K & The Dharma Bums

An abused child does not know it is being abused, and in order to survive and avoid the unbearable pain, the mind is provided with the mechanism of memory  repression which stores these experiences in a place outside of consciousness.The idea of forgetting but not forgiving as a backfiring mechanism of dysfunctionality, though the initial banishing of traumatic events was seen as a means of restraining overwhelming anxiety. This is what writer Alice Miller called “The Drama of the Gifted Child.” There is double entendre here, for gifted children are often the products of abuse, with one flaw,  if the overriding need for admiration  is not forthcoming, then there is risk of severe depression.

Kafka, Crumb, Mairowitz

Kafka, Crumb, Mairowitz



“Any person who abuses his children has himself been severely traumatized in his childhood in some form or another. This statement applies without exception since it is absolutely impossible for someone who has grown up in an environment of honesty, respect, and affection ever to feel driven to torment a weaker person in such a way as to inflict lifelong damage. He has learned very early on that it is right and proper to provide the small, helpless creature with protection and guidance; this knowledge, stored at that early age in his mind and body, will remain effective for the rest of his life.”( Alice Miller )kafka2

Imagine being privy to a  group therapy with Franz Kafka. Jack Kerouac, the Dharma Bum is there. Kafka likes the graphic novel approach of Robert Crumb on his illustrated book ”Kafka”; also he admires Kerouac’s consciousness probing work, though friend Max Brod terms it ”beat zen”, a shade too self conscious for his tastes, but applauds Kerouac’s approach to dualism.I’m OK you’re Ok, everyone’s OK.  Its not difficult to of understand the popularity of the idea  of Kafka, according to Allen Ginsberg. The phenomenon of Kafka. The commodification and branding of fright, anxiety, gentleness, cruelty and brilliance . His sense of nightmare, that pervasive dream-logic and creepy alienation produces a shiver in most anybody who comes across it because of the impending doom.  He had an oppressive and abusive father that, like Prague, he could never escape. He had troubled relationships with all the women he was attracted to, and he never got the respect for his writing in his life time that he deserved.

Kafka, ver. Francais, Crumb, Mairowitz

Kafka, ver. Francais, Crumb, Mairowitz



Kafka remarks that Crumb and Mairowitz’s book on him may reveal a couple salient points about Crumb as well such as Crumb’s attempt to vent his childhood Hell with his own father and a depth of related emotions uncharacteristic of the personality he formally displays.In the sense of Kafka being anti-writing the way Crumb was anti-comic; each a response to traditional conceptions imposing a conservatism on the form. Kafka and to an extent Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac put a ”fatwah” to the head of myth.The idea that living itself is a tragedy, and the recourse to humour being being a drug to rend euphoric; to avoid being protected by humour, but to face the tragedy naked. Somehow, someone has to kitty up for that laugh when the actor is feeling cheap ,or worse ,when destitute. Brother, can you spare a dime?kafka4

” In an autobiography one cannot avoid writing ‘ often’ where truth would require that ‘once’ be written. For one always remains conscious that the word ‘once’ explodes that darkness on which the memory draws; and though it is not altogether spared by the word ‘often’, either, it is at least preserved in the opinion of the writer, and he is carried across parts which perhaps never existed at all in his life but serve him as a substitut

r those which his memory can no longer guess at”. ( Franz Kafka, Diaries. pg.163 )

” Alice Miller also showed me the dark power of not facing the truth. Her writings helped me recognize how many of our denials in relation to violence of all types (or the vastness of the nastiness we have towards each other) have their roots in the depths of the childhoods we carry with us throughout our lives. Our tendency to redefine violence as something other than violence, our tendency to deny the harm of violence, our tendency to blame victims upon whom we inflict violence, all of these techniques for making bad into good, reflect our defensive reactions to the violations of our dignity experienced as the first victims of violence, ourselves as children.”( Lucien Lombardo on Alice Miller )kafka5

David Mairowitz writes and R. Crumb illustrates a terrific biography of Kafka. Synopses of his major works are interspersed chronologically with his biography, which indicates  how Kafka’s feelings of alienation and inadequacy shaped his fiction and perhaps forged the ruthless honesty and self awareness that is his enduring trademark. Crumb’s own mixture of neurosis, perfectionism, sexuality and ghoulish detail breathes an eerie light on Franz K and perhaps Crumb’s own sense of guilt and of being an outcast.  Crumb’s art is filled with Kafka’s own insurmountable neuroses,that dart and weave through a narrative about mortality,a euphemism for psychological death row. The deeply idiosyncratic Crumb simply adds  new layers to the existing density and infinitely eccentric  world of Kafka.Mairowitz and Crumb seem to lock horns with Kafka to produce a readable, haunting account of a life of almost unbearable intensity.

The book includes adaptations of “The Judgment,” “The Trial,” “The Castle,” “A Hunger Artist,” and “The Metamorphosis.Mairowitz is a Kafka scholar whose words come to life with the brilliant illustrations of R. Crumb. Together they trace Kafka’s life, his family and social influences, his relationships with women, and their effects on his various works.The book goes into detail on all these issues and lets us see his world – a depressing world where it seems his only escape was his writing.

” It is easy to recognize a concentration in me of all my forces on writing. When it became clear in my organism that writing was the most productive direction for my being to take, everything rushed in that direction and left empty all those abilities which were directed towards the joys of sex, eating, drinking, philosophical reflection, and above all music. I atrophied in all these directions. This was necessary because the totality of my strengths was so slight that only collectively could they even half way serve the purpose of my writing” ( Franz Kafka, Diaries,1912 )

 Throughout the book are illustrated excerpts of major Kafka works including: an early story ‘The Judgement’, the famous “Metamorphosis’ where Gregor Samsa turns into an enormous bug; “The Burrow” an animal fable; “In the Penal Colony” with the new killing machine invention; his best known work, the novel, “The Trial” where ‘K’ is arrested – but for what?; “The Castle” the second of three novels; “A Hunger Artist” who is a sideshow freak for his ability to starve himself, and “Amerika” his last unfinished novel. Crumb, known for his underground comics, has taken that style of art to an elevated and respectful form, yet with harmony and fluidity. His drawing style is the technical equal of any illustrator. Yet beyond that he has a gift for characterization , an eye for detail, and the ability to illustrate any scene.

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