Every year when summer comes and when the vacation plans are all in order comes as well the time when i have to choose what books to take with me. It is a very crucial decision, indeed, for my books will be the ones that will save me from boredom or from any kind of annoyance that may come my unlucky way. They are my guardians and my safehouses, the only thing that reminds me to actually use my brain from time to time in a period sacredly devoted to laziness and idleness.
This year, i chose to take a literary vacation, leaving heartbroken "The Balkans" by M. Mazower (not an easy book, suprisingly not boring at all however, about the socioeconomic history of the Balkans from the rule of the Ottoman Empire until this day) and the "Lake Views" by S. Weinberg (two words; theoretic physics) behind and taking with "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenidis and "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac as well as some good ol' Sherlcok Holmes stories.
About "The Marriage Plot". I have never read J. Eugenidis before, I have only watched several times the "Virgin Suicides" by S. Copola and loved it, and always wandered about the origins of the story and what kind of a writer would write about something like this. I never thought i would stumble upon such a jewel. Honestly, I chose "The Marriage Plot", because I myself, as well as one of the protagonists of this story, Madeleine, was at the time looking to reaffirm my faith in love and all those romantic notions that Jane Austen made us girls believe in since we were little. Well, together with the Walt Disney studios and their princesses and princes. Going through the first pages I realised that what i had on my hands was not just another typical dry american novel, i was in disbelief. I could not have chosen a more refreshingly witty and inspiring book for this summer. It is set in the 1980's in Brown College and through the years wherever the three main characters, Madeleine, Leonard and Mitch would take it. The critics celebrated the book, saying more than once that it would remind the readers what it felt like to be young, in college, and in love. I am younger and soon going to university so this was just a flash forward, opening my eyes to all that my own life could be. It is not just another love triangle story, it is deeper, it is much smarter than that. From the religious and sacred explorations of Mitch to the reality of manic depression with which Madeleine and Leonard are burdened together. Eugenidis proves that there is so much that makes up the life of someone, so much that shapes them into who they are and guides them to or even away from who they wanted to be.
Before I knew who Jack Kerouac was I knew Allen Ginsberg, one of the Beat Generation's most known poets, and used to give "Howl and other Poems" as a gift to people I thought were cool enough to understand it. After watching "Howl", a frank and unique on its own right movie about the life of the notorious poem “Howl”, where James Franco is Allen Ginsberg and being somewhat bedazzled by it, baffled as well though, I thought I would look into the Beatniks a little more and in a hurry bought "On the Road" as I wanted to read it before the movie irreparably destroyed it for me. I enjoy thoroughly automatic writing and Kerouac is more than just brilliant at it, obviously, his narrative is pungent and liquid at the same time. His whole story is tangled in a crazy and loud whirlwind of trance, joy induced trance, drug induced trance. Lives impulsive, driven by holy visions, by desire for love, life and for finding a revelatory meaning to all of these. A lot of jazz, a lot of girls, and literally what the title suggests, a life on the road. In buses, half dilapidated cars, stolen cars, hitchhiker rides and along the apparitions of white blazing horses, across the northern America, from East to West, West to East and back again, always through Denver, ending up in New York, or in San Francisco, on expeditions to Mexico City with the hand of their God pushing them along the way towards the edges of the world, towards everything. Never alone, Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) stumbles upon everyone, and they all always stay with him in the remembrance of the city in which he met them, and the stories that they shared, the parts of their lives they gifted each other. Sadly, Dean Moriarty ( inspired my Neal Cassady) near the end of the book, grows somewhat tiring and his angelic madness, as Sal sees it, becomes more of a drooling insanity than anything angelic. Reading about Dean during the end felt like his own brain was slowly dissipating before my eyes, tired from the intensities it was put through, overwhelmed by the hedonistic hormones; the announcement of the approaching end, of the story, of the glory days, of the lives of men and of the chances to be truly and unconditionally free.On the Road is not morally correct and that is one of the things that makes it great. Funny how, the week I decided to read it an anti-Kerouac campaign of feminists took over the internet, bringing certain literary values and criteria, so to say, into question that do not even belong in the same page with Kerouac’s name. Yes, the women of “On the Road”, and mostly of all the Beat writings, come second and the “real” characters, the ones that actually “live” through the books and poems are the men. It is not a matter of gender inferiority complexes though; it is simply the reality of self-centered lives that had to be shaped thus in order to indulge themselves in the way their generation dictated them to.
summer is over, these thoughts came to me a long time ago, and now I am reading Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and I am leaving behind my recklessness and I am ready to give myself back to lethargy.