McEvoy seems to implicate that Cassady’s style is more “Wittgensteinian,” than,
what he calls “Griceian” – the spelling is not standard, but I’ll follow McEvoy
in adopting it.
Kerouac (as Kerouac misspelt his Breton surname) used to say, “the best piece
of writing I ever saw”. One of Cassady’s lovers said that Cassady was to be
_heard_, not _read_ -- and this may pose a problem to the Griceian. The
Griceian speaks of the ‘utterer’ (in this case, Cassady) and his addressee – in
this case Kerouac. It is, after all, a letter from Cassady to Kerouac, and
m-intended to be ‘read’. (In this, Cassady is perhaps more Griceian than
Salinger, who – as someone wrote in “The New Yorker” – ‘how can he avoid
publishing when language is so, er, social?’).
The Griceian stream of consciousness of Cassady’s letter to Kerouac inspired
Kerouac to write his stuff – but Kerouac was Columbia-educated, and this shows
(for good or bad).
Anyway, Cassady’s letter is now deposited at Emory. The first paragraphs read
as per below. And we can attempt a more Griceian analysis:
(i) Dear Jack:
To hell with all the dirty lousy sh*t, I've had enough horsesh*t. I got my own
pure little bangtail mind and the confines of its binding please me yet. I wake
to more horrors than Céline, not a vain statement for now I've passed thru just
repetitious shudderings and nightmare twitches. I have discovered new sure
doom, but this is my secret, and if I'm to find the pleasure of its devulgance
in recognizable form I must tighten my grip while abiding the wait of years...
I am fettered by cobwebs, countless fine creases indelibly etched on the brain.
There are no unexplored paths in my mind and few that are not entangled in the
weave of my misery mists. It is but gentle fog thru which I navigate and make
friendly by constant intimate communion.
It may be argued that by qualifying the noun with ‘dirty and lousy’, Cassady is
flouting Grice’s maxim, ‘be as informative as is required’ – in that ‘clean’
seems oxymoronic in this context. Oddly, Cassidy uses some lexical items that
Grice rejoiced in. One is ‘grip’ (Grice used to give the example, “He was
caught in the grip of a vyse”/”He was caught in the grip of a vice,” to show
that ‘vyse’ and ‘vice’ are two lexical items, and not ONE lexical item with two
senses (“Do not multiply senses beyond necessity” – the fact that both derive
from a Latin root that means ‘violence,’ Grice could care less. The other is
‘fettered’. Grice uses ‘unfettered’ as an example of an adjective that only has
ONE LITERAL sense, and only figurative uses. The fact that Cassady uses ‘brain’
makes him possibly a Smartian (the brain=soul identity thesis). “No unexplored”
is a case of something of a figure of rhetoric, as implicatures are, related to
‘meiosis’ and ‘litotes’. It is a double negative, “no unexplored” – but surely
had Cassady expressed “there are explored paths,” he would be violating a few
conversational maxims. Note that Cassady has used ‘brain’ and now uses ‘mind’
(not ‘soul’) which makes him a bit of a Cartesian dualist – unlike Popper, who
disliked Descartes’s type of dualism. “Entangled,” as used by Cassidy, is a
VERY Griceian word. When Short & Lewis decided to have ‘implicatura’ as an
entry for their “Latin Dictionary” (quoting Sidonius) they translated it as
‘entanglement,’ which is what an implicature is. “Misery mists” is a figure of
rhetoric, alliteration, that applies to the fourth of the four conversational
categories, according to Grice: MODUS – the way or ‘mode’ you express your
message. “Communion” is meant to please Kerouac. When asked what “On the road”
was about he replied, “Oh, a novel about two Catholics.” It may be argued that,
in terms of propositions (‘minding your ps and qs’), Cassady is more concerned
with what he is ABOUT to implicate – the addressee knew this, which helped.
Grice, H. P. The complete correspondence.
Cassady, N. L. The complete correspondence.