About Me

Tollesbury, Essex, United Kingdom
I was born in the Summer of 1969 in Dagenham, just on the border of East London. School was largely unproductive but enjoyable, setting me up for something of a wayward but interesting life! On leaving school I had various jobs including putting up stalls at Romford Market, working in a record shop, putting up ceilings, gardening and road sweeping. After resigning from an insurance company to play in a band, I found myself unemployed for two years. Then finally I got back on my feet and I've been a psychiatric nurse since 1997. I wrote A Cleansing of Souls when I was 22 years old and followed it up with Tollesbury Time Forever almost twenty years later. I started writing The Bird That Nobody Sees in September 2011 and it was released in July 2012. In terms of writing, my heroes are Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck. I would also include Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits as literary influences. So that's me I guess - scruffy, happy and in love with literary fiction, music and life...

Friday, 3 February 2012

Jack Kerouac and me...

Now we all have our heroes and we all have our demons - Jack Kerouac is both of those to me.

I have often considered how I became aware of him for it certainly wasn't at school and his books weren't around me at home whilst I was growing up. I can only think it was a photo that I saw of Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Jack Kerouac's grave - I believe it was taken during the Rolling Thunder Review tour that Bob Dylan did in the mid-seventies. And then I read a Bob Dylan biography by Robert Shelton which gave a little more information - getting into Tom Waits when I worked at Downtown Records in Romford again steered me towards Jack and so in time I, like so many other confused, misused, strung-out-ones and worse, bought a copy of On The Road. I would have been about nineteen at the time and I was Holden Caulfield in all but accent - phoneys everywhere and no insight into the fact that I may have been the phoneyist of them all!

So what did I think of On The Road? If I'm being honest, I didn't really care for it. I remember struggling through it almost like I was panning for gold, looking for answers that would lead me to higher ground, to a finer place to be. No, it wasn't On The Road that lit the flame in me, but Big Sur - that visceral, wonderful, desperately sad account of Jack Kerouac's attempts to cope with his sudden fame and his burgeoning alcohol problem. Now I wasn't famous but, when I read it I did like a drink. But never had I read anything so powerful and beautiful. It was like I was in his head and he was in my mind. And then it was just one short step to the book that has been, and potentially will be, the ruin of me - Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia - the biography of Jack Kerouac.

My wife, Rebecca, says that she worries whenever I read it; something happens to me - I certainly start drinking more and with that comes an exacerbation of my insomnia, inherent recklessness, tiredness and introspection. Not good ingrediants for a happy marriage, I'm sure you'll agree. Yet I have this deep belief that I write better when I have alcohol in me. And I can see why the life story of Jack Kerouac affects me so. It's because I regret so much that I wasn't able to save him. It is a tragic story of a wonderful man who had a gift that is give once every thousand years. Yet he made the conscious decision to drink himself to death.

In terms of Jack Kerouac's influence on me as a writer, well that has developed as I have grown in confidence. Here is a selection of his advice on writing:

1. Submissive to everything, open, listening
2. Be in love with yr life
3. Something that you feel will find its own form
4. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
5. Blow as deep as you want to blow
6. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
7. The unspeakable visions of the individual
8. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
9. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
10. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
11. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
12. Believe in the holy contour of life
13. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
14. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
15. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
16. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
17. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
18. You're a Genius all the time

And the older I get, the more I understand how he was truly ahead of his time. People saw him as a drunk yet, to my mind, he was a genius - all the time.

I guess I should finish by recommending my favourite Jack Kerouac book, now that I've got round to reading them all - and that is The Dharma Bums (there is a link to the right if you want to get it.) It is a book of beauty and hope and, of course, some of the most magnificent prose in the English language.

I shall let Jack have the final word...

“Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that's the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there, with the Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters. And if your cans are redhot and you can't hold them in your hands, just use good old railroad gloves, that's all.”

― Jack Kerouac (The Dharma Bums)


Nick Wilford said...

I really should read some Kerouac and this post inspires me to do so. I can see how the style of prose is a bit offputting at first, but it seems he's really got under your skin! Passion about your literary heroes is a great thing to see.

I've nominated you for the Versatile Blogger AND Kreativ Blogger awards, Stu! The details are at my blog. :)

Stu Ayris said...

He has indeed Nick - he is WONDERFUL! Awards? You fine man you!! Someone wrote a review on the US Amazon site tonight saying Tollesbury Time Forever would win awards - and here they are - the nominations already!!! ; )


Holden Caulfield, where do the ducks go in the winter? Do men come in trucks and take them away? And that rakish orange hunting hat of yours . . .

Whoops, you took me into JD Salinger land and I came to say you tributed well the great Kerouac. Showed me a further dimension of you, it did. Go easy on that wife of yours though - you keep expressing a fond love when she designs covers for the lot o'you. Don't let her worry so, eh?

Just do #11, Stu -- "Write in recollection and amazement for yourself." Best way to get drunk ... on life and how it grips ya

~ Absolutely*Kate