On the Road :: Week Six

Welcome to the On the Road read-a-long! We’re reading this book through June and July. You can see the reading schedule and guidelines on the Starting Post Page.

Week Six: Read to Part 3, Chapter 9


Friends, we’re dwindling! Can the 10 of us make it until the end?? Only two more weeks – we can do it!

I’m a little behind on this week’s reading, but should have something posted here by later today or tomorrow. I wanted to make sure to get the post up at normal time for those of you who are ready to discuss, though. I’ll be back in a bit to join the discussion.

I’ll make my points quickly since I’m late to the game:

  • The connection of the writing style to jazz music was incredibly apparent to me this week. So much so that I even thought to myself, “this is almost like jazz music… there’s just no line to follow,” which was quickly followed by a slap to the forehead.
  • Dean (and even Sal’s) self-centeredness really topped off this week. Not even paying attention to Roy as he drove them all over the city even though he was greatly unhappy and in trouble with his wife, and then even commenting on how they were ignoring him. It’s really hard for me to even imagine that these guys are in their twenties, they feel like teenagers to me.
  • I’m not going to lie – I LOVED every minute of Galatea’s berating Dean. Did I feel sorry for Dean? Sure, when Kerouac reminded me to. There is something wrong with Dean, either because of the amount of drugs he’s done, because of the drugs he’s on, or it’s the thing that he does the drugs to medicate from – but there’s something wrong. And even though Galatea said everything I wanted to say to Dean, it wasn’t satisfying because I knew it wouldn’t register with him (which is even more frustrating knowing he is based on an actual person).
  • “Well, we’re leaving for New York in an hour.” / “Someday Dean’s going to go on one of these trips and never come back.” (p.205)… is this foreshadowing do you think?
  • I think Sal summed up this entire experience on the last page of chapter 4 – “With frantic Dean I was rushing through the world without a chance to see it.”
  • Dean Wisdom (I think this might be the most interesting thing that this character has shared, in my opinion) :: “They have worries… how they’ll get there- and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see. But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won’t be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them to no end.” (P. 210)

BUTTTTT… also, how interesting is it that Sal said almost the exact same thing about them in the quote I mentioned in the last   bullet point, only they’re doing it frantically and the other people are doing it worried. Hmmm…

  • I don’t trust Dean- this may be obvious, but I didn’t understand this until the end of chapter 6 when he was eyeing Frankie’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Janet. I was actually worried about what he would do to her.
  • When they were having dinner at the farmhouse at the end of this week’s reading, it really hit me what time period they were in when they talked about the radio programming the wife usually listened to at night. I don’t want to say these men were before their time (because they weren’t there were plenty of people doing plenty of drugs and drinking before them), but it is interesting how much they wanted to tell the world about it. Especially because it was so unspeakable for that era.

Who’s Reading Along:

** Please don’t forget to come to this blog each Friday and share your thoughts in the comments section of the weekly On the Road discussion (see below for more information).**

Susan E
JacquelineM (@jackiemania)
June @So_Meow
Ashley J.
Jessica M (@crazylilcuban)
Meg @ A Bookish Affair
Melody (Fingers & Prose)
Jessi (@j_addict)

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  • If you are participating and I don’t have you on this list, please let me know in the comments section. I did not include people who said ‘maybe’ so if you have changed your mind and are definitely reading along with us, let me know so I can add you. Also, if you are not going to be able to join us anymore please let me know and I will take you off the list. 
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  • If you go for two weeks without commenting in my weekly update comments section, I will assume you are no longer participating and will take you off of the list (*NEW GUIDELINE*, in order to get back onthe list, you need to a.) Have missed no more than two weeks of discussion, b.) Let me know you would like to be on the list again, and c.) consistently be part of the discussion for the next two weeks after requesting to be put back on the list.). This is in no way to be discouraging, but helps to keep the read-a-long organized (and helps me remember who’s completed what read-a-long…there (ahem) might be something fun for different levels of participants at the end of the year! Thanks!

35 thoughts on “On the Road :: Week Six

  1. “Dean, why do you act so foolish?”. What this section brought home to me was just how wild Dean is and the price he has paid for doing what he wants. Galatea calls Dean out (you go, girl!), his cousin in Denver says his family wants nothing to do with him, his friend Ed Wall has lost faith in him–whatever it is that Sal sees (and maybe needs) in Dean, it is getting harder to justify that attraction. Sal has to warn Dean off the young daughter in the family they are staying with near Denver–Sal says maybe he doesn’t have to, but he was obviously aware he did need to by what he says later. I found that very disturbing. This time when Dean drove wildly across the country, I imagined myself in the back seat with the other riders, huddling together convinced Dean was crazy. But what will that crazy man, and his observant, well-writing friend, do next?

    • Yes, yes, and yes. I almost forgot about the cousin! (I did feel bad for Dean there.) I waver between wanting to adopt Dean, give him a good scrubbing after locking the doors and monitoring him eating well and getting plenty of rest AND wanting to punch him in the face.

    • I agree about it getting harder to justify the attraction to Dean–especially since Sal seems so much more mature (maybe he’s not, but he seems that way).

      I wonder if, perhaps, Sal feels sorry for him on some level. He knows that Dean is “mad,” and he knows to protect the girl against him. Perhaps he’s holding on to the Dean he knew years before instead of seeing Dean as he really is.

  2. My mental image this week is of Dean running around all over the place with his thumb in the air, dirty bandage flapping. (Even sleeping with that thumb up! OMG)

    I’m trying to understand what Sal sees/needs in Dean. He calls him a “Holy Goof.” I’m thinking of the Fool in the Tarot deck (on steroids, or something more, uh, stimulating). New beginnings, infinite possibility, off on a journey, blissed out, ABOUT TO FALL OFF A CLIFF. I’m also reminded of William Blake: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

    Sal is a seeker and Dean his guide/guru/partner on the road. This can’t end well, right?!?

      • Fascinating question! I think Sal is the Hanged Man. Here are a few notes from aeclectic (.net) – don’t want to be put in link jail :)

        For a moment, he surrenders all that he is, wants, knows or cares about. Coins fall from his pockets and as he gazes down on them – seeing them not as money but only as round bits of metal.

        It seems to him that his perspective of the world has completely changed, as if his inverted position has allowed him to dangle between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. It is a dazzling moment, dreamlike yet crystal clear.

        Timeless as this moment of clarity seems, he realizes that it will not last. Very soon, he must right himself, but when he does, things will be different. He will have to act on what he’s learned. For now, however, he just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.

        The Hanged Man is similar to all of these: like Odin, he allows himself to be hung so that he can gain wisdom for the world. Like traitors of old, be sacrifices himself for a cause, and sees things from an “inverted” perspective. What is right to him is wrong to others and vice versa. And like the babe in the womb, the Hanged Man hangs suspended between one world (the womb) and the next (outside the womb).

        Yet this isn’t just a position of rest as the querent is inverted. Which means so is his/her view of the world is very different from the rest of us who walk upright. Thus, this waiting becomes a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. This new way of seeing things often leads to insights and enlightenment. Answers that eluded the querent become clear, solutions to problems are found. All of which the Hanged Man hoped to buy with his sacrifice.

      • Ooooh, I like this game! I pick the Lovers card for Sal… according to Jackie’s site (cool site, by the way!!) it seems even more appropriate for what I have in my head:

        “The Fool comes to a cross-road, filled with energy, confidence and purpose, knowing exactly where he wants to go and what he wants to do. But he comes to a dead stop. A flowering tree marks the path he wants to take, the one he’s been planning on taking. But standing before a fruit tree marking the other path is a woman. The Fool has met and had relationships with women before, some far more beautiful and alluring. But she is different. Seeing her, he feels as though he’s just been shot in the heart with cupid’s arrow.

        That’s how shocking, how painful is his “recognition” of her. As he speaks with her, the feeling intensifies; like finding a missing part of himself. It is clear that she feels the same about him. They finish each other’s sentences, think the same thoughts. It is as if an Angel above had introduced their souls to each other.

        Though it was his plan to follow the path of the flowering tree, and though it will cause some trouble for him to bring this woman with him, the Fool knows he dare not leave her behind. Like the fruit tree, she will fulfill him. No matter how divergent from his original intent, she is his future. He chooses her, and together they head down a whole new road.”

        What would you pick Susan?

        • I can see that, too! I was trying to think of Tarot cards for some of the other characters, (Carlo Marx, Hierophant? Bull Lee, Devil?) but was completely stumped for any of the female ones. Kerouac isn’t know for his three dimensional portraits of women (which is ok, it’s not what the book is about, and I’m not saying that as a criticism) and that was really hit home to me when trying to figure out their cards.

          An aside: If wondering about what women were doing during this time, the book Women of the Beat Generation by Brenda Knight is very illuminating. For insight into Kerouac, I love Joyce Johnson. Her memoir Door Wide Open reveals much not only about Kerouac but the time, and how it was different for women (remember the birth control revolution happened in the 60s). My absolute soul sister is Diane Di Prima. Her book Memoirs of A Beatnik is so good, and her poetry is some of my favorite. And that brings us full circle because Di Prima uses much tarot imagery in her poetry :)

          • Yes, I have that Brenda Knight book. I also have the graphic novel The Beats, which is long for a graphic novel, but quite good! It focuses on the men, but certainly talks about the women.

    • I’ve never heard that William Blake quote before! This is how I interpret it – it leads to the palace of wisdom because (assuming you live through whatever excess you are doing) you have to find your way to a more balanced place in order to survive… and some people can only do that by going too far in one direction or the other. Am I way off base?

      “This can’t end well, right?!?” THAT is the entire reason I’m reading. I have no more affection for these characters, but I need to see them to the end – safely or no.

      • I agree with that interpretation! I would only add, relating to this book, that you learn by experience. No one can tell you what is too much, you have to experience it for yourself- which I think is Sal’s purpose to be on the road – gain wisdom/experience (kicks).

    • Dean’s running around left me breathless! I couldn’t keep up! I laughed out loud when I read about him falling asleep with his hand still up, though. I think, on a certain level, he means well. He just is too self-centered/distracted to realize that he is hurting people (even when the tell him so).

  3. By chapter 3 I officially didn’t like Dean and was glad that the characters were finally figuring him out. He seems like a guy that had to grow up because he got Camille pregnant but still thinks that he’s a boy and can leave and travel the country at a whim. He’s obviously an adult with the full page medical history he’s got. Dean just isn’t cool to me anymore. He was a mystery before because Sal didn’t get to talk to him for the longest time, then Dean came to see Sal and I realized that Dean’s just no drugs and basically crazy. But Sal going to Dean?! That just increased his self esteem and turned him into a super jerk that not even his own family likes anymore. I can totally see Dean dying in this book because he will just push himself too far. The stealing cars was great, but it should have happened chapters ago because now he isn’t a forgiven child, he’s a grown ass man who could end up in jail, again, for stealing like it’s no problem.
    I liked in chapter 6 when Sal sort of turned on Dean, but the con man flipped him back. I really hope Sal figures out that he doesn’t need Dean and that Dean needs to get his life in order or else he’s going back to jail. I liked the ending of chapter 8 but overall this section was really hard for me to read and I found myself skimming through the pages describing the jazz. It was interesting but I wasn’t sucked in to reading 3 pages of it.

    • I wasn’t as drawn into the jazz section as in previous sections either. I found myself wondering why those sessions with the musicians were so important to get all this space in the story….because they are living in the moment, chasing the music, somehow like Dean is supposed to be doing? I dont know….it just wasn’t as compelling as the scene in San Francisco.

      • I really miss the actual literal on the road pieces like when Sal was trying to get to Colorado. I don’t know why the musicians got all that space, maybe it was now the jazz made Kerouac/Sal feel when they listened? The details were nice but I wasn’t into pages of it.

  4. I’m in Palm Springs for my birthday weekend and won’t be back until Monday! I’ll post soon! :)

  5. Dean is so neurotic that I almost feel bad for comparing him to my father-in-law, especially in regards to the young girls (ugh and blech) and yet they really are so similar. :) All the stories of people that Dean wasn’t on good terms with anymore because he’s screwed them over somehow? That’s an unending saga with my father-in-law.

    Anyhow, that comparison aside, this section was really interesting in regards to Dean and Sal. There were a couple of parts that helped explain Sal’s point of view. One was toward the end of Ch. 3: “I longed to go and put my arm around Dean and say, Now look here, all of you, remember just one thing: this guy has his troubles too, and another thing, he never complains and he’s given all of you a damned good time just being himself, and if that isn’t enough for you then send him to the firing squad, that’s apparently what you’re itching to do anyway…” And then at the end of Ch.6: “I told Dean I was sorry he had nobody in the world to believe in him.” (ok, quick trip back to my father-in-law comparison after all…I’ve heard those two exact same comments about him from his current wife. strange.) I do think it illuminates some of the draw Sal feels, though, other than just an attraction to Dean’s craziness.

    • I laughed out loud at your first sentence, Melody!

      Those two passages are what made me feel bad for Dean (and the one with his cousin). There is something terribly sad about Dean in which I don’t think he is ABLE to be who we want him to be. It hasn’t helped me like him anymore, but it sometimes makes me have an emotion other than pure annoyance for him.

  6. I still am not getting what Sal sees in Dean… at all! Everyone else (okay, the other semi-rational people in the book) seems to see right through Dean’s craziness. He’s always on drugs. Even his own family, the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, are not fond of him and have pretty much totally cut him out of their lives. Sal doesn’t even seem to try to make excuses for his behavior, which one would think he would do in the face of so many people calling into question Dean’s worth to society. I mean, if Sal would point out some of the good things he sees in Dean, perhaps I could at least understand what’s going on with their relationship. Does Sal just like the craziness and chaos that Dean brings??? To me, Dean doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities (the situation with Camille is just sad). I kept wanting to yell “grow up” at Dean!

    • I totally agree. I have no idea what Sal sees in Dean… I’m kind of waiting for it to wear off – wondering if that becomes a point of conflict (though I’m doubting it).

  7. I’m still in vacation mode, and while I read this section by the pool this weekend, all that sun seems to have erased it from my mind. I can remember being stunned that Dean can just continue to tear through America, using people and burning bridges left and right. I found it telling that Sal evens seems to have seen the shine wear off of Dean a bit. I LOVED Galatea putting Dean in his place – long overdue! Plus, call me old fashioned but the ease with which they talk about divorce is a bit unsettling for me. Dean can’t wait to divorce Camille and marry this waitress (I think she was a waitress at least) Just a second ago, he couldn’t wait to divorce MaryLou and marry Camille. He really embodies the live fast and die young mantra. Live fast, die young and alone.

    • I think this week was a little hard to follow because there was a lot of filler in between the meatier moments.

      Dean is a child – so I think he thinks of marrying and divorcing as dating and breaking up. Unfortunately one of his marriages actually produced children (poor them), so it’s unfortunate that innocent others are being effected.

      • I really think that it went in one ear and out the other for me this week. The jazz section didn’t hold my interest like it had in the past, so I skimmed.

        Dean seems to have Peter Pan syndrome… Doesn’t ever want to grow up, and surrounds himself with Lost Boys.

  8. From William Blake to Tarot symbolism to Peter Pan and the lost boys, I enjoyed the week 6 commentary almost as much as the book! I’m on my second highlighter now–so many meaningful insights, “soul exploratory” observations and authentic phrasings. I loved our boys’ existential banter from the backseat…and I got my biggest belly-laugh of the week from Dean’s live demonstration of Bull Lee’s driving style. (Isn’t it funny how Sal’s forever promoting Dean as the best driver there is?) And Sal, even though yes, you’re allowing Dean to drag you through the world at a whirlwind pace, you’re still SEEING SO MUCH. At the end of the day Dean, to me, just seems too outright RIDICULOUS to be truly labeled a destructive force. Anyone completely sucked in by his childishness has only themselves to blame, don’t you think? I mean, such silliness! “Yass, yass, said Dean, not listening.”

  9. There were a lot of telling moments in this week’s reading (I don’t have my book with me or I’d list them–I’ll put them up at my blog later this weekend) and I love how Kerouac throws these earth-shattering phrases into mundane scenes. It’s almost like walking a beach and, every few feet, picking up a diamond instead of a seashell.

    The philosophy lover in me has picked up a definite sense of determinism in the book, but I haven’t completely developed that idea yet. I think, on a certain level, that Dean and Sal simply accept everything that comes their way because of this line of thinking. It’s passive, not active–life happens and they can choose to experience it or not, but either way, life will happen.

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