in part one of this post i mentioned the striking visual components of the exhibit, notably the kerouac artwork on public display for the first time. in addition, the many familiar photos of kerouac and his friends (often included in the books about kerouac and the beats) were powerful visuals - framed and free of the limitations of reproduction in books. and the unrolled scroll itself, an imposing visual as it immediately confronts visitors to the exhibit. it physically dominated the exhibit hall space as the scroll spanned the length of the gallery!
but the impact of kerouac's written work can't be missed. the title, "beatific soul," captures the meaning that "beat" took in kerouac's mind. he didn't use it to connote "down and out," the traditional meaning. instead, kerouac gave it a spiritual dimension when he insisted that it meant "beatitude." he made repeated allusions to the b-attitudes and christ's sermon on the mount to flesh out his positive, upbeat, interpretation of the term. he viewed with increasing sadness, the reversion back to the "down and out" usage, as the beat generation took off in popular culture.
kerouac's poetry and prose from the 50s also reflected significant buddhist influences that he absorbed as a result of all the eastern philosophy and scripture he immersed himself in. during that period he wrote the sutra, "the scripture of the golden eternity" collected his voluminous study materials in book form as "some of the dharma," and published, perhaps his second most popular book after "on the road," - the dharma bums.
sadly, the 60s witnessed a jack kerouac that spiraled uncontrollably downward into alcoholism. still, on the eve of his alcohol fueled death, kerouac produced meaningful work - such as "vanity of dulouz."
even without the original scroll, this isn't something to miss. if you find yourself anywhere near midtown before march 16 - go check it out! and it's free.