On The Road by Jack Kerouac
I’m not gonna lie, I did watch the movie before reading the book. Terrible, I know. Especially because I now know the movie did NOT do justice to the book. I was given this book by my BFF Isaac, he gave it to me like half a year ago and said how awesome it was, and how it’s a classic American adventure story, and I had obviously heard of it since it’s one of those books you should read in your lifetime. I was in the mood for it and I’m glad I read it. It’s also officially my first book of 2019! Thanks Isaac :)
If you don’t already know, On The Road is a huge classic American novel based on Jack Kerouac’s travels across the United States with his friends. It’s considered a hugely defining work of the post war, 50s/60s beat and counterculture generation. It’s one of those books that everyone and anyone read at the time of it’s release. It was all about living life against the backdrop of jazz, poetry, and drug use. You know how loosey goosey it was back then. Also it totally changed the landscape of American fiction. Kerouac had always wanted to be a writer, and was inspired by writers such as, Jack London and Thomas Wolfe. It wasn’t until he wrote about his own experience of being on the road, that he truly became a heavyweight in the world of literature. The two main characters in the book are based on himself and his close friend, Sal Paradise as Jack Kerouac and his friend Dean Moriarty as Neil Cassidy. Sal joins Dean Moriarty, a tearaway and former reform school boy, on multiple journeys taking them from NYC to San-Fran, to Mexico. They board buses, hitch rides, drive rentals, and on their way they encounter some pretty colorful characters including, hobos, drifters, migrant families, and many many women, the list goes on. They get away from America’s conventional society and experience this totally alternative way of living and being, where it’s raw, wild, frantic, unexpected, and where life is hard, but at least life is being ‘lived’.
I have to say, the characters in this book are kinda out there, especially the character of Dean Moriarty, Sal’s travelling buddy. He’s all kinds of crazy. Dean’s character annoyed me at times, he treats women like shit, and is kind of insane, but also you can relate to him on a deeper level. In the beginning he’s all about living the unconventional life, and towards the end he’s the one closest to a conventional American life. I found that interesting, but still deep down he always seemed unhappy or unable to settle and just be. I liked Sal’s character, he’s relate-able and has a great sense of adventure. He’s the sorta sane one in their crazy group. Due to the fact that this book was written in the 50s, obviously it doesn’t go down too well in terms of race, and gender politics. It’s a total macho man book too, I sort of felt like it was geared towards men than it did for women. That sort of recklessness that men have, and the testosterone driven, wild, adventurous and unpredictable nature. In a way some parts of the book turned me off as a woman and a black woman too, but the core message of the book was powerful and I understood where the writer was coming from in that specific time period. The writing style was interesting, it was a very easy read, so I’ll give him that, but at times I did feel like he rambled on and on and i’d lose interest here and there. I wanted to know where the book was going which was a good sign. I wouldn’t say that I loved it, yes it’s a good book, and yes it’s a classic read, but it’s not something I would say is breathtaking, or inspiring. The characters were slightly annoying and rude, but I liked the core story. It also reminded me of the cult classic book, Fear and Loathing in Las-Vegas. Again, road trip, drugs, recklessness, trippy vibes and man fueled decisions. On The Road had more of a story and deeper meaning than Fear and Loathing.
On The Road definitely left its mark on the culture of the late 20th century, influencing many books, movies, writers, and songs. I also loved how descriptive the book was, in terms of where they were travelling, the sights and smells, and feel of where they were in the book. It definitely gives you major wanderlust and does justice to the amazing cities and towns of the American States. Some of the routes they take are pretty insane. I would say that if you're looking for a fun adventure book about American road trips, then this is the book for you. It also has a deeper meaning to it which I captured in the quotes below.
“He and I suddenly saw the whole country like an oyster for us to open; and the pearl was there, the pearl was there. Off we were to the south again.”
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road”
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
“Better to sleep in an uncomfortable bed free, than sleep in a comfortable bed unfree.”
To purchase on Book Depository, CLICK HERE
Genre: Adventure, Coming of Age, Classics, Autobiographical Novel
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