Thursday, September 8, 2011

A faaaaabulous new car!

Current book: On the Road
Pages read: 86 - 178

Guess what happens in this section? If you said, "Sal gets drunk and fights with his friends," you're right! Tell the contestants what they've won!

Sal spends some time with his Mexican...girlfriend? I'm not really what we're supposed to be calling these liaisons, but we'll go with that. Anyway, they run out of money, shockingly, and try their luck going out to the California farms to pick fruit and cotton. Predictably, Sal sucks at hard labor, and fails to make any real money, but is happy being "a man of the earth," as he says. Happy, of course, until he decides it doesn't suit him anymore. Also, Terry, the Mexican girl, picks up her son, a youngish kid, who lives with them in their farm-laborer tent city for a while. Eventually, Sal ditches Terry back with her family and goes home to New York.

Some months later, during a Christmas vacation from college, in which Sal is now enrolled, his friend Dean shows up with Dean's ex-wife, Marylou. They've decided they're in love again, despite the fact that Dean has another live-in girlfriend in San Francisco named Camille. Dean inspires Sal to want to go to California again, so they head out in Dean's new car, which he drives fast and recklessly. They've also got another guy with them, Ed, who, as it turns out, left his wife on the way out to the East Coast with Dean. (And by left, I mean they actually abandoned her at a motel on the road during the trip. And we're supposed to like these people. Christ.) They stop in New Orleans, where Ed finds his wife, and they spend the rest of the trip running out of money, picking up hitchhikers, and fighting about everything. Eventually they get to San Francisco, where Marylou goes off with some guy and Sal decides she's a whore. This in spite of the fact that he's been propositioning her the entire way to California, and was, previously, pleased when she reciprocated. Almost as soon as they arrive in San Francisco, Sal goes back to New York.

It's not any better. If anything, it's even more ridiculous because of the hypocrisy that's crept in. During one of their periods on the road, Sal chastises Dean, Ed, and Marylou for not getting their lives together, and tells them that they have to figure out what they're doing and have a real impact. My jaw didn't actually drop at the unintentional irony, but it was close enough. You can't have it both ways, Sal/Jack. Either freedom and the road are glorious, and you're making the most important decision of your life by abandoning all responsibility, or you need to make a decision about your life and choose something to do. Not both. (I'll have some more to say about abandoning responsibility when the whole book is finished. I'm waiting to pass judgement on that one.)

Also, Sal is just so damned presumptuous. When he's with Terry, at some point he decides he needs to make sure that no one breaks into their tent and threatens them harm because they're Mexican. He says, "They thought I was a Mexican, of course; and in a way, I am," (98). Ignoring, for a moment, the improper use of the semicolon, we'll move on to the improper appropriation of a Mexican identity. And why? Because he's "balling" a Mexican girl, whom he will leave in approximately three seconds. (All right, it's at least a couple of weeks, but still.) And this makes him a Mexican?

It's terrible. There still haven't really been any drugs. They smoked pot once. Also, I've decided I want this book to be a satirical criticism of the lifestyle it's illustrating, and it's really, really not one.

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