Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Visions of Gerard: Book Review

The Book

Title: Visions of Gerard
Author: Jack Kerouac

I picked this title off a used bookstore shelf in Bryson City, North Carolina along with Dharma Bums. I have always been mildly interested in Kerouac's work since being introduced to him in the Eleventh grade. Dharma Bums was a good read, but for some reason I put off Visions of Gerard until this weekend. It took Tropical Storm Isaac & 72 hours inside my own home to make me read it.

Technical Merit

I have a personal affinity for the stream-of-consciousness style which Kerouac writes with. Therefore, I naturally give him high marks for technical merit. I was amazed that the man neglected to use any punctuation save the dash (--) until page 5 (practically). Yet, the effect of floating between thoughts seems fitting for the narrator of the story: himself at the age of 3--at least, that is what he would have you believe. Clearly, Kerouac writes with a measure of outside knowledge of the situation. Further, the mingling of his childhood Roman Catholicism with his later formulated Buddhist enlightenment--a clear revelation that Kerouac has infused his childhood with adult rationale.

I also love the way he weaves his home-grown French slang into the narrative. Granted, this probably means that I lost some of the substance of what was actually being retold, yet I gained a real feel for what life was like for the community as a whole. I tried using Google Translate, but gave up after the slang failed to translate for the fifth time. The real translation was not of importance anyways, the French was about setting the mood.

My Takeaway

I was struck by the recurrence of the phrase: It is what it is, or some re-wording thereof, throughout the text. Given the tragedy of losing a sickly child, what other explanation could possibly be offered? Life owes us neither apology nor explanation. What happens, simply happens--we must only pick up the pieces and move on. Clearly, this is a Buddhist interpretation of life's events, pinning earthly suffering not on the occurrence of spiritual deficiency (read: sin) but on pure chance. Consider the questions: How do you comfort the mother who has sacrificed her own health for a dying child? How do you console the father who detached himself from home life in order to deal with the pain?

Your answer to these questions will reveal a lot about your world-view.


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