Arts, Books

My summer re-reading list – Jamie Tuohy

Studying a course which is delineated by literature and almost posthumously controlled by literary giants requires me to read at a lightening pace. Reading, or rather devouring at least 6 books a week for college, not to mention sourcing secondary reading material leaves very little time for dwelling on plot, character or setting. Studying English at university level means that you have to be on top of your game all of the time – you have to be able to consume the novel, understand its themes, analyse it, psychoanalyse it, deconstruct it and then do that at least 6 times over within the space of a week. So, when summer comes, it’s no surprise that I like to abandon Trinity’s reading list and reacquaint myself with my favourites – books that I can and have read over and over again. It takes a lot for a book to merit re-reading, but here are 3 books that are always present on my summer reading list and never get old:

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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Anyone who knows me knows that this is my all-time favourite book. Jack Kerouac’s generation defining novel races across the page just as vivaciously as its protagonist Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty race across America. Set in 1950s America, On the Road embodies the generation Kerouac became the prime exemplar for – Beat. Largely autobiographical, the novel partly details Kerouac’s life and vision of a tainted American dream, filled with passion, sex, drugs, poetry and jazz. The writing is sublime – sharp, honest, brutal and unyieldingly spirited. The novel is full of life – it speaks to life itself in all its glorious forms, from down and out hitchhikers in Denver to the fast-paced American life style available in places like New York and San Francisco. A must read. I’ve just finished reading this for the 4th time and it’s as gripping and powerful as the first day I read it. Read this and then read Allan Ginsberg’s poem “America” for the true Beat experience. Here’s my full review of On the Road: https://jamietuohy.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/book-review-on-the-road-by-jack-kerouac-jamie-tuohy/

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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If Kerouac’s On the Road is a hallmark of the Beat Generation, then this Hemingway novel possesses the defining characteristics of an era known as the Lost Generation. A term which was created by Gertrude Stein, the Lost Generation refers to the generation that came of age following the end of World War 1. Published in 1926, Fiesta: The Sun Also is one of the first Modernist novels and is about a group of American and British expats who travel from Paris to Spain to experience the hedonistic atmosphere of the bullfights. Hemingway’s protagonist is Jake, a journalist living in Paris, who is madly in love with English socialite Brett Ashley. Just like On the Road, this is a remarkable novel that merits re-reading over and over again. It’s powerful, intensely evocative and a visual and sensual feast. The bullfight in Pamplona is one of the novel’s most famous sections and gets even more wild and raucous the more you read it. This is a classic novel which established Hemingway as a literary genius. An essential read.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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I promise you, I did not search around 1920s Parisian cafes and bars to pluck out two of literature’s most famous writers and drinking buddies. Hemingway and Fitzgerald are two of literary world’s most celebrated friends and influential writers, and Gatsby and Sun have also been compared to each other, but that isn’t why I’ve chosen them. So what if they may be similar testaments to a Lost Generation? They exist as separate stories and bloody good ones at that! The Great Gatsby will undoubtedly invade popular culture in the coming months with the movie to be soon released and fashion gurus everywhere claiming that their 1920s flapper dress is ‘oh so Gatsby’. While this is inevitable, it still makes my blood boil. In an ideal world, all comparisons would be nullified unless F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book has actually been read (and in my world, all comparisons are; nullified). Undoubtedly F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best novel, The Great Gatsby offers readers an indicting insight into 1920s America which is glamorous, desperate and full of nouveau riche types. Amongst the champagne-sipping exists Fitzgerald’s protagonist, Jay Gatsby – whose wild Long Island parties are legendary. However, as the narrator Nick Carraway finds out, Gatsby’s wealth is futile, when all he really wants is the affection of Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald tells the story of America’s Jazz Age and offers a social commentary on the ruthless 20s, where social climbing, murder and manipulation lurk beneath the glamorous, champagne-coated surface. A story that never gets old. Read it before you see the movie!

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Books, Reviews

Book Review: On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Jamie Tuohy

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“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes”.

On the Road was first published in 1957 and it is the second novel by Jack Kerouac. Its publication marked a turning point in post-war literature, as Kerouac’s tale of jazz, sex, poetry, drugs and a tainted American dream became the definitive essence of the Beat Generation – a generation which Kerouac himself is the prime exemplar. On the Road is for the most part, a largely autobiographical novel, recanting the exploits of Jack Kerouac’s cross-country adventure through post-war America. The novel tells the story of Salvatore “Sal” Paradise and his friend Dean Moriarty, both of whom travel around America, living a life of sexual freedom, bohemian ecstasy and carefree nonchalance, all the while, hitchhiking their way around the country. When the novel was first published in 1957, it instantly became a classic, with the New York Times, hailing its publication as “historic” and the “most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important utterance yet made  by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as ‘beat’ and whose principal avatar he is”.

Gilbert Millstein’s review in the New York Times is as true today, as it was on September 4, 1957. Kerouac’s narrative is blunt, incredibly honest, unapologetic and races across the page, just as its protagonist Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty race across America, with unyielding passion and zest. On the Road takes place from 1947-1950, with Sal being the alter ego of Jack Kerouac himself, and Dean being the novel’s characterisation of Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady. Divorced, living with his aunt and existing in a failing ideological American Dream, Sal’s life changes when he meets Dean Moriarty, who is “tremendously excited with life” and prepares Sal for a “life on the road”.

Kerouac was hesitant to define exactly what ‘beat’ represented, but after reading On the Road, you get a pretty good summation of the generation’s central agendas. A rejection of materialism and conventionalism, unlimited experimentation and the only ideology being one of life and exuberance, ‘beat’ encapsulated the hedonistic, poetic and creative lifestyle Sal and Dean experience in this novel. ‘Beat’ seeps out of every page in this novel – it hits you in the face with unapologetic vigour. Kerouac explicitly makes the Beat Generation’s way of life the novel’s foremost presentation of an ideal existence. Each character is almost prophesised to be a defining character in this bohemian movement. Ed Dunkel is “an angel of a man”, Dean is a “real Gene Autry – trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent” and a “holy con-man”, Carlo Marx is a “sorrowful poetic con-man” and Mary Lou is a sexual adventurer and is both condemned and praised as a “whore”. On the Road is filled with characters that embody what it means to be Beat – from wretched poverty to complete abandonment and living in the moment.

While Sal is the novel’s main character, it is Dean who appears to be the leader and Sal, is much more of a follower – filled with respect, awe and admiration for his hero. Dean meanders through life, trying to keep both his wife Mary-Lou and his lover Camille happy and along with Sal; he experiences the highs and lows of twentieth-century America. Bob Dylan said this book changed his life and it’s hard to articulate just how poignant, moving and important this novel really is. Reading this book for the umpteenth time this summer, took me on the road with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty – experiencing New York’s jazz scene, celebrating Christmas in Testament with Sal and his family, and inhaling the life and culture which pours out of every American city from Denver to San Francisco.

On the Road is not only my favourite book of all time, but it’s an absolutely essential read for anyone who is interested in reading a classic. It’s a social commentary on twentieth-century America and Kerouac’s narrative is visionary and inspiring. It’s about living in the here and now and exploiting life’s opportunities for everything they have to offer. The sense of freedom and possibility for each character makes On the Road a riveting page turner and a gripping story. It’s no surprise that it has finally been made into a movie, but I urge everyone to read the novel before Kerouac’s tale becomes sacrificed on the altar of Hollywood commercialism.

Sal travels across America with Dean, but not always. However, the novel is at its strongest when these two are together – soaring towards and consuming the American landscape, which is described beautifully and in an unparalleled style by Jack Kerouac. When Gilbert Millstein described On the Road as a “major novel”, it’s likely he was holding back from sounding overly didactic and far be it for me to preach, but Kerouac’s second novel is a masterpiece which exists in its own consciousness, consuming Americana, sex, jazz and poetry at its own, generation defining Beat pace.

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Books, Movies, Reviews, Showbiz

“On the Road” – The Movie | Jamie Tuohy

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes”.

Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is my all time favourite book. It is the epitome and probably the definition of the Beat Generation of postwar literature, where new experiences were the essence of life.

Now the adventures and escapades of Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and Marylou have been made into a movie, starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart. The trailer has just been released and I’m feeling ambivalent about the motion picture. I’m excited to see how successful its adaptation is and how well the transition from book to film has been made. I just hope the heart and life of the book isn’t compromised for commercialism and Hollywood cliché.

Check out the trailer for yourselves! It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the reviews weren’t astounding and it’s on limited release at the moment, with no official date being given for its international release.

We await avec impatience.

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