“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

I was out for a walk recently and, just for fun, decided to mentally re-write Roger Hargreave’s children’s book ‘Mr Happy’ in the style of Jack Kerouac. As you do.

By the time I had finished my walk the story had grown into a seedy, sprawling tale of drinking, wild nights and a rather confused salvation. With all this buzzing around my head I then made an unrelated ‘phone call which required me to leave a simple message on an answering machine.

Unfortunately, the spellbindingly long labyrinths of sentences that Kerouac inspires had affected my speech and what came out (and onto the answering machine) was the longest, most elaborate and confused message I’ve ever left. It was so messed up it even contain references to itself. When I finally thought I’d wrapped it up I heard myself say (to a machine), “good to talk to you.” I should have stopped there, but no. There followed an extended ramble on why what I had just said wasn’t possible. All the while the helpful voice in my head was shouting, “Stop! Hang up!”

Writing or rewriting a text in the style of another has serious (if playful) academic uses. It’s known as Textual Intervention and it can be an enjoyable way to examine a writer’s craft and the way writings can be perceived. Just be careful when you do it.

Or, as Kerouac himself once said. “Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”


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