What are you reading and do you like it?
I have started "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller but I am finding it very heavy going. I guess it is the stream-of-consciousness thing I find difficult. Not much seems to happen (except quite a few raunchy encounters). I also laughed in a bit that I don't think was meant to be funny. It is very literary, and I was thinking that maybe autobiographical fiction wasn't for me, but then I read the wikipedia article and saw a few books listed that I enjoyed eg. "I know why the caged bird sings", "A million little pieces", "Empire of the Sun". These books all have things happening - drug abuse, the invasion of China, etc. whereas nothing much seems to happen in "tropic". I have decided to try reading something else on the list instead.
I started 'Blankets' by Craig Thompson - a GN version of an autobiographical fiction. It has quite good press, but when I read through it I came across some content that was a bit disturbing (and I usually don't shy away from things very easily). Unfortunately I don't think I can finish it, so am torn between discussing what I have read thus far or trying to do something else quick smart.
I'm struggling with On the Road, it's not hard to read, but having put it down I feel no compulsion to pick it up again. I don't think the stream of consciousness thing is for me, I keep wondering what the point is and when something is going to happen. I don't understand how it is one of "the" important works of American literature. So I asked the biggest fanboy I knew, Big Al, and this is what he said:Post second world war America was a very conservative place, but the people who served overseas had been exposed to European ideas and literature. The auto industry took off, there was 100% employment, lots of immigration and people were comparatively well-off. I can't remember what else he said but it was something about people just deciding they could be writers and just sitting down and writing and now being able to travel.He also said he liked it because Kerouac was the first person to write like that and he could see where the hippies came from. Also he said that if you watch films from the eighties on you could see the influence, that films could just be about two weeks of someone's life and what happened.So what I would like to know is what you (Heather) like about it? What am I missing?
I've read Tropic of Capricorn and On the road for this month, and I'm going to pick up Hell's Angels by Hunter S. I've previously read the Rum Diary and Tropic of Cancer and when I reflect on all of them, the common theme I see is that they are all about young men that are growing up and not so impressed with the society they are becoming a part of. I think what has sucked me into them is when I consider my own fears and anxieties about my career, life, future etc. I can turn to books like this that remind me that all the things I'm worried about don't matter- that life can be experienced artistically and be considered an adventure. So I was kind of reading them as stress relief or escapism, they were offering me an alternative that I could take up whenever I felt like.I read somewhere that Kerouac was actually influenced by Miller (who was before Kerouac in writing in this style). I prefer Henry Miller over Kerouac, because he is so passionate, and as I discussed with Kathryn yesterday was very influenced by Dostoevsky of whom I am also a fan. Perhaps it's just me who also uses a diary as stress relief and pretty much writes the whole thing as stream of consciousness, and that's what I dig about these books. It's like capturing moments.But I'm no SOC expert. I CANNOT do Virginia Woolf!
I have just finished 'On the Road' and I have to say that it was a chore. The sheer randomness of it, the lack of direction in the text and in the characters, the rambling nature of the whole drove me to distractionSo saying though, it had some beautiful passages in it and Kerouac had way of writing in some pieces that truly popped for me and made me think. The very last paragraph is an example of this - you sit reading some of the most beautiful, piercing description that can be found in the whole text and out comes a statement that "God is Pooh Bear". See - random statements POP and grab your attention and you have to ponder them even though they are essentially meaningless to the wholeIt was all so very sad and bleak though. They spent years travelling, searching, groping for SOMETHING and never found it. The saddest thing was that they didn't even realsise that they were searching or that it was missing.Overall, I found it depressing, and grey and hopeless and the manic, greedy, grasping nature of the characters left me feeling sad and regretful for them.I think that they failed themselves, the people around them and any objectives they may have felt they had. I think that they failed at everything and I regret that for them
I am finally online. The comment that I deleted was just a tester.I finished On the Road yesterday. It wasn't a chore to read though I was very glad to get to the end. I just got fed up of how there seemed to be no purpose to their lives. Sal says he wants to get out and see America but how much can you really see from the back seat of a car driven by a mad man going at 110 miles an hour. I guess I just couldn't relate to any of the characters at all as their lives are so removed from mine. I know that is the point of reading to learn about other people but I hated all the characters and didn't really care waht happened to them.Having said that I am glad I read it and I thought some of the descriptions of the scenery were amazing. I wish I'd had a map to follow where they were going.I'm now reading Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson which is also autobiographcal fiction but set in the North of England.
I have had a hard time finding something I can actually read. I've had a go at Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham, The Lover by Marguerite Duras, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and there are a couple of others I can't remember that are at home. I picked up We, the Living by Ayn Rand and that looks promising. Reading everyone's comments about "stream of consciousness" and seeing it in The Lover (I think)... I don't like to read it (not that particular book anyway, very annoying). I need there to be something happening and I need to know in the beginning chapter or two. If We, the Living turns out to be no good, I think I'll have to try something else... Maybe Million Little Pieces...
I took home "The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, which is aimed at young adults. I really enjoyed it! There was no stream-of-consciousness, and there were some great characters. It is listed in the wikipedia "Autobiographical Fiction" article. I would recommended it!
Heather has lent me Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson and it is fantastic! I would highly recommend this one, much easier to read than On the Road. I also loved Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas which i only read recently - I think Hunter S Thompson is becoming one of my favourite authors. Also I LOVED A Million Little Pieces - but be warned it is not for everyone it has some quite graphic scenes. The part where he visits the dentist will give you nightmares for weeks!!!
I have just finished On The Road. I think a lot of my problems stemmed from morally judging the characters, I thought most of them were incredibly selfish and self-serving and their treatment of women was appalling. I really struggled with the idea that going "on the road" was a grand adventure, or a necessity, while abandoning your wife and children. I really didn't understand Dean's character at all. Having said that, I am very glad to have read the book and I do see the importance of the work as a reaction against conservative America, but... I don't know. I went through stages of loathing it, appreciating it, judging it and accepting that I don't understand it. It was a challenge and I'm glad I've been exposed to it - thanks Heather! I'd be very interested in talking about it, and all the beat authors, with all of you.
I started to read "On the Road", but after a measly few pages I decided I didn't want to spend time labouring over something I wasn't enjoying. To me, reading is escapism and it's a natural flowing thing - so to come up against a book that I had to reread several sentences over to fully understand was not my idea of enjoyment. I have read "Shantaram" before, and really enjoyed the characters in that - although at the time I was library-naive and didn't realise it was fiction until I'd finished it. I was disappointed to learn that it wasn't purely autobiographical, but it was still entertaining and a good read.I hope to get into reading more with this bookclub - I find I do more reading of your posts than of the book itself though!Vanessa
That is because you have 3 small children! I haven't read Shantaram but it's on my list. It's funny, reading On the Road I never thought of it as anything other than non-fiction. But then I was browsing through a book on Kerouac and the narrator was talking about the treatment of women in the book versus Kerouac and Cassidy's treatment of women (unfailingly courteous and respectful, reflecting the attitudes of the time) and then I remembered On the Road was actually fictional.
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