Headless, staid on skewers, jouncing by their nooses, the brown, crispyflesh fowl behind the steaming storefronts wafted a greasy, menacing overture in the streets. Neon rain caught the diesel fumes of the warm city air and sent them back up in sticky prowling clouds cloying at street level. It was crowded. Cries and honks and subdued, familial babbling: all foreign. Darkness at bay clung to the periphery of light. The sidewalk glowed with neon and gold trinket and brightly colored talisman. Through the coat pockets, Thomas Beater plumped his fists against his stomach, weary of the darkness, color, odor, sound rollicking in his brain, licking raw his brain.
“Where is it then?” he asked.
“Coming up.” Andy ventured. His eyes swept vaguely the second-story signs for English and his hand often swept absentmindedly over his back pocket to test the mass inside. His mouth was slightly open as he led them.
“What’s it called?” Glancing left and right, screwing up her eyes. Receiving the street, sensation drowning thought, wearing her down. Her name is Astrid.
“Peking Duck House.” Andy raked his hand through his hair absently.
“I hope you have those three characters tucked away somewhere.” said Tom.
“Huh?” he turned his attention.
“Three Chinese characters. You speak Mandarin? What if it’s not in English?”
“The sign,” His head turning.
Peeking from a dingy jamb came low-cut breasts, painted toady face, thin roguish eyes and an open duck-bill smile, smiling, smiling like wide open legs. Here I am! Rouge lips beckoned: “Kee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee…” all down the street and Tom’s eyes, locked in hers in fawning and fascination, gave way to a jocose disgust his mouth took up:
“Never before,” laughed Tom “have I so wished I knew Mandarin.”
“Not bad right? Of course we’ll be hungry again in an hour or so but...”
“Not bad Andy. Cozy place. All it needed was a cloud of cigarette smoke and a game of Russian Roulette.”
“That’s Vietnam you idiot. And the place itself was not that bad.”
Astrid pulled the cigarette deftly from her mouth. “No, it was.”
“OK but the food was good. And that’s what we came here for yea?”
“No the food was very good.” Tom fixed his pointer finger at a right angle to his thumb and waved it menacingly. “Diddy Mow! Diddy Mow!” Two children saw this and stared open-mouthed, blank at the spectacle. Slippered little feet scuttled to the boys and ushered to the opposite sidewalk, cautious clucks, pecks, and Tomward glances. The gun disappeared from his hand and reached, sheepish, penitent, for the family now fading into the sea of faces that looked all so similar to him and now, somehow, more serious.
Andy burst out laughing: “Well done Tom! Did you lose your manners back at the restaurant?”
“I may have left them in the wine glass,” He rubbed his jaw sleepily and allowed himself a laugh, “and it’s not disrespectful, just...eh. Now class, who can say ”sorry” in Chinese? Anyone? Anyone?” A hand shot up in the air and waved frantically. “Andy?”
“Ummm…can I go to the bathroom Mr. B?”
“No! You’ll stay in your goddamn seat until the goddamn bell rings goddamnit! Anyone else? Astrid?” Giggling, head shaking: no. “The answer is “who cares”. Astrid I know you knew that one. Hail us a taxi then?”
They agreed by stumping their cigarettes into bleary, neon puddles as a car pulled up to the curb. Tom sat in the center and leaned his head earnestly forward between the dull plastic windows.
And then, intoned from above – the plaint from below – in the sing-song soughing of Gabriel (now the mere and mighty slapping on the keyboard): “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
Tom checked himself and chuckled pleasantly, privately. “Driver, fifth ave and tenth please.”
Daisy Miller is an interesting subject for the treatment of epiphany analysis. This judgment rests on the ambiguity of what, when, and whether the epiphany is. To my mind there are two events which could be characterized as epiphanies. The former, occurring in the coliseum, abides more easily with the classical form of the epiphany: an instantaneous moment of realization about the true essence of something or someone. The latter, slowly occurring over an entire year of Winterbourne’s life, lacks the “instantaneous” quality which would characterize it as epiphany, for there must be some criteria to distinguish “epiphany” from “realization”.
The ambiguity arises not in the fact that there are two epiphanies but in the fact that the first “epiphany” is rendered untrue by Winterbourne’s second, long-term realization. The first event has the epiphany form without the substance, the second vice versa.
In the Coliseum: “It was as if a sudden illumination had been flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy’s behavior and the riddle had become easy to read. She was a young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect.” (p.58) The epiphany is followed by another one of Daisy’s flirtatious reprimands, “He cuts me!” (p.58), and with “sudden illumination” he has decided not to engage in her flirtatious games anymore, that she is not worth his concern. She is “a clever little reprobate” (p.58), and he makes his new-found feelings known to Daisy with scalding indifference.
Following this incident, Daisy urgently needs Winterbourne to know that she was not engaged to Giovanelli who, because of his wealth, nationality, and exclusion from the expatriate society, is seen as an unsuitable and frivolous match for Daisy. Giovanelli tells Winterbourne that Daisy was “the most innocent” (p. 61) young lady he had ever known, and Winterbourne thinks deeply about Daisy’s “mystifying manners” (p.62) for the next year. He then tells his aunt of an “injustice” on his “conscience”, that Daisy “would have appreciated one’s esteem.” (p.62)
The second realization is only adumbrated by Winterbourne and the narrator. The realization has occurred over quite some time for Winterbourne, and the final page serves as more of an epiphany for the reader than the characters. It is suggested that Daisy did love Winterbourne, and his misjudging “epiphany” as well as his failure throughout the novel to show her “esteem” has had dire effects on the both of them. It is interesting to note that it is only through the first, misconceived “epiphany” that the truth came out. More interesting is the last paragraph of the novel, which states that “Nevertheless”, he returns to Geneva, “studying” a clever foreign lady. Despite his realization of Daisy’s love for him and his own mistakes towards her, it is suggested that he is starting back at the beginning, that he either buries the realization or simply fails to learn from his encounter with Daisy Miller.
Throughout the novel, the context of travel cannot be ignored in understanding the characters. Winterbourne has a specific place in the traveling expatriate community; a place of respect carved out by his aunt’s aristocratic ties. He then travels as the man everyone expects him to be. Daisy, on the other hand, is the pretty American flirt. She rebels against the snobbery of society like Winterbourne’s aunt, possibly by conforming to their expectations. As they travel in foreign parts they encounter situations and must each time establish themselves somehow, must define themselves in a foreign setting. Is the pretty American flirt a pretty American flirt when she is at home? Had the two met in America, it is possible that we would see an entirely different Daisy.
The setting of the Coliseum adds another dimension to Winterbourne’s first “epiphany”. The setting inspires poetry, beauty, and love – the Coliseum in moonlight. It was also the setting of gladiatorial battles and Christian martyrdom – love and death in one setting, and Winterbourne must choose. It is here that Daisy is with her Italian lover, here that Winterbourne rejects his feelings of love towards her, and it is here she is killed, even martyred as a symbol of innocence, naiveté, and love ostracized by the highbrow expatriate community. One can view the Coliseum as the parallel culmination between the would-be lovers and the journey itself.
I’ve been sitting here a few hours and (between solitaire and the removal of a tenacious little Windows Vista sticker) compiling important passages, themes, and symbols against the luminous leer of WordDocument4, trying to make complete sense of the book. As I look over what I’ve written I’ve really got to hand it to otherworld me: I’ve got a point. Why do this? I take these key passages and reduce them, squish them together like a demonic puzzlehead until they fit. So what’s the picture on the puzzle? To His Coy Mistress with a quantum spin. If you don’t know Marvell’s poem it unfolds like a rose and means “get it while it’s good” (There! I did it again). So, “get it while it’s good”. With a quantum spin.
Like Sumire’s aesthetic theory, you’re a beautiful, messy, confusion of dichotomies. Inside of all of us there’s a frigid you, “an empty shell”, and the one that blossoms with and embraces love. That’s the duality by which our characters are split. Miu spurns love from a soldier on a park bench and a fiftyish Spanish guy with a mammoth penis (classic hamartia). Instead of looking out from the isolation of her room, she instead looks in at her other self (does her other self live in a Ferris wheel?), her possible worlds self who embraced love. Seeing this, the beautiful chaos of her dichotomies rearranges itself and she is split into frigid Miu and she-who-strokes-mammoth-penis Miu.
Sumire falls in love with Miu and decides she must profess her love or else fade away into nothing. She appears in Miu’s room in shock (resembling Miu’s incident), tries to make love to Miu, and is rejected. Then she goes into the dream world, where she can love otherworld Miu. How do you get to the dream world? By sharpening her knife and slitting a dog’s throat somewhere (“symbolically” is the operative word here I think; so far I’ve had no luck). Symbol, according to K, is a one-way street. In the end, Sumire is in a world that is “too semiotic”.
K never tells Miu he loves her. He has lost the “precious flame”. He’s going to fade away into nothing, he’s going to be alone, in longing and regret. In dream world Miu and Sumire make love while he reads Balzac. Besides Sumire, he has been alone since his dog died. He has some fit, brought on by music and moonlight wherein he sinks into a state of consciousness, maybe on the edge of the dream world, but resists and returns. Miu invites him to come and get her in her semiotic world which she entered symbolically: “I cut something’s throat. Sharpening my knife, my heart a stone.” (209) He didn’t slit any throats anywhere, there are no bloodstains on his hands. “The blood must have already, in its own silent way, seeped inside.” (210).
The dog, with the knife, somewhere (otherworld Clue). How does it all tie together? All the little details that lead to “get it while it’s good”? “I conceive a dream, a sightless fetus called understanding, floating in the universal, overwhelming amniotic fluid of incomprehension…The technical, and moral, skills needed to maintain a supply line on that scale are beyond me.” (136) I’ll go with that.
If it’s something a single blog post can explain, it’s not worth having explained.
“A different language is a different vision of life.” – Federico Fellini. Too bad Fassbinder didn’t say it that would be too tidy. It was some “F” director(that’s not a grade). Ali: Fear Eats Soul is about a widowed German maid and a young Moroccan boxer/mechanic who meet in a bar and fall in love. The film focuses on the prejudice the interracial couple face from the community. Inspired by Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (by the way Steve, another great movie we could watch in class if you don’t already have Ali: Fear Eats Soul lined up), the triumphs and failures of love are the products of societal persecution and individual strength.
In Guo’s book, however, the societal persecution has almost been internalized as cultural differences and language. There are no tenses in Chinese? You’ve got to be kidding me. How does anything get done over there? Family, home, and house are subsumed under one character? To the Western mind, it’s hard to see why three often vastly different concepts (who can say subdivisions of the same thing even?) are united in one word. Have they a less abstract connotation to the Chinese mind? Family, home, and house are not concepts but concrete? Besides the incomprehensibility a vice-versa Chinese-speaker would feel towards English, there are linguistic oddities that even English speakers can pick up on: how can and why do we use “love” for a cup of tea? Social oddities as well: pornography is sold nearly everywhere; so why can’t you “read” it in public?
Privacy. I remember talking to a girl from India once who asked what my house was like and as I described my room and my parents’ room and my sister’s room she interrupted, vaguely disgusted I thought, and asked why we didn’t all live in the same room where we could be together and live together always. I remember that I couldn’t begin to answer her. I considered asking her if she minded shitting in front of someone as long as it was a family member but thought better of it; if “privacy” wasn’t in her catalogue I doubted that “crude semi-satire” was (after all, “humour is a Western concept”). As with many such questions, I deferred to cultural differences: agree to disagree: shake hands walk away.
And why don’t I live with my family in the same room? Do I not love them as dearly as one who does? That I need time away from them; how do I qualify my love? Are there different loves? “How,” Z writes, “can intimate live with privacy?” (p.87) Z sees this conflict of love and autonomy at the root of a culture opposed to her own. For her, family is everything. Westerners have their own friends, their own bank accounts, and this need for autonomy, in contrast to the community and dependence of Chinese culture, Z thinks, may be the cause for retirement homes, frequent divorce, isolation, loneliness, “peterfiles”, and perverts.
To delve into the cultural dimensions of East and West is too large a topic for this 500 word post, even for Guo’s book. There is in Guo’s book, however, plenty of food for thought that is all but put on a plate and pre-chewed for you. It might be Z’s insights into language, love, food, or travel. Or it could be a young Chinese woman interspersing these insights with tales about her vagina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ydGWSdgDrw (We know how much she liked David Lynch)
“Did he complete his journey or did he perish on the way? Did he enter the land of Gebel? How did he fare there? Did he stay there till the end of his life, or did he return to his homeland as he intended? Will one day a further manuscript be found describing his last journey? Knowledge of all this lies with the Knower of what is unseen and of what is seen.” (p.148) Ah yes…the Knower…capital K…seen and unseen. Yup…the ooooolllll’ Knower.
Can you argue with a sage? They always make you feel like such an ass for using thought-logic or something or they manage to undercut your questions and make them sound superficial or impatient and they’re so damn deferential and patient and don’t watch any TV so I don’t trust them. “Love work and do not pay attention to the fruits and the reward.”: I can hold that thought peacefully in my head for about ten seconds – what a lovely ten seconds it is – before others come crowding in. I’m lost to this kind of stuff. I’m a child of the West. I could make a Zen master flush angry with questions, sort of like Socrates vs. Buddha though my questions rank high in quantity not quality. C’mon man just tell me how to get to Gebel I don’t need this “soul of existence” stuff why don’t you just tell me all the stuff you know and then I’ll leave you alone? How do I know you’re not just pretending with the rest of these bald guys power tripping on idiots and you sit around and look solemn and say deep things I have no idea what they mean but you might just be screwing with us where’s the proof if I look solemn and say pithy things about self can we just wing it on the tacit understanding that I probably get all this stuff and I’m deep in thought not just grumpy from having to sleep sitting up and I can totally fly without wings.
Not that it has to do so much with this book. We’re used to literature written in the Western tradition: pick it apart reduce it and what’s it all about do you agree and why or why not. And a lot of people spend their careers nailing down the meaning and deducing content through literary techniques and the book becomes a protean jigsaw with different pictures depending on whose hand is placing (or forcing) the parts together. A story like Ibn Fattouma probably isn’t one of these. It seems like the tradition and type of story that sits there, a story in the oral tradition, and there’s the high allegory but it’s more a flow than a construction. And the experiences are the road to inner consciousness which is the road to something which is the road to Gebel or death or something. A friend asked me what I was reading(no they didn’t): “ehhh… sort of an Odyssey meets Candide meets Wizard of Oz told to you by an old, intense Arabic guy in a sweaty tent.” And why am I not on the Times payroll?
Through Cohen’s typological lens, The Sun Also Rises presents characters whose reasons for travel run and shift on the full gamut of touristic modes. Hemingway gives us characters with vague and unarticulated motivations; this makes it unclear as to which, if any, of Cohen’s touristic modes they should generally reside in. More specifically, where are the characters’ sociological centers?
The “Lost Generation”. They themselves are lost – but from where? They have lost their center, and their center has lost them. The western societal “center” (using a generalization for the sake of the “Lost Generation” notion) has disintegrated in the wake of World War I. Previous ideologies of men and masculinity, women and femininity, and human value died in the trenches. The idea that this disillusionment with western society’s center occurred as a result of something (relatively suddenly as opposed to a building incredulity or long-held skepticism) is crucial in understanding Hemingway’s characters as they apply to Cohen’s typology.
The “Recreational Mode”, at least, is one mode that does not apply to Hemingway’s characters. Although they do, at instances, seem to meaninglessly indulge in leisure or pleasure, within the context of their lives these instances are not simply respite and relaxation from the center; their center is lost.
The “Diversionary Mode” works: the characters are alienated and (perhaps due to the suddenness, the “trauma” of losing their center) one could easily back the argument that they do not look for another center but instead only seek meaningless pleasure.
The “Experiential Mode” finds some credence as a touristic model as Jake, for example, seeks authenticity in his relationship with Pamplona. He seeks authenticity by his involvement in Romero’s relationship to bullfighting, a center containing, of special importance to Jake, ideals of manhood which have vanished with the western center. Though heavily involved in bullfighting’s center, Jake remains an outsider (despite his knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm, he is not a participant) and his appreciation is of another’s relation to their center. His experience is vicarious and, hence aesthetic; something which comes across clearly in his description and reaction to watching the bullfights.
The “Experimental Mode” and “Existential Mode”, somewhat less applicable than the last two, are still credible typological outlines for Hemingway’s characters. The Experimental is less credible than the Experiential or the Diversionary in that it seems for Cohen to require at least some degree of self-consciousness. The “awareness” plays a fundamental role in Cohen’s types in one’s relation to one’s center in that in order to qualify for many of the types, one must be aware (on some level) that one is searching for, experiencing, relocating, or idealizing “meaning” – a claim with uncertain application to Hemingway’s characters. On an unconscious level, there is an emptiness in these characters; whether they seek to fill this emptiness is something which can only take place on an interpretive level; motivation and self-consciousness are only tacitly presented. On a painfully explicit level, Hemingway’s characters encounter rather than search. And to say that the characters are Existential would imply (due to the recent loss of their western center) a center of substantially abstract bearing. Of course, all centers subscribe to equally fundament abstract concepts, but such a center for these characters would (in my use of “abstract”) mean something with a very low instance of manifestation in the real world (an aesthetic center, for example, has no society; its categorical manifestation, even in a piece of art, is uncertain). Again, such theorizing is reached only through a good amount of reader interpretation or, at best, authorial intent. As it were, Hemingway is Hemingway.
Cohen’s idea, crucial to keep in mind, that often tourists will oscillate, “progress”, or “regress” through his types is useful in looking at tourists, fictitious and real. Hemingway gives us characters who reveal little to us, and even less to each other. There is evidence supporting and refuting nearly every one of Cohen’s types. To my mind, Hemingway seems to primarily emphasize the “trauma”, the destruction of these character’s values; their occasional search for meaning, fruitless and sad, seems to be used towards this end.
Quite an ending.
It invites an explanation, perhaps “how the imagination, the sexual imagination, men’s ancient dreams of hurting, and women’s of being hurt, embodied and declared a powerful single organizing principle, which distorted all relations, all truth.” (P.126) Mary and Colin love each other. Yuck. They forget they are not the same person, spending days on end making love and talking. They fear that “private thoughts would destroy what they shared” (p.82) and want to chain themselves to each other and throw away the key. And then there are some less conventional manifestations of their intimacy, like Colin’s surgery or Mary’s machine.
Against the equal, non-hierarchal relationship of Colin and Mary there is Robert and Caroline. Caroline likes to feel pain for the fact of pain itself, pain in a context, punishment and guilt, and remembers Hamlet as being about “someone locked up in a convent”. Right… The real prize is Robert, a man whose problems would make Freud, to use an apt expression, crap his pants. He misses the “real” men. He misses the time when women did what they were told. He’s obsessed with little relics and razors from the patriarchal past, “which, Mary said, was the most powerful single principle of organization shaping institutions and individual lives.” (p.80)
I’m not sure what Venice did to McEwan to deserve this story (food poisoning? poorly drawn maps?) but the aspects of travel play a unique role in this story. It seems Colin and Mary’s big flaw is that they love each other too much: “Alone, perhaps, they could have explored the city with pleasure, followed whims, dispensed with destinations and so enjoyed or ignored being lost…their intimacy, rather like too many suitcases, was a matter of perpetual concern; together they moved slowly, clumsily, effecting lugubrious compromises, attending to delicate shifts of mood, repairing breaches.” (P.13) Their lives are tied too closely to one another; with love and intimacy come limitations, constraints – a poetic turn to the “ball and chain”.
As Colin is being escorted to Robert’s house (Robert, the one who has stalks him, refers to him as his homosexual lover, who replies enigmatically to questions of Mary’s welfare and talks of his “preparations” for the two) he stops and looks down a narrow street: “It asked to be explored, but explored alone, without consultations with, or obligations towards, a companion. To step down there now as if completely free, to be released from the arduous states of play of psychological condition, to have leisure to be open and attentive to perception, to the world whose breathtaking, incessant cascade against the senses was so easily and habitually ignored, dinned out, in the interests of unexamined ideals of personal responsibility, efficiency, citizenship, to step down there now, just walk away, melt into the shadow, would be so very easy.“ (p.106) He chooses Mary though, and continues to Robert’s flat. That climax is a very beautiful and romantic if you think about it. He chooses Mary, and sacrifices himself (ironically echoing Caroline’s definition of love): “I’ll do whatever you want…But please get a doctor for Mary.” (p.122)
Whether you agree with it or not, McEwan has applied sadomasochism to the nature (arguably, rather, the history) of male-female relations; women love and submit to the aggression, power and strength in men. It is deep within us. Women “dream of captivity” (p.71) This is “inevitable, logical…[irresistible]” (p.111) As “it” is about to happen, Caroline and Robert say that God is in on their plot, that they knew the couple would return, that Colin and Mary understood all along what was happening; that they were somehow complicit.
So what’s the point?
1) If you are in a relationship where there the man and woman are on equal footing, the sexual politics of human nature and history will eventually manifest itself as a burly Italian man who rapes and kills you.
2) Robert and Caroline are out of their goddamn minds.
3) #1, but McEwan wants people to still like him so he implies #2.
4) Gives readers a much-appreciated excuse to research S&M on the internet.
5) #3 and #4
[The esteemed] Gustav [von] Aschenbach walks outside one day, notices a man with red hair, a bare Adam’s apple, and a snub-nose; he is therefore struck with wanderlust. He works his way to Venice, detests an old man affecting youth, falls in love with a Polish boy, stalks him, contracts cholera and dies (that’s what the book jacket should say). Target: “There he sat, the master, the eminently dignified artist, the author of “A Wretched Figure,” who had rejected bohemian excess and the murky depths in a form of exemplary purity, who had renounced all sympathy for the abyss and reprehended the reprehensible, climbed the heights, and, having transcended his erudition and outgrown all irony, accepted the obligations that come with mass approbation, a man whose fame was official, whose name had been made noble, and whose style schoolboys were exhorted to emulate-“ (p.135) Persevere is his motto, and Aschenbach adopts the Sebastian figure as much for his fictional heroes as for himself. His is an obligation to the nearsighted mass, an obligation which leaves for him only the time to complete his work. He has transcended “disintegrative and inhibitory erudition” and rejected all moral doubt. His writing (to the acclaim of critics) takes on an “official, didactic tone” and becomes “conventional, conservative, formal, even formulaic” ; “he eventually gained the dignity to which, as he maintained, every great talent feels instinctively drawn. One might even say that his entire development consisted in jettisoning the constraints of doubt and irony and making the conscious, defiant ascent to dignity.” (p.18) Ready: A “taunting deity’s agent” (p.124), Tadzio is an image of pure beauty, exempt from the “strict pedagogic principles” applied to his siblings, who resemble sisters. Aschenbach becomes infatuated with the youth, who provides poetic inspiration and private rapture. Though his child-lust is (regrettably) very un-Humbert and (what’s worse) Platonic, the reader is happy to find that Aschenbach does begin to shed his dignity in waves of eros. Aim: I have astutely noted (the graphitic annotator of my edition has marginally directed my attention) the Apollonian/Dionysian conflict Mann employs. The theme crops up subtly in Aschenbach’s three page orgiastic pan flute goat-slaughter dream, and sheds some light on the retrospective gander. The red haired man (that snub-nose and Adam’s apple appear twice), Tadzio, and the plague are agents of some Dionysian plot to overthrow the orderly, “dignified” Aschenbach, for “we poets can be neither wise nor dignified…the magisterial guise of our style is all falsehood and folly, our fame and prestige a farce…” (p.136-137). The poet cannot take the path of the intellect, nor can he take the path of beauty: “knowledge, Phaedrus, lacks dignity and rigor; it is discerning, understanding, forgiving, and wanting in discipline and form; it is in sympathy with the abyss…beauty alone…a second innocence, and form…they lead to the abyss” (p.137) All roads lead to the abyss; Aschenbach, driven from one extreme to the other, renounces art and virtue in the name of chaos, “savors the debauchery and delirium of doom” (p.129), and gets a makeover. Fire
It is one o’clock in the afternoon. The wall is afire through translucent redwine drapes and a small dense matter squeezes vice-like against your temples and black holes behind your eyes you close them and those funny blue-rim-fire bowling ball amoebas swim against the blackness of your eyelids and achy throat and you’ll never drink again ever ever ever. Your friend stumbles in and opens the fridge and pulls out a bottle of brownish liquid and smell that and says “start the morning right.”
Don’t laugh he’s probably an alcoholic or something you should probably pity in a few years when you don’t know him anymore and hear from someone he’s in a bad way. The ever-party, the hangover to drink away, volatile hair of the volatile dog, the Dean.
“The days of wrath are yet to come. The balloon won’t sustain you much longer. And not only that, but it’s an abstract balloon. You’ll all go flying to the West Coast and come staggering back in search of your stone.” Why do they go flying off to the West Coast? What are they searching for? What is the pearl they seek? Freedom? Truth? Knowledge of Self? Or, as the guy sitting next to me in the library suggests, a better drug dealer? A “higher” level of consciousness? A “lower” level? Hierarchal on what grounds? Consciousness for perceiving the “truth”? “Truth” truth or socio-political truth? Never mind what they seek, what about how they seek it? Drugs, uprooted life, novel experience, and do the opposite of what you should be doing.
There’s an interest in sex, drugs and Eastern philosophy to counter mainstream American culture. It’s not the most well-thought out movement in history. “On The Road” is as close to a manifesto as it gets and all explication of Beat intention has been laid out only in its aftermath. That’s the beauty of it; it’s a Bacchic roar of dissatisfaction. I suppose that that’s the point. We don’t like it so we’re going to do the opposite. It doesn’t have to make sense, it shouldn’t make sense, it should alarm you with its nonsense. It’s a rejection; back to basics – sex, drugs, and fun. It’s lots of fun. That’s why it got so big when it spilled over into the hippy generation. Petitions are cool and all but…
In a way there is a method to the madness. But whether there is meaning or truth or pearls or whatever you want to call them remains doubtful. Much can be learned from this lifestyle, but one of those lessons may be that you must look elsewhere for the pearls. I don’t think Sal and Dean’s adventure, despite its virtues, gave them what they were looking for. There’s quite a bit of emphasis on Dean’s four kids, three wives, and disregard for all. Outside every party there’s always a “sad” something, and if “the father we never found” doesn’t resonate with you, read it again. It’s not the destination, it’s getting there – that’s from a Toyota commercial. It has become a new romanticism for those disillusioned with the old one.
Gordon Gecko, Ward Cleaver, and Dean Moriarty have all, as Carlo predicted, come to seek a stone instead of a pearl. They have all had their moment of sobriety. They all have their hangovers.