LITERATURE: On The Road – Layers

I’m going to try this again because as I read on, I find a very complex system unfolding and if typepad swallows this entry, I’m making a backup this time.

Metafiction, a writer writing about a writer.  Memoir, usually truth based on one’s life.  Fiction, some truth usually based on one’s life.  It’s all here.

One thing I noticed as I got further into the book is that the writing became more stylistically prose and less journalistic.  Another is that while it is in first person pov, there’s not much revelation by the narrator of his thoughts about things; rather he tells what he sees and does.  A tad of emotion comes in with the description, but Kerouac is sparse on description–especially so in the beginning of the novel.  Thinking again in terms of Kerouac’s own experiences, we finally get to see some of the main character (Sal Paradise) as he undergoes changes in his journey (journey cross country/journey in life).  Here he has left with Dean and Marylou to continue their trek after visiting a friend and borrowing some money:

It was sad to see his tall figure receding in the dark as we drove away, just like the other figures in New York and New Orleans; they stand uncertainly underneath immense skies, and everything about them is drowned.  Where go?  what do?  what for? –sleep.  But this foolish gang was bending onward.  (p. 158)

This is one of the first real thoughts Sal Paradise expresses about the dividing line between settling and moving.  While he’s referred to his aunt back home, or friends they visit, he’s shown if anything, a mourning for being alone.  In the paragraph above, he, despite their near-starvation rootless traveling, appears to pity the settled.  Even while describing himself and his two fellow travelers as "foolish," the term "bending" onward seems to denote a flexibility, a freedom that he perhaps was seeking.

Another parallel with the protagonist and Kerouac’s own experience may be seen here:

I walked around, picking butts from the street.  I passed a fish-‘n-chips joint on Market Street, and suddenly the woman in there gave me a terrified look as I passed; she was the proprietress, she apparently thought I was coming in there with a gun to hold up the joint.  It suddenly occurred to me this was my mother of about two hundred years ago in England, and that I was her footpad son, returning from gaol to haunt her honest labours in the hashery.  (p. 163)

Couple of things going on here:  Notice the spelling of "gaol" and "labours" as Kerouac returns to Old English of a couple centuries earlier that he is referencing.  There’s also a revelation of sorts that we can’t help but wonder if Kerouac himself felt, and that is the theory of life after life in terms of reincarnation (as he further develops the above train of thought).  He emphasizes yet another border in life–the biggie–death:

I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it.  (p. 164)

And in yet another crossover of author/narrator, I see the writing style begin to include imagery and more creative use of language.  The protagonist, Sal Paradise, is a writer.  Is Kerouac cleverly showing how Paradise is growing in his craft through his experiences?  Has this happened to Kerouac himself?

In the window, I smelled all the food of San Francisco.  There were seafood places out there where the buns were hot, and the baskets were good enough to eat too; where the menus themselves were soft with foody esculence as though dipped in hot broths and roasted dry and good enough to eat too.  Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu and I’d eat it; let me smell the drawn butter and lobster claws.  (p. 164)

Oddly, the repetition of the phrase "good enough to eat too" is out of place in fine writing.  Sloppy editing, or realistic writing, or purposefully showing another transition, another border crossed on this journey?

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