The Brits have funny ideas about American culture if they think that Smokey and the Bandit is somehow part of the Beat legacy. (Hey, why not RV, then? Kenny Rogers’ Six Pack?) But I appreciate the London Times asking—in the wake of the universally scathing reviews of the Jack Kerouac-William S. Burroughs collaboration, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks—what useful legacy the Beats actually have. Not much, on the evidence presented here, though the story is pretty fluffy. Still, it gets at a couple of the relevant issues about the Beat influence on American literature and culture, and calls out what is indeed one of the worst Beat lines: Kerouac’s “Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”
The Independent recently ran a more substantive piece about the genesis of the Kerouac-Burroughs collaboration and its final publication. Which leads me to ask: Are the Brits the only people who care about the Beat legacy anymore?