Although Catherine Morland is not exactly Austen's most sparkling female protagonist, Henry Tilney, the hero of this novel, is witty enough for both oAlthough Catherine Morland is not exactly Austen's most sparkling female protagonist, Henry Tilney, the hero of this novel, is witty enough for both of them. He's not often present, however, so the real entertainment value of the book resides in its clever parody of Gothic novels. Previous readings of this book left me a little dry but I must have been paying closer attention to the plot points and characterizations rather than the overall satirizing purpose of the book which Austen clearly delineates in the narrative and which is often hilarious....more
Willa Cather created scenes with words and, in his new book, “Portraits of the Prairie,” Richard Schilling has created similar scenes with watercolorsWilla Cather created scenes with words and, in his new book, “Portraits of the Prairie,” Richard Schilling has created similar scenes with watercolors. The resultant pairing of these two artists, both equally enthralled with the beauties of the Nebraskan prairies, is an often stunning look at the rural Midwest.
Using Cather’s words as a starting point for his watercolors and sketches and adding his own clarifying notes on such items as his artistic decisions, the land, or Cather’s work, Schilling painted contemporary Nebraska landscapes, organizing them into the following chapters: “The Land,” “Country Roads,” “Waters of the Prairie,” “Seasons of the Prairie,” “Trees,” “Art in Unexpected Places,” “Homes and Prairie Towns,” and “Churches and Cemeteries.”
It is clear throughout that Schilling is seeking to bridge the century-old gap between Cather’s Nebraska and the one that exists today. The principal way he accomplished this was by painting rural areas that invoke Cather. Also, some of his notes compare the locales of Cather’s day with that of their contemporary manifestation. For instance, he notes that Red Cloud, Cather’s home town (and that of Schilling’s mother) is apparently half the size it was in Cather’s time. He also sketched a grain elevator, built in 1878, that he thought may have been described in Cather’s fiction. And although he could not, in most instances, determine precisely what specific locale Cather was recalling when describing certain prairie scenes, this is clearly not the case of “Homes and Prairie Towns,” a particularly time-bridging chapter because many of the structures featured here in watercolor were owned by people featured fictionally by Cather.
Schilling’s representations may not be the same ones residing in the imaginations of Cather's fans but the artist obviously loves the land as much as the writer did and that passion is what makes this book such a beautiful combination of words and art.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical novel of the exhilarating and exhausting cross-country road trips of 20-somethings Sal Paradise and DeanOn the Road – Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical novel of the exhilarating and exhausting cross-country road trips of 20-somethings Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty – was such an enormous watershed in American culture that it seems quite fitting that its 50th anniversary should be noted by Viking with no less than three newly published books: "On the Road: The 50th Anniversary Edition," "On the Road: The Original Scroll," and "Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of ‘On the Road."
While the 50th anniversary edition may be a bit of a disappointment to those already familiar with the quintessential chronicle of the “Beat” generation (it is identical to book’s 40th anniversary edition and contains no extras whatsoever), The Original Scroll is an absolute revelation, both for previous fans of Kerouac and also for those experiencing On the Road for the first time.
Typed in three furious weeks in 1951 on one continuous sheet of paper, The Scroll -- that is, the initial draft of On the Road – was revised three times before the final edition was published in 1957. While The Scroll and the final version are very similar, the differences that remain are quite striking.
Besides containing scenes and narratives which were eventually cut, The Scroll also includes the real names of the people on whom the book’s characters were based. Realizing that Carlo Marx (what a pseudonym!) is a fictionalized Allen Ginsberg gives one the startling sense of viewing a home movie of the ultimate Beat poet. Watching Dean Moriarty’s wildly self-destructive behavior within the pages of On the Road is to have a close encounter with Neal Cassady, the quintessential Beatnik who, although he didn’t do much writing himself, inspired a myriad of other writers to do so.
The Scroll contains no chapter or paragraph breaks whatsoever, and it is this element – combined with the understanding that it was Kerouac’s first and freshest attempt at chronicling his cross-country peregrinations – that gives the reader a more startling sense of urgency than can be provided even in the ultimately galvanizing final edition of On the Road.
Although those with only a passing knowledge of Kerouac may believe "On the Road" to be a tale of unbridled lust (wander- and otherwise), it is actually quite tame by 21st century standards. There is a plethora of casual sex and substance abuse found within its pages, but nothing patently explicit. And squeezed into the frantic narrative are descriptions of such poignancy as to make one aware of Kerouac’s keen sensitivity to poetic images. For instance, while attempting to depict the laugh of a gregarious Nebraska farmer, Kerouac writes:
". . . you could hear his raspy cries clear across the plains, across the whole gray world of them that day. . . I said to myself, Wham, listen to that man laugh. That’s the West . . . It was the spirit of the West sitting right next to me . . ."
If Kerouac could see poetry in the commonplace, he also read humor into the sublime. Yes, he was one of the “Beats” but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see through the occasional absurdity of their hyper-seriousness. For instance, after listening to an all-night conversation between Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) in which they were “trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on [their:] minds,” Sal Paradise (Kerouac) tells them: “If you keep this up, you’ll both go crazy, but let me know what happens as you go along.”
Sal Paradise’s pronounced yearnings to get somewhere, to find something, is what gives the book its intense urgency and Kerouac often couches these longings in beautiful and raw poetic descriptions of the American countryside:
"In the whole eastern dark wall of the Divide this night there was silence and the whisper of the wind, except in the ravine where we roared; and on the other side of the Divide was the great Western Slope, and the big plateau that went to Steamboat Springs, and dropped, and led you to the western Colorado desert and the Utah desert; all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess– across the night, eastward over the Plains . . .
Several illustrative essays are included as a preface to The Scroll as a means to elucidate the layered meanings found in On the Road. The newly published, "Why Kerouac Matters: Lessons from On the Road" is exceptionally enlightening in this regard. Author John Leland relates, in a very accessible manner, Kerouac’s deliberate themes in the book and also how Kerouac’s own personality – surprisingly – did not fit into the quintessential “Beat” mold. Leland bases his sometimes unexpected but entirely believable suppositions in Kerouac’s own letters and he interweaves significant portions of the text to support his arguments.
Although "Why Kerouac Matters" is extremely elucidative, it should only be read after first encountering "On the Road." Although Kerouac was trying to communicate a very specific message, what matters in the end is what is personally gleaned from the book. For many readers, the freedom and infinite possibilities whispered throughout the exciting and pathos-filled pages of "On the Road" have inspired them to initiate their own odyssey. Which is precisely the point.
I first became interested in this book when I heard Chaim Potok -- one of my very favorite authors at the time -- speak at the University of IllinoisI first became interested in this book when I heard Chaim Potok -- one of my very favorite authors at the time -- speak at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He identified Brideshead as having been a watershed of literary excitement for him as a young man: he loved the characters, wanted to live in the book, etc.(very interesting that a future rabbi would so totally dig a book about uptight Catholics).
I didn't fall in love with this book in the way that Potok did, but the characters are so well-defined that they've stayed in my mind quite clearly although I read the book a few decades ago.