kerouac face

It is a little-known fact that Jack Kerouac was the first howler monkey to break into the literary arts, as evidenced by the photo above (left), taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1953 and which I have juxtaposed to a stock photo of a stock howler monkey (right) as clear and indisputable proof. Ginsberg, in the note scrawled at the bottom of the original print, called this expression of Kerouac’s “a Dostoyevsky mad-face or Russian basso be-bop Om” which is, of course, completely nonsensical, as was the style at the time. Contrary to Ginsberg’s description (and, it seems, his effort at deception to protect the true identity of his friend) the famous Kerouac Face is in fact, as any naturalist will tell you, the signature expression of the howler monkey. And no one knows what a “basso be-bop Om” is anyway, nor should they care.

The significance of this matter lies not only in its power to explain why Kerouac’s writing falters and fades into basso be-bop blather from about page 236 of On The Road (no matter which copy) to the end of his career, as one would expect of a monkey with a typewriter and a pretty good initial idea. It also demonstrates the inherent and often pleasurable, although simplistic, creativity of primates, a further glimpse of which we’ve recently been provided in the form of the now-infamous monkey selfie, as anyone who has ever made faces or obscene gestures at monkeys in a zoo will be able to attest. Moreover, this might also serve to explain why the first draft of On The Road was composed on a paragraph-less scroll by an author quite openly opposed revision and rewriting, for monkeys tend to lack certain kinds of discretion that, in humans, are generally what lead to greater levels of refinement and palatability. Much the same phenomenon can be observed today in the work of Dave Eggers and Jonathan Franzen, for example, although these writers are most likely entirely human imitators of monkey art, whether they know it or not, and are in greater need of restraint than they are of editors.

Regardless of its flaws and idiosyncrasies, Kerouac’s oeuvre must be considered the epitome of monkey art to date, thus, by illogical inference, placing howler monkeys at the apex of the order of primates in terms of creative output, if not of monkey creativity considered more abstractly. And if this, the work of but a single monkey mind at a single typewriter, is any indication of the validity and significance of the Infinite Monkey Theorem, it seems we would do well to give more typewriters, computers, cell phones, tablets, and pads and pens to more monkeys as soon as possible, and remove these tools of the trade from the hands of contemporary human interlopers like Eggers, Franzen, Dan Brown, E.L. James, and the woman who wrote those Twilight books, for their works, by way of misidentification, give monkey writing an undeserved bad name, and pale in comparison to the great master Kerouac.

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