Sunday, April 26, 2009

More from On the Road

I mentioned yesterday that I've started reading Jack Kerouac's On the Road. It is a fascinating read. Kerouac is a delicious writer. Here's one part that stood out as Sal Paradise continues his journey across America:

I wanted to go and get Rita again and tell her a lot more things, and really make love to her this time, and calm her fears about men. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk-real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.

I'd say that these words, though written in 1951, are still quite applicable. They inspired this 2007 song called "Stuck Between Stations" by indie rock band The Hold Steady.

Here's another passage from Sal's brief stint working as a police officer (the irony of which does not escape him). He is compelled to go along with other, more dutiful cops, to break up a party:

I sighed. Here we go. We went to the offending room, and Sledge opened the door and told everybody to file out. It was embarrassing. Every single one of us was blushing. This is the story of America. Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do. So what if a bunch of men talk in loud voices and drink the night?

Later, as Sal begins working his way back across America toward New York, he ends up working with impoverished Mexican laborers:

Guitars tinkled. Terry and I gazed at the stars together and kissed. "Manana" she said. "Everything'll be all right tomorrow, don't you think, Sal-honey, man?"

"Sure, baby, manana." It was always manana. For the next week that was all I heard-manana, a lovely word and one that probably means heaven.

Before I was born, my parents lived in Venezuela for two years. The dictionary definition of manana was "tomorrow", but they discovered that it was a polite way of saying "no." When a Venezuelan worker was asked to do something and he said "manana," it didn't mean that he was going to do it the next day. It meant that he wasn't going to do it at all. And Sal's life was all about scheduling responsibility for manana.


jockeystreet said...

Kerouac is one of my favorites. Reading this post reminds me that I've got a couple of used Kerouac books on my shelf that I picked up a couple of months ago, two that I've never read before-- "Dr. Sax" and "Maggie Cassidy."

Don't know if you've read much of his other stuff. I was absolutely blown away by "Desolation Angels" and "The Subterraneans" in particular. Kerouac had a certain... honesty, I guess. And I don't mean "honesty" in that he was honest about who he was, etc, but rather, "honesty" in that he could write a scene and make you believe it, make you know he was telling you something, telling you the truth.

John said...

This is the first Kerouac I've ever tackled. Yes, he writes very honestly, in the sense that Sal Paradise is unafriad of being who he is.