea if he found it…..Thanks for the insight


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