Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Town and the City Period 5


Members:

Andrew D5
Derek D5

Schedule TBD

22 comments:

Andrew D 5 said...

Andrew

“The Town and The City” by Jack Kerouac

When Mr.G told us that this book was very “New Englandy” I really wanted to read it. After Fereni came in and expressed his love for Gloucester it inspired me to be more proud of where I’m from. Kerouac does a really nice job in capturing how lives are lived in New England. The language he uses puts me in that spot, whether it is a front porch or a highway or the White Mountains he really captures the sense of New England. I was surprised that he hasn’t mentioned the New England Patriots though; he is probably an Indianapolis fan. I am only 75 pages into the book and I’m breathless, literally. As far as his style goes I need to hold my nose and my breath before I dive into one of his sentences. This wouldn’t be one of those books you read aloud to an audience unless you have superman lungs. I love the way he paints the picture with his words, the style is great and despite those long sentences you don’t have to stop halfway down the page and say wait….what did I just read. It is an easy and enjoyable read and if I could go back to September I would change my year long reading goal to read more about New England and books relating to it. Fall and winter are upon us and no place in the world is more beautiful than New England in the fall/winter.

Derek how do you like it so far?.....

Derek D5 said...

Well Andrew I'm thoroughly impressed by Kerouac's work. This is the first book by this particular author that I am reading from cover to cover. From what I had heard from alot of people was the difficult nature of Kerouac's work. I'm around page 140 and i noticed that the sentence structure is very lengthy and descriptive. The long sentences help the reader to really immerse themselves in the story and really enjoy it. Not to mention the descriptions reall capture what its like to live in New England. The small town feel that Kerouac makes so prominent is what people think of when they think about New England. Mr. Gallagher was right about this being a fall book. Reading it makes me want to go for a long drive around New England to see the country side. What strikes me most is how Kerouac uses each member of the Martin family to be embodying an aspect of what makes people so diverse. What are you're thoughts on the personalities of the Martin family Andrew?

Andrew D 5 said...

Derek
I think the personalities of the Martin family will reveal the personalities of the people in Keriouac's life. Kerouac's work is ofter very autobiographical. Think about it, Peter Martin is from Galloway and Kerouac is from the wonderful town of Lowell, Mass. (double pump for Mr. G) I think we should keep that in mind and consider the Martin family as the Kerouac family.

what do you think Derek?

Derek D5 said...

That's something I hadn't considered Andrew. Considering that this was Kerouacs first novel it would make sense that he would base his characters off of people he knew. The characters in the novel are so well developed and you get a feeling of closeness between the narrator and the charcters that it's very safe to say that the Martins are the Kerouacs. I think this is a subject that we should research. I'll look into Kerouacs background and post some info on his family on my next post.

Mr. G said...

I'm interested, but very concerned.

You guys have not even half way completed enough posts to justify the first session.

You should be done with session 2 already.

You don't have a schedule yet.

Check out some other blogs and compare your work to theirs with my comments included.

Derek D5 said...

A particular passage that struck me as exhibiting the closeness can be found on page 204. This page is centered on the Martin family making light of Mr. Martin losing his printing business. “ She sat on the arm of his chair teasing him: ‘Now you’ll know what it feels like to punch a time clock at the last minute!’ And she pushed him on the farm and made a wry face. The kids yelled with laughter. ‘Okay, so I’ll punch a clock, what about it!’ cried the old man grinning, and he tried to think of something funny to say. Then the mother came in with the lemonade, and they all sat there late into the night laughing, arguing, shouting, almost celebrating this strange new turn in the family’s fortunes which was so exciting and wonderful, somehow, because it made them all sit together in the front room and have ‘regular parties,’ as Mickey delightedly saw it.” (pg. 204)
From this passage we can infer that there is a powerful bond among the members of the Martin clan. The issue under discussion is the loss of Mr. Martin’s business. This lose is also the loss of the families main source of income. However rather then be crushed by this lose. The Martins are “almost celebrating” the change. Losing the source of income is a major blow to any family. Normally it is the equivalent of hitting a window with a sledge hammer. The window shatters apart, in the same way a family’s structure would collapse in on itself. Rather then fall to pieces the Martin children are ready to help bring in the slack. Joe says to his father on page 204, “See Pa? I saved a lot of money on my trip and sent it home to Ma. Now it’ll come in handy. I know a guy who wants to sell out his gas station. Just a little place on Kimball Street, two pumps and a lubrication stand. I’m gonna take it! Monday, by God, Monday!” Joe intends on buying the gas station to help provide for the family. Charley offers to work with Joe and goes as far as to suggest dropping out of school. His mother responds with a prompt no. Even the youngest son Mickey says, “I’m gonna start a paper route.” Which is met with a great laugh from his family. The strength in the familial bonds the Martin’s have really spark interest in this novel.

Derek D5 said...
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Derek D5 said...
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Derek D5 said...

“ ‘I don’t know about the jungle,’ she said with a sudden sad absentmindedness. ‘No, I didn’t make the army, I didn’t make the watrs they have either. Why, if it’s going to mean jungles for Tommy there’s no sense in this now.’ And it seemed so true to them suddenly. They all stared at her rapt with fascination as they thought of her warm quilted beds, her clean house, her food in the icebox, her warm radiators in the winter and all the things of a homestead. They remembered how good these things were to come back to after a night of drinking and riot and weariness, how really sweet these things were, and how they never actually thought of them.” (pg. 212)

This passage drew my attention as I was reading because of the simple message found in it. The context of the passage is that World War II has broken out, and Peter Martin’s childhood friend Tommy has enlisted in the armed forces. He is on leave in Galloway before he is to be deployed into the Philippines. On his last night with his friends, Peter and Alexander, the boys decide to go camping and swimming. Mrs. Marten shoots down that plan with enough common sense to dowse their plans. Her explanation is simple and goes strait to the point. Tommy will be in the jungles for months at a time, exposed to the elements and in danger; if that’s the case, then Tommy should spend his last nights in the comfort of a home, and not in the middle of the woods. Mrs. Martin’s suggestion makes the boys think of all the things they take for granted in their lives, beds, food, and warmth being some of the things. Kerouac wrote this passage as a reminder to the reader to think of the things they take for granted in their own lives.

Derek D5 said...

“He looked down and brooded. Why was it that he had not been with them all this time? What had he done, where had he gone, why was it that he could not live again, and live forever, and do all the things he had forgotten to do. And why were all the things that he himself had done so confused, so especial and definite and finished, so tattered and ugly, so incomplete, so unknown and half-forgotten now, yet so painful and twisted as he thought of them. Why were they so unlike the things other men had done? Why had he been born in New Hampshire instead of Illinois somehow? What would it be like to be on a train going West across the plains, on the old Union Pacific tracks, and to see a single small lamplight burning in a shack across the American darkness, the prairie darkness?” (pg. 333)

This is another fascinating passage from Jack Kerouac. The ideas expressed by Kerouac through the character of George Martin are reminiscent of what is commonly referred to as a midlife crisis. Mr. Martin is looking back on the accomplishments in his life and realizing that he wasn’t as successful as other people his age. He realizes that all the things he did really amounted to nothing in the grand scheme of the world. Or so he feels. He also decides that he wants to live forever to “do all the things he had forgotten to do”, at this point in his life Mr. Martin is facing the facts that his children are growing up and going off on their own. This realization saddens Mr. Martin because all of his adult life was centered on his children. He worked to provide for them, but now most of them have left and it will not be long before they all leave. Mr. Martin is losing his children and it’s forcing him to reexamine his own life.

Derek D5 said...

A particular event which really had some significance to me can be found on pages 350 and 351. This passage deals with a homeless man in New York City, preaching about the love of god and other evangelical ideas. Specifically the passage states;
“‘Gentlemen,’ he was crying out, ‘your argument do not touch me in the least, as my kingdom is not of this world, not-of-this-world!’
‘What kind newspaper you got in your shoes?’ cried a heckler.
‘I do not read the newspapers. I know nothing of this world. I am not of this world. It is not my kingdom!’
‘You can say that again!’
‘And they yaahed him in the cold winds.
‘You there!’ cried the saint, pointing at a youngster who carried books and listened in silence. ‘Pick up your pen, son, and write against the evil in this world. My little son and brother, if thou didst ever hold me in thine heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw the thy breath in pain, to tell my story!’”

Kerouac uses the term “saint” to refer to the homeless man proclaiming the next life. The use of the term saint is what attracts attention in the first place. In many of the Catholic stories of Saints, these prophets and workers of God were often persecuted by the people around them. The same events happen to this hapless homeless prophet. The man is issuing a warning to the people around him, but rather then actually listen to his words; they scorn him and insult him. But rather then be angered at the crowd, the man states calmly that he is not of this world and is not concerned by their taunts and jeers. His faith in his belief keeps him from being angered. His words “I am not of this world” is clearly an allusion to the third beatitude in the Christian faith. That beatitude clearly states that “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He believes that in the next life he will be taken care of, and Kerouac gives his readers this scene to make us reflect on the way society looks on the poor and less fortunate.

Derek D5 said...

“It’s the great molecular comedown. Of course that’s only my own whimsical name for it a the moment. It’s really an atomic disease, you see. But I’ll have to explain it to you so you’ll know, at least. It’s death finally reclaiming life, the scurvy of the soul at last, a kind of universal cancer. It’s got a real medieval ghastliness, like the plague, only this time it will ruin everything … You will eventually. Everybody is going to fall apart, disintegrate, all character-structures based on tradition and uprightness and so-called morality will slowly rot away, people will get the hives right on their hearts, great crabs will cling to their brains … their lungs will crumble. But now we only have the early symptoms, the disease isn’t really underway yet – virus X only.” Page 370-371

In this excerpt Peter is speaking with Leon Levinsky about a disease Levinsky believes is going to destroy the human race. His explanation is similar to the idea of entropy, where the energy in the universe is running out. The idea is based on the laws of thermo dynamics and a few other laws of physics which deal specifically with the big bang and other cosmic events. Levinsky alludes to a more personal version of entropy; the running down of society. His belief is that over time all current relationships will breakdown and following that stagnation will be the end of the world. Kerouac based the character of Leon Levinsky on his friend and fellow beat poet Allen Ginsberg. One of the foundations of Ginsberg’s beliefs is the idea on what he called the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States. This belief was also one of the roots of the poem Howl the poem which made Ginsberg be recognized as a professional poet. “The Town and The City” is a very autobiographical; Kerouac based many of the main characters on his friends, family, and people he met in his travels. The reason Kerouac included Leon Levinsky/ Allen Ginsberg’s ideas in his novel was as a reference to his renowned friend.

Derek D5 said...

“He hurried on home, and gloated because no one noticed him. He wished suddenly that no one would ever notice him again and that he would walk through the rest of his life like this, wrapped in his own secret mysteries and glories, a prince disguised as a pauper, Orestes returned from distant heroisms and hiding within the land, stalking unknown within the land under powerful autumnal skies. But why was it they did not notice him any more than before?” (page 82)

Peter Martin has just played in the big thanksgiving football game and was responsible for his team winning. He has achieved his childhood dream of being one of those prestigious local heroes spawned on the grid iron. It would be natural for a young gentleman to be thinking of moments of glory and being entirely full of himself after winning such a big event. Young Peter is not. He wishes that no one would ever notice him again, a strange thought for the hero of a football game in a small town. Andrew what do you think about his ideas here.

*this blog was written two weeks ago but never posted, my bad*

Andrew D 5 said...

“on a moonlit night in a grove of pines, among the tables and benches of some forgotten picnic ground, a place where there were lights festooned and the music of the old-time waltzes beneath the trees, somewhere in 1910 in the marvelous New England spring night-George Martin the workaday young man had considered his life and the commands of his soul and decided to court this affectionate, simple, and sensible young lady. And he married her, his thought was: ‘Marguerite is a real girl.’”(.23)
Kerouac does a beautiful job describing the scenery in this paragraph. He really puts you in the moment and a touching one it is. This is personal to Kerouac because its how his father chose his mother. This isn’t something Kerouac just rushed through because his mom and dad hooked up at a party somewhere in Boston, instead he engineers a beautiful paragraph where Mr. Martin ponders his thoughts about a “real girl”. Mr. Martin gained some credibility through the eyes of the reader because he considers the “commands” of his soul; something a lot of people don’t do when they choose they’re wives. Affectionate, simple, and sensible are perfect words to describe Marguerite. Kerouac really chose his words carefully when describing two things he loves; his mom, and New England. In a grove of pines in a forgotten picnic ground while he ponders the demands of his soul where the lights festooned, it just sounds so beautiful and that’s why I picked this particular passage because I read it, stopped, and re-read it aloud to myself and I put a post-it there.



-andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

Peter’s best pal was Tommy Campbell, also nine years old at the time, who lived up the road on his father’s farm. Like almost every other kid in Galloway, Tommy could not make up his mind whether Friday nigh was more exciting than Saturday morning, or even whether Saturday night itself could contest the issue. On Friday night school was all over and in that throbbing darkness all one had to do was sit back and think of the whole weekend of freedom ahead” (26-27).
When I read this passage I thought to myself, wow it would be nice to be nine years old all over again wouldn’t it? Back when I used to live in Everett and my best friend lived right up the street. Friday after noon you could feel it, I can feel it now but not as much as back then when we had the whole weekend to play video games, go outside and play tag, or manhunt, football, baseball, etc. Everything was simple; never had homework, curfue was late, I remember my mom yelling down from the third floor balcony for me to come up and eat dinner. I never ran up three flights of stairs so fast in my life. Kerouac uses the word freedom when describing the weekend that lay ahead of these young kids. I marked this passage with a post-it and went on to read how Tommy Campbell goes to the war. Immediately I went back to page 26-27 because of the word freedom. It made me think of New England and things that will go though Kerouac’s childhood friend going off to war. That’s like watching your best friend walk out of America and into the arms of hell. It must hurt to think of it, I never had a best friend go off to war but I know come guys that were fairly close to me take off to Iraq. Six to fourteen months in the desert, the terrain over there, the people that could be dressed as civilians but have explosives strapped to their belt is a scary thought. Freedom is taken for granted by a lot of people in this country and im honored by the handful of friends I have in Iraq who are home for the holidays and in the back of my mind I feel bad because of the political crap and the disregard for the boys over there. Whether or not we support the cause or reasons why they are there we should all still support them and let them know how appreciative we are of their efforts. I support them because they made it possible for me, Kerouac, and many other people to enjoy the freedom we have.


andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

When George Martin went to work in the mornings he got up bleary-eyes out of bed, and coughed so thunderously that he could be heard way out on the road. He yawned, and grunted, and coughed tremendously out of his massive chest again, gasped and wheezed, pulling on his trousers and socks and shoes, and went limping downstairs in a gouty sleep-drunken waddle that shook the very walls of his house….Then Martin would drive downtown to the Square, park the car in a lot behind his printing plant and walk across the railroad tracks to a diner where, in the company of other businessmen, he would eat his usual big breakfast” (36).
This one reminded me of my father, who needs an alarm clock when you have someone waking up earliest making all sorts of noises. Sometimes I would wake up and catch him stumbling around, one sock on, “sleep-drunk” little Somerville shuffle looking stagger down the stairs. Then if the grunting and coughing didn’t wake me up, my bed would shake because of the juggernaut father of mine stomping down the stairs and the loose wooden railing would make noise too. Like Mr. Martin, my dad owns his own company. He has four guys who gather in front of my house in the morning with their cups of coffee, doughnuts or whatever it was and they would sit and wait for Dave to come out with his big cup of black coffee. It was amazing how he could just wake up, swig some of that nasty coffee and he would just click. You could hear him from my room with the door closed “Tommy get the ice and water shield”, “Shaun, call Heritage tell them we need the shingles by 9 o clock”. Motivation wasn’t my dad’s problem and I made the comparison because Mr. Martin would wake up and the coughs and stumbling down the stairs I mean you would never thing these guys would ever be motivated to do anything. But like Mr. Martin’s big breakfast, my dad’s nasty cup of jo gave him what he needed to get going in the morning.


andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

"At twenty young Joe was the victim of the early fatalism that says: “whats the use anyway? Who cares what happens!” That frame of mind proceeds on towards even greater excesses in the name of despair, while all the time it is only the sap of youth running over, running wild…" (89.
Poor Joe, all of his brothers around him getting ahead in life and here he is twenty years old and he is “shiftless”. He is the oldest brother and he is supposed to be setting an example but he got impatient and dropped out to get jobs. When he was 17 and dropped out, sure finding a job was what he most likely saw necessary in his life but now he is looking around at his family and they are making progress. He is still young and this passage made me think of myself and how that I don’t care attitude will get me nowhere in life. My sister is on the verge of being a nurse and I am not quite in Joe’s shoes but this passage made me stop and think, what if some of the things I almost did when I was younger I actually followed through with? Id be in deep. I got a little lesson out of this passage that youth is coming to an end, I’m 18 years old, that’s still young but in 2-3 years I don’t want to be in Joe’s position. Kerouac uses the words “early fatalism” and that’s what it is except you don’t really die but Joe is realizing that he cant go on like this, he has to move forward with his life, yea he will make it where he is now but his brothers will surpass him and unless Joe does something about his life he’s never going to go anywhere.

andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

.”A kind of lyrical ecstasy possesses certain young Americans in the springtime, a wild restless longing to be elsewhere, everywhere, right now!” (89)
Joe is one of those young Americans who is consumed in his surroundings and it is the springtime feeling that he gets that after this summer where am I going to be? His brothers will be moving on and he will be going from job so job. This wild restlessness Kerouac is talking about is so real, you know when its springtime because you don’t just want to let days go by. You can smell winter leaving and summer coming, leaves start coming back and school is almost over and everyone is going to be out and about doing this that and the other thing and it’s a great feeling. Joe needs to wake up and smell the coffee because he just has this “I don’t give a dam” attitude that’s going to get him nowhere so after this passage Kerouac starts describing Joe’s friend Paul Hathaway who drives big trucks from Boston to Baltimore and Kerouac does this to bring us closer to the realization Joe is having about his shiftless life. I love how Kerouac says lyrical ecstasy because it really gives us the feelings going on inside young Americans in the springtime and he keeps referencing Americans after these coming of age tangents he goes on and its like hey, he’s talking about me and people like me so its neat how I can relate and it makes the book personal on both ends because it is Kerouac’s family and then he stops and its like he is saying you know what Andrew, I know how you feel in the springtime….it just makes the reading even more personal when he talks about young Americans

Andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

George Martin was on the verge of losing his business. When he says that bankruptcy was a distinct possibility, he suddenly didn’t want to do anything about it and stood back, watching with mingled horror and delight. (195)
At this point George is fifty and Kerouac mentions this second restlessness of manhood which is like the first restlessness of youth and again he references the springtime. The time of year is really affecting these characters and in a way its not a bad thing. I picked this passage because after I read it I said wait a minute hold on why is he watching with horror and delight? Then I realized why Kerouac put that there. I think I broke down these restlessness of manhood that Kerouac is talking about to give me a better understanding about a critical topic in the book. There is a connection I made, a simple and short one but none the less a good one; first restlessness of manhood equals the mindset “I just don’t give a dam” (pg.89). The second restlessness of manhood is the mindset that “I just want to see what would happen”(195). Like this man really wants to loose his business and break away from everything just to see what its like. Coming from my point of view loosing a business that puts food on the table and kids through college is scary but Kerouac gives it to me in a calm fashion that this is an experience that Mr. Martin is inevitably going to experience and he is trying to accept it and make it a good thing in his own mind. Again, these are all some fairly serious things taken lightly and somehow related as not-so-bad things but it also has a lot to do with the springtime and how delightful everything is no matter what. I guess that’s the beauty of New England…but I don’t want to experience the second restlessness of manhood.

Andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

“George Martin sat on the dark porch of his house with his son Peter in the cool, breezy , star wealthy darkness of a late August night. The trees and hedge all around swished softly and swayed, nodding and bowing in the dark advancing wave of the breeze. They sat brooding on the porch” (234)
I looked up the word brooding because I don’t think I have ever brooded on a porch but I had to find out. Brooding-preoccupied with depressing, morbid, or painful memories or thoughts. They had another definition about laying eggs and protecting them but this one seems more appropriate. This must have been a critical bonding moment for Kerouac and his father. The two men are sitting on the porch, its New England in August at night and its beautiful out. It’s not too hot out, nice and cool and breezy. I love how Kerouac describes the sky “star wealthy darkness” he cherishes the scene and really puts you in the moment by painting such a good picture with words that you can just close your eyes and be there. It’s ironic how beautiful a night it is and the two are sitting there brooding on the porch. I picture them sitting there enjoying the stars and the comfort of the night but in the back of their minds they know the harsh reality that Mr. Martin is loosing his business and it’s not really a bad thing. It shows you that it’s not what happens to you that affects you, its how you let things affect you. Loosing the business can only affect this family if they let it but Kerouac makes it seem like New England makes it better. The scenery and the weather and time of year just seem to make every bad situation better for the family.

Andrew d

Andrew D 5 said...

“A family leaves the old house that it has always known, the plot of ground, the place of earth, the only place where it as ever known itself-and moves somewhere else: and this is a real and unnameable tragedy. For the children it is a catastrophe of their hearts”. (239)
I still don’t take back what I said about it will only affect you as much as you let it because the kids are too young to understand. They don’t know what bankruptcy is or how hard it is to maintain a business. Now the family is upset because they have to move and it is hard and inconvenient but its still necessary. This passage is more for the little ones, I feel bad for them because they just don’t understand. Now they are moving away from their world, home, everything they have ever known up to this point is now left behind. The little kids are going to wake up in a new house that they will move into this same day and their little hearts will be crushed because it is frightening and they will panic and be frustrated. Little Mickey is torn apart by this, he feels all alone and he thinks he has moved all across the world but in reality it’s the same general area in Galloway.

andrew d

Mr. G said...

You both had some interesting posts, but weren’t consistent with it to produce a lively “discussion”. If you had, you may have also developed longer posts on the actual text as well.