This was a really nice book to read while traveling nonstop for a month through California and Oregon (my big farewell to the West–oops I mean LEFT–coast). I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book so much if I hadn’t been on the move so much myself, but there it goes. I was surprised by how much this book both reminded me of The Savage Detectives, especially in passages like this one:
“Then I suddenly had the most tremendous feeling of the pitifulness of human beings, whatever they were, their faces, pained mouths, personalities, attempts to be gay, little petulances, feelings of loss, their dull and empty witticisms so soon forgotten: Ah, for what? I know that the sound of silence was everywhere and therefore everything was silence. Suppose we suddenly wake up and see that what we thought to be this and that, ain’t this and that at all? I staggered up the hill, greeted by birds, and looked at all the huddled sleeping figures on the floor. Who were all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of the earth with me? And who was I?”
Overall this book made me feel happy and excited and appreciative of my wandering, rambling youth. It’s kind of like a Buddhist “On the Road.” It was also fun to read a book in which Gary Snyder (most famous alumni of my alma mater!!) is one of the main characters. The best parts of this book made me feel like a happy smiling Buddha sitting on the edge of a hiking trail, surveying the sunrise as I think back pleasantly about my weekend getting crunk in San Francisco.
My one complaint about this book is the treatment of the female character, Rosie, who ends up killing herself (sorry for the spoiler, but whatever). The narrator’s reaction to this seemed a bit cold to me and it kind of irked me–I guess he was just a typical macho male not able to deal with his feelings? Whatever, I think Kerouac is famous for not being super great at writing female characters anyway–I guess he just couldn’t cope with the Feminine Mystique. One of these days I’d like to write a book or story in which FEMALE characters do Kerouc and Cassady and Ginsberg and Into the Wild-type things. Why should the boys have all the fun, right?
In the spirit of travel and adventure, here are some select photos of my own epic Summer of Fun, taking me from Berkeley & the Bay Area, to Morro Bay and Sebastapol, to Ashland and Bend and beyond.