OK, so I threw my dog-eared paperback copy into the backseat of my car, late last night. I had wolfed this book down this hot summer back in July for the umpteenth time and at first, it made me laugh, full of joy again and I was in awe and exhilirated.
I have read this damn thing many times in sweet escapist joy but this second time in a month I re-read last week, well, it was different the last time around. Across the miles and moils of years, this time the second rush of ending summer seemed more painful than before. I wept. Dean was a rat, and Sal retaliated, and I bummed.
I had re-re-read it in a two-day period over an August weekend, and now I was stunned. Exhiliration turned into despair, and then I saw the truth.
On The Road is a tale of coming of age and maturing and then moving on.
There is that famous first passage…
“But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!””
Then … the cruel ending.
“…So Dean couldn’t ride uptown with us and thing I could do was sit in the back of the Cadillac and wave at him…Dean ragged in a motheaten overcoat he bought specially for the freezing temperatures of the East, walked off alone, and I saw of him he rounded the corner of Seventh Avenue, eyes on the street ahead, and bent to it again … Old Dean’s gone, I thought, and out loud I said ‘He’ll be all right. And off we went … I was thinking of Dean, and how he got back on the train and rode over three thousand miles over that awful land and never knew why he had come anyway, except to see me.”
Dean, not allowed into the car, not shambling but shuffling on his way back to the West and back to immortality (and death).
Same as Jack. Though he chose, at the end, the East, foreswearing Dean for who he was …
I wonder, how do you feel about a book you hold dear to your heart, in grave affinity when you are young and then discover, either you, or the book, something later inside you had changed?
I realized nothing had changed but America. I praise this book. But I have aged. Is the experience the same as the first time you read it? Or, do you feel different? And everything after that, does nothing ever feel the same like that?
It makes me wonder. Do you?