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  1. I decided to place "And the hippos were boiled in their tanks" by William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac in the 20th century fiction rather than the 21st because it was written in 1945, although it wasn't published until 2008. There are 2 main reasons why it wasn't published for 63 years. The first was out of respect for one of the fictionalized characters, who went on to lead a drastically different life than the one portrayed in this novel. The other reason is that it is just not very good. This book tells the heavily fictionalized story of Lucien Carr's murder of David Kammerer, a homosexual in unrequited love with the bisexual Carr. Kammerer was Carr's mentor in many artistic ways, and therefore, by proxy, a mentor to the fledgling Beat movement. But it doesn't tell the story very well. This is a boring book, with little tension or plot development. If I hadn't known the story already (there is a much better movie called Kill Your Darlings starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Carr, and Michael C Hall as Kammerer; the outcome of the story is also spoiled in the inner fly leaf of the book) I'd have been very shocked at the murder because nothing in the novel's storyline or characterizations would lead one to believe Carr was inclined to actually murder Kammerer. This was written by Burroughs and Kerouac in alternating first person chapters, and was completed ten years before either writer was published. There are flashes here of, not brilliance, but at least good writing. But nothing here would have led me to believe Burroughs and Kerouac would become the iconic authors I have read (although, as an aside, I view Burroughs as being a much better and more creative writer than Kerouac- Jack was good, especially for his time, but Burroughs was great). And as a narrative of such a highly charged and emotional event as the murder of ones mentor, and an integral party in the creation of an artistic movement, this novel falls completely flat. 2stars
  2. Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. The ‘road novel’ is an essentially American genre and Kerouac’s is its prototype. This predilection for travel is partly due to the vast spaces available and the relative ease of communication networks (including language), but mainly attributable to the essential restlessness of the American spirit. Everyone is from somewhere and about to head for somewhere else. While the railroad facilitated movement the automobile demanded it. Sal Paradise, the narrator, crosses the continent several times, desperately seeking something, he knows not what, probably Paradise itself. His friend Dean Moriarty is more a god or guru than a travelling pal, sometimes a mere image in Sal’s mind, an idealised great human being. Dean’s vision and his openness to the vicissitudes of life is the crux of the book, which may seem strange when we learn that he is a compulsive thief, law-breaker and deceiver of women. A truant by nature, Dean lives for kicks, has done time, drives like a madman, takes risks and is up for any challenge. He is also, a very intelligent and, when not too self-wrapped, a caring sensitive soul, but unpredictable and totally unstable. Travel is something that Sal, Dean and a collection of hangers-on are programmed to do. They need to find out what’s beyond the mountains or the desert, how other people live and talk or simply how they stare and listen. Thus the South or Mexico are revelations. Faced with this collection of Beats, ‘The Southern folk looked at one another and shook their heads.’ The Mexicans on the other hand accepted them as brothers, supplying the necessary anodynes of hash, spirits and girls, revealing a spirit of joy in spite of poverty. The book’s final paragraph whose first noun is America and the last Dean Moriarty is like a hymn to a great land and the spirit of a great people, desperate seekers among the wonders of a vast continent: ‘So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming of the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know the children must be crying in the land where they let children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? … I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.’
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