introducing readers to writers since 1995

August 18, 2004

Oh, and One Other Thing...

by Ron Hogan

Paul Maher's little rant at me assumed that I panned his book because I don't like Kerouac, as he accused, "Are you so steeped in your hatred for the genre that you instead lash out blindly with crass generalizations?"

First, the collected works of Jack Kerouac are not a "genre." Perhaps Maher was thinking of the word "oeuvre;" such a mistake would not be unusual for him, as his book is riddled with similarly misapplied vocabulary. Second, and more substantially, though I don't like Kerouac as much as I like other authors, that's not why I found Maher's book so godawful. And I can prove it: I'm also the guy who just praised Doug Brinkley's editing job on Kerouac's early notebooks. Check out the PW review for Windblown World, excerpted thusly:

Brinkley... addresses [Kerouac's] religious devotion in an introduction that effectively establishes the historical context, clarifying, too, just how much time Kerouac really spent refining the allegedly spontaneous On the Road. Still, there's plenty of the familiar Kerouac on hand: all-night drunken conversations with other Beat writers, casual sexual encounters and a final notebook entitled "Rain and Rivers," filled with real-life episodes in an early version of the freewheeling style that transformed Kerouac from a promising young novelist to a literary legend. These journals are an essential resource for American literature scholars, but the force of Kerouac's personality makes them an engrossing read for lay admirers.

I don't "lash out blindly" at anything. I read, and I form an opinion, and I call it like I see it. Kerouac, though he's not my favorite writer by a long shot, is a much more "engrossing read" on the subject of himself than Paul Maher, whose shortcomings as a writer are hardly Kerouac's fault. So maybe Maher should stop trying to blame Kerouac for his negative reviews.


the "genre" inquestion is beat literature

Posted by: Maher at August 18, 2004 07:19 PM

As an English teacher, Mr. Maher, you no doubt know the tradition wherein a noun or pronoun is generally considered to refer to an antecedent if it is intended to refer to anything at all. Now, let us consider the following statement on your part:

"For example, the new material I unearthed about Kerouac's formative years in Lowell has been positively received by many who know and love Kerouac's work . . are you so steeped in your hatred for the genre that you instead lash out blindly with crass generalizations?"

By what possible standard of literate English is a sensible reader supposed to infer that by "genre" you mean "beat literature" rather than "Kerouac's work," especially considering that the phrase "beat literature" does not appear anywhere in your complaint prior to the statement quoted above?

In an earlier comment this afternoon, you sarcastically said that you were "sorry to express yourself." You should have quit while you were...well, not "ahead," really, but at least not lagging as far behind as you are now. You really are the only writer I've ever seen who diminishes himself further every time he writes.

Posted by: editor at August 18, 2004 07:39 PM

You really are an angry fellow aren't you? I am having a civil conversation. If I did not clearly phrase a sentence properly in order for you to infer it correctly, then I apologize. I guess it's your style to bitch-slap authors because their writing isn't up to your standards . . . and maybe that's the tenor of your web site. However, I made the mistake thinking I could be civil and explain where I went wrong in my book and how I plan on correcting it for future editions. You know, I actually listen to my critics, i don't blow them off. For this, it offends you?
Listen, I accept criticism (when it's fair, not trashing something out and out because everything has some merit) and appreciate people pointing out factual errors. If you were a civil and fair critic, you would say, "here is a guy that acknowledges his errors, my criticism worked now I will lay off." But you keep on the topic like I am a corrupt politician running for office or a threat to society. I respond here because the absurdity of this discourse is morbidly fascinating. This is my first book, I accept whatever went wrong with it as my own fault (like I stated in the preface). I will fix it in the trade edition. 'Nuff said. Oh yeah, I am glad you like Brinkley's book, it really is an amazing read.

Posted by: Paul Maher at August 18, 2004 07:54 PM

I have to say, this string of ever more agitated posts is awfully odd for a man who said around six posts ago that he could now "forget" the Editor of this page.

As a casual observer of this exchange, and as one who has not read either your book or Brinkley's, I can tell you that your view of yourself as outlined above is hilariously skewed. In fact, you come across here as a petulant child, stomping your little foot and whining ever more loudly. Do yourself a favor: step away from the computer and take a walk. Or have a glass of wine. But stop making a fool of yourself.

Posted by: Laura at August 18, 2004 08:06 PM

You didn't "explain where [you] went wrong in [your] book," you defensively conceded that mistakes were made and claimed that you would correct them. Frankly, I think most readers would share my low opinion of any writer with such a cavalier attitude towards the quality of his own published work. How can you expect us to take your work seriously when you yourself did not take it seriously enough to avoid simple mistakes the first time around? That you can be so unprofessional in what you claim to be a "definitive biography" boggles the mind. Furthermore, you claim with a straight face "[you] accept whatever went wrong with it as [your] own fault" mere hours after blaming Taylor's marketing department for the very title of your book. Your ineptitude, sir, is matched only by your audacity.

The standards to which I hold your words are not of my own devising, but commonly accepted standards for well-crafted prose, standards that are taught in classrooms across America and adhered to by just about any reputable publisher. Again, a true professional who cared enough about his work would put it together correctly the first time, not glibly shrug off mistakes that would embarrass a junior-high student as something to correct in alleged future editions and second passes.

You claimed upon your very first visit to this website that, having learned my identity, you could now "forget" me. Your continued presence here reaffirms your intellectual dishonesty in that regard as well. And your plaintive bleating that "everything has some merit" is simply laughable in its untruthfulness. It is, one can only hope, the last refuge you will cling to here.

Posted by: editor at August 18, 2004 08:36 PM
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