Exploring the intersections of ecology, technology, and ideology: Marx, machines, Gibson, and Shanghai.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Kerouac's On the Road: 50 Yrs Later

The "American classic" was published 50 years ago today: September 5th, 1957, and Kerouac's novel holds a fascinating place in American literary history, celebrated by some as a signpost of his deeply spiritual (Catholic-Buddhist cyborg) relationship to words and silence, by others as a reinvisioning of the American landscape and the Western frontier, as well as one primary text that defined the Beat Generation.

But among all the blogposts and feelgood remembrances composed around this anniversary, I have yet to find mention of some of the novel's strangest moments:

p.117: Shortly into Part Two: Dean and Sal are driving Sal's brother's furniture north from Testament:

"Dean had a sweater wrapped around his ears to keep warm. He said we were a band of Arabs coming in to blow up New York."


"I wished I were a Denver Mexican, or even a poor overworked Jap, anything but what I was so drearily, a 'white man' disillusioned."

What has remained unexplored in recent media coverage is the disturbing and disturbingly sadistic gaze of Sal as the reader's figure of identification in the narrative: one need only think of Sal's convenient relationship with Terry in the Grapes of Wrath intertextual interlude and how readily he leaves her, her child, and her poverty behind as aesthetic objects that have been enjoyed and now live on not in-themselves but only as objects for his reminiscence in moments of loneliness.

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