On the Road :: Week Seven

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 Seven: Read to Part 4, Chapter 4


Fun discussion last week, ladies. And a happy birthday to all of you who have celebrated during this read-a-long. Since we talked Tarot, we might as well mention Astrology… perhaps it is the fact that I am a Capricorn that makes it so hard for me to get into this novel. This is the same part of me that feels like a movie can be ruined if the characters are making a mess of the house (I am the one cringing and feeling stressed out – not laughing in these situations). Hmmm… messy, drugged out Dean with no plan leading the way has me wanting to throw up, yet again. I cannot handle it – but I love hearing from those of you who can. It’s really such a testament to how our personalities influence how we read and what we read, is it not? This is why these read-a-longs are so good for me: I am streeeeeetchig myself. Though Dean and Sal have me to the point where I might snap soon — good thing only one more week of reading.

It occurred to me, this week, that there is something voyeuristic about this book. It’s as though it’s a journal (or a personal blog), and I wonder if that’s part of what made it so special. Like we’ve talked about before, Kerouac even describes the mundane – so it feels as though we’re reading his notes about what happened… and in some way we are since this is so autobiographical.

Dean in a Nutshell: “Whee. Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there.”
“Where we going, man?”
“I don’t know but we gotta go.” (240)

Dean, Pretty Woman Style: “When he came home at nigh he took off all his clothes and put on a hip-length Chinese silk jacket and sat in his easy chair to smoke a water pipe loaded with tea” (249). So… we talking hip length like hip bone or like the curve-of-your-hip. Either way, with nothing else on, that’s almost Julia Roberts in her tie waiting for Richard Gere. I imagine he may have had underwear on, but I enjoyed envisioning it without – much more Dean, acting like something that is totally not normal is actually normal. Carrying on a conversation with his friend like this. I laughed… let me have my laugh about Dean even if I’m envisioning it incorrectly.

Dean, Never-Changing: His plan with Inez… his ending with Inez. I actually felt sad reading these parts. I know Dean is an extreme, but he’s a focal part of this book for a reason. Sal is obsessed with him, and Kerouac was obsessed with Cassidy; in a way that shaped his life. It’s hard not to try to imagine the reality of this person (especially knowing there are people out there who are very much like Dean). They keep walking the same circle over and over and can’t seem to break out; but truly, even if he could, I don’t think Dean would do well out of this well grooved path he’s created — in a way it’s his comfort zone.

The turning tricks was new-to-us, but since Sal didn’t seem to be surprised, we can imagine that this wasn’t Dean’s first venture into prostitution. I think they must just use the derogatory terms for homosexual because they were the colloquial terms of the day – not because they felt ill towards them… Sal seemed to think nothing of the fact that Dean was servicing men.

Favorite Passage of the Week: “Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives…” (253). Isn’t that the truth?

Question of the Week: Why did Sal say Dean was finally an Angel on page 263 (chapter 3) at the party? He wasn’t acting like an angel, and he wasn’t dead. Hmm…

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)

Friendly Reminders:

  • 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. 
  • Comments from the previous week’s reading will be closing Thursday afternoon (before the next discussion takes place on Friday). If you would like to be part of the discussion, please remember to comment before then. 
  • Each week, on Friday, share your thoughts about the previous week’s reading. If you are stuck on what to comment about, you can respond to my post or others’ comments. Regardless, you MUST check in each week (two weeks without a response and you will be taken off of the list — see below for details on why). You may have only one “off week” (which may not be the last week of reading for obvious reasons) and still be kept on the list, but you must let me know in the comment section by saying something like, “I’m catching up,” or “I’m still reading.” ***for all week’s discussions please refrain from posting ahead, even if you have read ahead, as to not spoil the book for others***
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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!

13 thoughts on “On the Road :: Week Seven

  1. Hah, now that you brought up astrology, I looked up mine to see why I might be having a hard time with this book. I am a Libra and I like balance in every aspect of my life. I think that about says it all right there. Dean is totally off balance and perhaps that’s why I just don’t mesh with him. Sal apparently is not a Libra.

    I cannot figure out why Sal calls Dean an angel. I think that sort of goes to show that Sal is still sort of in awe of Dean and his ridiculousness. I kind of get the feeling that Sal wants to be able to let go like Dean and just go where the wind takes him.

    • Kerouac is a Pisces. Dreamy water baby. (some key words I found at cafeastrology: intuitive, dreamy, artistic, humane, sympathetic, sensitive, compassionate, perceptive, tender, impressionable

      I’m a Cancerian (also a water sign) which is why I like floating about with him so much :) If you google his birth chart there are a number of sites with it. Yes, I find astrology very interesting :) I have a chain of crabs tattooed around my ankle – I’m SUCH a Cancerian it’s not even funny.

  2. Wallace – that was my favorite passage as well. I was mad that I didn’t bring my book so I could type it out, but you did it for me :)

    I think he called Dean an angel as part of his ongoing holy goof/sage thing. Also that he was the beatest of the Beats. I love this explanation of Beat from bluesforpeace DOT com:

    In a June, 1959 Playboy article titled “The Origins of the Beat Generation”, Kerouac explained that the linguistic root of the word ‘beat’ also carried connotations of beatitude or beatific. The term ‘Beat Generation’ was coined by Kerouac in a conversation with John Clellon Holmes who felt Kerouac’s stories “seemed to be describing a new sort of stance toward reality, behind which a new sort of consciousness lay.”

  3. I’m a Cap as well which is probably why I’ve related my experience with this book to my experiences with road trips. The first half is great and you’re excited and interested and spend hours looking out the window until you get there. And then you have vacation or whatever and it’s ok but doesn’t live up to your ‘Christmas Eve/Day’ type expectations. And then it’s time to go home which is great because you’ve had your fill but then the hours drag on and you have to pee and it’s too late and all the stops are closed and you just want to get home (in my case, I just want to finis this book). Parts of this book are still good but I find myself longing for what now is my favorite part of the book, the beginning where he was hitching with strangers trying to get to Denver.

    I’m not sure where this book is going to end, maybe Dean’s recklessness will catch up with him and he’ll end up getting killed (I don’t really wish him to die but it seems like only death can slow Dean down).

    • The beginning is turning out to be my favorite part too. Sal seemed to experience that trip more directly, while trips with Dean become more about experience of travelling with Dean.

  4. Yeah, I’m ready for the book to end too. It was actually just kind of depressing this week. There’s the jazz, I guess, but other than that there isn’t really any art actively happening – the philosophy, poetry, etc. that was in the beginning of the book has worn thin long ago.

    It seemed to me that the “angel” reference had to do with Dean’s madness. His mental state had deteriorated to the point that “People were now beginning to look at Dean with maternal and paternal affection glowing in their faces.” There was the phase where Dean was intriguing because of his odd effervescence, then people were annoyed and just done with his issues, and now there’s the bracing yourself to have patience & feeling pity for him. Sal says, “He was finally an Angel, as I always knew he would become; but like any Angel he still had rages and furies…” I may very well be wrong, but that’s how I read it.

    I loved this (from the end of pt.4 ch.1) because I’ve felt that way about my parents photos, and because it shows (so perfectly) the transition they’re in:

    “Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy mess and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.”

  5. Wallace, I also wanted to comment about “…there is something voyeuristic about this book. It’s as though it’s a journal (or a personal blog), and I wonder if that’s part of what made it so special.”

    I agree. We are so used to this type of writing now, but Kerouac was honestly one of the firsts to do it. I think Henry Miller was certainly a predecessor, but since much of his work was banned, people in America didn’t get open access (of course there were ways ;) until it was published by Grove Press in the early 60s (which I think was sort of reversely opened up by the publication of On The Road, Ginsberg’s Howl, etc.) even though it was written in the 30s!

  6. I may have messed up my reading this week, as I cannot for the life of me remember the scene with Dean + his kimono or finding out he puts out for the male gender. Oops!

    I do, however, remember thinking “here we go again” when Inez was introduced to us readers. Dean, marriage isn’t just something to do. Please stop having babies. Please.

  7. Page 258 was BLISS for me! Pure bliss. We had Dean “grown quiet in New York”, more settled than we’d EVER have thought possible; regular job, “reduced to simple pleasures,” “everything straightened out most beautifully;” talking of moving his Dad and sister out– um, hello? A farm in Pennsylvania with lots of kids and a station wagon for kicks? THIS CRAB incredibly got fooled for five seconds (five pages?) into thinking HER hearth and home contentment could be a fit for Dean’s crazy. CRAZY CRAB…

    MEANWHILE, with Dean all tucked away with his “Tao decisions” came my favorite part for Sal. “Tim Gray, Stan, Babe, and I spent an entire week of afternoons in lovely Denver bars…nights at Five Points listening to jazz…and gabbing till five o’clock in the morn in my basement. Noon usually found us reclined in Babe’s back yard among the little Denver kids…who played cowboys and Indians and dropped on us from cherry trees in bloom. I was having a wonderful time and the whole world opened up before me…” Then, DEANFAIL. Run Sal, RUN and don’t look back! Head for Mexico NOW before the havoc wreaker arrives! But of course the inevitable happens and I couldn’t bring myself to read for TWO SOLID DAYS.

    There’ll NEVER be another book like this one. It broke the mold. A genre of ONE.

    • Totally laughed out loud at your DEANFAIL comment. Too true! I think it’d interesting to see that the power in the relationship has shifted a bit. Now it’s Dean chasing after Sal, instead of Sal chasing after Dean. In fact, Sal seems content in Denver without Dean, he doesn’t seem so restless. Once he hears Dean is coming, though, he’s got to prepare (mentally, I’m sure, as well as finding somewhere for him to stay).

  8. Reading in Maine this week, a state that seems to have escaped tne wandering duo of Sal and Dean, but driving down to visit my sister in Connecticut, I passed Lowell, Massachusetts, where Kerouac grew up. Looks like Neal Cassidy/Dean was an Aquarius, maybe that’s why the affinity between Sal and Dean? I loved the photograph passage too, and also the last sentence of the reading “And Denver receded back of us like the city of salt, her smokes breaking up in the air and dissolving to our sight.”. One more road trip to go.

  9. I’m a Scorpio and I don’t know what that says about my personality (I’m not into astronomy, but I find it really interesting when it crosses my path). I do think I’m one of the few who feels sorry for Dean. Maybe not in real life–if I knew him he would give me too much anxiety. But from this perspective, it’s easy to see that he’s struggling. He’s trying to find meaning but it’s just not there: “I’ll tell you, Sal, straight, no matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. You’ve seen me try and break my ass to make it and you know that it doesn’t matter…” (p., 251). This is that undercurrent of determinism I was talking about last week–life happens and Dean and Sal are trying to find some sort of meaning behind it all, but the truth is that there might not be any. Dean seems to have a manic, existential crisis every time he realizes this.

    This strain of determinism is also seen on page 258, where Sal says, “I was having a wonderful time and the whole world opened up before me because I had no dreams.” For the first time in the book Sal is laying low. He’s letting life happen, as it does, and not trying to race it or control it. He seems okay with not having to have dreams, with letting life unfold as it should, because he knows (possibly, this is probably too big an assumption) that there is nothing he can do to change it. Things will happen as they will.

    I also feel bad for Dean because Sal’s characterization of him on page 259, when he hears that Dean is coming, is so spot on. It’s almost comical, his depiction of his best friend, but I would never want someone to describe me in this way and it be accurate: “Suddenly, I had a vision of Dean, a burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on me. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities,destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again […] Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive.”

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