The beauty of Kerouac's story is it's timelessness, as is with all great works of art. It's lasting power is rooted in it's ability to speak to generaThe beauty of Kerouac's story is it's timelessness, as is with all great works of art. It's lasting power is rooted in it's ability to speak to generations following the Beats. As political and cultural tones shift, particularly in America, it boils down to logic that a group of people may feel disillusioned - on the outside yearning to fill a void left by being beaten and prodded by social norms and expectations.
No, I don't want a white picket fence or multi-car garage. I want to be free to roam; live as a nomad - a blank mind ready to be blown.
However, Kerouac illustrates, perhaps unintentionally, through his experiences with Dean Moriarty, that such a life and such a dream only deepens the crevice; like a dog chasing its own tail. One only feels exhausted and more "beat" - but with fantastic stories.
Of course this interpretation is not a defense of materialism, status or normality. Sal's willingness to drop everything and follow Dean at any moment shows that he is not content with the void and won't turn to materialistic means to fill it. But he never talks about if following Dean is actually good for Sal. Most experiences they share are through Dean's words or actions, as if Sal is just happy to live a life he admires rather than one he enjoys. If Sal admires the life, it is only natural he admire the man who embodies it, as Sal expresses a deep understanding of Dean, as a sort of Angel.
Kerouac seems to have little, if any, shame in telling the story of his chase - and its inability to satisfy. After all, most human endeavors (even incessant reading) have the same futility in filling this void carved out by the American mainstream. So I feel "On The Road" is a breath-takingly honest depiction of the problem rather than a solution.
Nevertheless, it is a problem. Though "On The Road" may not be the answer, at least they're looking....more
A writer must first have a passion for life before developing and wielding a talent for words. This is the nearest I've come to crediting a book's quaA writer must first have a passion for life before developing and wielding a talent for words. This is the nearest I've come to crediting a book's quality to life itself rather than to the writer. Yet Hemingway deserves any lavished praises because I would not have realized this possibility otherwise.
My guess is that all the pompous literary snobs out there bypass this passion for life. They don't possess it. So they displace their desire for passion onto words. I wonder if they are aware of this when they criticize and belittle work that falls short of their standards; like young, punk bikers donning leather jackets and chaps imitating the cliche rough image and getting in fights with those bikers who revere and respect the road.
I thought of On The Road while reading this. Like a reporter, Hemingway allows the heart of expatriation, the Lost Generation, speak for itself. In a way, the book seems to foreshadow the Beat Generation, Grunge, etc. And thank God these sentiments always cycle back around. Or is it cyclical, as Hemingway's epitaph from Ecclesiastes indicates? What if this "generation" exists in every time? Do we only notice it and label it when it bears pleasing fruit? If there is no one to produce it, does that mean the sentiment of discontent and purposelessness is not there? Ah, to be a writer without any noteworthy experience. Yet these expatriates forged their experience from the fires of passion in life.
Nothing in the plot or characterizations surprised me or astounded me; the Romanesque bull fights, Brett's rogue relationships, Robert Cohn's tactless romanticism, the cafe gorging. But Jake's expression of love for Brett intrigued me. It was truly selfless in its contrast from Cohn's obsession, Mike's ownership or Romero's usefulness. I would have felt sympathy for Jake if he seemed at all burdened by it. To him it must have just been another aspect of life.
I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about.
This is a story about separation, dismemberment. And if it doesn't piss you off, go own something.
As I neared the end, I wondered how the story wouldThis is a story about separation, dismemberment. And if it doesn't piss you off, go own something.
As I neared the end, I wondered how the story would resolve. Naturally, I was ravenous to read how Tom Joad, the great, enlightened hero, would lead a battle against the owners. I wanted to relish the righteous war he would wage. And then I started thinking how I would be absolutely content if I were to see nothing more of Tom through the remainder of the book, if the story remained with Ma. After all, it's the story of the Joad family. And Ma is the family. As she said, she, as a woman, can adapt and move on, like a jerkless stream, because she thinks with what's in her arms, not with what's in her head. Then the commonality between Tom and Ma struck me, and the secret lies with Casy. His theory of the Soul, its largess, how every person is just a piece of a whole. It sounded like Ma's talk of family, generations passing on a piece of land as one continuing life, as one constant body. If Tom were to be the guardian of the Soul, he would be no different than Ma, the queen of Family.
But that family would break up and mankind would split between the iron bars of progress, the divide between Natural Law and Man's Law, both designed to serve mankind; the owner and the worker, both desperate to survive in a changing economy; the greedy and the content, both migrants, like the turtle, never stopping and moving towards some unforeseen destiny.
Progress is never content. The fat need fattening and the lean need leaning...but God bless America all the same! Greed and self-advancement are the heart of capital progress and these qualities are hallowed in the Constitution and manifested in Capitalism. And even The West, the American symbol of the Promised Land, is tainted by the same methodology that scarred the homes they came from. But families will continue moving, will never give up on the integrity and reward of an honest days work. And, Lord, what a model of resiliency they are. And, by the way, thanks for not overthrowing our right to overcompensate for our vacuous void of insecurity.
Hey, you got any natural, fundamental needs you need attending to? Well, by all means, attend to them but you gotta pay us. I know, I know...you were able to take care of yourself and yours just fine but, see, we want more money. Oh, you don't like that? Well, that's too bad. We could have had a good arrangement, me and you. But just so you know, 'cause I'm an honest businessman, I'd rather just shoot you because, really, you burden my right to own any and everything I please. But since I can't, at least at the moment but we're working on passing a law that will afford me that allowance, we're just going to jail you after funneling you into misdemeanors and felonies. How? Oh, actually it's quite easy. You gotta sleep, you gotta eat, you need shelter, etc and I can count on you to pursue these things. So all it takes is to own them so it'll be illegal for you to take them. Oh, wait wait...you'll love this. This is the best part. We're going to call this patriotic. Get it? We're going to call this good business. No? Wait, hear me out, give it a chance. It's really quite brilliant. There are so many of you, and despite vast expenditures to repress any reactions from you, I need other ways of keeping you at bay. So I simply solicite the general public to help me out! All they have to do is believe in this ideology of ownership and consumption, and they'll look at you as thieves, beggars and general ignoramuses! Oh no, they won't feel bad about it because it's all in the name of patriotism and the American Dream! They'll think you aren't playing by the rules! They'll think you're lazy and mooching. The only thing we have to do, once this propoganda...oh yeah, sure, we'll afford you the actual term for it here. It makes no difference to me at this point. Anyhow, once it's disseminated, I just have to hide your back story, who you are! Or at least make them not care about those things. Of course you can understand we don't want them seeing you as people. Don't be silly, man! Or, okay, if you want them to see you as people you have to give me hatred, at least. If you want government relief because you can't work, you have to let the people hate you and judge you as lazy for it. What? You think they'll respect you because you're looking for work? What work? Their work? Like they'll be okay with that. Cost benefit, man. You heard of it? More competition, lesser cost. I got the system workin' for me. No, no...it can't work for us both. Actually, you're doin' me a favor by being poor. Then I don't have to be! Ha, you're way in over your head. Hypocritical? If I didn't manipulate Law, the natural order of things, twist the evolved rules of natural morality and write legislation to cater to my benefit, I'd be starving like you! I can't work the land. I can't take care of myself. This is eat or be eaten, man, and I'm gonna EAT! Just because you settle for simple, honest lives doesn't mean I have to. And the law isn't going to say I have to either! If you don't like it, why don't you find the power to change it! Oh, you think you have the power of God and Natural Law? You think you'll be the ones to endure?
Separation, dismemberment. Not just from land, but from each other. And it can be attributed to greed, insecurity, overcompensation, but all these things are natural among those who are the smallest, the softest. What is unnatural are the laws of ownership in place to split the classes. Ownership in itself is not bad, we'll say. After all, a tenth of it isn't the problem. A man who lives on a piece of land can live a life of self-subsistence; feed his family and enjoy an honest days' labor. If he is lazy and won't grow any food, they won't eat. The equation is quite simple because it's natural. But the corporate laws of ownership are man made to serve a small group of people. The natural laws are manipulated. And they are enforced despite leaving land farrow, ruining food product to protect high prices, driving wages down to a point where a man can't eat or feed his family. Yes, these are the natural rules of capitalism, which are at complete odds with the natural rule of morality. Please, don't preach to me about the goodness and moral integrity of capitalism. The roots of selfishness can't grow selflessness.
We've built a social order that defines a good citizen as one who conforms to an arrangement of man-made, power-serving, greed-encouraging laws and rules. A man can't live by the fruit of his own labor if there's nowhere to labor, having it all owned and restricted. And a homeless man can't sleep in a place fit for a man to sleep because laws funnel him into costly hotels and inns, which make money because these laws prevent men from sleeping out under the stars. Does it make sense to define a good citizen by shifty standards and transient laws? Isn't it better to be a good citizen of humanity as described by natural order and consistent morality?
Put me in a roadside camp. With good people who don't own anything but a tent, clothes on their back and some pots and pans; who live by a Rule of Law that needs no enforcing. Partner me up with the harmonica blower and I'll sling my guitar. Let me take care of my own and give me the right to leave others the same freedom. That's all I ask.
'Then it don' matter. Then I'll be all aroun' in the dark. I'll be ever'where - wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I'll be the way guys yell when they're mad an' - I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build, why, I'll be there'
I feel calm...and somehow older; like every two-year-old wants to feel when they ask their millions of questions which adults can't truly answer becauI feel calm...and somehow older; like every two-year-old wants to feel when they ask their millions of questions which adults can't truly answer because the inquiries are so simple.
A friend of mine recommended East of Eden and touted it as his favorite book which, to him, makes it the best book ever written. Having read it, I don't necessarily comply with his assessment, nor do I think it the point. It is a rare occurrence to read a book and see the triviality of simply realizing it as a good piece of literature and rather as an insightful and applicable truth. I do understand him better, my relationship to him and, ultimately, my relationship to myself.
At times, the biblical metaphors were both intriguing, like piecing together an elaborate puzzle, and mind-numbingly annoying. The specific references within the narrative were like mosquitoes penetrating an ozone layer of bug spray. However, I think the only way Steinbeck could have avoided this reaction was to shorten the book, not omit certain references. After all, we consider the story of creation, as described in the Book of Genesis, as a cornerstone of our Western culture, but I would think it irresponsible for Steinbeck to assume anything about his readers.
The Genesis stories describe the origin and development of the human beast. As we progress through the Bible, particularly into the next book of Exodus, we find ourselves within the struggle of the human condition. But before being able to properly understand that struggle and that condition, we need to know who we are; what our constitutions are, what are nature is and how our nurture is developed. This is Steinbeck's focus and at the heart of the discourse is love and the fight between good and evil for the human soul. If Les Miserables is a celebration of the human spirit, than East of Eden is its analysis.
Without spoiling how these stories are represented, I will say that there are symbols for Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and knowledge itself. An even more interesting approach is to consider how these are symbols of symbols, which, when coupled with the generational time lapse of East of Eden, reinforces the idea that these works are about truths, not circumstance or history. Self-absorption can manifest itself in pride and neglect. Faith can blind us to dishonesty and blind love can be both selfless in its affect or self-absorbed in its blindness. Within our natures are both tendencies for good and evil but may choice, not hereditary inheritance, be our governance and set us apart from our fellows. May our own individuation wield the power of our nature in a way we see fit. Such a lonely existence, to be separated from our fellow man in spirit, because of choice, that we find ourselves seeking approval and recompense, perhaps not only to a deity, but to ourselves. One who hates the mean disposition brooding in his breast will relish the love toward a father and lavish gifts on him in return for praise. Others are blessed to please simply by living. And we see ourselves in others; we relate to the self-same conflict waged within them. This is how we know men and, subsequently, ourselves. Such an inseparably shared existence.
I think I may have written as many words in notes while reading this book as there are in it. I have to remember that this is simply a review, my reaction. I feel calm...and somehow older. I've contemplated things in the world which are taken for granted. I wasn't surprised by things in this book, but was filled with a sense of satisfaction of their analysis and presentation. As Genesis describes the nature of these truths, so does East of Eden. There inlies it's greatest symbolic power. ...more
I suppose we have to put our dreams down too. A man's most intimate companion.
This is a story ensnared in loneliness. But wouldn't we all want a compI suppose we have to put our dreams down too. A man's most intimate companion.
This is a story ensnared in loneliness. But wouldn't we all want a companion like Lennie? He embodies such extremes, physically terrifying and mentally meek. A man who only has thoughts of protecting you but hasn't fallen from innocence enough to take advantage of you. But each character settles for a life of solitude. The ranch workers squander their earnings in whore houses longing after the companionship of the dream of their own land. Curly's wife is lonely in her marriage. Crooks is isolated from his co-workers. Candy's dog is taken.
Beyond the harrowing experience of desolation, I find myself asking why men ought to live this way. Crooks, the black ranch hand who lives away from the bunk house and has no friend to speak intimately with, is in a position imposed by the social standards of the day. Both he and Lennie, because of his mental ineptitude, are social outcasts. The beautiful thing about Lennie is that he doesn't seem to see it. His companions are the dream of he and George's ranch and George. He doesn't consider that George would ever leave or that the dream is really just a dream. But for him and Crooks, there is no place in the social order for them. Their alienation is imposed rather than embraced. Because of their circumstance, it seems inevitable that they will be purged from normal people and normal society. The established social rules keep men ashamed, helpless and self-loathing. Who are you to realize such a grand dream? You don't belong with us! Again, only Lennie is too dumb to realize this. And even though Curly's wife is lonely, there's a place for her in the order as she, in a way, ousts Lennie.
For some, this loneliness is self-imposed. It is truly odd that we would attack the very thing that would remedy our isolation. We give up our dreams, let them die with our innocence, because circumstances are beset against us and we kill their inspiration perhaps because it is easier to live without the burden of longing for more.
I find this oddly inspiring. A tragedy of this magnitude must make people realize what is too valuable to give up. ...more
This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I wil
This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" - Zechariah 13:9
When manipulated by Man, fire heats, illuminates and cleanses. Perhaps, ultimately, fire is knowledge; something Man can wield to any desired outcome. Man blazes like a torch and an idea gleams like a candle flame. But when Man stokes an inferno, it has no choice but to destroy and from the ashes...
In stifling knowledge and pursuing pleasures, Man experiences a seemingly happy existence.
Unfortunately, a small side-effect may occur. Man may forget how his happiness naturally depends on his affinity towards others.
When on their death beds, it seems that people almost instinctively consider what imprint they leave on the world. But what lasting impression can they leave others when their lives centered on self-indulgence? How will a man be remembered by others when he shared nothing valuable with them?
Bradbury's futuristic society uniquely chastises the general public, not the government regime, for its own living conditions. For the most part, Fahrenheit 451 alienates the political atmosphere from the consequence of the story. Instead, he describes the public as an immature juvenile unable to cope with its own natural growing pains. To avoid such growing pains, society chose to eliminate the source of all real sorrow and happiness - knowledge. The public differs from a simple toddler only in its ability to create conditions under which tantrums are no longer necessary. Because change and growth violently tear men beyond their level of maturity, a generally uncomfortable experience, society chose to stop growing.
Rather, men transform into the robots they create. They generate relationships with characters on TV walls rather than with each other because they no longer want vulnerability or care or love. Advanced technology isolates people because it leaves no room to discover a person's "who". Contact between men may increase but the "who" has disappeared from the equation all together. Technology turns people into robots in need of technicians and the government treats them like programs needing control. And if a person exists alone emotionally, how can one learn to honor and respect any life but his own? No integrity - no responsibility. By denying their primal instinct for companionship, Man destroys his society and turns himself into an island among islands, arrested by isolation - all by flicking on the television to watch fraudulent and instantly gratifying news reels and by popping in the headphones.
But don't worry...we're not heading down this path.
Public lust for fillers and distractions have wrought this mess! With shortened attention spans and knowledge microwaves, reality show friends, mass media bombardments at the push of a button and in our pockets, men not only lose their ability to spend the appropriate time developing real and valuable thoughts and pursuing lasting relationships. They lose their sense of needing them at all. In an effort to create more time, we have killed it. With its death also died any desire to work towards honing a relationship or appreciating an idea. I often wonder myself why arts and literature remain important since we create a world where they prove inconsequential. We do this to ourselves.
But fire governs Man like a Phoenix...the ultimate power from which comes destruction and creation. We will rise again.
A brilliantly elemental novel - when we get to where we're headed, they should burn this one first....more
This book, in all its gloom and desperation, voices one of the most heartfelt stories of love; a bond between a father and son which hell and death itThis book, in all its gloom and desperation, voices one of the most heartfelt stories of love; a bond between a father and son which hell and death itself can't snap. McCarthy's poetic sense of prose beautifully imagines catastrophe and the triumph of the human spirit. And to top it all off, the story poses exciting moral questions and convictions which guides that spirit.
In a world stripped of hope and comfort and left to death and desperation, morality manifests itself in basic terms of physical survival. But the juxtaposition of the man's perspective and the boy's perspective inspire the reader to question the fundamental qualities of life, its meaning and ultimately the value of one's convictions.
Suppose you were the last one left? Suppose you did that to yourself?
This quote, from a conversation with an old decrepit man encountered on the road, signifies the ultimate question presented in The Road. For the sake of his son's survival, the man adopts a moral system which dictates that he cares for no one else; offers aid to no one since it would lower the probability of he and his son's survival. Conceptually speaking, if they don't aid the survival of others, would this moral conviction culminate in their solitary existence on earth? By ensuring their own survival but that of no one else, are they destined to experience the ultimate loneliness, the unbearable despair that extinguishes any fathomable reason for living, crushed under the weight of despair and the yearning for death? Ultimately, does it result in the ironic end to their own survival, fearfully by their own hand?
Also, to best understand the perspective of the man, a very natural and loving perspective, no doubt, McCarthy spends some time talking about his wife. She arguably suffered from an irreconcilable conflict of interests: to end the suffering of her son and to protect him. But under these conditions, she can only end his suffering by ending his existence. Every line of thinking revolves around her son, whereas she accuses the man of needing her son simply to add purpose to his own hopeless life; a means to bolster his conviction to live.
When there is nothing else, children become our world. The son benefits from his fathers "selfish" conviction as does the man; a beautiful example of selfishness truly functioning for the betterment of people - when it benefits another, when one's self-interest centers on the betterment of another.
The boy, who progresses from a meek innocent, suffering from normal childish fears appearing under any circumstance, to an understanding moralist, contrasts his father's physical brand of morality with an altruistic approach to surviving. And despite this difference, the boy's questioning and persistence sometimes overturns his father's convictions and is ironically cultivated by his father's own responses; as if his father's instinctual rules for physical survival were coupled by a similar instinct to maintain an illogical hope for good. The boy knows what the man has been distracted from by intellect, rage and stress. But that distracted mentality is what keeps the boy alive, and with him his sense of the "good guys" and "carrying the fire".
Despite these questions of morality, it is the love between father and son that nearly eliminates the possibility for these people to "do wrong". In any case, not a single one of us would do any different than what this father and son did. It is the combination of their perspectives that define the human conviction for good; even when all of our constructive strength is squelched.