Sailor

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Beat generation, nonfiction, memoir
Imprint: Penguin Modern Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-18267-4

On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s novel that tells you about the road trip that Salvatore Paradise takes along with Dean Moriarty across the country of USA. Jack Kerouac belongs to the beat generation, the generation that prized the life of leaving on one’s own terms rather than by society norms. On the Road is the story of the author himself but the names of the characters in the story are changed. Jack Kerouac becomes Salvatore (Sal) Paradise and Neal Cassady becomes Dean Moriarty.

The book is in five parts. The first part sees Sal meeting Dean, not liking him much at first and later missing him and going off on a cross-country hitchhiking trip from New York to Denver to meet the later. Sal is a writer and Dean is a car thief. Sal sees Dean and Carlo Marx, a common friend, get high and talk their hearts out. Dean is in the process of divorcing his first wife Marylou and marrying Camille. Sal leaves Dean and others, and goes to San Francisco to be with his childhood friend, Remi, and his wife, Lee Ann. Lee married Remi thinking he is a wealthy man, but he is a night watchman at a sailors’ camp. He gets Sal a similar job. Both rob things from others to make a better living, but eventually blow things up. On his way back to New York, Sal meets Terry, a Mexican girl who has left her harassing husband and come out with her child. Sal and Terry fall in love and stay together for some time, but he eventually leaves her and comes back to New York. Part two shows what happened a year later. Dean, Marylou and Ed Dunkel come to pick Sal from his relatives’ place in Virginia, and go off again on a road trip to New Orleans and to San Francisco. Dean has left Camille with his new born daughter and come back to Marylou. Ed Dunkel is a lost soul. On this road trip, Dean comes up with creepy things making Sal uneasy. Once they reach San Francisco, Dean leaves Sal and Marylou stranded without money and food, and goes back to Camille. Disheartened with both Dean and Marylou, Sal leaves them and comes back to New York. Part three sees Sal going in search of Dean again a year after leaving him. Sal misses Dean and the excited life that comes along with the later. By then, Marylou is married to someone else. Seeing Sal with Dean, Camille is assured that the duo will again go away leaving her pregnant with the second child and to look after the first one, and she throws Dean and Sal out of their house. They both decide to go to Italy after reaching New York. On the way, Dean creates havoc and steals many cars for the sake of having fun. Sal and Dean quarrel for the first time. After reaching New York, Dean meets Inez and decides to marry her after he divorces Camille. Fourth part has Sal, Dean and Stan driving to Mexico to start a new life. The usual dope and girl chasing happens. Sal falls sick due to dysentery. Dean leaves him with Stan in that condition because his divorce from Camille came through and he is in a hurry to marry Inez and give her a child. Sal starts to hate Dean. Part five shows Sal falling in love with Laura, and Dean coming into their lives briefly and exiting again.

On the Road is not a story, but is an experience. It is not about bromance but about brotherhood. Sal wants to live an excitement filled life and thinks Dean has and can provide him one. Dean is a car thief who steals cars for fun, but likes to make a living in a decent way. Marylou, Camille and Inez are Dean’s wives. Of all of them, he loved Marylou more and keeps going back to her. Sal knows that Dean is a prick but still loves his company. Since the characters are the real life ones, there is not much of a character development.

This book gives a lot of insight about the beat generation. This generation lived as if there was no tomorrow. Work less, party hard. Dopes, sex, road trips, cars, parties and booze are what made that generation happy. The book is written is simple language using simple narration. It is not quite what I expected, but it did not disappoint me either. The experiences of Sal on the road with four trips are overwhelming and the emotions he goes through are a lesson for life. I might recommend it to the readers who want to read something on the road trips.

In the cover picture of the book, you see Jack Kerouac (Sal Paradise) on the left and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) on the right.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Review by Shwetha H S

Robinson Crusoe is a story of a shipwrecked man, having the same name as the title of the book, stranded alone on a far away island. This review is of an unabridged version, so it is obvious that you need a lot of patience and time to read this. This almost 300 years old story can find similarities with Castaway and Wall-E. To start with, the last surviving son of a German-English couple, Robinson Crusoe runs away from his home in search of an adventurous life. Unlike now, when we get numerous options for adventure, the only adventurous life in those times was of a sailor’s. So, this young man goes away with his friend on a voyage where the friend’s father is the captain of the ship. This voyage meets an unfortunate end due to a sea storm. Rejecting everyone’s advice to go back to his parents, Robinson embarks on another voyage, but this turns out to be even more horrible than the previous one as the pirates of Sallee capture the ship he is on and he is taken as a slave of one of the pirates. He gets treated well there though he is a slave. He escapes from there on a boat with the help of a boy named Xury, and gets picked by a ship heading towards Africa and then to Brazil. Due to a friend he finds in the captain of the ship, good business and favourable conditions, Robinson becomes one of the best planters in Brazil and also buys an African slave for himself. His neighbouring planters ask him to get slaves for themselves too for their plantations. And thus, this man who thinks himself a hero, leaves his well settled life in Brazil to board a ship to Africa and bring back slaves. He thereafter loses himself to life and destiny on the island where he gets stranded.

Had he been successful in his voyages, maybe he would have appeared to be brave. He wasn’t successful, so he appears to be stupid in the beginning. But he survives and lives for twenty eight years on the island, a total of 35-36 years away from home. There is an ambiguity about this duration, so the least we can do is acknowledge his ability to think on his feet. More than feeling bad for him, I feel bad for the kid that follows him after he kills and takes away the mother goat. He runs his errands making the island his home and cries for not praying enough to God. He also cribs about having no company, but kills and drives away cat and kittens when they pester him.

It is understood that Robinson Crusoe was written to make people understand not to take things for granted. Back home, he had everything he didn’t even ask for, but stranded on the island he slogs for everything. He even grows his own food and makes fire. He reflects upon his situation and is initially thankful for not being dead, and later thankful for having a life instead of being dead like his shipmates. He calls upon god and thanks him enough every day for keeping him alive despite neglecting his father’s compassion. He longs for a known land and plans to go out of this island, but is scared to leave as he might again get caught by savages and beasts or get lost again. He eventually makes a canoe to try and sail. In a bid to have someone to talk to, he trains a parrot to talk and names it Poll. He later finds cannibals visiting his island rarely. From a shipwreck, he also finds a dog to replace all his previous pets and also finds wealth, liquor, clothes, shoes and gun powder. He toils away his time fruitfully until he returns to England. How does he return? What does he do after returning? What happens to the island in his absence? To find answers to these questions, read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

It is shown during the sale of faithful Xury how religion is forced upon people who actually don’t need it.

During Crusoe’s stranded duration on the island, he keeps praying god to help him get back to the mainland. Years pass during which he has his full-fledged plantations, tame goats and everything he needs that he made on his own from the scratch. Suddenly one day, he finds a footprint along with some bones and skulls on the other side of the island and is scared that there might be cannibals. But more than cannibals, he is petrified of other mainland people finding him and his livestock, and looting him. This is an epic irony. Crusoe’s era was of English plundering other nations. Here, an Englishman is worried of others plundering him.

On one occasion, Crusoe saves a cannibal from others and makes him his slave. Why not consider making him his friend? Anyway, he names the cannibal Friday because he saves him on a Friday. This reminds me of how I named my pet squirrel Sunday Morning because I found and rescued it on a Sunday morning.

Towards the last quarter of his stay on this island, Crusoe finds another shipwreck and soon after a boy’s dead body floats to the shore. Seeing it, he calls him naked saying “He had no clothes but a seaman’s waistcoat, a pair of open kneed-linen drawers and a blue linen shirt.” My question is, if this boy is considered naked, then what is the state of being clothed? I feel I am naked now as I write this review though I am decently clothed and seated at my table. Maybe Crusoe had gone mad by then.

The cannibal’s language is pleasant to pronounce and listen. Oroonoko is a river, Benamuckee is god and Oowokakee is an old priest.

There is good discussion between Friday and Crusoe about why god, who is the most powerful and the maker, doesn’t destroy the Devil. This is an incident supposed to be a preaching session by Crusoe to Friday, but turns into a discussion and leaves Crusoe perplexed and dumbfounded.

As mentioned earlier, this is a review of an unabridged version. This book is meant for leisure read and not for quick read. Pick unabridged version only if you are brave enough. Else, go for abridged version and have a good time.