Across the sea..change

Past noon and I’m just now opening up a blog entry … many apologies from Fiction Daily-Land. I have had calls and deadlines all morning.

I hope in the next few days to explore “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, but for today, as an introduction, I invite you to get your own copy and read it.

My first reading came as a junior in college. I was living in France studying theater and history … Yes, it was the “jya” experience. Though for me, it wasn’t that at all, rather a dream come true … living in France, home of the language I fell in love with at 15.

At 20, I was still a little afraid of what lay ahead … moving to France for a whole year … attending the Universite Paul Valery in Montpellier, right there with the French kids.

Books are always my refuge … my sea raft, my life preserver, my plan B. I imagined that if anything horrible happened, I wanted to have books around me.

And so in a Paris bookstore before we left for the south, I bought two English ones: Moby Dick (it was long, therefore afforded lots of rescue time) and On the Road.

I thumbed through On the Road and eventually made it through. I remember two things.

First, it was tedious at times. Sal was always in some desperate straits, wet, waiting, or witnessing a ruined plan.

I am more of a “play-it-safe” person at heart, so I cringed at the chaos Sal wandered into regularly.

Second … and most importantly … I became enamored of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. These folks were REAL for me. I even compared my college boyfriend the next year to Dean … in my dreams perhaps, though now I know he was just an ordinary grad student.

The next summer when I returned to UNC Chapel Hill, my whole world changed. Old friends dropped out of sight. I must have scared them, since I stopped shaving my legs, wore Indian skirts and African bracelets. This was the Reagan Eighties, after all.

That fall I found a new crew … the good people of a student political activist group.

Before long I was carrying petitions door to door asking people to oppose apartheid and requesting the Board of Governors to divest from South Africa. We were the first group to present those petitions to the board, an effort that years later, when other students assumed the mantle, was successful.

What role did On the Road play in all this upheaval?

Not sure.

Really, there’s no separating the book from my own charted sea change.

What matters is that I picked it up, read it and felt moved.

AHEAD: Reading “On the Road” again at 47

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