from ‘Search by Night’ by Jack Kerouac (Dec. 1941)

“From the low-lit fastnesses of my study, I looked solemnly at the newspaper headlines. On my desk, its brown pigeon-holes stuffed with ledger, manuscripts, sheet, inkwell, sentimental token . . . . on this desk of mine I lay the screaming visage of a Hearst tabloid—it said: JAPAN DECLARES WAR ON U.S.A.! PEARL HARBOR BOMBED!

“Outside the window, in the yard between my house and my neighbors, there glowed the cold crater silver of a December moon in New England . . . . and there was silence as of death, upon the cold hard ground. Frost decorated the window, Dickens-like. I looked out upon the winter night, was silent in the presence of a stupendous hush, listening for the sigh of our slumbering hearts. . . .”

Nineteen-year-old writer Jack Kerouac was living in Pawtucketville in December 1941. He wrote a short story about walking around the city on the night of the attack in Hawaii. The narrator “searches” for the new “War” in the city and finds the spirit of  the place remains constant. He perceives “a great current of courage, even daring, and a blessed love of casualness & calmness that shows itself only in times of great emergency.” The complete story is included in “Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings” by Jack Kerouac (Penguin Books, 1999).

2 Responses to from ‘Search by Night’ by Jack Kerouac (Dec. 1941)

  1. Kerouac fan says:

    The many faceted Jack. Evokes for me the Fifties, don’t know why, (I wasn’t alive in the Forties), an innocence, the world was younger then, without the car and double-glazing we were closer to nature. The juxtaposition of the war announcement and that near to nature peacefulness.

    ~ Al of “Beat_Happening” website.