Book Reports: Deliverance and On the Road
It’s been a few months since I read these two books. I liked Deliverance a lot and found On the Road insufferable. More interestingly maybe, the two books seemed to be about the same thing: discovering real life through voluntary suffering. Deliverance, of course, would be the more middle-aged model and On the Road the more youthful. I suppose maybe that’s why I liked Deliverance better, but I think rather it may have to do with matters of actually having a plot rather than being thinly veiled anti-everything philosophy.
Hadn’t seen the movie version of Deliverance before reading the book, so didn’t know to expect things like “squeal like a pig” (it’s been a few months, but I don’t think that’s quite in the book like that — I mean, the scene happens, just that it’s not quite as iconic as it is in the movie). And I liked the way the book conveyed the characters better than the movie version, with the main character learning to take up the cause of his buddy and grab “real life” by the horns. Kind of a Bildungsroman for a middle-aged man learning to be alive. Also was enamored of the way the book dissipated rather than resolving. Made it feel less contrived and, I think, the openness and ambiguity at the end shined an interesting light on the book’s theme.
On the Road, though, is just so self-satisfied. I’m guessing the whole beat thing is by its nature self-satisfied. And the character of Dean Moriarty is so dull to me, yet the book requires the reader to idolize him. Didn’t work. He’s too cool to be believable and I guess I was brought up to dislike self-important jackasses. Blame my parents, I guess.
I think I also liked Deliverance better from the standpoint that it’s about having experiences for the sake of personal growth. I don’t think the beat generation was really into actual personal growth — I think that’s more about clapping with one hand. Yeah, well, I don’t care for Buddhism much either.