Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jack Kerouac Meets Buffalo Bill

Edward Zane Carroll Judson, better known by his pseudonym Ned Buntline, was a 19th-century author of dime novels. It is he who is usually credited with establishing the legend of William F. Cody as Buffalo Bill. Buntline could write as many as six dime novels in a week. His writing method, as it turns out, seems to have anticipated that of Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac (a method called spontaneous prose, about which Truman Capote once said, "That's not writing, it's typing"), who is said to have typed his novel On the Road on one long role of paper, with no revisions. Here's how Buntline described his way of working, as quoted in Robert A. Carter, Buffalo Bill Cody: The Man Behind the Legend (Edison NJ: Castle Books, 2000), p. 139—

I take a bound book of blank paper, set my title at the head of it, and begin to write about the fictitious character who is to be the hero of it. I push ahead as fast as I can write, never blotting out anything I have once written, and never making a correction or modification. If you will examine the leaves of my manuscript you will see that the pages are clean with no erasures—no interlineations. If a book does not suit me when I have finished it, or at any stage of its progress, I simply throw it in the fire and begin again, without any reference to the discarded text.