In a year without travel, Steinbeck and Kerouac take us on a road trip of self-discovery
Our ability to travel was severely limited last year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience the world from the comfort of our own homes. As the aphorist Mason Cooley once said, “Reading gives us a place to go when we need to stay where we are.”
We turned to two classics: “Travels with Charley in Search of America” (1962, Penguin Classics), John Steinbeck’s memoir of his 3-month road trip across the United States, and Jack’s “On the Road”. Kerouac (1957, Penguin Modern Classics).
In Steinbeck’s memoir, he drove “Rocinante,” a bespoke pickup truck from his home in Long Island, New York, heading north to Maine, then west to Washington State and south to California before heading east again through Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana.
Accompanied by a French poodle named Charley, who often steals the show with his funny antics, Steinbeck’s road trip allowed him to develop an in-depth knowledge of the human condition and write an ironic review of many unnecessary twists and turns and extravagances. of humanity.
Steinbeck, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1940 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960, is best known for his novels “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men,” where he explored the heavy emotional toll and psychological caused by the American Great Depression in the 1930s and the westward migration from the Dustbowl to California.
But in this memoir, which will soon celebrate the 60th anniversary of its publication, he moves away from the melancholy that characterizes what literary experts call “vintage Steinbeck”.
“Travels with Charley” is playful, often irreverent and always entertaining. Steinbeck and Charley become the archetypal weird couple, like Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s “Grumpy Old Men”, but much less cranky. As they revel in the greatness of the United States, they lament the gradual loss of its cultural diversity.
In his signature, sardonic style, Steinbeck highlights the paradox that technology makes life easier and more predictable, but also less interesting. A Filipino makes a prominent appearance in the book, bringing out the crucial point that immigrants have helped make the United States into the country it is today.
If “Travels with Charley” offers a breathtaking view of the United States from a long panoramic shot, then “On the Road” (1957, Penguin Modern Classics) by Jack Kerouac is its independent documentary equivalent, the camera. Shaky handheld video that follows its colorful cast of characters as they take their footsteps.
Its narrative structure is experimental and, like the bebop jazz that was playing at the time, is characterized by improvisation and sudden changes of mood. This can make “On the Road” a bit difficult to read because it does not match traditional storytelling techniques.
But as we look forward to the centenary of Kerouac’s birth next year, we have a wonderful opportunity to experience this storytelling experimentation that turned her into a famous modern classic. We can find out why icons such as Bob Dylan said the novel “changed my life like it changed everyone’s”.
In the novel, Kerouac tells a fictional tale of Sal Paradise’s journey across America, first as a hitchhiker, then eventually driving across the country in a beaten Hudson with his hero Dean Moriarty. Along the way, Sal, the writer-scholar, lives up close to the lives of people on the fringes of society who defined the Beat Generation of the 1950s.
“On the Road” is shredded with frantic energy. Kerouac throws a crude, garish and unapologetic spotlight on an America rarely seen by the casual observer. The novel is the reaction of a counter-culture to being betrayed by the establishment. It is a manifesto extolling the spontaneity, exuberance and the feeling of quasi-invincibility of youth. More importantly, it is an examination in the face of the fractured psyche of a generation that has witnessed the horrors of war.
These modern literary classics can be educational for everyone. They take us on revealing road trips through a country at defining moments in its history. As well as enjoying the scenic drive through America’s myriad of landscapes, we learn that glaring societal errors such as bigotry, greed, or even apathy not only damage the fabric of society, but seriously hamper the development of a society. country. We develop a better appreciation of how the inherent but often overlooked cultural diversity of a country can be a powerful source of national identity.
We also discover that travel can change us for the better if we let it happen, and that a journey is more than the destination, the selfies and the memories. As Steinbeck succinctly puts it, “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike… We realize after years of struggle that we do not travel; the journey takes us.
But until we can all travel safely again, we can take comfort in the fact that reading books allows us to virtually travel the world, survive our isolation, deepen our empathy, deepen our empathy, appreciate other cultures and peoples and broaden our view of the world. – News LA, GMA
About the Authors: Rory J. Bolivar is a licensed microbiologist, educator, and writer. Robespierre L. Bolivar is the recipient of the Gawad Mabini, one of the highest presidential distinctions awarded to Philippine diplomats. Follow them on Instagram @robroryreads and visit their website at https://robroryreads.wixsite.com/bookreviews