26 June 2009

43. Man In Motion

Man In Motion - Michael Mewshaw

This is one of those male coming of age, trying to find oneself, type of books. It was published in 1971 and written by a guy who was an English teacher at UMass after getting his PhD from UVA. (I felt like using a lot of acronyms) This was his first novel.

The main dude is a 26 year old male. He has graduated from UVA and is thinking of becoming a writer. He wrote a short story that was published in a campus collection of short stories. That was his claim to fame. Other than that the guy has done nothing at all with his life. He still lives with his mother and step-father. He works at Safeway as a cashier. He doesn't pay rent. He set up the attic as his living space and a place for him to write, yet he has written nothing at all.

He is so full of excuses for not doing anything that it is ridiculous. His sister thinks he is a free loading piece of crap. His mother is angry at him. His step-dad is accepting of him as a buddy would be, but still wishes he would do something.

The first 130 pages or so of this book are nothing but this guy, Walker Hawley, talking to people. He talks to his mother. He talks to his sister. He talks to his step-father. He talks to his grand-mother. He talks to his girl-friend. He talks to his brother-in-law. He talks to some guy he met at a friends house. He talks to his mother again. He talks and talks and talks...and always the conversation is centered around one thing. Walker wants to go to California and be inspired. He wants to go where the artists live and get rid of his writer's block. All the conversations, for 130 pages, are about this subject and what the others think and want and blah blah.

Finally, Walker does something. His mother is in the institution for an emotional breakdown. He told his girl-friend he was leaving and "kind of" broke off the relationship. After Thanksgiving dinner his step-father got drunk and fell down the stairs and died...and then Walker just took off. He called the funeral home on the way out of town and told them where the body was. He didn't call anyone else. He just left.

He had taken out an ad in the paper for someone to travel with him. He was driving to California and wanted someone to share expenses. So, Lila Caine answered the ad. She is a student at The University of Maryland, but wants to quit. She wants to go to California and become an actress.

So, they meet and they drive away in his TR3. The first night in the hotel they have sex. For the next 100 pages they drive from one town to the next, get a hotel, have sex, sleep. Do again. And again.

The last eighty pages were my favorite part of the book. When Walker and Lila stop having so much sex and realize that they really don't like each other as much as they originally hoped, then things got interesting.

It is a decent book, but it seems like it took so long to define the relationships in super-depth that it was irritating. Then the sex here there and everywhere saga was getting irritating. If they did something other than drive and bang it might have been more interesting. Yeah yeah yeah, can you please describe Lila's body one more time. Maybe the way the moonlight reflected off a puddle and cast a shadow on her breasts deserves half a page? I exaggerate, but that is how it felt.

Much like Kerouac's "On The Road", "Man In Motion" got interesting when they crossed the Mexican border. I wonder if Mewshaw was attempting to write the next generation's "On The Road". Walker was not as much of a jerk, but he was just as lost and stupid. There are definite similarities between the stories, though I much preferred Mewshaw's writing style and story to Kerouac's. Chosing between the two, I liked this one more in just about every way.

In the end Walker made some better decisions and "found" himself. That was good.

Oh, a funny line... Walker to Lila... "Let's play "Peace and Quiet". You be quiet, and I'll get a piece."

I am wondering why I have picked up so many books that ended up being first novels for different authors.

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