College junior Jason Jadick has found a creative idea for being uncreative.
At 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, he sat down in front of his laptop in the eighteenth hour of a marathon to retype Jack Kerouac’s novel, “The Subterraneans”. This would eventually end up as a 24-hour feat, streamed live on YouTube and updated hourly on a Tumblr blog.
Jadick, who is enrolled in English professor Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing course, has taken on this challenge as his final project for the class. In the context of widespread sampling and digital sharing of art, the class aims to employ strategies of appropriation, replication, plagiarism and piracy to respond to this new art culture.
By this project, Jadick hopes to “bring Kerouac back into this century.”
However, this isn’t the first time somebody has attempted to re-type a Jack Kerouac book. Jadick drew inspiration for his project from British artist Simon Morris. Morris spent more than a year retyping Kerouac’s most famous book, “On the Road”, one page per day on a blog, eventually publishing his version as “Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head”. Kerouac, one of the most iconic writers of the Beat Generation, helped to create a cultural phenomenon of spontaneous creativity and unexpurgated literary expression.
Instead of typing “On The Road”, which would have taken Jadick more than four straight days of typing at world-record speed to finish, he decided to pick “The Subterraneans” — an 111-page novel that Kerouac wrote in just three days in 1957.
“This is the first book I read of Jack in my senior year of high school,” he said. “My brain is so different from then, I’d probably be coming across things I’ve never realized before.”
Jadick strongly feels that this project is really worth something. “I might go insane, but at the same time I feel that it’s a really good time to reflect. In many ways, I might come to really grasp ‘The Subterraneans’ more than anyone who’s reading it,” he said.
During the process, the online community could watch Jadick’s every move, an experience he compared to being in some “weird reality TV show.”
In addition, the online community responded well to Jadick’s efforts. His project generated over 70 Twitter posts that reference it, including one from a senior editor of The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal.
“People online were either cheering for me, or asking why,” Jadick said. One Twitter post seemingly responded to it by remarking “Because, why not?”
Though he was sleep-deprived and sometimes near hallucination, Jadick never thought of giving up, spurred on by the support of friends, classmates and his English professor. A former cross-country runner, he pressed on with the determination of an accomplished athlete, finally completing this “long walk of retracing Kerouac’s fingers.”
After finishing the book, Jadick had the opportunity to really examine the story. “When I originally read [The Subterraneans], I was kind of admiring Jack Kerouac’s attitude of just being miserable and how you need to move through it. This time around, I felt really sorry for him,” he said.
Like Morris, Jadick hopes to get his re-typing effort published in the form of a printed book, with the content organized by what he typed by hour. He also plans to trim down the 24-hour footage into a shorter video to highlight his project.
To anyone who plans to pull off a similar marathon retyping project, Jadick said, “Just do it.”