Thursday, April 3, 2008

Indepent Reading Group Blog Posts

Well Andrew I'm thoroughly impressed by Kerouac's work. This is the first book by this particular author that I am reading from cover to cover. From what I had heard from alot of people was the difficult nature of Kerouac's work. I'm around page 140 and i noticed that the sentence structure is very lengthy and descriptive. The long sentences help the reader to really immerse themselves in the story and really enjoy it. Not to mention the descriptions reall capture what its like to live in New England. The small town feel that Kerouac makes so prominent is what people think of when they think about New England. Mr. Gallagher was right about this being a fall book. Reading it makes me want to go for a long drive around New England to see the country side. What strikes me most is how Kerouac uses each member of the Martin family to be embodying an aspect of what makes people so diverse. What are you're thoughts on the personalities of the Martin family Andrew?

That's something I hadn't considered Andrew. Considering that this was Kerouacs first novel it would make sense that he would base his characters off of people he knew. The characters in the novel are so well developed and you get a feeling of closeness between the narrator and the charcters that it's very safe to say that the Martins are the Kerouacs. I think this is a subject that we should research. I'll look into Kerouacs background and post some info on his family on my next post.

A particular passage that struck me as exhibiting the closeness can be found on page 204. This page is centered on the Martin family making light of Mr. Martin losing his printing business. “ She sat on the arm of his chair teasing him: ‘Now you’ll know what it feels like to punch a time clock at the last minute!’ And she pushed him on the farm and made a wry face. The kids yelled with laughter. ‘Okay, so I’ll punch a clock, what about it!’ cried the old man grinning, and he tried to think of something funny to say. Then the mother came in with the lemonade, and they all sat there late into the night laughing, arguing, shouting, almost celebrating this strange new turn in the family’s fortunes which was so exciting and wonderful, somehow, because it made them all sit together in the front room and have ‘regular parties,’ as Mickey delightedly saw it.” (pg. 204)
From this passage we can infer that there is a powerful bond among the members of the Martin clan. The issue under discussion is the loss of Mr. Martin’s business. This lose is also the loss of the families main source of income. However rather then be crushed by this lose. The Martins are “almost celebrating” the change. Losing the source of income is a major blow to any family. Normally it is the equivalent of hitting a window with a sledge hammer. The window shatters apart, in the same way a family’s structure would collapse in on itself. Rather then fall to pieces the Martin children are ready to help bring in the slack. Joe says to his father on page 204, “See Pa? I saved a lot of money on my trip and sent it home to Ma. Now it’ll come in handy. I know a guy who wants to sell out his gas station. Just a little place on Kimball Street, two pumps and a lubrication stand. I’m gonna take it! Monday, by God, Monday!” Joe intends on buying the gas station to help provide for the family. Charley offers to work with Joe and goes as far as to suggest dropping out of school. His mother responds with a prompt no. Even the youngest son Mickey says, “I’m gonna start a paper route.” Which is met with a great laugh from his family. The strength in the familial bonds the Martin’s have really spark interest in this novel.

“ ‘I don’t know about the jungle,’ she said with a sudden sad absentmindedness. ‘No, I didn’t make the army, I didn’t make the watrs they have either. Why, if it’s going to mean jungles for Tommy there’s no sense in this now.’ And it seemed so true to them suddenly. They all stared at her rapt with fascination as they thought of her warm quilted beds, her clean house, her food in the icebox, her warm radiators in the winter and all the things of a homestead. They remembered how good these things were to come back to after a night of drinking and riot and weariness, how really sweet these things were, and how they never actually thought of them.” (pg. 212)

This passage drew my attention as I was reading because of the simple message found in it. The context of the passage is that World War II has broken out, and Peter Martin’s childhood friend Tommy has enlisted in the armed forces. He is on leave in Galloway before he is to be deployed into the Philippines. On his last night with his friends, Peter and Alexander, the boys decide to go camping and swimming. Mrs. Marten shoots down that plan with enough common sense to dowse their plans. Her explanation is simple and goes strait to the point. Tommy will be in the jungles for months at a time, exposed to the elements and in danger; if that’s the case, then Tommy should spend his last nights in the comfort of a home, and not in the middle of the woods. Mrs. Martin’s suggestion makes the boys think of all the things they take for granted in their lives, beds, food, and warmth being some of the things. Kerouac wrote this passage as a reminder to the reader to think of the things they take for granted in their own lives.

“He looked down and brooded. Why was it that he had not been with them all this time? What had he done, where had he gone, why was it that he could not live again, and live forever, and do all the things he had forgotten to do. And why were all the things that he himself had done so confused, so especial and definite and finished, so tattered and ugly, so incomplete, so unknown and half-forgotten now, yet so painful and twisted as he thought of them. Why were they so unlike the things other men had done? Why had he been born in New Hampshire instead of Illinois somehow? What would it be like to be on a train going West across the plains, on the old Union Pacific tracks, and to see a single small lamplight burning in a shack across the American darkness, the prairie darkness?” (pg. 333)

This is another fascinating passage from Jack Kerouac. The ideas expressed by Kerouac through the character of George Martin are reminiscent of what is commonly referred to as a midlife crisis. Mr. Martin is looking back on the accomplishments in his life and realizing that he wasn’t as successful as other people his age. He realizes that all the things he did really amounted to nothing in the grand scheme of the world. Or so he feels. He also decides that he wants to live forever to “do all the things he had forgotten to do”, at this point in his life Mr. Martin is facing the facts that his children are growing up and going off on their own. This realization saddens Mr. Martin because all of his adult life was centered on his children. He worked to provide for them, but now most of them have left and it will not be long before they all leave. Mr. Martin is losing his children and it’s forcing him to reexamine his own life.

“It’s the great molecular comedown. Of course that’s only my own whimsical name for it a the moment. It’s really an atomic disease, you see. But I’ll have to explain it to you so you’ll know, at least. It’s death finally reclaiming life, the scurvy of the soul at last, a kind of universal cancer. It’s got a real medieval ghastliness, like the plague, only this time it will ruin everything … You will eventually. Everybody is going to fall apart, disintegrate, all character-structures based on tradition and uprightness and so-called morality will slowly rot away, people will get the hives right on their hearts, great crabs will cling to their brains … their lungs will crumble. But now we only have the early symptoms, the disease isn’t really underway yet – virus X only.” Page 370-371

In this excerpt Peter is speaking with Leon Levinsky about a disease Levinsky believes is going to destroy the human race. His explanation is similar to the idea of entropy, where the energy in the universe is running out. The idea is based on the laws of thermo dynamics and a few other laws of physics which deal specifically with the big bang and other cosmic events. Levinsky alludes to a more personal version of entropy; the running down of society. His belief is that over time all current relationships will breakdown and following that stagnation will be the end of the world. Kerouac based the character of Leon Levinsky on his friend and fellow beat poet Allen Ginsberg. One of the foundations of Ginsberg’s beliefs is the idea on what he called the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States. This belief was also one of the roots of the poem Howl the poem which made Ginsberg be recognized as a professional poet. “The Town and The City” is a very autobiographical; Kerouac based many of the main characters on his friends, family, and people he met in his travels. The reason Kerouac included Leon Levinsky/ Allen Ginsberg’s ideas in his novel was as a reference to his renowned friend.

“He hurried on home, and gloated because no one noticed him. He wished suddenly that no one would ever notice him again and that he would walk through the rest of his life like this, wrapped in his own secret mysteries and glories, a prince disguised as a pauper, Orestes returned from distant heroisms and hiding within the land, stalking unknown within the land under powerful autumnal skies. But why was it they did not notice him any more than before?” (page 82)

Peter Martin has just played in the big thanksgiving football game and was responsible for his team winning. He has achieved his childhood dream of being one of those prestigious local heroes spawned on the grid iron. It would be natural for a young gentleman to be thinking of moments of glory and being entirely full of himself after winning such a big event. Young Peter is not. He wishes that no one would ever notice him again, a strange thought for the hero of a football game in a small town. Andrew what do you think about his ideas here.

*this blog was written two weeks ago but never posted, my bad*

1 comment:

Derek D5 said...

The thing I really enjoyed about Getting the chance to read Kerouac was the freedom to approach it how I wanted. And I learned how important communication and consistency were.