Mad to Live: On the Road and the Beat/Boho Resurgence (An Ode)

As a boho ’50s fetishist (the aesthetic, just to be clear),  I find this to be kind of a weird thing:

 

 

But maybe not. We, the endless nostalgia machines in the age of Occupy, are now re-imagining the last time anyone can remember where we really gave the finger to a guy in a suit.

Maybe I’m just touchy because the rest of culture has exposed my own warm-hued high school fantasies: rock star poets! Fuck the man! Rugged rebellion!

What would Kerouac think? Eh, he’d probably love it. Talking to Nick Flynn about his new movie made me realize how rad it would be to see your memoir translated to the silver screen. At least, I guess, if it’s done well. Let’s hope that On the Road doesn’t screw up fucking Kerouac. If so, we’ve got bigger problems as a culture that I choose to not think about at this moment because I really want to believe that America is ready for whatever the new version of this is:

 

 

Anyway, I wrote the book because we’re all gonna die.

The Beats were seekers, optimists, Icaruses. They were complex, problematic. Sexist, for sure, and queer, too. But it’s amazing, isn’t it, to think of a less cynical time — when American artists felt they were making something wholly new?

And who’s to say we aren’t? I’d argue, most passionately, that we are. If you know where to look:

So, back to the slightly nauseating, slightly awesome upcoming ’50s revival. Of course this period of glory and rebellion is being spoon fed back to us. How do I know it’s so? Because of this:

 

Taylor Kitsch, who looks nothing like Mr. Dean, for GQ.

 

And this:

 

 

I mean, to be honest, I mostly love this. Who but Michael Bastian could “modernize” James Dean?

 

 

And when it works, it works:

 

 

 

But what will you do with this look? What will Gant and this inspire you to do? Buy penny loafers? Clubmasters? Can style give you more than a crewneck sweatshirt? At the danger of sounding hopelessly earnest, isn’t the central thesis of IBC that style and identity, aesthetics and art, are possibilities to ask questions, to challenge your identity, to better express and know yourself in all your multitudes?

 

 

You know, I hope so. This look is deeply inspiring to me in form. But romantically, emotionally–I have a visceral reaction to it, as well: these emblems of a time before I existed, maybe, but more as symbols of the teenager I was, finding myself in poetry on dog day afternoons, and the fuzzy future of who I wanted to be. Gracefully digressing from the mainstream. Passionately and handsomely living my dream.

Maybe I’m just a nostalgia machine, too, but still believe the message: that I can create my world through love and art alone, that I can make my own America.

 

About Thomas Page McBee

Gentleman first, always. James Dean is my patron saint, poet is my gender. More about me here: www.thomaspagemcbee.com

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