Tag Archives: Nathaniel Hawthorne

“On the Road” Makes “30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Turning 30”

14 Jun


Flavorwire listed “30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Turning 30,” and guess what’s on the list?!  That’s right, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Unfortunately, this follows its inclusion:

Plus, then you’ll have ample time to develop your scorn towards it.

Why the scorn, Flavorwire?

As, I wrote in the comments field:

In the 10+ years since I first read “On the Road” when I was a teenager, I have not developed any scorn for it. In fact, as I’ve delved further into Kerouac’s life and work, I’ve come to see just how brilliant his writing is, especially considering English was not his first language. He had to learn the colloquialisms that he’s so often criticized for using. When “On the Road” was published in 1957, it was groundbreaking to use the type of slang Kerouac used and to improvise the way he did.

The comments section isn’t all that kind to the novel, either.  One commenter called it “one-dimensional.”

Really?  I can certainly understand a reader not liking the voice or even the story.  Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.  There are plenty of people in the comments section admitting they don’t like Jane Austen or Nathaniel Hawthorne.  It’s okay not to enjoy something.  Not everyone has the same taste.  That’s what makes us unique.  But—you knew there was going to be a but—there’s a difference between personal taste and fact.  The fact of the matter is that On the Road is multi-dimensional.

On the Road is about so much more than the literal exploration of a road trip.  Perhaps Dean Moriarty is a bit one-dimensional in the sense that he acts impulsively, living for his own happiness, and never really grows out of that.  The narrator, Sal Paradise, is on a spiritual quest of sorts, though.  He hits the road, trying to leave behind the East of his youth to find himself in the West.  He befriends Dean, even though he knows he’s conning him.  He’s constantly caught between what he thinks he wants and what he really wants.  He’s searching for meaning and beauty and love and friendship.  He’s a complicated character, not entirely sure of what he wants.

Also on the list were a couple of Greek authors!  Namely, Homer and Jeffrey Eugenides.


Quotes about Place

20 Apr

Some places are so iconic. I think this may be one of them.


Every story involves place, whether real, imagined, or seemingly absent.  Place isn’t just a physical location, it’s a feeling, a memory, a metaphor, a symbol.

My writing has always centered around place.  My memoir is a complicated look at what home means.  It’s about how even for people who live in the same house together home can mean different things — can even be different places.  And sometimes, oftentimes, the place you call home changes.  It’s about the physicality of a house, the emotions of a home, the culture of a country.

Meanwhile, the book I’m coauthoring on Jack Kerouac is also about place in its own way.  It’s about exploring, about living, about identity.  It shows that place itself can become a character and plot device.

I’m teaching on place this weekend at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and I think one of the most valuable ways to learn is to read how other writers have talked about place.  Here are some literary quotes about place.  Feel free to share your favorite quotes about place in the comments section.


How hard it is to escape from places.  However carefully one goes they hold you – you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences – like rags and shreds of your very life.

~Katherine Mansfield

But I do like churches.  The way it feels inside.  It feels good when you just sit there, like you’re in a forest and everything’s really quiet, expect there’s still this sound you can’t hear.

~Tim O’Brien

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

~Joan Didion

Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.

~Nikos Kazantzakis

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil.  My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.

~Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is the most beautiful place on Earth.  There are many such places.  Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.

~Edward Abbey

The landscape affects the human psyche – the soul, the body and the innermost contemplations – like music. Every time you feel nature deeper you resonate better with her, finding new elements of balance and freedom…

~Nikos Kazantzakis