Sunday, October 20, 2013

ModPo 2013 #41 The Perfect Babble Flow-er is a Cylon Hybrid: On Kerouac's Spontaneous Prose

Image of Cylon Hybrid of Battlestar Galactica from

A link to Jack Kerouac's "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose" is here.
A link to Kerouac's "Belief and Technique for Modern Prose" is here.
A link to Kerouac's opening paragraphs to "October in the Railroad Earth" is here.

And lastly, here's Kerouac on "October in the Railroad Earth" during an interview with Ted Berrigan for The Paris Review
Kerouac: ...the prose in "October in the Railroad Earth," very experimental, intended to clack along all the way like a steam engine pulling a one-hundred-car freight with a talky caboose at the end, that was my way at the time and it still can be done if the thinking during the swift writing is confessional and pure and all excited with the life of it. And be sure of this, I spent my entire youth writing slowly with revisions and endless rehashing speculation and deleting and got so I was writing one sentence a day and the sentence had no FEELING. Goddamn it, FEELING is what I like in art, not CRAFTINESS and the hiding of feelings.

Here's a link to the whole interview.


What magic is this? Kerouac manages to blur the difference between prose and poetry by tapping into a "sea of language" and just "flowing" with it, making analogies between blues music jamming and writing. In the video discussion, it's clear that this is a fantasy. Language is language, there is no "bypassing" it, no matter how honest and sincere the writer is.

Here, I could not help but find a metaphor for "babble flow" in a TV series (of all things! but one of my favorites) called (the Reimagined) Battlestar Galactica from the Syfy channel. In the classic battle between man and machine, the machines have fashioned themselves very similarly to human beings by making their building blocks organic. In the course of their transformation, their spacecraft "brains" are not supercomputers but rather a humanoid submerged in a re-birthing tank, attached to the spacecraft's many computers and mechanical functions through umbilical-like cords. What interests me about this hybrid is her utterances: random, poem-like, "babble flow" with repetitions and drunken associations tied together in a stream.

Here's a sample: "Two protons expelled at each coupling site creates the mode of force, the embryo becomes a fish that we don't enter until a plate, we're here to experience evolve the little toe, atrophy, don't ask me how I'll be dead in a thousand light years, thank you, thank you. Genesis turns to its source, reduction occurs stepwise though the essence is all one. End of line. FTL system check, diagnostic functions within parameters repeats the harlequin the agony exquisite, the colors run the path of ashes, neuronal network run fifty-two percent of heat exchanger cross-collateralized with hyper-dimensional matrix, upper senses, repair ordered relay to zero zero zero zero."

There is a theory that the hybrid is a kind of being that is entirely open to everything, her "brain" captures not just the ship but the cosmos and is therefore utterly incomprehensible but a god-like cypher/ oracle of all things. Isn't this the poet/ spontaneous prose writer of which Kerouac speaks? You can't get any more honest and FEELING than that hybrid...not just on the level of function but also on the level of being. The perfect spontaneous prose writer has emerged in the form of a science fiction character. :-)

"Babble flow" is frustrating as it is a wonderful attempt at capturing the inadequacies of language. It makes the writer an antennae. But what is the difference, then, between "babble flow" and a Dadaist poem? How would one distinguish which is which when they could very well sound alike? Questions, questions.

My only other comment about Jack Kerouac is: he is HOT. :-)

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