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Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac

Visions of Cody (1972)

by Jack Kerouac

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I’ve read 9 other novels by Kerouac (7 of which I’ve given 4+ stars), and consider him one of my favorite authors, but ‘Visions of Cody’ is a tough go. The first couple of chapters are uneven, but have some nice passages in the impressionist (or perhaps modern art) manner that Kerouac paints, with him bumming around New York and thinking of his friend Cody (Neal Cassady). His friendship with Cassady was so deep that in a letter to him he effused that he was his “lover”, that he “loves you and digs your greatness completely – haunted in the mind by you”. He’s lonely, thinking about life, reading Joyce, Proust, Melville, and Céline, doing a variety of drugs, and trying to scrape up a way of getting out to San Francisco. All of that sounds pretty interesting, but even so it’s pretty dense mining the nuggets of gold out of his stream of consciousness passages.

Where the novel breaks down for me, however, is chapter 3, featuring a 130 page transcript of Kerouac and Cassady high on marijuana, rambling on about nothing in particular. In the book’s notes, Allen Ginsberg does a phenomenal job describing why he finds this section compelling in six points (briefly summarized: 1. ‘Teahead’ talk and never before been transcribed and examined, 2. Despite monotony, the gaps and changes are dramatic, 3. It leads somewhere, 4. It is interesting if you know and love the characters, 5. It’s real, and 6. It’s art and relevant to progress in Kerouac’s art). That sounds fantastic but reading it is not, and it’s followed by 90 more pages of an “Imitation of the Tape”. There are some nice bits towards the end of the book, but it’s just tough to recover from this big block in the middle, which while heralded as a radical, experimental form, is to me an incoherent, literal transcript of a couple of guys getting high. It pains me to say this, but you can do much better with his other books. ( )
1 vote gbill | Mar 11, 2017 |
Hard to read unless you're really familiar with Kerouac's writing style and the beat generation mythology. Experimental. ( )
  littleredlemon | Apr 3, 2012 |
Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac (1993)
  Francostudies | Feb 5, 2009 |
I've enjoyed a lot of Kerouac on a fleeting basis - I was told 'On the Road' and 'Dharma Bums' were THE BOOKs to read. Lo and behold, it turns out those were just the commercial pop singles for an artist whose real masterpieces are the obscure deep album cuts.

My Desert Island Kerouac books are this and 'Doctor Sax,' for sheer aural sensual beauty. ( )
  Evadare | Nov 30, 2008 |
Read this many years ago, but it seemed to be a better, fuller, and more free treatment of some of the themes and characters of On The Road. Pure example of the Beat ideal of jazz-influenced writing with many thrilling, virtuoso passages and beautiful, lyrical moments.
  sb3000 | Nov 29, 2007 |
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This is an old diner like the ones Cody and his father ate in, long ago, with that oldfashioned railroad car ceiling and sliding doors - the board where the bread is cut is worn down fine as if with with bread dust and a plane; the icebox ("Say I got some nice homefries tonight Cody!") is a huge brownwood thing with oldfashioned pull-out handles, windows, tile walls, full of lovely pans of eggs, butter pats, piles of bacon - old lunchcarts always have a dish of sliced raw onions ready to go on hamburgs.
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An experimental novel which remained unpublished for years, "Visions of Cody" is Kerouac's fascinating examination of his own New York life, in a collection of colourful stream-of-consciousness essays. Transcribing taped conversations between members of their group as they took drugs and drank, this book reveals an intimate portrait of people caught up in destructive relationships with substances, and one another. Always fixated by Neal Cassady - the Cody of the title, renamed for the book along with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs - Kerouac also explores the feelings he had for a man who would inspire much of his work.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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