Looking for Kerouac
by Mercedes Webb-Pullman
This is a story that takes you across America in series of flashbacks, ruminations and remnants of real events reminiscent of the heyday of the counter-culture moments in 1960s American literature.
Author Mercedes Webb-Pullman delivers a delicious on the road account of her travels across America in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac. The sounds, sights, tastes; you really experience the story in what feels like real time.
Using the road and rail route taken by Kerouac, Webb-Pullman crosses the worn highways of America, encountering unique individuals who embody the diversity of being outsiders. These characters are desperate, disparate, transient and are as a result, compelling.
The sub plot reveals that she has partially travelled this route before with Kevin, her now ex-husband. Kevin philandered and drugged his way through their honeymoon, 30 years earlier and within this narrative, Webb-Pullman is able to redress the events suffered on that trip but on her own terms.
There is humour and it is unexpected. The author recalls taking 100 aspirin after a seismic letdown as a 16 year old. Her parents - clashing - stymie her date with her boyfriend Noel. At the hospital the author makes herself sick, after which the attending GP madly searches the thrown-up contents to ascertain the amount of pills taken, confusing pills for sweetcorn eaten earlier. It positions the author as somehow normal in an environment of abnormal, something Webb-Pullman is outstanding at describing.
Webb-Pullman is not afraid to explore the difficulties of Kerouac's sexuality, drug taking and for herself studies an explosive time in American writing. She is unafraid as a writer.
This is the nature of stream-of-consciousness writing. It places this story within the genres of travel, memoir and biographic writing.
Enjoy reading this book. It is the perfect weekend read – all in one day.
Katherine is an Auckland writer who blogs, reviews and studies art history.