Sorry for the long break since the last post. I’ve been reading a few other books and also have been preparing and switching to a new career. I’ll get to that in a few days. But let’s go ahead and get into two more of the 100 greatest novels.
This was a really interesting novel. Set in the 30s in southern America, the story starts off following Lena Grove, a pregnant young girl traveling to find the father of her child. Once she gets into Jefferson, Mississippi, the story shifts to a different character, Joe Christmas. Christmas looks like a white guy but believes he has black ancestry. After a few flashbacks showing Christmas’s upbringings, the story starts to revolve around a murder that Christmas and the father of Lena’s child are caught up in. Adding a few different characters, the story ultimately leads to it’s inevitable conclusion.
What really struck me about this novel was not so much the story but the way it was told. I felt like I was listening to some old Southern farmer tell a story. Every time a new character was introduced, we have to flashback to their story. Every time something in the story reminds him of a previous story, we have to backtrack to that. No matter how small or unnecessary to the plot, it has to be told. Sometimes this was annoying but overall it really puts you into the story and makes you feel like your old neighbor is telling you some community gossip from years back.
Honestly, I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I guess I’ll tell you what I like about it before I get into what I don’t. Simply put, this novel is fun. The story follows interesting characters who spend their free time driving around America and partying. Nothing better than a road trip story! Sal Paradise, the narrator, is a likable enough character. The rest of the characters are all interesting.
But here’s my hang-up: the novel is considered one of the most defining works of the Beat poets. This simply written, semi-autobiographical story that can be read in one or two sittings is the defining work! For the Beat generation! This generation was about destroying old norms. Allen Ginsberg was pushing the limits of what a poem could be while being put onto obscenity trials for his works. William S. Burroughs was writing novels that completely upset the concept of chronological writing. He said the chapters of “Naked Lunch” can be read in any order! All this disruption of literature norms and Jack Kerouac is who we’re taught in school, who’s novel is read over and over. I mean, I guess it is the most accessible. But representative of the Beat generation? I don’t think so.
Glad to get that out of my system! Onwards we go. Next is “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett, which I’m not familiar with. So that’s always exciting.