Tag Archives: car

Kerouac Searched for the Authentic America

17 Jul

k2

Jack Kerouac has sometimes been accused of being anti-American or of destroying American values, and yet On the Road depicts a young man reveling in America. On the Road is, in many ways, a love letter to the true America. His honest search has inspired countless readers to pack their bags and hit the road, to discover America for themselves instead of relying on what the history books and network news report and the images coming out of Hollywood and glossy magazines.

Burning Furiously Beautiful details Kerouac’s research into American history and what he saw as he traveled throughout this amazing country.

“Devouring history books and Westerns alike, Kerouac lit out after the authentic America, an America that wasn’t mass produced or steeped in fear of atom bombs and Communism but blazed intrepidly, recklessly onward into the horizon, asking:

‘Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?'”

~ Burning Furiously Beautiful

Want to know which books Kerouac read and what sort of authentic people he met while on the road? Buy the book from Lulu or Amazon.

Blame Parents for Millennials Acting Entitled: Helicopter Parents Have Trophy Kids Who End Up Boomerang Kids

12 Jun

YSize

Remember my post from last July “Hipsters Hate Driving”? It was inspired by the Reuters report “America’s Generation Y Not Driven to Drive” that did not once use the word “hipster” but rather “millennials.” Well, apparently Ford—as in the car manufacturer—sponsored a panel discussion with my exact title on May 30, 2013.

Flavorwire’s Tom Hawking caught up with Hipsters Hate Driving keynote speaker and millennials expert Jason Dorsey  in the June 10, 2013, article “Flavorwire Interview: Millennials Expert Jason Dorsey Says Young People ‘Really Do Act Entitled.’” At the Ford panel, “The Gen Y Guy” had said: “[Millennials] don’t want commitment. They drop in and out of experiences. They can’t wear a shirt or blouse if it’s photographed. The worst fear of millennials is wearing the same dress twice on two different [social networks],” and Hawkings got to the bottom of whether Dorsey really did think millennials are that shallow.

Flavorwire’s title quote comes from one of Dorsey’s responses:

When you dig into it, you find that a lot of millennials really do act entitled. They really do show up and have these massive expectations and are not willing to work at [things].

The word “entitlement” has come up again and again in discussions about millennials, and Dorsey argues it’s important to delve into the “why.” Of the root causes, Dorsey mention aspects relating to higher education and employment. Valid points, but I want to highlight a few comments he made that may slip under the cracks. Dorsey says, he focuses on trends like when people of the current generation are “moving out [of parents’ homes]” and “the relationship you have with your parents” as well as “views about parenting, especially how they were raised.”

Now we’re getting somewhere! Think about it for a moment: who are the parents of Generation Y? The oldest of them are Baby Boomers, who are “the generation that received peak levels of income” and “are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values,” as Wikipedia put it. The younger parents are of Generation X, often derided as the Slacker Generation, who, facing economic downfall, turned to entrepreneurship. In other words, the shift from Baby Boomers to Gen X itself set the stage for a new generation that would be less traditional in their career outlooks.

In terms of their parenting style, these Baby Boomer and Gen X parents of Millennials have been called “Helicopter parents.” Jennifer O’Donnell defines this phenomenon in her About.com article “What Are Helicopter Parents?”:

The term “Helicopter parents” is often used to define a group of parents who engage in the practice of over-parenting. Helicopter parents are accused of being obsessed with their children’s education, safety, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of their children’s lives. Critics have criticized helicopter parents for over protecting their children and for failing to instill them with a sense of independence and a can-do attitude. Helicopter parents are also accused of over programming their children, and for failing to allow them free time to play and explore on their own.

She goes on to explain the root causes:

But the practice of over-parenting came into its own sometime during the 1990s when parents were bombarded with news stories about child abductions, academic competition, and ultimately, competition in a global economy.

Wikipedia explained the definition further, giving light into how this parenting technique affected children’s habits:

[The term “helicopter parenting”] gained wide currency when American college administrators began using it in the early 2000s as the Millennial Generation began reaching college age. Their baby-boomer parents in turn earned notoriety for practices such as calling their children each morning to wake them up for class and complaining to their professors about grades the children had received. Summer camp officials have also reported similar behavior from parents.

The children of Helicopter parents became known as Trophy Kids. I very briefly touched on this concept in my post “Parallel Generations,” in which I discussed the commonalities between the Lost Generation, the Beat Generation, and Generation Y, when I said:

Since then we’ve seen Generation Y, also known as the Millennials or Generation Next, who are often thought of as privileged Trophy Kids.

Notice the word “privileged.” Ron Aslop wrote the book on the subject: The Trophy Kids Grow Up. As the book’s website explains:

The millennials are truly trophy kids, the pride and joy of their parents who remain closely connected even as their children head off to college and enter the work force.

As Aslop suggests, these helicopter parents have been extremely involved in their Millennial children’s careers. George’s Employment Blog writes:

Although the Millenials often seek out challenging work and high levels of responsibility, these applicants’ parents are highly involved in their kids’ job search.

In a story entitled “Helicopter Parents Hover in the Workplace” on NPR on February 6, 2012, Jennifer Ludden says parents are doing more than just sending their children wanted ads and helping them with their resumes:

With millennial children now in their 20s, more helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace, sometimes even phoning human resources managers to advocate on their child’s behalf.

She states the facts:

Michigan State University more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child’s behalf, some without even informing the child. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position.

The result of helicopter parenting is that Generation Y is coming across as entitled whether it’s their fault—or their parents. The Wall Street Journal article “The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work,” published in 2008, said:

More than 85% of hiring managers and human-resource executives said they feel that millennials have a stronger sense of entitlement than older workers, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com.

But who’s to blame: the parents or the kids? In the September 12, 2012, BusinessNewsDaily article “What Gen Y Is Not Getting from Their Parents,” David Mielach, writes:

A new survey has found that 69 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 receive little financial support from their parents.

He goes on to say:

The research found that 75 percent of young adults would rather live independently of their parents even if it is a struggle to do so financially.

Oh really? Then what are we to make of the rise of the phrase “boomerang kid,” which refers to young adults moving back in with their parents? It’s a concept that had such resonance it got its own (ill-fated) sitcom: How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life.  T. J. Wihera wrote in the 2009 Denver Post article “Gen Y: Returning to the Nest”:

The Census Bureau reports that 56 percent of 18- to 24-year-old men and 48 percent of women in the same age bracket were living at home with their parents in 2008, though it should be noted that these numbers also count college students living in the dorms as living at home.

A more recent 2010 article in The Atlantic summed it up in the title “1 in 10 Millennials Living With Parents Because of Recession.” This year, Bloomberg Businessweek launched a business to get boomerang kids out of their childhood bedrooms.

While millennials’ parents may have raised them to be confident, independent-thinkers, and may have done everything in their power to push their little Trophy Kids toward success from a young age, their helicopter parenting techniques may have backfired. Many millennials have become boomerang kids, relying on their over-protective, control-freak parents to continue giving them the direction they have always given them.

In my recent blog post “Shunning Cars … and Life” I touched on the cultural shift that took place around the time of the Beat Generation, saying that while Jack Kerouac went on the road, today’s Generation Y is living a virtual life. Could it be that part of the reason why so many millennials have turned to living life through a computer screen has something to do with helicopter parents who “fail[ed] to allow [their children] free time to play and explore on their own” because “the 1990s […] were bombarded with news stories about child abductions, academic competition, and ultimately, competition in a global economy,” as O’Donnell wrote? In other words, perhaps parents believed life behind the computer was safer and more educational than the alternative of playing carefree outdoors. Children were the gods of their computer worlds, they could control their domain, and they soon became celebrities of social media sites like MySpace [emphasis mine], which furthered the entitlement already instilled in them by their parents.

Of course, these are generalities. Even though he was from the so-called Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, who used the term “hipster” in his writing, could fit the profile of a millennial. His mother, Gabrielle, hovered like a helicopter parent, and he was a boomerang kid, who was living with his mother even in his forties.

Sweet Rides: Literary Modes of Transportation

28 May

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I mentioned, I’ve been thinking a lot about transportation. So much so, in fact, that I was inspired to start a new board on Pinterest devoted to modes of transportation. It’s called Sweet Rides. I found some sleek cars that would make Neal Cassady‘s fingers itch, but I also looked at alternative vehicles and the writers and literary characters who might use them. I thought about Mark Twain and river boats. Wes Anderson and trains. Che Guevara and motorcycles. Anne of Green Gables and rowboats.  Poets doing spoken word on the New York City subway.

Shunning Cars … and Life

24 May

Last summer I relayed the news that Generation Y hates driving. Now it turns out, everybody hates driving.

According to the recent The Exchange article “Why More Families Are Shunning Cars,” the CNW Research of Bandon, Ore., reported that in 2012 the percentage of US households without a car was the highest its been in the 22 years they’ve been tracking this data. The percentage? 9.3%.

Citing a cultural shift, The Exchange says that people today don’t rely on cars as much because:

  • more people live closer to cities and public transportation
  • since they now don’t need a car on a daily basis, these people simply rely on car rentals, which have become more flexible
  • retirees now live in retirement communities that they seldom leave
  • teens prefer to keep in touch virtually than in person
  • the economy is still in the gutter

The economic factor is a fascinating one when it comes to the history of motor vehicles. I’ve been proofreading (what feels like) a lot of books on cars and motorcycles lately and also thinking about cars and road trips while writing Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and it’s been rather interesting to discover just how much the Great Depression and various wars have had on Americans’ driving habits.

An all-too-brief history:

  • cars and motorcycles are relatively new innovations, and they were making leaps and bounds until the Great Depression
  • there was an economic boom following WWII and suburbs became more popular–think Levittown–so the car became integral to family life
  • during the Cold War, the emphasis on patriotism no doubt led to Greyhound campaigns like this one, featuring a veteran who after fighting for the USA wants to travel to see the entire country, and the tv show/extended commercial See the USA in Your Chevrolet

Life in America hadn’t really changed all that much from that time when the economy improved, people moved out to the ‘burbs, and cars became a fact of life.

Until recently.

There were, of course, recessions here or there after the Great Depression, but it wasn’t until December 2007 that the US experienced the Great Recession or the Lesser Depression, whichever ominous phrase you want to use.

The same day that I read–while I was on the subway, mind you–that more people are “shunning” cars, I also read a Newsday article reprinted in amNewYork as “A growth spurt in NYC” that said, “New York City had the greatest numeric gain in population between 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates out Thursday.” Granted, the article seemed to be specifically comparing growth in cities (see this New York Times article as reference), but unless it’s indicating that people are simply moving from one city to another it seems to suggest that more people are taking to city life. And perhaps that’s the–ahem–driving force behind the decline in car ownership.

So… what do automotive trends have to do with literature?

Arguably the most popular of all authors who wrote about traveling by car and philosophized about the culture of his generation didn’t own a car: as I pointed out in my Hipsters Hate Driving post, Jack Kerouac was a hitchhiker, a bus rider, and a passenger, but rarely a driver, and yet he wrote the great American road-trip novel On the Road.

Now, let’s go back to that point The Exchange made that today’s generation–Generation Y, Millennial, whatever you want to call them–seemingly prefer virtual, rather than interpersonal, relationships. Here’s how The Exchange put it: “Teenagers using social media to keep in touch seem to feel less drawn to the open road than their parents did at the same age.”

The issue at hand is not that today’s generation doesn’t like driving or that they’re moving to the cities in droves. The cultural shift that needs to be more adamantly addressed for both the sake of our personal well-being and literature is that people prefer living life virtually than experiencing it first hand.

Kerouac lived life to the fullest. He famously told Steve Allen that he spent more time experiencing the content that would end up in his book than actually writing it:

ALLEN: Jack….How long did it take you to write On the Road?

KEROUAC: Three weeks….

ALLEN: Three weeks! That’s amazing! How long were you on the road itself?

KEROUAC: Seven years

Of course, as Burning Furiously Beautiful points out, it was only the scroll version on On the Road that Kerouac wrote in three weeks; it actually took him years to write the novel. But that doesn’t change the fact that Kerouac was out there living life, adventuring, experiencing, gathering tales to tell.

If today’s generation spends their life behind the computer screen or is too busy snapping photos for instagram to be present in the moment, that will shape our literature.

Road Trippin’: Fashion by Chance

29 Nov

I always discover the most lovely photos on Katie Armour’s blog The Neo-Traditionalist.  One of her posts a while back was about the clothing line  Chance’s new California collection.  The inspired photographs of California’s breathtaking landscape and close-up shots of cars made me think it would be a great collection to rummage through for a road trip!  As it turns out, founder Julia Leach gets her inspiration from the design of the classic car the Citroen DS, among other “artful classics.”  Just goes to show you that inspiration is everywhere and that cars have had a lasting impact on our culture.

I particularly like the red thread detail of the straw-stitched sun hat and of course all the striped shirts!

Katie oftentimes posts about the 1950s so her blog is a fun read.

Road Trip Writing: On the Road and “Human Snowball”

26 Jul

Many summers ago, a couple of poets and I dragged some rickety chairs outside of the Bowery Poetry Club and sat in a circle, chatting about our writing, our day jobs, and life, as people passed by, sometimes stopping to talk to us. One of the girls in the group worked at a publishing house, like I did, and she offered to send us some of the books everyone in her office was buzzing about. About a week later, the package arrived, and I excitedly opened it. It’s been too many years to recall all that was in it, but I do remember it contained a book by Philipppa Gregory, which I in turn gave to another coworker because I have little patience for historical novels about the Tudor period—although I later saw her The Other Boleyn Girl on an airplane and enjoyed it—and Found.

Found started as a magazine that showcased notes, lists, drawings, and other miscellanea that readers found and sent in to the editors. In April 2004, they compiled the best of the best from the magazine and published the book Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World. Having the book upped my coolness factor among the skinny hipster set I was hanging with at the time, and I began dating one of the guys. When Found’s founder, Davy Rothbart, published a short story collection called The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, in 2005, I gave it to the guy I was dating.

I never read the book myself, but recently I read one of Rothbart’s short stories in the summer 2012 issue of The Paris Review, and it made me wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac. While Rothbart lacks Kerouac’s poetry, they share an ear for dialogue, a captivating retelling of riding in buses and cars, an obsession with music, and an awkwardness with girls. In the short nonfiction story “Human Snowball,” Rothbart takes a Greyhound from Detroit to Buffalo to see a girl who isn’t quite his girlfriend yet or maybe ever and ends up in a carful of eccentric characters, including an ancient black man and a Neal Cassady-esque car thief. It may not have the sensory details that On the Road has, but “Human Snowball” captures characters with such honest and real details and dialogue that you feel like you know them. They’re beat characters. A little rough-around-the-edges, but sensitive and full of life.

In a bit of a Kerouac connection, actor Steve Buscemi, who stars in the film adaptation of On the Road, optioned the rights for Rothbart’s The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas. Rothbart himself is a chronic roadtripper. He’s traveled the country and toured with the punk rock band Rise Against, creating the documentary How We Survive for the dvd Generation Lost as well as the documetnary Another Station: Another Mile.

Eloping on the Road

5 Jul

I have so many friends right now who either just got married or are in the process of planning their weddings. There’s so much to consider: venues, wedding cake ganache, narrowing down the guest list, who sits next to whom, DIYing centerpieces, the dress.

Eloping sounds better and better….  And what better way than eloping on the road?!

Green Wedding Shoes featured a couple who got married on the road. Their wedding photos feature retro suitcases, maps, and the classic hand-out-the-window shot.

Did you know that when Jack Kerouac, the author of On the Road, got married he was quite the opposite of being on the road? He’d been arrested as a material witness of a murder. His dad was so upset he refused to post bail. But his girlfriend, Edie Parker, came from a wealthy family. She said she’d post bail—on one condition: that Kerouac agreed to marry her. You can read the whole story in Burning Furiously Beautiful.

Michigan Writers

19 Apr

Do you think writers are defined by where they were born?  Where they live?  By whether or not they’ve moved?  By how much they’ve traveled?

Yesterday, I wrote about how at the Faith & Writing Festival Circle we’ll be discussing is the idea of how where you write can actually affect your writing.  Today, I’m bringing you another little preview.  This time on writers from Michigan.

I’ve only been to Michigan the one other time I was at the Festival of Faith & Writing, and from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty unique.  It’s a rather large and diverse state.  Michigan is definitely Midwest — so different from where I grew up on the East Coast.  Yet each city and town seems to have its own culture and identity.  I think if two people from Michigan meet they’d probably judge each other based on where they live.

Yet, Michigan seems integral to America’s history as a whole because of the car industry in Detroit and the way cars began to define a certain type of American identity.

Below is a list of Michigan writers.

 

Books Set in Michigan or Written by Michigan Authors

  • Mitch Albom, born in New Jersey and now lives in Detroit, is the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
  • John Malcolm Brinnin, raised in Detroit, is the poet credited with bringing Dylan Thomas to the US.
  • Bruce Campbell, born in Royal Oak (MI), wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography; he also has written a novel and writes about the film industry and politics.
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, born in Detroit, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex.  His most recent book is The Marriage Plot.
  • M. F. K. Fisher, born in Albion (MI), is a preeminent food writer.
  • Robert Frost, moved to Ann Arbor for a teaching fellowship at the University of Michigan, and his home can be viewed at The Henry Ford museum near Detroit.
  • Nancy Hull is a Calvin College professor and children’s book author.
  • Jerry B. Jenkins, born in Kalamazoo (MI), is the co-author of the Left Behind series.
  • Ring Lardner, born in Niles (MI), is best known as the author of the baseball novel You Know Me Al; he was also a friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.
  • Elmore Leonard, raised in Detroit, is the author of Get Shorty.
  • Philip Levine, born in Detroit, is the 2011 – 2012 Poet Laureate for the US; the Pulitzer Prize winner is known for writing poems about Detroit’s working class.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, born in New York and lived in Detroit for a decade, is a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the winner of a National Book Award for Them.
  • Theodore Roethke, born in Saginaw (MI), is the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet of The Waking and the National Book Award for Poetry winner for Words for the Wind and The Far Field.  His immigrant father owned a greenhouse, and Roethke went on to use natural imagery in his work.
  • Gary D. Schmidt is a Calvin College professor and children’s book author.
  • Freshwater Boys, by Michigan author Adam Schuitema, is a collection of short stories about Michigan.

Who are your favorite Michigan-based authors?