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 Post subject: OTR QUESTION #25
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 4:33 am 
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After Sal’s first trip to San Francisco he remarks, “…somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded—at least that’s what I thought then.” (pg 79)

What did Sal feel was so different about the West?

Did he change his mind?



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 8:23 am 
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Another interesting question. I guess the reference to "brown" and "clouds of steam" is a reference to how industrialized the East (NY) is compared to the West. At least that's my perception. I see the East as being where the heavy factory-based industries locate and the West as being where the more service/ high tech (i.e., clean) industries locate. As we discussed in another question, the West also seemed to be in a subdivision building boon at the time so the comparison of the West to the white washline could refer to the "happy, shiny, everyone's the same" feel of the new planned communities. NY would be much more of melting pot in terms of culture, architecture, etc.

As for the comparison of the East as "holy" with the West as "empty-headed", I'm just not sure. I didn't get this feeling of the negative comparison from the rest of the book. :twocents:


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 10:47 am 

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JK has frequently used those particular colors to describe the differences between the East and West coasts. (“something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines”) in many of his other books as well. I believe his original opinion
of the West being “empty headed’ did subside. Jack loved the mountains out west and wrote beautifully about them in both “the Dharma Bums” and “Desolation Angels”. However JK was very attached to the East coast, I think he felt more in tune with New York and New England. as those places had a sense of history that he was a part of. Like JD, Kerouac had some “Native” ancestry, Iroquois on one side and I can’t remember the other tribe. That might of been of part of his East coast affinity as well.

I also loved where JK says, “at least that’s what I thought then”. He never saw himself as the ultimate authority on anything and would frequently say he might have been wrong. He wasn’t self- deprecating to be “charming”, it was completely sincere.



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"We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become." -Ursula Le Guin
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 11:57 am 
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I agree with Scarlett that maybe the brown was referrring to the brown smog from industry. So I think the white was referring to the fog. If you haven't been to CA you may not know that it can even be foggy inland. In fact, some of the worst fog (the kind where you can't see the car in front of you) is in the central part of the state--the drive from San Jose to LA.

As far as "holy". I agree with Naomi that the East was special for Jack. He grew up there. His mom was there. It stands to reason that he would be more comfortable there. I get the feeling, too, that the "left coast" was too liberal for him.



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