Thursday, May 22, 2008
43. "On the Road" - Jack Kerouac
Kerouac created the verbiage for the "Beat Generation," the disenfranchised poets and writers and musicians whose use of drugs is only surpassed by the flower children of the next generation. In On the Road, Kerouac uses a version of stream of consciousness to tell the story of Sal Paradise and his trips across the country.
Each character is based on someone from real life, though I am young enough to have to look this up. At the time, I bet this was part of the allure, like how the New York Post has "hidden items" about celebrities.
There is a lot of "wow," a lot of "man!" There are several instances of being blown away by women's eyes, long stretches of road, jazz. Sal Paradise made three of four trips with his friend, Dean Moriarty, whose personal problems make him an unfortunate pal to rely upon.
If the beginning had more so-and-so "begat" so-and-so, I'd think it was a religious reference, but instead it just sets out the list of characters, names that will pop up throughout the book. Slowly, these names drop away, partly because of Paradise (Kerouac) and partly because everyone is taking responsibility for their lives except Dean Moriarty.
It's a great historical lesson... we've all heard of the beatniks and the beat generation, but this novel brings it to life. In my edition, there was even a thesis about the authors who searched for transcendence throughout this time, which made me add more novels to my read list. I can see how hundreds of thousands read this book and found that it changed their lives, as well as how it planted the bug to just road trip across the U.S. As long as you are just enjoying the ride without expectations, you will enjoy yourself.
3.75 out of 5.0 Road Runners.