Old Angel Midnight is one of the great delights of the boundless improvisational world. Jack Kerouac’s ear is peerless, manifesting structures otherwise impossible. A masterpiece of the mind freed to fly. Read it aloud, for yourself, ‘for the sake of reading, and for the sake of the Tongue … Let’s hear the Sound of the Universe, son.’–Clark Coolidge
Old Angel Midnight is a treasure trove of Kerouac’s experiments with automatic writing, a method he practiced constantly to sharpen his imaginative reflexes. Recorded in a series of notebooks between 1956-1959, what Kerouac called his endless automatic writing piece began while he shared a cabin with poet Gary Snyder. Kerouac tried to emulate Snyder’s daily Buddhist meditation discipline, using the technique of letting go to free his mind for pure spontaneous writing, annotating the stream of words flowing through his consciousness in response to auditory stimuli and his own mental images.
Kerouac continued his exercise in spontaneous composition over the next three years, including a period spent with William Burroughs in Tangiers. He made no revisions to the automatic writing entries in his notebooks, which were collected and transcribed for publication as originally written. Old Angel Midnight attests to the success of Kerouac’s experiment and bears witness to his commitment to his craft, and to the pleasure he takes in writing: I like the bliss of mind.
Old Angel Midnight is the illuminated notebook, the ur-text, of Kerouac vision/voice/language. The golden rule Catholicism of New England mind in kahoots with free time Godhead consciousness. This is true beat pleasure. This is our music.–Thurston Moore