Title: The Subterraneans
Author: Jack Kerouac
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy screws it up due to his self-destructive tendencies. Set against a backdrop of a 1950s bohemian beat
Can you believe that I've been reading for 30 years and I've never read a novel by Kerouac? Well, up until about a month ago, that was the case.
It was a dirty little secret that I'd kept hidden away from my hipster friends. But now I can come clean.
I picked up The Subterraneans because I didn't know exactly what I'd be getting into with a Kerouac novel. I mean, I had some ideas. He is kind of legendary after all. But I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew, so I picked this novel because it's only 111 pages.
The plot is pretty simple. Leo Percepied falls in love with the beautiful Mardou Fox. He woo's her, wins her and then proceeds to undermine their budding relationship with a string of self-destructive abuses. He realizes his love for her too late, after he has already driven her away and into the arms of another member of the
Of course in a Kerouac novel like this, the plot isn't the main thing. Kerouac is known for his revolutionary style of writing and this book has it in spades.
Coming to Kerouac from McCarthy's The Road was a bit shocking. The Road is written in short declarative sentences. Anything extraneous is left out.
The Subterraneans on the other hand showcases Kerouac's jazzy, improvisational slang-laden stream-of-consciousness prose. It took a few pages to adjust my internal dialog to the 1950s sub-cultural vernacular and adapt to the pacing and rhythm of Kerouac's writing.
But once made, that adjustment allowed me to appreciate Kerouac's knack for writing. He definitely has a well-deserved reputation of having a way with words.
...the little white woolly particles from the pillow stuffing in her black almost wiry hair, and her puffed cheeks and little puffed lips, the gloom and dank of Heavenly Lane, and once more "I gotta go home, straighten out"- as tho never I was straight with her but crooked..."The story is told in the tone of a literary genius who knows he's a literary genius but also knows that being a literary genius still doesn't make him any less of a sonuvabitch.
The interesting rhythm and word choices, the pacing and imagery all made this a quick and enjoyable read. I feel better now about taking a bigger bite of Kerouac and plan to in the near future.
"... the great tumescent turbulent turmoil alliterative as a hammer on the brain bone bag and balls, bang I'm sorry I was ever born..."Rating: Recommended.
tagged: books, literature, Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans, beat, San Francisco, 1950s