I started reading Amerika on an airplane to Caracas, Venezuela. At first I felt strange to be reading a book named after America on my way out of it,...moreI started reading Amerika on an airplane to Caracas, Venezuela. At first I felt strange to be reading a book named after America on my way out of it, and I a little nervous about looking like the type of American who flaunts it while I was on the road and trying to be invisible in a place where the we are not exactly considered friends. After a few chapters though, I was hit with a different take. Amerika is a story about a young boy who is displaced, stuck in a foriegn country and forced to survive while everybody he knows abandons him every thirty pages. Then, I really started to identify with the guy in a sort of sickening and terrifying way. I too was a little kid sticking myself for superficial seeming reasons in another country where I had no friends and no idea what to do. This book is definitely a piece of art, but not much of a travel companion. Just the begining left me afraid to go out there into the world and definitely put a shadow over my earlier romanticization of travel. It made me want to stop being invisible and go home to the people I care about.
I think that in that sence, this book should definitely be considiered part of the Kafka corpus, it is another look at lonliness and frustration from the perspective of a small person in a big and confusing world. At the same time, it has a different sort of feel to it than The Trial or The Castle. Karl Rossman, the protagonist in Amerika is a 17 year old kid with a name and a background, realistic desires and more human sadness. He is very different from K. and Joseph K., the unnamed, sort of faceless and erie main characters in Kafka's other novels. I think for this reason, the development of Karl's story takes on a different character (no pun intended) its something a little more human, and gets to you at a bit of a deeper level. While I felt that the abrupt ending of the Trial put both the character and the reader out of their misery, when I made it to the end of what was actually written in Amerika, I really cared about Karl and wanted to see him make it through to something better. I compared Karl to myself where I saw the other two novels more as a feat in writing that I wanted to get inside or an interesting intellectual experiement.
The other cool thing that this book gets into is an outsider's look on this country, and the false promises of the American dream. Don't get me wrong, this is no deToqueville-ish, boring social analysis, but through Karl's hopes and expectations, we get an interesting look at Kafka's idea of what America means and his doubts about its type of idealism. Reading this right after Peter Singer's "One World", I was definitely prepared for criticism of the American way, but this took on a different, much more emotional approach. I'm not sure if Kafka even came to America in his lifetime, but it seems that it was definitely something that he was aware of, and thought about.
In general, after reading all three novels and a good chunk of his other works, I think that its safe to say that this is my favorite Kafka novel. I defininitely recomend it to someone who thought of it as marginal as compared to the other novels. I find it the most complete and emotionally intense.(less)
I put a longer review of this book / a journal entry that I wrote while I was reading it in "my writing" since it was too long for this page.
6.9.07 Nau...moreI put a longer review of this book / a journal entry that I wrote while I was reading it in "my writing" since it was too long for this page.
6.9.07 Nausea is not a good thing to have as the only thing that belongs to you, and even worse as the only thing that you belong to. It is sickening and dark and so terribly everyday that it gets inside you if you let it. Sartre writes beautifully and describes the physical world in such incredible detail, that if you are a reader, and even more if you are a writer, you want to keep going and never put it down, but if you are not emotionally stable enough to handle the fact that you might have done nothing but existing, don't read this book. If you are jaded by love don't read this book. If you almost lost your self in desire, don't read this book. Probably nobody should read this book. Then again, if you are like me and obsessed with words and the art that comes from darkness and the study of lonliness, then this is a work of genius. Its beautifully written, terrifying and intense. So go ahead, but at your own risk, and when you freak the hell out, don't tell anyone that it was me who recommended that you mess with Sartre. (less)
I've been thinking about this book a lot lately, so I figured that I'd go back and write something about it.
When I first read this book, I loved it a...moreI've been thinking about this book a lot lately, so I figured that I'd go back and write something about it.
When I first read this book, I loved it as a piece of art, but its effect on me was different than I expected. So many people hail Kerouac as the artist who made them quit their jobs and go to the road, become a hippie or a beat and give up the rest. When I read it though, I had been completely obsessed with hippie culture for a long time, and it caused me to steer away from it for a while. While I thought that it would be a rollicking tale of freedom and glory, I found that all of Dean's conquests were tainted by the fact that he had to take advantage of other people every step of the way. He was a hugely entertaining character, but would have been a terrible friend, lover, or even acquaintance. From the women he married to gas station attendents, right down to Sal Paradise himself, Dean drained everything that he was right out of other people, and it eventually ruined him. It left him beat...not heart beating exhilarated, but beat up, dead beat and alone. Once I stepped back a little from the awe at Dean's greatness, this book was really sad, and it caused me to put away that romanticism for a while.
Now, 2 years later, though, On the Road is coming back to me full on. I didn't escape the total wonder at the Beats and the road. I have been on the road myself for the last 2 months and have a long way to go before I get back home, and I am constantly aware that the the way was paved by Kerouac and the rest of the crazy geniuses of his generation. The road is every bit as romantic as Sal Paradise made it out to be, and its glory far out weighs the short comings of Dean as a friend. I mean, the road is a lot like Dean, it takes a lot out of you, but you get addicted to it and obsessed with it and can't let it go, and I don't think there's any other way about it. I am in love with America for the first time. Now that I've seen it, driven across and up and down, around and over America, I find it sublime and incredible. I think that Kerouac and his friends might've been the first to see that. Maybe not. Maybe they are just part of all of American history...they translated the world of Western expansion and canvas covered wagons into the way of the modern world. America is something to dream about. It is worthy every exuberant and formerly offensive "I'm proud" sticker that's plastered on the back of a pick up truck. And Kerouac saw that first hand. So, it seems, that there is a certain tragedy in this book, but that it is less important than the unavoidable glory that you come to associate with the road and freedom after following these guys on their crazy adventure. I think this book should be read by everyone who wants to know about America.(less)
This is way better than "The Things They Carried". I recomended to anyone who is interested in books with cool form, insanity, writers who don't know...moreThis is way better than "The Things They Carried". I recomended to anyone who is interested in books with cool form, insanity, writers who don't know what is reality and what is art. Its been a while now, since I read it, but it left me with a lot of ideas about the craft of writing and the emotional implications of war.(less)