Sunday, August 31, 2014

Golden lands

Pic of the week

A gold-lit street in Mechelen, Belgium  Photo by John Weaver

“But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?”

That’s a line from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which I’m in the middle of re-reading. Here’s the scene. When I put my daughter to bed, I read her a story, something off of the bookshelf by her bed. She goes in phases. For weeks she’ll want me to read the same book, night after night, until one night she says she doesn’t want that one any more, she wants another one. Then we’ll read that one for a while until she’s tired of it. And so on. 

Before I leave her room, I like to wait until she’s sound asleep. So I keep one of my books on her shelf too and get a few pages in every night after she closes her eyes. Right now I’m busy with On the Road.

Just a couple of quick thoughts for now because I want to write more about it after I’ve finished. But the first time I read it I was 20-years-old and remember really liking it. I remember how it felt then to be caught up in a wave of new places, people, experiences. I remember that feeling of swirling, wound-up energy, and how it felt to let go, not knowing where I’d land. It was pure being in the now. Being young.

More than anything else I’ve read, this book speaks to that feeling. And it’s a very American experience too – not that young people all over the world can’t appreciate this book – but On the Road is hard to separate from its American influences. Not just the ice cream and apple pie he eats at every highway diner, and cities and small towns that the narrator, Sal Paradise, moves through, but also the types of people he meets along the way, their attitudes, the regionalisms, the dialects – this all makes it very American. 

In fact, from the title alone you could probably guess it was American. If the book were set in Europe, it would’ve been called On the Train. There would’ve been equally interesting characters and places, I’m sure. But it doesn’t exactly evoke the same sense of throw-caution-to-wind freedom, does it?

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